My Morning Routine: Karima El Hakim, country director at Plug and Play Tech Center
Karima El Hakim, country director at Plug and Play Tech Center: 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 Karima El Hakim (LinkedIn), country director of Plug and Play.
My name is Karima El Hakim, and I’m Plug and Play Tech Center’s country director for Egypt. I’ve been playing an enablement role in the Egyptian entrepreneurship scene since 2018; it’s a collaborative, inclusive community and I love being a part of it.
At Plug and Play, we have a standalone Smart Cities tech hub that we launched in partnership with the National Bank of Egypt, the CIT Ministry’s ITIDA, and USAID. The aim of our smart cities vertical, which was inaugurated earlier in June, is to rally a community of early- and growth-stage companies and connect them with world class mentors, avail unprecedented industry access to startups, and provide the Plug and Play Ventures arm with a solid pipeline for direct investment.
As a VC, Plug and Play also invests in early-stage startups. Part of our focus is on the acceleration and incubation of early and growth-stage startups. We also provide corporate innovation services that we offer to corporations and startups.
My daily routine is extremely important to me. I usually wake up between 5:30 and 5:45am. Robin Sharma’s The 5 AM Club is one of the most impactful books I ever read, and it inspired me to become an early bird. I carve out extra time early on in the day — before I kick off and engage with the rest of the world — to meditate. There is nothing glamorous about my morning meditation; people think that I sit on a yoga mat with a cup of kale juice, being all zen [laugh]. What actually happens is that I sit on a couch and simply use a meditation app called Calm to center my thoughts and connect to my breath. This short meditation really helps me stay focused throughout the day.
I dedicate the first hour of my day to personal growth. I consume a lot of audio content in the morning. I love using Curio, a narrated journalism app that provides snippets of articles from leading publications such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. This helps me stay up to date.
After I’m done with a short meditation and personal development routine, I head to the studio where I teach my morning B-URN classes. B-URN is a 45-minute full-body workout that combines strength, endurance, cardio, balance, core, and flexibility training not only in one session but in each and every move. It’s a long commute from my house to the studio, and I use that time to listen to audio books, and read local newspapers. My classes are quite dependent on routine, rhythm, and music. During my commute, I also work on the routine and the playlist of the upcoming classes.
I used to be very shy when I first started my fitness instruction journey. To overcome this initial insecurity, I used to intentionally wear funny socks and oddly colored leggings to my B-URN classes. That became a habit, though, even after I overcame my initial nervousness. My morning uniform remains embarrassing to this day; you wouldn’t want to be seen in public with me when I’m donning workout outfits [laughs.]
After I’m done with the instruction side of the morning, I head to the other side of town to go to the office. I utilize the one-hour commute to get into my inbox, make work calls, and start other work-related activities.
My current responsibilities have been partly geared toward our newly inaugurated Smart Cities Accelerator. I’ll be making sure our corporate partners get the exposure they need with the cohort startups, that mentors’ messages are conveyed correctly, and that everything is going seamlessly for the next three months. All these responsibilities are set in place to ensure that our entrepreneurs get top-tier mentorship, access to local and global markets and access to capital.
Personally, I will also be giving 1:1 sessions, and workshops, mainly on investment readiness, strategic partnership engagement and pitch polishing. I will be dedicating 6-8 hours a week for office hours during the cohort as well.
To relax and switch off from work, I enjoy doing absolutely nothing. I like to kick back, listen to an audio book or watch Netflix, and zone out completely.
What’s next for me? On a personal level, I recently became passionate about marine conservation in the Red Sea. I dedicate a chunk of my time to research about ways to help, and have been connecting with activists who work on green ocean initiatives in Egypt. Going forward, I want to leverage my professional connections to find tech startups that can help with marine conservation and green tourism in Egypt. On a professional level, my goal is to get in on initiatives to promote and raise awareness about the impact of climate-resilient tech startups in Egypt and Africa. I want to see these startups spotlighted before, during, and after COP27.