From leading a team of engineers, creating social media content and co-founding two startups in the UAE, Sami Eltamawy is the jack of all trades. After graduating from the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University he started his career by working in startups as an Android developer. He’s been living in the UAE for almost five years now, where he works full time as a tech lead in a well-known classified platform, leading a team of engineers from different backgrounds.
We’ve spoken with Sami about his entrepreneurial journey, his view on eCommerce in the region, his online brand and how he became a social media content creator. You can watch the interview video below or read on for his success story.
Sami enjoyed working in startups he says, “by working in a startup environment, I got to learn and grasp different skills that helped me in my entrepreneurial journey.” He explains how starting his career in startups fostered his proficiency and entrepreneurial skills: “when you work in startups you’ll notice that there is always lack in budget, this forces the team to learn how to multitask, work under pressure and with limited resources.” Sami enjoyed this learning process as he started finding gaps that he can fill with his knowledge and the passion that he has for what he does.
He explains that working in a startup environment fosters problem solving skills and creative thinking, and this is derived from two things. The first is persistence and eagerness; as the team works with a tight budget, they manage to find a way to succeed in such conditions. Second is passion towards the work you do and the team that you’re with. By combining these two traits, you’ll get an incredible level of energy that drives you to think out of the box and come up with creative solutions for the issues that you face.
Sami co-founded Brandripplr and Insydo. Insydo, Insydo is a digital guide, that started from Dubai and now covers the Middle East. Basically, the idea came from the fact that there was a gap in finding the best places in every category that covers people’s needs. This includes cafe shops, restaurants, activities, holiday destinations and so much more. Although the internet is packed with information, it’s usually unorganized and misleading, and this is where Insydo comes to ensure that people can find the best option. Brandripplr is an online platform that facilitates the process of connecting influencers with brands so that they can together work on influencer campaigns. As social media marketing especially influencer marketing is booming, businesses started allocating higher budgets for online advertising and paid social media ads. Sami says that there were various obstacles like campaign budget payment process, content review and selecting the right influencer; but Brandripplr managed to overcome these bumps by providing their clients with in-depth data to help them get the best out of their campaigns.
The tech expert
Moving on to his day time job, Sami works for one of the leading eCommerce platforms in the Middle East. eCommerce and online shopping are almost like an addiction; it’s accessible everywhere and anytime.
He tells us about his perception of eCommerce in the Middle East: “I think eCommerce is thriving not only in this region, but around the world. But the regional potential is very high, especially in cities like Dubai where technology is taking over all aspects of our lives.” He further explains:
People are now too lazy to go to the malls or shop offline. Right now, you can order anything online, you can even bring petrol to your car wherever you are and then there is Uber, Careem and similar companies that help make our life easier.
Sami believes that technology isn’t hindering business anymore, in order to set up eCommerce websites. As you can go to google now and search for eCommerce website software and builders, and easily find adjustable templates that you can use. Sami explains “currently there are several solutions that allow you to build an eCommerce website using a drag and drop format, you don’t need tech knowledge anymore!”
He also thinks that businesses in the region are trying to catch up with the world, by providing solutions for local complications like shipping. He says that there are several companies that started in shipping locally in Dubai. It all started with shipping personal items, then the business model expanded and now we’re seeing companies on larger scale with warehouses and large teams.
Sami has a very optimistic view for eCommerce in the region, as he says:
I think as eCommerce is growing massively, it will mature in the region very soon and it will become much easier for business owners with no tech or logistics background to set up their own online store.
The content creator
When Sami felt the need to have some form of online personal branding, he decided to create a complete online presence. He explains “Although they’re necessary, I think that it is unfair to present your experience and skills using a resume or LinkedIn account only. When companies are looking to hire someone they want to know how they think, their passion and struggles too, that’s why I decided to invest in my online presence.”
His journey as a content creator all started by sharing useful content and solutions for other developers, then it became his habit to create helpful content. He then developed his content from written to videos. It was a bit intimidating for him in the beginning to create videos, he explains his first-time recording:
I remember the first time I was recording a video; I was very stressed although I knew that I could edit the video afterwards. But the fact that this video will be seen by many people and they will probably criticize me made me anxious. Even though I get a few offensive criticisms every now and then, when I look at the bigger picture that I am helping people by sharing my knowledge I find that it’s totally worth it.
