Standing at the crossroads that will likely define the trajectory of the rest of my life, almost 27 years ago, I make a pivotal choice that completely transforms my life.
"I'm going to Electronics Engineering University" I announce to my parents!
They are thrilled and relieved. After all, engineers are more respected and make more money than artists (art was what I did all the time when I wasn't reading about the latest technologies).
Now, pleasing my parents is essential, but for me, only one thing was on my mind.
Damascus Electronics Engineering University has computers!
And while I'll probably not see one till the fourth year, and I will have to study tons of math, physics, and engineering fundamentals before I touch one, but it's still worth it.
I was fascinated and completely taken with technology; its remarkable innovations, what's possible because of it, and the impact that it has on every aspect of our lives.
Those university years gave me many firsts. The first time I used a mac. The first time I wrote and executed a program on the IBM XT 286. The first time I played DOOM. The first PC I assembled. The first time I accessed the internet using a 56K modem working at 10K speed. And my first true love and life partner :)
A Remarkable Journey
My love for art and music along with my fascination with technology led me to start an online gaming startup, launch an arts marketplace, build a few of creative, marketing, content, and social media agencies, and even design a space-themed amusement park!
A long winding road that led me on July 2014 to Launch Academy.
As an entrepreneur, I immediately recognized something extraordinary about Launch Academy from the moment I walked in.
I was new to Vancouver and it’s thriving tech scene and something drew me in and made me want to stay.
"I'm never leaving this space" I said to myself!
In four incredible years, I've grown from a member to mentor, to head mentor, to general manager, and I witnessed the place transform from a young nonprofit community hub to a global tech incubation powerhouse with:
+1000 Founders | Serving millions of global customers
+600 Unstoppable Startups | Collectively raised over $150M
+400 Community Events | Showcasing local and international investors and founders
5th Edition of Traction Conference | Featuring $ billion companies
Double The Team Size | With the same rigorous commitment to getting shit done
All of that without taking any equity from startups, funding our operations through our revenue, and with almost no government support.
Launch Academy operates like a bootstrapped startup, led by entrepreneurs who at many times take a pay cut to keep it running.
Almost 27 years later, with the same boyishness that led me to go into engineering because I liked computers. I'm again standing at a similar crossroads that will likely define the trajectory of the rest of my life!
I must make a pivotal choice!
Fascinated with its possibilities and the impact it can have on the world, two years ago I started learning about Bitcoin, Blockchain and other decentralized innovative technologies.
A market wave building massive momentum, blockchain is the next internet
The problem is that there is lots of information out there, ironically decentralized and widely distributed. Many articles that are supposed to tell you something insightful and helpful turn out to be puff pieces. Basically, marketing material.
As a result of numerous conversations with entrepreneurs, professionals, and business leaders, I discovered that many people are unaware of how to get involved in Blockchain and where to get the foundation they need. Especially if they are non-technical.
Whether they want to build the next big thing, make the next career move, or start the next chapter of their life journey, many are interested in getting involved, and they have no idea where to get started.
So together with a trusted group of brilliant friends, we co-founded Next Decentrum. Our grand vision: to unleash the power of decentralized innovation in the world
We are building a suite of products to form a blockchain readiness platform to help teams and organizations future-proof their operations and unlock the hidden potential of blockchain and decentralized innovation.
My pursuit of Next Decentrum comes at a time when my role as General Manager of the entrepreneurial haven called Launch Academy has fulfilled its purpose, and it's time for me to move on.
But can an entrepreneur truly ever leave Launch Academy?!
For me, the answer is no. I don't think I can ever leave. Unless Ray, the CEO, kicks me out. Luckily, I'm still on his good side :)
Ray and I both agree that we have an amazing capable team that will take Launch Academy to the next horizon.
And while I continue to explore my visions of the next internet I'm forever an active advocate of Launch Academy, its team, purpose, vision, and mission.
And my commitment to this ever-growing startup hub remains steadfast. For it has impacted my life and the lives of thousands of entrepeneuers in ways I could not have imagined.
This means another first for my list, as I'm thrilled to announce that I'm officially the first Launch Academy Evangelist.
As an Evangelist I will continue to give voice to our mission on a global scale, and helping more tech entrepreneurs take their startup from idea to traction on a global scale.
