Off hours: Dubai tech start-up founder finds advantage on the court
Subhi Farah is the co-founder of Kanari, a tech start-up that helps brands collect customer feedback and measure customer service. The 32-year-old, who was born and raised in the UAE, studied computer science at the University of Toronto and completed an MBA at IESE Business School in Barcelona, where he “caught the entrepreneurship bug”. After the degree, Mr Farah returned to Dubai to launch his company with co-founder and old friend Edmond Husseini.
What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?
An ideal weekend for me involves spending time on Kite beach in Umm Suqeim, having a nice home-cooked meal with my family and spending time with friends (which I rarely get to do during the week). And no weekend is complete, of course, without a solid session of tennis.
What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?
Definitely tennis. I am not big into sports, but tennis is one that I have been playing on and off for the larger part of my life and I have started taking it a lot more seriously over the past few years. I love it, it really helps me de-stress.
What can’t you live without?
The company of good people.
What do you consider the secret to your success?
If I had to boil it down it would be determination, hard work and irrational optimism – that ability to maintain a positive outlook and see past the obstacles that stand in your way. Because, whether you like it or not, when starting up you will face a tonne of challenges, and a positive perspective helps you get over the negative emotions, which if left unaddressed can quickly lead to burnout. Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride, so keeping your focus on the end goal and having the ability and resolve to pull through is critical, in my opinion. That said, I think we are still far away from what I would like to call success, but I am hoping that with enough secret sauce we will eventually get there.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
I would say that time is the most valuable resource you have and you should use it wisely. So before diving into a start-up do your homework, understand the problem you are trying to solve and validate your solution with potential clients to make sure you have something they are willing to pay for. It is very easy to get sucked into building a solution that you think people would want and then finding out it’s not what they actually wanted. I also suggest reaching out to other entrepreneurs and mentors for advice. They have most probably made mistakes and faced challenges in the past that you can take advantage of, rather than wasting precious time learning those same lessons the hard way. Entrepreneurship is all about paying it forward and helping others, so never hesitate to reach out for advice.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
Working on a start-up takes a lot of your time and it is really easy to get sucked into constantly doing work; it can seem never-ending. What has worked for me though is simple scheduling – using my calendar and setting aside time to exercise, play tennis, meet people, etc. If I have it in my calendar, there’s a much higher chance that it will get done, otherwise things tend to get postponed indefinitely. This is something I figured out fairly recently – we are still in beta testing.
How do you relax after the working day?
Exercise is my preferred way of blowing off steam. Whether it is a game of tennis, a workout or a run, it gives me the mental space to take a step back and reflect on what is going on. I find that a lot of my best and most creative ideas come to me when I am exercising. That said, I do have days when I just cannot be bothered to muster up the energy to exercise, and on those days I enjoy relaxing to a good TV show or spending time at a local cafe with a book or a good article.
If you were not working on Kanari what else would you be doing?
Another start-up. Alternatively, I think I would like to be in a role promoting start-ups and supporting technology entrepreneurship in the region.