At the age of 25, I was fortunate to found a fastgrowth business called InfoFort. The business had a predictable revenue stream, an impressive roster of clients, and a limited set of variables to manage. Yet, pre-internet, I also faced multiple challenges.
The first was locating great talent. I was dependent on three sources: Local newspapers produced a small number of applicants of generally sub-par quality. Recruiting agencies did not understand my business, its work culture or the type of candidate that would suit it. Word of mouth was slow and limited in its exposure.
The second challenge at InfoFort was a very personal one. While the business was successful when measured by typical business metrics, it did not fulfil my need to build an enterprise that had a social mandate. I felt strongly that a business should be able to enrich both the community it is in as well as its traditional stakeholders. My dream was to build a Middle Eastern institution that empowered people to lead better lives, and in doing so, became globally admired and respected.
This was particularly frustrating as I realised that, across the region, there was phenomenal talent that was either unemployed, underemployed, or unhappily employed who complained about their inability to find opportunity.
The combination of these two challenges, and the fact that I had had a technical education at Stanford and an insight into institutionalised entrepreneurship (my first job was in investment banking helping entrepreneurs take their companies public), prepared me to pursue an entrepreneurial path in a technical field that was socially responsible.