By: Malak Sekaly
Not taking risks is the biggest risk of all. No one knows this better than Wael Fakharany.
Known for dropping Google to join Careem, Fakharany has been questioned for his dramatic decision to change careers. “Wael, why did you leave this heaven of a job? was the question I got from everyone around me,” said El Fakharany.
People simply could not believe that he had decided to leave a big salary in the most successful company in the world, working with the brightest people to come back to Egypt.
“What exactly was I thinking? My father called me crazy; my friends thought I was going through a midlife crisis. But I think I have a midlife Opportunity.. A midlife responsibility,” he continued.
Fakharany joined the Google team back in 2008 and took on a multitude of roles in Egypt, the MENA region and globally. He helped launch Google in Egypt and scale its growth as the Regional Manager of Google in Egypt & North Africa. Later on he was part of a team that helped expand Google into the Middle East with Dubai leading the way.
In search of more challenges, Fakharany decided to join Google X. There, he was pushed to conceptualize problems that don’t even exist and figure out how they can be best tackled through the help of technology, with a concept named “moonshot thinking.”
Commenting on his experience in Google X he said, “For someone as inquisitive as I am, this was the dream gig. I got to work alongside some of the most brilliant minds of our time, perhaps even of all time. I was involved in projects that would metamorphose the very way humans live their lives.”
Such great advantages left Fakharany feeling guilty for wanting to leave Google.
Working in a Fortune 500 company and one of the top five valued companies in the world was a dream come true. Yet, to Fakharany, it was a safety blanket.
This reason precisely left him with great internal questions including, “shouldn’t I be grateful for all those free meals, massages, work-from-home days, etc.” He assures that he was truly thankful and blessed even, “and that made me feel all the more worse; because I knew I wanted to leave,” he added.
Even though he had a great job, working with great individuals, Fakharany was hungry for more. Fear, hunger and dissatisfaction were the three factors that led him to Careem.
“The fear part was perhaps the hardest, it was the fear that I would wait much longer and suddenly realize it’s become too late. The fear of feeling I had settled for what was a safe and cushiony option, having never gambled on a bet of my own,” said Fakharany.
"It may come as a surprise to you, seeing as I’m about to turn 50 pretty soon, but I’m hungrier now than I’d ever been in my whole life"
"I’m hungry for making a bigger dent than I’ve already made. I’m hungry for propelling and leading a change where I know I can make a difference. I’m hungry for inspiring and leading those to come to take ownership of their future, to disrupt and challenge the status quo and shape their own path."
His dissatisfaction is of interest, where he explained that he was in fact dissatisfied of global multinational companies always creating one fancy product then scaling it ad infinitum across the whole globe.
“I was dissatisfied of companies not caring about the local values of the places wherein they operated. I was dissatisfied that we as a region were not seen as worthy of producing a multi-billion dollar company that could provide a just as good — if not better — quality service. I was dissatisfied of treating this idea as though it would always be a distant dream,” he added.
This left Fakharany wide eyed when he decided to take the position of Managing Director of Careem in Egypt. “For me, Careem represents more than a dream, it represents a promise. The promise that a local company, from this region, created by people who grew up here and understand our problems can cater to those issues,” he clarified.
Fakharany differentiates Careem from other multinationals by assuring that it would not apply a universal mission. Rather, the objective was to comply with local laws to the fullest, ensuring that they are integrated in the community.
After approximately five months since his move to Careem, Fakharany does not regret it at all. In fact, he characterizes his move as rational and very well calculated.
Proud of Careem’s recent success he clarified that just a few weeks ago Careem was announced the newest ride-hailing unicorn of the region as it closed in its $500 million funding round by pocketing a substantial US$350 million from a slew of investors including Rakuten and STC Saudi Telecom.
In addition to that the company is now valued $1 billion and is currently present in 47 cities across the Middle East and North Africa working with a network of over 150,000 drivers.
Regarding Careem’s future success Fakharany said, “I believe my work with Careem will come to define this era as that of change and forward leaping; for once we — Egyptians and Arabs — would be the ones leading this change, changing the future to suit ourselves, picking the course that fits with our local values, our local mission and our local vision.”
Transitioning from one company to the next is, in itself, a major step. Wael Fakharany shows us all how to rationally do it. Being a dreamer, his ambitions lead the way, alongside his rationality and reasoning.