What does it take to have a co-founder spirit? Let me start with a personal story first. In the story, which is personal, I will give you an implicit answer; i.e., read between the lines. Then I will be more explicit.
The Civil War
I grew up in a small village in Lebanon. I was in my early teens when the civil war started (1975). At the end of the 9th grade, I wanted to give up school or go into a vocational training school. My dad, being an independent “entrepreneur,” was supporting the idea to quit school and come work with him. In those days, we had lost almost everything we owned, our house was burned, the villa we were building was demolished, my dad lost all of his business, and we became refugees. That is why I wanted to quit school.
A turning point
A family friend convinces my dad not to let me quit and continue to high school, which I did. That moment was a turning point in my studies since I transformed from a mediocre student to being among the top three of my class. After high school, I left Lebanon, still in a civil war, and came to the US to study, and later worked. I had never thought of myself as a risk-taker or an entrepreneur. Sometimes, I was mad at my dad for some of the risks he took and did not understand them. I did not know, or understand, or even accept that risk-taking is part of life. I thought my dad was making mistakes when he would do something risky. So I wanted to be different.
Education & early career
I focused on my studies and worked my way through college when my parents could not send me money anymore because of the collapse of the economy in Lebanon. I did well in my education, got a job, went back to uni for a masters’ degree that was 1990. Graduating from the University of California Berkeley and with top grades, provided me the necessary education to join Exxon and later other companies. All along, I was choosing the safe route, good school, top university, excellent working environment, and global companies. However, something was missing.
I guess the risk-taker blood was running in my veins. I never thought of myself as a risk-taker, on the contrary, I felt I had a neutral attitude to risks, and maybe even averse to risks. About 8 years into my career with Exxon, I was frustrated. Exxon offered me a great opportunity and excellent salary and benefits, but I was not satisfied. In the early summer of 1998, I decided to quit, without any alternative in mind. In those days, entrepreneurship and startup were not a hot topic. Fortunately for me, I started freelancing and got an opportunity to work on a megaproject (in Texas), and later officially registered a company. The company was a legal structure for my self-employment.
Passion for project management
I am sharing all of the above to share how life was framing my future. Many of the steps that I have taken up to that point were mostly reactionary and not by design or long term vision. The only constant was my passion for project management and its value in all aspects of life.
After three years of self-employment, I was offered a job in Saudi, with Saudi Aramco. I did not want to take the job, but expecting my first child, pushed me into giving up on my US company-dream and go back into the corporate world. Being an entrepreneur was moved down on my priority list. However, two to three years into my “employee status,” my father’s blood started to drive me again.
a side note, for those who do know what it means to work for Saudi Aramco, here is a hint, wealth, and prosperity for the rest of my life, if I retire as an Aramcon.
The second startup
I started to plan to startup a company again. Everyone thought that I was crazy to leave the “Aramco Dream.” In 2004, we started SUKAD FZ-LLC in Dubai, UAE. I left a $20k/month total package to go into the unknown. A new company, in a new country, and with no real salary. I ran SUKAD from 2005 to 2019; earned many leading customers and their respect for repeat business year after year. During those years, we worked on the SUKAD Way, developed CAMMP, started our blog site and YouTube channel, and published a few books.
The third and current startup
The Moral of the story
Once again, I am sharing all of the above, a personal story, to reach the point of answering the question, the question that I posted as the title of this message. “What does it take to have a co-founder spirit?” What I shared is one example and the story of a “late-entrepreneur” if there is such a term. Other entrepreneurs started earlier in life, maybe even when they were still in school or university. So, what is the point?
So far, I gave you an indirect or implicit answer to the question of co-founder spirit. I used the term co-founder instead of an entrepreneur because most startups are teams, although triggered or driven by one vision. If you prefer, you can think of the “Entrepreneur Spirit.” What is the moral of this story? What is the explicit answer to this question?
The explicit answer
I do not know if there is an answer for everyone to subscribe to. To me, here is an explicit response to “What does it take to have a co-founder spirit?” It takes:
- The courage to go into the unknown and maybe unchartered path.
- To accept the threat of potential failure and seek the opportunity to serve.
- The realization that we need to find solutions to problems and practice gaps
- To understand that entrepreneurship takes dedication, hard works, and sleepless nights.
- To be willing to reach the verge of burnout but the wisdom to realize that the exhaustion is temporary and to be expected. Of course, that requires the rebellious spirit to snap out of it.
The Co-Founder Spirit
It sounds like a horror story, so why would anyone want to be a founder, co-founder, or an entrepreneur. Well, not everyone wants to and some of those who want it might not understand what it takes. So, why do we do it? We do it because we have the spirit.
I do realize that many do it for the glory, being a Unicorn or a Camel (a new term that I am still trying to understand). Maybe we do it to be rich and famous. Each of us has different triggers. Even if one is at the highest level of the Maslow hierarchy of needs, one would still like the recognition. However, the real answer is here. Many of us do not do for glory, recognition, or wealth. We do it because we see a need. Founders see problems that someone should address. They see gaps that must be filled. We do it because we believe in a cause. We do it because we have the “Co-Founder Spirit.”
Co-Founder Opportunity, the Uruk PPM
So, if you have the passion to excel and serve, you appreciate the value of project management, you have the business development skills to help us go to market, we would love to hear from you. You would be working with me and our CIO, Neville Goedhals.