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Thursday, 22 April 2021

My Morning / WFH Routine: Ezzeddin Zahzah, co-founder and CEO of Waseya

Ezzeddin Zahzah, co-founder and CEO of Waseya: My Morning 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. Speaking to us this week is Ezzeddin Zahzah (LinkedIn), co-founder and CEO of Waseya.

My name is Ezzeddin Zahzah, I’m CEO and co-founder of Waseya, Egypt’s first online will-maker allowing users to create individualized and legally-sound will documents in less than 30 minutes. I’m an engineer by education and had 12 years of corporate experience under my belt before I jumped into the entrepreneurial whirlpool. I‘ve been an entrepreneur for about six years now and cut my teeth through a few ventures where I lost a molar and a canine but I’m still smiling and very excited to take on my latest venture, Waseya, with my co-founders Ali El Shalakany, Ahmed Sallam and Hanan Abdel Meguid.

I started my first venture back in 2005, before entrepreneurship was cool and everyone was trying to get into it. I started a boxing gym in Maadi with some highschool friends called Knockout before I got my MBA and jumped back into the corporate world as a management consultant. Later, I set up another fitness facility called Fight Fitness Factory and an F&B business called Sahtein, which didn't last very long. As the Egyptian idiom goes, “iddy el eish le khabazo,” or let the bakers do the baking.

I started working on Waseya about a year ago when Ali El Shalakany proposed the idea for an online will-maker. Given my personal experience from a few years ago when my father passed away without leaving a will, which was a complicated and awkward process, I was very passionately on board. It took us about a year to do our legal and market research and build the platform with our tech partner with Kamelizer until we went live on 24 March 2021. Other than the initial capital from the co-founders there's been no fundraising just yet but we’re currently in the middle of our first seed fundraising round.

Due to the nature of what we do the pandemic works in our favor, and I say this with a very heavy heart. Given that people are thinking about their own mortality and looking into end of life planning tools, Waseya is very timely. That’s from the business side of things. Operationally, I’m actually surprised with how much you can get done and how much more efficient people are with their time. We’ve saved a lot by cutting out commutes, travelling and in-person meetings.

I’m an early riser so I wake up at 6 am to get my 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter ready for school. That means preparing lunch boxes, making sure they get dressed and of course some hustling and hurrying to make sure they’re not late. I really enjoy this time with them in the morning and I think I’m able to move things along quite efficiently. I take care of the morning and my wife handles the kids in the evening.

As soon as they walk out the door, I check my phone, follow up on messages and read the news. Enterprise is the first thing I read to help kick-start my day. The first half of my day is dedicated to follow up and execution. I follow up with my marketing and tech teams, work on business development, set up calls with clients and talk to partners. At around 3pm I have lunch with my wife and when I can afford it, take a 30-45 minute power nap afterwards.The second half of my day is spent on planning and communication. So we revisit our market strategy, map out contacts I have to reach out to and summarize discussions I’ve had with partners, clients and team members. We’re a very small team at the moment, we have one marketing executive, a tech partner, a project manager, a designer and a programmer. So we’re very efficient in that sense.

I’m a WFH veteran: I’ve been working completely independently and from home since 2013. I started WFH back when I worked with Booz & Company where I was the knowledge manager for their Middle East division reporting to someone based in San Francisco. My office has been my bedroom since 2013, so when the pandemic broke out and people started working from home and complaining, it felt like “welcome to my world.” Being an entrepreneur you learn to roll with the punches, so the lockdown definitely didn’t change much about my life

We still don't have an office yet, but that’s in the pipeline once we’re through with this funding round. We’ve already started looking at a couple of options and yes, we will be having a physical office space at some point in the near future. Despite my affinity for working from home I’m still a very passionate believer in face to face communication and eye contact. So I'm very much looking forward to returning to the “new normal,” which I think will probably be some sort of hybrid between remote and in-person work.

I wrap up my day when my wife puts her foot down, which typically happens around 8pm (If it were up to me I’d stay on my computer until I pass out). Then it's back to helping the kids with any reading, homework and getting them to bed. My son likes to have very existential and philosophical discussions, so it's a good time to wind down and get to know him at a deeper level. My daughter is a lot more joyful and bubbly so we usually play Would You Rather or 20 Questions for half an hour. By 10pm after the kids have gone to sleep we plop down by the TV and order food or cook ourselves. I personally love cooking quick dinners, which is great quality time for me and my wife.

Before I hit the sack I like to catch up on my personal reading. I’m fascinated by religion and spirituality in general. I’m reading a book called Islam In Restrospect by Maher S. Mahmassani right now which discusses modernization and fundamentalism and how the message of Islam got lost in the middle. Otherwise I keep at least one French and one Arabic book by my bedside to stay on top of my other languages. Right now, I have Naguib Mahfouz’s Children of the Alley.

As for podcasts, I listen to Fil50 but I’m a huge YouTube addict. I listen to a lot of Ted Talks, and the Economist videos. I like the Company Forensics series by Slidebean, which discusses success stories and failures of big businesses

I have a favorite quote from Rumi which can be applied to one’s personal and professional life: “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth”. It’s about being authentic and true to yourself. In today’s slang this would roughly translate to “you do you.”

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