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Thursday, 30 September 2021

My Morning Routine: Ahmed Hazem, CEO of Falak Startups

Ahmed Hazem, CEO of Falak Startups: Each week, My Morning Routine looks 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 Ahmed Hazem, CEO of Falak Startups (LinkedIn).

Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Ahmed Hazem, I am the CEO of Falak Startups. I graduated in 2010 from the German University in Cairo (GUC), majoring in innovation technology management and strategic management. I'm really passionate about VC investments and the startup ecosystem in general.

I've recently become the CEO. It was just announced a couple of weeks ago, but I've been in the job for more than a month now. I'm the successor of Youssef El Sammaa, the previous CEO who had stepped down recently. We used to work closely all the time on the strategy for Falak. I was the head of investment, so the transition is actually quite interesting, even challenging at times. It's totally different for you to be focusing on one function of a business and then all of a sudden you're overlooking everything else and managing people. Nobody really teaches you that. It's very challenging to align everyone's efforts and values to reach the company's goals. But this becomes your main job.

I have a magnificent team that I've been working with and know quite well. When you know what moves your team and what motivates them, this makes things easier. But again, having worked with them and now I’m trying to manage them comes with a lot of the challenges as the dynamics somehow changed. Mostly what we do is a series of meetings where we ideate together and hear everyone's thoughts about how better we can do everything that we do. The best thing here is that everyone always has certain insights, certain things that they read about or got exposed to that they want to apply in Falak. And there's always room for everyone to put a little bit of themselves and their identity into this workplace.

Everyday in Falak is different than the other. There is no routine whatsoever. But there is somehow a structured framework of how we do things and how we structure our days. But then again, even in this framework, each and every time you do anything, you do it differently. At the end of the day, we are in the business of innovation so we keep innovating even the ways we operate.

I wake up at around 6 or 7 am. First thing I do is stretch and then I read Enterprise. I have my cup of green tea then I do another workout to move things around a bit and then I have breakfast. Afterwards, I like to plan out my day and have everything that needs to be prepared or aligned done. If there's any time left, I like to finish anything before I get to the office. It's always crazy there.

The pandemic was actually the time where we got our business booming and had the chance to expand. Before then, we always limited ourselves to the local ecosystem. Even though the technologies were there, we've never thought of venturing out to potential partners outside our reach. When that happened, it's as if all the borders immediately vanished. We'd find ourselves always talking to people from outside our local ecosystem and getting great partnerships. It was the peak when everyone was trying more innovative technological tools which is most of our portfolio solutions. So it was peak time for startups to do business. I think by now we're definitely covid proof.

My only two problems were to separate when and where to work and when not to work. We never stopped working, that was the problem. We were working all day without even realizing it; there's no hard stop; there's no where it starts and where it ends. You're always working. You're always getting calls. So you need to put this in a framework of things and be better at time management.

For me, it's not possible to switch off during the week, so what happens is that I could take every couple of weeks some time where I can have this getaway and go diving or do some other water sports. So you'd find me (or actually you won't) on a boat, diving in different spots in the Red Sea.

I think some things need to be normalized. We've all been exposed to certain situations where people get really uncomfortable with that particular situation, but I think that's just normal. This is life, and this is part of what's going on.

I'm sticking to diving as my favorite hobby; it's a very effective meditation practice. I've recently read Principles by Ray Dalio, and I love the podcast Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman. The best piece of advice that I’ve ever been given was by my father and it's also one of The 48 Laws of Power, which is to protect your reputation. I think so much depends on reputation when it comes to business partnerships.

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