Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 August 2020

Day in the life: ProTenders chief lives on the lookout

The entrepreneur Karim Helal says running a rapidly growing startup means he must constantly be on the lookout for new ways to grow the business.
Karim Helal says that as a start-up chief he has to be constantly moving and finding ways to make his business grow. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Karim Helal says that as a start-up chief he has to be constantly moving and finding ways to make his business grow. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Karim Helal is the chief executive and co-founder of ProTenders.com, a construction intelligence and tendering platform connecting developers, consultants, contractors and suppliers. The Canadian, 41, who grew up in the 1980s in Abu Dhabi, where his father worked as an architect, returned to the capital 10 years ago, where he now lives with his wife and two-year-old son. The businessman says there is no “typical” 24 hours in the life of an entrepreneur. “Every day is different and brings new challenges and new surprises, and that’s what makes entrepreneurship so exciting.”


I wake up to the beautifully soothing sound of my two-year-old son screaming “Mamaaaaaaa” or “Papaaaaaaaaa” at the top of his lungs. The baby routine starts and by 8:30am we’re ready to ­either drop him at an idyllic nursery on Saadiyat or go to work (we take turns with drop-off depending on whether I’m heading to Dubai that day).


As the workday starts, I sip my first green detox drink and double espresso of the day. Running a business is like a Spartan race mixed with a marathon, which can be long and brutal. You have to stay energised and healthy. I do a first pass at my 100 to 150 new emails and delete all the useless ones (spam, ads, etc). I then reply to the urgent ones and keep the rest for the remainder of the day. Next is spending 30 to 45 minutes browsing news websites and technology blogs. I do this to keep up to date with the industry, latest business trends or technology innovations. As a chief executive of a rapidly growing start-up, I need to constantly stay on the lookout for new ways to grow our business and the internet is a great place to do that, along with events.


I get down to work on the first part of the day’s to-do list, whether it’s working with the product team on the next big thing we are launching or helping the sales team on some key accounts. I am also involved with our marketing team on events. I’m setting up a call with a company I met in Silicon Valley in March and working on new technology to make our construction platform more powerful in preparation for a meeting with a VIP in Dubai at the end of April.


Finding and hiring the best talent is what makes or breaks a company, and some of the key positions take months to fill. Therefore I am constantly looking out for new people to hire. I try to interview or have a deep conversation about strategy, marketing or product with at least one new person a day because this person might join us in the future.


Time for our company-wide daily stand-up. ProTenders has employees working from five different countries. While we always use a shared chat room system, we take 30 minutes every day to regroup and go over what everybody is working on or what issues they are facing. It is a great way to reconnect and make sure we are all on the same page.


I keep my afternoons free for business meetings and any ­other activities that require me to visit companies (follow up on existing customers, meet new ones, talk to potential partners and so on). If I am in Abu Dhabi, I try to pop into the nursery to spend a little time with my son, especially if he is on school holidays.


I head home to be with my family before my son goes to bed. Afterwards I head out for an hour or two to exercise. My exercise can either be running, CrossFit or lifting weights. It really helps me stay focused and clear my head for the next day.


I hop on investment calls with US-based investors that work with us to fund our rapid growth and prepare our expansion. We aim to solidify our position as a leading business-to-business construction platform.


I go to bed and listen to a podcast about politics. It’s the best way to fall asleep.


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Updated: April 20, 2017 04:00 AM



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