So I must take this opportunity to thank Vancouver's startup community. An incredibly generous community that took me in and gave me the space to grow and contribute.
A vibrant community I'm privileged to be considered one of its active members.
I couldn't have done it without the help of many incredible people.
A huge thank you to:
Rama Ibrahim, for believing in me and pushing me beyond what I thought was possible
Zain Hallak, for the thought-provoking conversations, when I most needed them.
Julie Hallak, for the hugs and unconditional love.
Joyanna Anthony, for inviting me to your meetup, giving me a platform, and introducing me to great people.
The YMCA/WorkBC team for believing in me and giving me my first break in Vancouver.
Roger Killen, for inviting me to speak at VBN, lead the marketing of TEDxStanleyPark, and giving me a platform.
Praveen Varshney, for being an advocate and supporter, for introducing to great people, networking opportunities, thoughtful reads, and most of all for embodying the best of Vancouver.
Vik Khanna, for being a friend and trusting me with leading TiE Vancouver.
Sam Thiara, for the puzzle piece, the engaging coffees, thoughtful questions, the warm friendship. and many introductions to great people.
Rob Craig, for my first Vancouver job (I learned a ton), for my first Vancouver sushi meal ever! (I'm addicted for life) and for introducing me to Norah.
Norah Borden, for your friendship, art, and for introducing me to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.
Dave Thomas, for the mentorship, support, and for everything you do for the Vancouver startup community, you are one of its hidden treasures.
Collin Stewart, for the Predictable Revenue book, the coffee meeting, and the tour at Launch Academy, you have no idea what you started :)
Alex Chuang, for accepting my Launch Academy membership, the deep and thoughtful conversations, being a great friend, creating LEAP, and trusting me with what you built at Launch Academy.
Jackie Murchison, for making my first experience of Launch Academy welcoming and great fun.
Ray Walia, for co-founding the best place to work ever, being the voice of wisdom when I needed it most, being a role model for me and for our team, making sure Launch Academy is here for the community and every entrepreneur who needs it. Oh and for helping me figure out the my first Launch Academy membership payment.
Sam Chan, for your silent and humble support to every member of the team, for being a great partner through the "figuring shit out" times, for your piercing thoughtful comments and humour when we needed it most.
Roger Patterson, for teaching me what makes a great mentor, being one of the most kind and pleasant people I know, and for continuing to be a great mentor and role model.
Ian MacKinnon, for your NO BS mentorship, and your continuous support of Launch.
Connor Beaton, for sharing your vision of ManTalks team, for the long walks, great friendship, for creating RealTalkSummit, and for everything you do for helping men become better husbands, fathers, and business owners.
Connie Ekelund, for inviting me to The Landmark Forum, what a transformational experience :) I'm a better person because of the experience and the great friends I made there.
Joel Mark Harris, for the partnership, and pure unconditional friendship. I love you.
Bill Tam, for your contribution to the community, your honest feedback and guidance.
Bernd Petak, for always showing up when the community needs you, for making time for our expansive conversations, and for sharing your wise words.
Austin Nairn, for believing I can add value to the community, inviting me to the Small Business Council, and inviting me to World Trade Centre program.
Stuart Candiah, for the brilliant videography, and giving spirit.
Jill Tipping, for your friendship, warm conversations, and commitment to getting shit done :)
Gary Boddington, for your generous support on my blockchain journey, and being part of the first steps.
Jaqueline Perez, for your ever pleasant and supportive attitude, and being there for our team whenever we needed you.
Bob Summerwill, for your engaging blockchain conversations, being a community advocate, and for building bridges towards a better future.
Shafin Diamond, for believing in Next Decentrum's future vision, for being one of the kindest and most humble people I've ever met.
The remarkable Launch Academy team old (Maggie, Annu, Caroline) and new (Alana, Shade, Kelsey, Claire, Giselle, Caroline) for your unstoppable commitment to getting shit done, you are the true secret to Launch Academy's success.
The entrepreneurs I was privileged to train and mentor, for listening, executing, and helping me get better with your valuable feedback.
The many more who helped and supported me in any way, be it with a thought, word, or action. Every little thing made a difference.
I'm forever grateful.
Thank you for all your support.