Investing in what matters – Introduction

Alhamdoli Allah!

It is finally one of those seasons where you get time to record and share some of your reflections. So, I thought of starting “Investing in what matters” to reflect on different topics that cross my mind whenever I think about “what matters after death”. There is a lot to be written about investment in yourself, your family, your career, your community, ..etc. I wrote already multiple articles – in Arabic – about volunteering as an investment in the community, so I thought it is time to write about another way to invest in the community.

The continuous search for impact

I have been involved in our family business in Egypt since I was in high school. My father got me and my older brother involved in meeting customers, participating in organizing conferences and exhibitions, end-to-end logistics of acquiring healthcare dealership to after sales services, writing purchase orders, negotiation sales, representing the company in tenders ..etc. In 2004, while doing my MS research, I started leading and growing a team of engineers to expand our technical capabilities and after sales services. I was lucky to be at the intersection of the three components I love most: working on research that has potential to help patients; growing my business and business skills; and becoming part of supporting others’ careers.

Inspired by having more impact, I still had the ambition of becoming a designer of one of those sophisticated medical equipment. So, I decided to invest in myself to enable me become a designer. Unfortunately, the industry in Egypt is way behind schedule and no company abroad would hire me in a design position. So, it was natural for me to seek a PhD in the US. I cannot stress enough how valuable and impactful this experience was. Great education helps unlock our potential.

The impact through social entrepreneurship

Fast forward, after the 2011 revolution in Egypt, we founded a nonprofit organization to give back and make an impact in our community as people who live abroad yet their souls are connected to their families and friends back home. It brings tears to my eyes whenever I reflect on those years and how we as a team of volunteers across 17 countries were able to make a real life-changing impact for many aspiring individuals across the Arab world and also sustain the effort through fundraising and hiring full-time staff. It is a great blessing from Allah.

This nonprofit that started with a thought of impact ended up impacting me in great ways and helped me grow my skills, network and influence to levels I could not imagine.

Getting to be part of great companies

In 2014, I attended a conference in San Francisco (by TechWadi) encouraging entrepreneurship and investment in MENA region and I got to know some of the entrepreneurs working in Egypt. One of them – an amazing guy who is a founder of a solar energy startup – was in love with Apple products and asked me about Jony Ive and how we come up with great designs. I had no clue of course since I am a part of Silicon Engineering Group and people get to benefit from what we do without realizing it, but one usually get fascinated whey I say “I work in the design of the iPhone brain, the SoC/processor”. The reality is that most of the revolution in AI and related revolutions are highly enabled by Semiconductors. Anyway, we realized we had some great common friends and we kept the relationship. In my 2016 visit to Egypt, he invited me to their office and explained to me about what they are doing. I got really excited about what they do and their culture and I was thinking that I should be involved to be of any help to startups in Egypt to help the revolution, in a different way. I am not technically in the solar energy area but certainly I can help within the basics of electrical engineering. At that time they were raising fund for further expansion and because I wanted to be involved, I found myself asking him about what is the minimum needed to get into the list of investors. The rest is history. This company, Karm Solar, was my first entry to angel investment and to further growing in this area. Last year, they announced a strategic partnership with the French energy giant (EDF) who injected millions of dollars into Karm Solar for further growth and impact.

My experience at Apple, our family business, Egypt Scholars Inc, and the investments I made in several companies grew and broadened my skills and insight in many ways and showed me different ways of how individuals can create impact. Each experience deserves reflection and sharing insights, which I am willing to write about. However, for the rest of this story I focus on angel investing.

When you get to exercise and closely witness many stories of successes and failures, you get to deepen your knowledge, skills and insight about what it takes to make impactful innovations through patience, effective execution, partnership and leadership.

The real introduction

Let’s not lose track of the purpose of this long introduction and how we got to the point of changing the subject to focus on angel investment. The purpose was to make it clear that one should – IMHO – approach angel investment from an impact point of view. Money will follow when you do your homework and due diligences properly, you iterate more, you build good relationships with founders, angels investors networks, and hopefully VCs.

Alhamdoli Allah, in the past four years I was able to have a diversified portfolio, I joined the most elite and prominent angel groups in California, I was able to get into deals with top VCs in Silicon Valley, and finally I am super excited about supporting a friend to start a VC fund for investors who are starting and desiring access to this area. Maybe at some point I will start an angel group to help connect minority investors with great startups, but I am not there yet.

I’m very passionate about Angel investing as a path for:

  • Helping and mentoring great talents and providing support through my network

  • Growing my network of innovative entrepreneurs and fellow investors

  • Acquiring new business skills and using my current skills in different ways

  • Knowing about the latest and greatest in my areas of interest: Healthcare, CleanTech, Artificial Intelligence, Semiconductors, Security and Platform businesses

Next articles in this series should be addressing:

  • Why angel investing

  • The story behind each of my portfolio companies

  • The value of the network

  • Figuring our where you can add value

  • The value of joining an angel group

  • Platforms to help your productivity as an investor

  • Entrepreneurs vs Founders

  • The role of AI in due-diligence

I would like to finish this article with big thanks to my family, my supportive friends, the great founders and teams who accepted to have me part of their companies and the impact they are dedicated to.

#investing_in_what_matters

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