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Thursday, 21 May 2020

My WFH Routine: Basil Moftah, general partner at Global Ventures

Basil Moftah, general partner at Global Ventures: My Morning / WFH Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun.

My name is Basil Moftah and I’m the general partner at Global Ventures, a Dubai-based venture capital fund investing in technology startups across the Middle East and North Africa.

At Global Ventures we’re industry agnostic and our investment portfolio has a range of tech startups in all spaces across the Middle East and North Africa. Recently we have been looking a lot at companies that are doing well because of covid-19 such as health tech companies. We like companies that are generating revenues with proven products and a good market fit looking to scale their business.

I usually wake up at around 7:00 am, check some emails and the news (which I'm not too proud to be doing first thing in the morning) and have breakfast. I usually start work around 9:30 am in a room I’ve made my home office and until 2:00-3:00 pm it's calls and emails. I have lunch with my family at 3:00 pm and take a short 30 minute break to sit in the garden with my wife for a quick chat before getting back into things until around 7:30-8:00 pm. I wear shorts now though; I don't wear trousers, which is great.

For every two to three hours of work I take a half-hour break to check on my kids, try to help out with some homework, hang out with my wife, or indulge in one of our daily family pranks. I also highly recommend eating ice cream with whipped cream at home. It really helps as a mental break and is a lot of fun.

We have a new puppy that we’ve been trying to teach new tricks. Unfortunately he hasn't learned very many but he’s still fun to play with. I try to go for a swim sometimes to wind down as well.

As a general partner of a fund you get to meet new entrepreneurs and listen to new business ideas and pitches, which can be very exciting. But there are a lot of other mundane but no less important tasks: Administering the fund, and making sure that all the accounting, the legal and technical things are in order. We are lucky that we have an awesome team at Global Ventures that supports us.

Our first USD 50 mn fund has made 14 investments over the last two years. We have three investments in food tech: LUNCH:ON, Kitopi and El Menus. We also have investments in the fintech space with a company called Tribal that does credit cards for startups, and Mamo Pay, which is a money transfer app for people who don't have bank accounts. We've also worked with B2B software enterprise companies and a cybersecurity company. Helium Health in Nigeria has also been a recent investment in health tech that we’ve added to our portfolio.

Over the last couple of years we've barely worked from the office. We've always been active in going out to meet entrepreneurs and attending conferences and events, but we still had some time to get together as a team and learn from each other or at least socialize. We started our lockdown here in Dubai towards the end of March so we’ve been at it for a full two months now. With meetings and virtual happy hours over Zoom and Google Hangouts, it has been a relatively smooth transition.

What I've found most fascinating about WFH is how it has challenged learning. There's so much learning that happens within a physical office space, purely by osmosis, and without necessarily speaking. WFH gets in the way of that kind of learning.

You realize pretty quickly that when you're home and working you can end up working all the time. This period proves that there's a lot that can be done without needing to commit that extra time to travel and commuting but it can also become a little overwhelming without barriers between work and personal time.

I've had more time to think about what makes a good investment: A great product in a bad market is really tough; a bad product in a good market can be a better opportunity. In our case, we like to look at where there's not so much competition or when something can be disrupted with technology. Finding great markets is the challenge of investing.

Having been temporarily isolated earlier in my career I’ve been better able to cope: When I first started my career my company moved me to their office in Italy where I didn’t know anyone, couldn’t speak the language and had never lived on my own before. It felt very lonely and isolating, especially for someone who loves socializing and going out but it was an important learning experience that I think prepared me for what we’re going through.

I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother, which I’ve enjoyed because it doesn't really matter which episode you're on — they're just funny. I've also been watching the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, which I would highly recommend for lessons on leadership, commitment and winning.

Fear of Missing Out by Patrick Mcguiness (who coined the term FOMO) has been an interesting read recently. I’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ thoughtful analysis on this pandemic but I've become weary of other media outlets because everyone has been scaring the hell out of me.

When things cool down the first thing we're doing is holding a team meeting. But I'm personally looking forward to just going to the beach.

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