He is a natural inventor whose inventions stem from his natural tendencies to make daily life convenient. Hence his inventions, Wudu—a unique wash basin customised for patients and the physically disabled ones, and Puffie, a portabe collapsible trolley for grocery/shopping, and so on. An established entrepreneur with significant projects in his portfolio, Hamed Fakhro, Managing Director- Seef Business Centre shows the world that it is only a burning passion that can lead the way to success, be it invention or entrepreneurship.
Tell us briefly about yourself, where you were born and raised, any special childhood memories.
I was born and raised in Bahrain, at A’Ali. Our house was the first in the area with only a few scattered neighbors. I was a hyperactive kid and loved waking up before the sun and roaming around the neighborhood on my bike. I’d wait for the khabbaz (baker) to open and be the first person there with two hundred fils in my hand to buy a khubbuz jibin (bread with cheese) and a pepsi. Sitting on the sidewalk, hungrily devouring it watching the sun come up and chase the morning fog and dew away is still one of my favorite memories.
Give us a brief account of your educational and professional background.
I skipped 2nd grade and 12th grade and left Bahrain when I was 15 to Brummana high school (boarding school) in Lebanon. I was a freshman in American University of Beirut at the age of 16. I went to AUP (Paris) for a year then graduated university from AU in Washington DC two years later. I immediately started up my first company with my best friend that first month and never looked back. I was 21 years old then.
Where you interested in designing products/trying out inventions right from the beginning?
No, but I was always interested in science. I loved Physics and Maths, and later grew up to have an interest in Biology. I regret taking up Business instead of these subjects for higher studies because I now wish I had an Engineering/Physics background. But there’s nothing I can’t learn myself. Luckily I built myself enough so I can afford to tinker with inventions and ideas so I guess it worked out in the end.
Tell us about your inventions and the circumstances that led to their invention.
I have a long list of ideas: Each popped into my head while I was in the middle of doing something and finding difficulties doing it. It’s not like I sat down and came up with any of my ideas on purpose! The idea for Wudu came about by accident when I hurt my back and couldn’t raise my feet high enough to wash them. Puffie came about when I hurt my fingers carrying shopping bags down a long corridor in Houston. I think everyone gets ideas and thinks of inventions but the difference is that I wrote them all down, and took the time and energy to develop them. I have many more coming up also.
Is it easier to be an entrepreneur of your own inventions or to get into a traditional business by following the trodden path?
I think it’s very hard to start anything up, and I think creating a product is even harder. To me, they are both extremely tough endeavors that need a lot of time and energy; like having a baby. And my businesses and products are like my babies. I give them time and money and they grow. It’s scary a lot of the time (especially in the beginning) because of the pressure: If you don’t make money, you fail and could go hungry. I was very hungry the first five years during my startup days.
I think the trodden path could be easy for many since it’s a safe path and you get paid at the end of every month. But to me, having a boss and being forced to be somewhere at a specific time every day is the hardest thing. I can’t deal with that. I think I’d probably rather live in a cardboard box than be an employee.
You have been a champion of entrepreneurship in Bahrain and a VC. Why HAVE YOU CHOSEN Bahrain over all GCC countries?
I love Bahrain. I love it very much and would never think of living anywhere else. There’s something sickly sweet and addictive about it. When I had cancer a few years ago and was bedridden reading about some controversial issues dragging us back I vowed that when I survived I would put my energy into helping build it to be a better by using the future generation. If the youth are busy developing themselves and building their futures, they won’t be concerned much about anything else that don’t deserve their time and attention. We already have a great infrastructure built by our grandfathers and just need to preserve these gains and build upon them. Besides, if I don’t stand up and put my energy into this beautiful island then who will?
How do you think the entrepreneurial atmosphere in Bahrain is unique?
Bahrain has always been a melting pot of cultures, and we are an eclectic mix of people of all races and colors and I love it! I grew up hearing accents of every kind, from Indian to Iraqi to Iranian to British. This mix of culture gives us a perspective of tolerance and our society has depth and flavor. Our location is perfectly situated in the middle of all the action between East and West, and we are a tiny island with a dynamic inventive economy. People love to create new things, and others copy, and then come up with a better product: That is the definition of innovation. Now all we need to do is harness that and create an economy out of it; which is exactly what is happening: Just watch and see.
How do you plan to encourage/motivate/guide aspiring entrepreneurs of Bahrain?
Luckily our government already has the vision and foresight to create the groundwork to help an entrepreneurial ecosystem develop. We have many organizations like INJAZ, BDB, Tamkeen, and many other enterprises designed to help the growth of a startup ecosystem. I’m part of team Startup Bahrain and we are a movement of the people for the people. I’m involved in almost every activity there is with all the organizations but more importantly I work with schools and children.
Furthermore, my door is always open to people who need advice and mentorship and I’m proud to say I helped a few people find their way. My next target is to have all Bahraini children learn how to code. We need to be the next India of the GCC, otherwise we will be wasting a lot of time focusing only on adults.
What according to you are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
Determination, stubbornness, flexibility, quick reaction, ability to change, tenacity, and luck. The rest is hard work. I think hard work is more important than anything, but you also need to be lucky somehow. I guess you create your own luck through being at the right place at the right time. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur and there’s no shame in that. I don’t push every person I see into being a self-starter, it should come from them, and they need to love what they do. It’s a tremendous load psychologically and physically and for some it’s ok to just work from 9-5 then go home, shower, have dinner, and do it all over again. I guess it’s mostly about passion in the end.
What is your message to the aspiring entrepreneurs of Bahrain?
If you believe in your idea and yourself then don’t listen to anything anyone has to say about you or your project. Nobody will know better than you. But listen to the market and listen to money, they both never lie.
Don’t work with family or friends. Ever.
Measure twice cut once. Make sure your financials are in order, and always make sure you have a positive cash flow.
Hire slowly fire quickly. Surround yourself with good people and remember; if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
I could go on forever, so the last thing I will say is: Just do it.