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Thursday, 24 February 2022

My Morning Routine: Ezz Fayek, co-founder and CEO, WaffarX

Ezz Fayek, co-founder and CEO, WaffarX: 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 Ezz Fayek (LinkedIn), co-founder and CEO at WaffarX, a cashback provider that recently closed a multi mn USD funding round from Silicon Valley VC Lobby Capital. Edited excerpts from our conversation follow:

My name is Ezz Fayek and I’m the CEO of WaffarX. After I graduated from a French law school, I did business development for France’s former export agency Ubifrance in Dubai before starting WaffarX. I am the father of a six-year-old son and I’m enjoying the journey of WaffarX.

I never practiced law because I felt early on that it wasn’t not for me. I was always more interested in understanding the business than the litigation side, even when I did summer internships. I opened my first company in 2011 and I got the idea for WaffarX in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2018 that WaffarX was born. I was good with numbers but I never studied finance and accounting, so when I went into business, I went to Edinburgh Business School and took courses in finance, accounting and project management.

I usually wake up between 7 and 9 am and drink my coffee. I check my emails and respond to anything urgent, then I look at my calendar to make sure I’m prepared for everything for the day. If my son isn’t at school, then I spend some time with him because I don’t get to see him at night. I try to go jogging once a week on days when I don’t have calls. Then I have breakfast and go to the office.

As a startup, we’re very dynamic so my days are not identical and it depends on the company's needs: We have a flat hierarchy so we leave our titles at the door, and sometimes my job is to fill in the gaps. There are a few things I do on a daily basis, like checking the numbers, making sure everything is going in the right direction, checking the status of our partnerships, sitting with my cofounder, making daily calls and responding to emails. Sometimes I work on fundraising, prepare for board meetings or work on acquisitions with the marketing team.

One of the things I do every day is making sure that the culture of the company is going in the right direction. We believe in giving each employee ownership of the company to share in the dream. We give people a lot of freedom: we don’t check fingerprints or check working hours, but I have to make sure that no one is abusing that.

I’m not very organized by nature, but I’m doing my best to be. I try to focus on two main KPIs every day so I never get distracted from them, and I try to prioritize things as much as possible. And I’m trying to make use of tech to stay organized, so I use Microsoft’s OneNote. I also have a lot of team members that I trust, so I delegate and that helps me stay focused.

We work with both merchants and consumers at WaffarX. Merchants pay third parties like WaffarX to acquire customers, and we help them gain the insights to understand them. Customers want real and honest offers, so we show them the cashback offers from merchants. We do online and offline media buying and partnerships to build a database that we use to help customers.

We are a very customer-centric company: We focus on offering customers the things that they need. And we are working with merchants to offer them something that is valuable and that is performance-based. We only make money when our customers make money.

Cashback depends on the growth of the e-commerce market, so we create a way for brands to use us as a tool to help them grow and succeed. The e-commerce market is big and it’s growing very fast. We are not the only ones fuelling the growth, of course — there are much bigger entities in this space like banks and even the government. Right now, we only do online offers but very soon we will start to offer in-store cashback, so rewards will go on users’ cards.

We were the first cashback provider in the region and it’s good to be the first, but it’s also harder because a lot of things are uncertain. We are already backed by A15, one of the best VCs in Egypt. We wanted to do our next round of funding differently and add people to the board who have done exits in this business before. We found Ebates, which is a US-based cashback company, and the VC that invested in them, Lobby Capital. They had never invested outside of Silicon Valley. We showed them what we do and they were very impressed with our numbers. They invested in us in November last year.

Our focus for the next phase is the same but with bigger plans. One of the criteria that we had when we set up WaffarX is to have a borderless business, so we’re testing Saudi Arabia and the UAE to decide where we’re going next.

My favorite way to relax is to go to the beach. During the summer I go for long weekends every weekend. I like to spend time with Youssef, my son. I love music and I play music as well — I have a mixer and do some DJing whenever I have time. I also like watching and playing football. I read about management sometimes, but not regularly.

My favorite book is Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. I think it’s a good one for anyone who is in the entrepreneurship or business scene. I also like Good to Great by Jim Collins a lot.

When I was in Dubai, I had a manager who told me to learn something about everything and everything about something. I’ve found that advice very useful. He explained that you should never miss an opportunity to learn a new skill, even if you think it won’t be useful. When you know something about everything, it helps you in conversation. And learn everything about something, that’s what you’re focused on, what you do everyday.

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