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How I got here: Rami Shaar, co-founder and CEO, Washmen

How I got here: Rami Shaar, co-founder and CEO, Washmen

Shaar explains how he transitioned from a career in investment banking to founding his own company

Education

I’ve always been good at maths, but hated reading books and having to absorb a ton of redundant information. I think that’s where I started developing a true love for hacking redundancy and getting straight to the point. I wouldn’t read long books, but from a short summary I was able to debate with structured arguments with anyone – including the teacher – and challenge the common view. I’ve always loved challenging the status quo – or even shocking it. After studying at the American International School in Riyadh, I moved to Montreal to earn my bachelor of arts at Concordia University in Finance.

My start

After finishing my degree, I started my career in investment banking at Morgan Stanley. That’s where I learned how to get things done and work under extreme pressure – it was a tough place to start a career. It was not until I joined SwiCorp Private Equity that everything I learned at Morgan Stanley started to make sense. I started to find my own style of getting things done, to structure my thinking and to avoid reacting under pressure, developing instead a systematic approach. When reading the news about people starting their own business, I had some admiration and wanted to start my own gig as well. But I wasn’t sure what, or how to do so exactly. One day, when I had an argument over the phone with a laundry service, I had a ‘eureka’ moment. If an app had disrupted the transportation industry, why couldn’t another app disrupt the laundry business? That’s when I first thought of Washmen. I tried to poach someone from Uber but instead she convinced me to join Uber to nail the fundamentals of an app-based business. After one year at Uber, I was ready to take the leap of faith.

Approach

I’ve always been an intense person, and if there is something I don’t know, I will obsess over it to the point of knowing the ins and outs. I won’t quit until I can hack my way through whatever that is. That’s what happens every single day at Washmen. I had no clue about running a laundry business. I had no clue about building apps. I had no clue how to find proper investors, how to build a team, or create a structure. I had only very basic notions of marketing. But that cluelessness was fuel. I actually started appreciating the feeling of not knowing what to do because it’s a lot of fun to hack and find your way around in any circumstances.

Dos and don’ts

Never say you don’t know. When someone in my team says this, it drives me crazy. If you don’t know, figure something out. A response is better than lingering around without knowing what to do. Your solution might not be perfect, but at least you made the effort of coming up with something to solve the problem. Never stop questioning the status quo, challenging it and telling yourself that it’s possible. Erase the word impossible from your internal vocabulary. I’ve seen many bright guys debilitated by that word. They are much more knowledgeable than me, much more qualified, but they are stuck in their own cubicle of fears and insecurities because of that word. That’s probably why I love the popular sports brand’s slogan: ‘impossible is nothing’.

Highs and lows

One of my all-time lows was actually while I was still an employee. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I can’t deal with office politics. During one of my jobs I found myself working under uninspiring leaders and unfortunately my patience is extremely limited in these kinds of situations. Washmen gave me a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, because I knew that by becoming an entrepreneur I could really take my fate into my own hands. My success would not depend on the arbitrary judgement of someone else, who sometimes proves to be much less resourceful than you are. My high is probably right now. Washmen is experiencing a crazy growth and we are bringing the business to new heights. Stay tuned for some big things that are about to happen.

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