The CEO of Educatly on How to Start a Business
In a pleasant conversation with Elsa Barbera, Educatly’s CEO, Mohamed El Sonbaty shares how he got to start his EdTech company, Educatly. With the goal to enhance the higher-education ecosystem’s presence in the digital world, Educatly was founded by Mohmmed El Sonbaty, Abdulrahman Ayman, and Joan Manuel.
So we know you worked at a huge tech company. Did that help in any way in your journey?
“Yes, of course. I spent three years working at LinkedIn and it taught me a lot. I interacted with people and learned how this company built a huge network. Then I started applying my learning to my idea, along with the experiences of my cofounders, Abdulrahman, Joan, you, and many other people who added to our goal and continue to. Of course, it would be tricky if people jumped directly into entrepreneurship without preparation or occupying themselves with the technicalities, people, and resources to help them succeed.
“So, it's important to know that you’re prepared to take on this mission and solve it. Do you know that 99% of startups in the world fail? Why? Because of poor execution. It's not because the idea is bad or there is no problem to solve or a need to meet. It's because they don’t have a way to execute. It’s a long journey of preparation. With the experience I gained working at Linkedin, along with my cofounders’, we’ve managed to take our business to the next level.”
When did you decide that it’s time to start Educatly?
“I learned something new every year working at LinkedIn. However, 2020 was the year of courage for me. It was the time I knew I had enough knowledge, resources, and belief to take this leap of faith in myself and actually take the first step.
“Deciding to leave Linkedin and all the benefits I got was hard. I had no cash or security. I just had working experience, belief in myself and my ability, and people who shared my belief and encouraged me. That was the time for me. 2020 was the best time to take that step.”
Did you have enough support and people who believed in you during this journey?
“A healthy environment is very important to actually achieve your dreams. The vast majority of people will doubt you and what you’re doing. That might include your family and your very best friends. When I told them that I am quitting LinkedIn, one of the biggest companies in the world, to do something that no one know about it was a big deal.
“Having that doubt in the very early stage makes it hard to keep going and not feel discouraged. My healthy environment was my cofounders. We are each other’s support systems. That environment grew from 3 to 4 people to a lot more. We have investors that bet on us, and our team, the people who believe in what we do and help us do it. The environment is expanding and growing with people who have the same belief to nurture the idea and evolve it.”
How did you find that first person or investor to join you when you had no product or money?
“It was one of the biggest challenges. However, the cofounders, Abdulrahman, Joan and you are believers. Now, getting someone external to support us with their money is even more challenging. The essence of the crucial part to have other than product or money is vision, a story, and the capability to share the story and inspire people.
“Some people took it lightly and said, “thank you, good luck,” when I went to my very first conferences and told people that we’re building for education what LinkedIn built for jobs. Others were like, oh, tell me more about that. It’s achievable when you have a solid story and an inspiring vision that discuss a problem you can articulate, connect to personally, and really show how big of a problem it is in our world.
Finding those early believers to believe your crazy idea and that it can be implemented and succeed is definitely worth the time.”
Does getting more investors and believers get easier once you get the first investors and you see the results and the numbers?
“You know, I feel responsible because we have a team of 40 people, stakeholders, and investors who trusted us with their money and time and we’re getting even more investors. The biggest lesson I learned is that my role is to show the people who share with me the same belief the way and then just get out of their way. They’ll help you get there, and achieve more and we can celebrate together later.
“Having the right team with their unique input and experiences has helped the company evolve way more than I could have imagined in this short period of time. Everyone plays a unique role and that’s what’s driving this company. For me, it’s actually inspiring. I can learn something new from every single team member. My ability to step away after showing them the direction, and to let them go and find their way is core to what we do. It helps us be a diverse company that’s putting its minds together for the same goal and vision. That’s the beauty of believing.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur or solve a problem and doesn’t know where to start?
“My advice for people early in their journey is to believe that they’re unique. We all have different fingerprints, and every single person truly has something unique to add to the world. It’s a matter of finding your calling, and not getting bored or frustrated. It has nothing to do with age. It’s never too late. You can figure out your life’s calling early in life or later in life, and that’s okay. Just don’t give up. Believe that you’re unique with a unique msg and value. Be it a company, supporting a company, or adding value to people’s lives. This is crucial to finding your calling or talent that makes you different. It’s your edge. If everyone does that, the world can unleash the amazing potential to enhance this world, and make it better than we found it.”
This is just a little bit of how the EdTech platform Educatly came to life! It’s always here to help you. So, if you’ve always wanted to study abroad, but don’t know where to start, you can just DM us. It’s completely free and there are more than 36,000 programs. Just send us a message on Instagram and we will support you every step of the way.
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