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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Off hours: I’m a geek at heart, says Romanian entrepreneur Tiberiu Iacomi

While Romanian entrepreneur Tiberiu Iacomi says he cannot live without a work-life balance, he also believes there is no balance. Instead, life is a rollercoaster ride.
Tiberiu Iacomi, the founder of The Improbable Agency, says he is a geek at heart. Reem Mohammed / The National
Tiberiu Iacomi, the founder of The Improbable Agency, says he is a geek at heart. Reem Mohammed / The National

Tiberiu Iacomi is the founder of The Improbable Agency, a strategy consultancy for start-ups. The entrepreneur, 28, from Romania, previously worked in France as a marketing manager and in China as a branding consultant for education start-ups. Calling himself a “geek at heart”, the 28-year-old, who settled in Dubai last year, says his company strives to be the creative mind for start-ups in the region.

How do you spend your weekend?

My weekdays and weekends overlap. I work with passion every single day of the week as I am running regional, as well as global projects. You can catch me on a Skype call with a US organisation on Fridays and on a Saturday with a start-up from the UAE. I am not a workaholic, I am just a superhero like Captain Planet who extracts more energy from the cool projects he accomplishes. Joking aside, I play a lot of sports – from tennis to badminton and squash – on the weekend. I am also volunteering at a start-up called The Coding Circle, where I am teaching coding to kids and teenagers. Not to forget: I call my grandmas each Saturday.

How did you become an executive director?

I am not an executive director – this is a very restrictive name for a role. As an entrepreneur at The Improbable Agency, I wear the six thinking hats, as coined by Edward de Bono, as well as one million hats of vision-leading, strategy-building, team-guiding as well as operations, admin and other things that actually make a business run. I’m the colleague of the team members of the agency. I become their right hand when they take the lead on different projects. Although idealistic, the undefined nature of my role is to form a super-team very fast for a specific project. In a very geeky way, call me a shape shifter.

What is your go-to gadget?

For me it’s no longer about a go-to gadget, it’s about a go-to set of apps that are synchronised across devices (mobile phone, tablet, laptop). I use a series of productivity apps to manage my time, my tasks and my projects – from Wunderlist for to-do lists to Asana for project tracking, both for The Improbable Agency and personal, to Flipboard and TED for trend watching.

What was the lowest point of your career?

It’s going to be a slight play on words, but the lowest point was the starting point – the moment when I started getting paid for articles that I wrote for the local newspaper in my hometown (I was in high school). Why was it the lowest point? Because I thought I knew enough about the world.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

I used to be a perfectionist – wanting to learn everything about everything. But I realised that it’s better to strive to be perfect while creating, doing and developing projects through The Improbable Agency. And it’s better to start creating proofs of concept, doing experiments. Developing models doesn’t cost money, it costs time, learning time and implementation time, which people who want to become entrepreneurs should make for themselves, no matter what. There’s a quote from Will Smith that says: “If we both get on a treadmill in a competition – there are only two outcomes possible – either I win or I die on that treadmill.”

What is your most indulgent habit?

Organising. Having an organised environment around me can be the key to developing a lean, agile and creative start-up. There are multiple scientific studies on the benefits of mess or, on the other hand, organisation, but what I am taking from them is that if the environment is organised, the mind is organised as well.

What do you have on your desk at work?

A coaster and a coffee mug featuring the South Park characters.

What can’t you live without?

My work-life balance and all the activities that make me more energetic for work such as the sports I practise and the movies I watch along with the agency projects. I can’t live without the thought that I am building a family and creating the safe environment through the business that I am running.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Let me rectify the answer to the previous question and to this one at the same time. There is no balance. There are no eight hours of work, eight hours of fun and eight hours of sleep. The life of an entrepreneur, the workload, the family, the other activities, all look like a music equaliser – a low bass, a high treble, etc. But there’s a reason why they call it an equaliser, it is because you can reach a feeling of achievement at the end of the rollercoaster ride.

If you could swap jobs with anyone who would it be and why?

Chris Anderson, the curator of TED Talks. Why? Because I have less and less time to read books, studies, news, posts, tweets and snaps. Therefore, absorbing and giving knowledge for people from any part of the world (and making a living out of it) would be truly fulfilling.

selgazzar@thenational.ae

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