Clara user Feras Jalbout founded Baraka after a career as an investor, spotting a gap in the market to promote financial inclusion and educate, enable, and empower everyone to invest. We spoke to him about the ups and downs of building a successful startup and how he spends his dangerous weekends with the family.
Morning motivation and the email game
I’m an early bird so my day starts at 6am. During the week I try to squeeze in a workout but at the weekends I dedicate myself to spending quality time with my kids, who are early risers as you can imagine!
I’m a big fan of breakfast and have been eating the same one for about 10 years – granola, fruit and Greek yoghurt with a side of vitamins. I eat breakfast while I’m tackling my to-do list and emails before the day gets going (or I get distracted!). My day isn’t complete unless I’ve pushed myself to get things done. I keep a to-do list and kill as many emails as possible (kind of like a game!).
Being productive is a great feeling, which is why I love using Clara. Clara is our trusted formation agent and has been instrumental in assisting us with the establishment of our holding company. The platform is highly intuitive, simple and continues to improve day-to-day management of corporate and investor relations matters, making it easier for founders.
We’ve built a strong team at Baraka, they have been key to its success. Most of my responsibilities revolve around encouraging and motivating them to achieve their goals and work towards the same vision. Helping others succeed is one of the best parts of my job. In fact, providing opportunity is how Baraka came about.
I spent 15 years as an investor before founding Baraka. During that time, I didn’t have access to an investment product I wanted to recommend to others. FinTech is innovative, but I felt we weren’t seeing much of it in the MENA region and wanted to be a part of the change. I’m driven by our mission to help people invest and we’re building a platform to enable that financial inclusion.
The platform is highly intuitive, simple and continues to improve day-to-day management of corporate and investor relations matters, making it easier for founders
Afternoon bites and startup life
I’m a massive foodie (I never miss a meal) so lunchtimes during the week are spent discovering what’s available to eat around the DIFC, then I’ll eat at my desk whilst trying to kill a few more emails. I try and reply to messages quickly so that we can keep up the pace and that people aren’t waiting on me for decisions or replies!
My afternoons are usually filled with meetings or spending time on other tasks. I wouldn’t say I have much of a process but that’s why I love startup life. Every day brings new challenges and projects to tackle. One of the biggest things I’ve learned as a founder is that the hits just keep on coming. You have to roll with the punches and not get bogged down with failure.
Things do go wrong, and when they do it’s important to keep calm. Having a clear head allows you to think fast to solve problems. As a startup founder you’ll encounter hurdles along the way (sometimes a few at once), so having that solution-oriented mindset is important.
Startups are mission-driven. You’re creating something disruptive in your environment to solve a problem and believing in it will be your biggest motivating factor
Family dinners, advice to others and weekends on the flip side
I live with my wife and two children. My general rule of thumb is that if I’m not at work, I’m with them. I spend my weekends living pretty dangerously – flipping pancakes and hitting up the slides at the local playground. I’m a real-life Will Ferrell.
My family were my biggest supporter when I started the business, pushing me to venture out of my comfort zone and achieve my goals. When I started Baraka, everything moved fast, and for me it’s essential to keep that going. As a founder, your hard work and enthusiasm inspires others to do the same.
I love what I do. I don’t think that other founders should start businesses just for the sake of being their own boss. You really need to love what you’re doing because you’ll often have to dedicate a huge part of your life and compromise to make it successful.
Startups are mission-driven. You’re creating something disruptive in your environment to solve a problem and believing in it will be your biggest motivating factor (and at times the only thing that gets you through the day!). Surround yourself with doers and lean on others who have done it before for advice – it’s all about the network!
I aim to get home for dinner with my wife and kids by 7pm. We eat a family meal together which I really value. Usually, I’ll be in bed by 10.30pm so that I can wake up early and before bed I’ll pick up my laptop look at my diary and plan what I’m going to do the next day.
Learn more about the Baraka platform here.