By Amir Farha
It is rare to come across people in your working life that end up having a significant impact on you and your future. When you do, you are profoundly lucky. The first person I came across was my manager, Olivier Hopkes, at my first job as a budding venture capitalist in 2005. Olivier took a chance on me when he didn’t need to. I was not the best candidate for the job, nor did I have the requisite experience as many of my peers at the time. I was an intern who worked with him for a period of 3 months and hardly knew much about VC, but that didn’t stop him. Instead, he chose to hire me and spend time and effort nurturing my knowledge and skills in startup investing. He believed in me. Today, this experience has had a tremendous impact on where I am in my life and where I look to be in the future. I thank Olivier to this day, and now I thank both Sorusch Amiri and Ali Fakharany for the opportunity of learning from and working with them over the years.
I was fortunate to get connected to Sorusch in early 2014, when BECO was raising its first fund. His friend, was a friend of my brother and his CV landed in my inbox at a time when we weren’t actively hiring. A Columbia graduate with a scholarship, and having started his own tech startup and then interning at a VC and a VC-backed startup was clearly a unique set of experiences that attracted me to him from the start. Then the interview — it was a 2-hour conversation where we discussed a whole host of interesting things, and Sorusch shared his unique thoughts on his version of the world of tech and venture capital. My words to him were, “You are far ahead of where I ever was when I was 26. You are hired. I just need you to speak to my partners, but when can you start?” It was an amazing conversation that I remember fondly to this day, where both of us were excited and soon enough, Sorusch accepted our offer and came to Dubai, without even meeting us face to face first. It was a gamble that paid off for both of us.
Fast forward 3 years, Sorusch has decided to go back into the entrepreneurial world to pursue his own venture. I’m proud of him and support him in his endeavors. I have no doubt he will be successful. Sorusch and I worked very closely over the 3 years. We had our ups and downs, and some real conflicts, and some adventures, but that is a part of getting to know someone and that is also a consequence of having 2 strong opinionated people. He is a philosopher, a thinker, a learner and a hard-worker. He is compassionate, articulate and highly intellectual. But even more, he is a great human being. I’m sure he’s learned a lot over his time with us, but I have learned even more. I have learnt how to communicate better, and articulate myself to get my points across with more clarity. I have learnt how to manage my emotions, as I can be very erratic. I have learnt how to be a better manager, and a better leader. He has made me think a lot more deeply about my values and beliefs. He has made me think more deeply about our strategy as a firm, and our culture. He has taught me many things on technology, and he has shared his thoughts on very important issues on a day to day basis. He has helped me manage relationships, and manage people, in ways that have had a tremendous impact on our company. I cannot thank him enough for his 3 years of loyalty, support and friendship. He is not a colleague, but a brother — someone who I know will be a part of my life in the years to come.
And now Ali Fakharany. As with Sorusch, Ali came through a referral. I saw his unique CV and arranged a call. He had started a sports tech startup and worked for nearly a year as an investment banker (short enough not to develop into one, but long enough to learn about finance). On the call, we had a long conversation, and given how young Ali was, I was surprised by his maturity and knowledge of technology and venture as well as his unique viewpoints in the space. Just like with Sorusch, I offered him a job and got him on a call with my partners. He would get the job pending a case study, which he delivered with flying colours. Ali accepted the offer and started with us in late April 2016. It’s been 1 year, and a fruitful one at that.
Ali came in with attitude. He was productive from the get-go, always wanting to learn and support the team. He is a winner, a fighter and very entrepreneurial. Although at times cocky (especially when we compete on the tennis court), he is caring, rational and mature beyond his years. Ali is a leader, stubborn, opinionated and highly intelligent with conviction. Ali is someone who taught me a lot about managing people. We clashed at the start, and I found him very hard to manage. This was the toughest challenge I had to deal with personally, and Ali was the one who taught me how to be more aware of my actions. He changed my management approach entirely for the better of the culture and productivity of the firm. He taught me how to empower and mentor people to extract the most out of them. Today, our turbulent start has allowed us to develop an extremely productive working relationship and a solid friendship that will last for a long, long time. He has strengthened my confidence and decision-making capabilities, and has been extremely loyal when we were in times of stress. I cannot thank him enough for his efforts, contribution and friendship. Today, Ali is leaving us to lead his sports tech startup on a full-time basis. He has an exciting adventure ahead of him and has all the ingredients to build something special.
Although it pains me to see these two members of our family and very dear friends of mine leaving our firm, I am so happy to see where they are heading. They are special people doing special things, and we have been lucky to have had them work with us over the years. They are leaders, entrepreneurs, thinkers, doers and awesome people. Brothers. Thank you for the impact you’ve made on my life and my future, and I wish you the best of success in yours. Goodbye my friends, you will be missed.