When it comes to being a content creator Sami shared some insights, he says that you’d be surprised to know that people are looking for the most basic things on the internet like a video with more than half a million views titled “How to boil an egg?” So, the things that you might be taking for granted and perceive as primitive knowledge can be exactly what others are looking for.
When Sami started creating content, he learnt how to use storytelling to convey his message. He is generally passionate about reading and books, that’s why he decided to share some useful pieces of information that he found in books that he read. He started a series of videos addressing people who don’t have time to read by reading for them. And ever since then he started, he developed his content from simply reviewing books to highlighting one key point from the book. And instead of doing long videos, he shortened them to be less than a minute for social media, he explains “The new video format that I’m using is entertaining and to the point, and I’ve been receiving positive feedback so far.”
The online journey
Besides his growing social media accounts and being a content creator, Sami has a professional looking personal website samieltamawy.com.
Nowadays when people hear about a brand or a person, one of the first things they do is look them up on the internet, so you can never be too small to have an online presence. Sami explains:
If your business isn’t online, you might lose many chances of getting found by potential customers. But if you have a strong presence on the internet the next time when customers think about a service or a product that you offer, you’ll be on top of their minds.
When Sami decided to set up his online presence and create a professional website for his personal brand, he chose GoDaddy’s products and services; he explains why:
GoDaddy made the signing up process simple and effortless that you can even sign up using your Facebook account. I could easily navigate through the website, select all the services that I need, add the payment details and checkout.
Although Sami’s website looks complex, he didn’t build it entirely himself. He bought the website template and the rest was just drag and drop to add the content. Sami uses the web hosting, domain name, SSL certificate, professional email and website backup from GoDaddy for his website.
Sami’s been recently helping out a friend to build his website using GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing tool, which he describes as both easy and straightforward. He says that it’s the perfect tool to build a professional looking website quickly for non-tech experts. He explains “building the website using the website builder felt as if someone was holding our hands and guiding us through the steps until we’re done and the website’s up and running.”
Striking a balance
Just like everyone else, Sami finds it challenging to strike a balance between being a full-time software engineering manager, content creator and entrepreneur. He says that what keeps him going is passion and joy that he experiences from doing what he loves and enjoys.
It is difficult to maintain a healthy balance because we have limited hours each day. Also, if you’re a full-time employee in a leading company it consumes your mental and physical energy, which makes side hustling very challenging.
In order to manage his time, Sami has been working six days a week for the past five years. He explains “Every Saturday I work on my side hustles, as a content creator or learn something new. Moreover, I work around 2 to 3 hours after work at least 3 to 4 days a week.”
Sami believes that this is the right time to try doing several things and grow. He explains that the hardest part for most people is to move from a steady state to the working stage and once you achieve this, the process becomes easier.
Finally, Sami had shared some of the most valuable lessons that he had learnt in his entrepreneurial journey and as a content creator so that others can benefit from. He says that it’s very important to enjoy the journey, the journey might take longer or shorter than what you expected. But, if you are enjoying it, even the smallest achievements will give you the push needed to go on.
You’ll also need a destination; this destination will be your road to success. It will help you draw up a plan and follow it, because if you don’t have a strong goal you might give up when you start facing challenges.
He has four advices for people who want to follow his footsteps or become entrepreneurs themselves:
- First, you need to learn. You need to constantly learn and invest in yourself because the world right now is evolving massively and if you are not learning a new thing every day you will be outdated very soon. As, your success and growth rate will never exceed your learning rate.
- Second, you have to have an online presence. Because it can help you go globally and be findable. It will also allow customers to find you easily. You have to keep it updated and fresh the content always.
- Third, work hard. Nothing great comes easily. The world is now very competitive, there are a lot of opportunities but there are also a lot of people who are trying to succeed too, so you need to work hard. And when he says work hard, this does not mean putting extra hours. Sometimes working hard is doing things you’re not normally comfortable doing.
- Finally, be patient, because it takes time. If you are looking for one overnight success it won’t really last even if it happens. Consistency is one of the keys for success. Don’t stop investing, learning, maintaining your online presence, and adding a new piece of content whenever you can.