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Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Homzmart’s Mahmoud Ibrahim

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Mahmoud Ibrahim, co-founder and CEO of Homzmart (LinkedIn).

My name is Mahmoud Ibrahim, and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Homzmart. I started my professional career at the age of 17, starting as a customer experience analyst at Cisco Systems. After that I joined Jumia for three years and ended my tenure there as the VP of operations. Right before I co-founded Homzmart, I co-founded and was the COO of Daraz, an online selling and shopping platform in South Asia that was acquired by Alibaba.

We decided to establish Homzmart to capitalize on the digitalization gap in the home goods and furniture sector. Our initial research showed a lack of players investing in this huge market. Our business has almost tripled in size this year, compared to last year.

Our golden ticket was during the height of the pandemic. As restrictions halted offline sales, customers began to flock towards online shopping, and that was great for our business.

The business is currently evolving to accommodate more needs. We are venturing beyond the sales of home goods and furniture, and aim to be the living space partner of customers now. It is our ambition to help our users with the design of their homes, and our recent acquisition of MockUp Studio is a part of that. We also recently kicked off our own logistics arm, so in addition to helping users with their home furnishings and design, we will also deliver everything to their doorstep. We believe that this will help us capture the whole value chain. We’re also focused on our expansions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The beauty of managing a young tech company is that the KPIs are always changing. When we were mainly focused on the logistics arm of Homzmart, for instance, we were laser-focused on its performance. KPIs are different from one market to another, from one project to another. What we do is focus on the evaluation of all of our actions.

If I had to choose between different exit strategies, my choice would depend on a lot of factors: The global economic environment, geographical expansions, and the number of competitors operating in my markets.

For me, being a startup founder is truly fulfilling. My company is my main inspiration in life and I’m always thrilled to wake up, don my sneakers — I hate wearing Oxfords — and get to work in the morning. My guess is that 70% of my time is focused on the company, and even during weekends, I‘m always thinking about my business and how I can ensure its growth.

Personally, I can think of no other career path at this point in my life other than being a founder / CEO. I come from a family of business people who were very supportive of my career choice. I started working when I was in college, taking in the corporate experience and learning a lot. When I got enough experience and exposure, and after gaining the financial expertise to manage large-scale companies, I felt like I was ready to start a business of my own.

If you had asked me 10 years ago whether or not I would be interested in digitizing the furniture industry, I would have said no. But when I co-founded Homzmart in 2020, we felt like this sector was ripe for disruption, given the market’s needs and the rise of online sales.

What I really love about my job is seeing ideas come to life. I love being the moderator in the room. I am most fulfilled when I organize and regulate great insights and ideas in the right frame. There is a certain ecstasy that comes when you see people achieving their goals and seeing your team being groomed the right way.

Don’t get me wrong — the job comes with challenges and a lifestyle that would be tiring for most people. The fact that you’re responsible for the success of a company means that you’re responsible for the livelihood of all your employees, and that can be stressful. Weekends don’t really exist for me; I’m always worrying about something not going the right way. Your mind is always working around the clock and never shuts down, which can be draining.

I wouldn’t say that I had to give anything up to focus on my journey as a startup founder. I believe that everything in life should be measured in terms of risk v benefit. I always prioritized my career, and when my friends were traveling to Europe and having fun, I was also traveling, but for work. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

My advice for any would-be founder is to understand the consequences of taking the founder route. You will have to always prioritize your work over having fun. This line of work requires determination and a laser-focus that cannot be clouded by distractions. When you start a business, don’t expect that you’re gonna be able to take two weeks off of work.

Don’t worry though, being a startup founder is not a lonely journey. You have to surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses. If you pick the right team, you will always be able to turn to them for advice whenever you need it. Personally, whenever I’m in need of advice, I turn to a number of my colleagues and board members at Homzmart. I have different mentors that I turn to for different problems. So another piece of advice I would give to young entrepreneurs is to choose your partners wisely.

Thinking about potential funding is a full time job. As of the end of 2021, Homzmart raised a total of USD 17.2 mn. We’re always talking to investors, but we don’t have new funding plans that I can disclose now. The most important thing when you’re thinking about raising capital is to consider the stage of your business and if you’re attracting the right investors at the right time. Investors are like partners — they can help you navigate new markets.

Personally, I think we made the right choices and chose the right partners. Bootstrapped companies and startups that are backed by angel investors are following the same format. They are all backed by investments and are cashbacked. Even when you IPO, you become backed by public investments. So, choose the investor and route that best fit your needs.

In my downtime, I enjoy spending time with my family. Since most of my time is spent at work, and given that Homzmart is always in the back of my head [laughs], whenever I have downtime, I definitely prioritize family time over going out with friends. My wife and I always watch shows and movies together before we go to sleep.

The last great thing I watched was Suits on Netflix. I love the great acting and the captivating plot of the show.

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