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Q&A with Georges Salloum

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Georges Salloum, CEO @I-Stay SAL

How could you describe your career path in a few words?

My career path has been quite unorthodox, to say the least. I've always been attracted to entrepreneurship and the idea of being my own boss. From a very young age, I was always thinking of ways to start businesses.  At age 12, while living in Africa,  I worked with the house cook to prepare authentic Lebanese sweets, which I sold to a local sweet shop.

Fast forward to 1994 when I officially started working as a software developer, right out of college. However, I always had side projects. In 1997 I joined a computer learning center where I taught programming and relational databases. This lead into consulting and freelance development. In 2012, I co-founded a software development house specializing in mobile application development, which was quite novel at the time in Lebanon. From there, I co-founded a mobile food delivery platform in 2014, which was my first foray into the tech startup world. Based on the mistakes made during that venture, I started offering consultancy to other entrepreneurs. In 2018, I launched a marketplace for fashion designers in Lebanon and later co-founded two startups during the Covid pandemic, an online grocery store and a marketplace for new mothers and their children, to help address the problems of the people during the lockdown imposed by the virus. More recently, I co-founded I-Stay, a company focused on solving the problem of unemployment in Lebanon and the Great Resignation happening in Europe and the US, through staff augmentation.

My career path has been full of unexpected turns and opportunities, but one thing remains constant - my passion for entrepreneurship and making a positive impact in the world through technology. I believe that with the right attitude, hard work, and a willingness to take risks, anything is possible.

What was your most challenging experience and it has changed your mindset?

Well, let me tell you, my most challenging experience definitely left a lasting impact on my mindset! It all started when Lebanon was hit by an economic crisis in 2019, followed by the pandemic in 2020. I had just left my job and was starting a new venture when all of a sudden, I woke up one day to find out that all my savings were gone. The Lebanese pound had drastically decreased in value and chaos was everywhere. To make matters worse, COVID-19 hit the world, and I was at a crossroads. I had a family of three boys to take care of, and there were no job opportunities in the country. But, as a true entrepreneur, I refused to give up. I remembered Sir Winston Churchill's quote "If you're going through hell, keep going" and decided to pivot my business. I converted my marketplace platform into a grocery delivery platform and started another platform for mothers and babies. This experience taught me the importance of perseverance and not being emotionally attached to any particular solution. It also made me realize the significance of being agile and adaptable in the face of adversity. I learned to always look for opportunities in times of crisis, and this is something that I will carry with me throughout my career.

Based on your experience, what skills should an entrepreneur develop in 2023?

As we head into 2023, it's clear that entrepreneurs will need to cultivate a few key skills to succeed. First and foremost, flexibility and adaptability are critical. The world is in a state of flux, and the ability to pivot quickly in response to new challenges and opportunities will be essential. Along with this, entrepreneurs will need to embrace transformational leadership, taking an innovative and forward-thinking approach to guiding their organizations through turbulent times.

Another important skill for entrepreneurs in 2023 is cultural competency. With remote work becoming more prevalent, it's essential to be able to work effectively with people from different backgrounds and cultures. This means developing an understanding of diverse perspectives and finding ways to bridge cultural gaps in order to achieve shared goals. And finally, it's crucial to stay attuned to the wider context in which your business operates, whether that means keeping an eye on geopolitical developments or being mindful of shifts in consumer behavior. By staying informed and responsive to the broader landscape, entrepreneurs can position themselves as effective problem-solvers and agents of change in a world that is rapidly evolving.

Based on your recent experiences, if you had one piece of advice for an entrepreneur's success in the context of 2023, what would it be?

Something I keep repeating to my entrepreneurship students at university: No entrepreneur should fall in love with the solution he/she offers and lose track of the original problem he/she set out to solve. This is the cause of many failures amidst startups nowadays… co-founders will develop a solution to what they perceive is a problem and then shift their entire focus on this solution trying to improve it and make it more sexy to potential customers…they forget that problems are dynamic and they evolve and they end up with a solution that has evolved in a diverging direction from the evolution of the original problem. To compound the problem and make things worse, they become sentimentally attached to the solution and categorically refuse to see that it has ceased to be effective… This leads to time , energy and money being wasted in the wrong place …frustration sets in and this is usually the beginning of the end. I see many entrepreneurs running around trying to sell their solution to investors, hoping to bring it back to life, without acknowledging the fact that it is no longer a valid solution to any known problem.  So I say, focus on the problem. Always on the problem and make sure whatever you are offering your customers addresses just that.

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