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How I got here: Imad Hammad, CEO and co-founder, CarSwitch.com

How I got here: Imad Hammad, CEO and co-founder, CarSwitch.com

Former McKinsey consultant Hammad on the journey to starting his own company

Education

I grew up between Canada, Lebanon and the UAE, and did a few circles in between, which was almost like a reset button school-wise every couple of years. Consequently, I became quite adept with change. My bachelor’s degree was in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto, and being a tinkerer at heart, the tech world sort of brought it all together for me. CarSwitch.com checked all the boxes – applying technology to solve a real life problem by making car buying or selling as easy as flicking a switch on an app.

My start

I was a consultant with McKinsey & Company for a little over eight years, focused on marketing in the consumer and technology sectors. I was fortunate enough to watch senior leaders navigate turmoil across industries and geographies, and I will never be grateful enough for the real life master’s courses in everything from analytics to leadership. During this time I also did a secondment with OSN, which helped bridge the gap between the answers on paper versus in consumer hands. This encouraged me to give it a go myself.

Approach

Projects at McKinsey keep you at a constantly high pace, with rapid prototyping and testing, and the need to be able to roll with the next punch. My co-founder, Ali Malik, is also an ex-partner from McKinsey where we worked together for several years. So we share that bit of DNA and that’s what we brought to CarSwitch.com. We shared a passion for car sales, and a vision for what it ought to be, but admitted we wouldn’t have the perfect answer on day one. Instead, everything at CarSwitch.com is geared around an array of mini experiments on top of rigorous analytics to point us in the right direction. We embraced that we won’t get it right the first time, and that’s ok, as we would rather adapt as quickly as possible and kill what features don’t work and invest behind what does.

Highs and lows

Looking back at the last two years, entrepreneurship is an emotional rollercoaster. One day you’re on top of the world and the next you cry yourself to sleep. Having an awesome co-founder to balance out the mood swings, and vice versa, is critical to survival. Selling our first used car, locking in fundraising, signing up Al Futtaim on new cars, winning the Etisalat business pitch, and hearing CarSwitch.com on the radio are some of the few highs that have helped us believe it’s going to be huge. A bad review and missing a week’s targets remind us there’s a lot more to do.

Dos and don’ts

Don’t give up, don’t stop listening, and don’t stop fighting. You have 40 years of career in you, give or take – a corporate job will always be there but a disruptive opportunity to change a facet of the world doesn’t come nearly as often. If I were to give any advice from lessons learned it would probably be prototype, launch, and learn as quickly as humanly possible. Make time to connect with the start-up and investor community long before you desperately need a partnership or capital to keep going. This is a team sport, so give everything you can to make others successful – from your staff to other businesses.

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