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Conscious investing: Making the world a better place

The Change Officer

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Our guest in the new episode of The Change Officer podcast is one of the World’s Top 50 Women in Tech as identified by

magazine.
She is also the only Arab woman in the Middle East running a VC fund, and the 1st woman to lead an IPO in the region, listing it for 1.1. billion US$.

We are so excited to introduce you to Noor Sweid — the incredibly passionate and successful founder of Global Ventures.

3 years ago, Noor left her role as Chief Investment Officer at the Dubai Future Foundation to start her own fund. She thought that in emerging markets, founders are even more resilient than other entrepreneurs because they have to work harder to secure the resources they need.

That’s how she decided to invest in innovative and disruptive companies in emerging markets. With a portfolio of mission-driven companies creating solutions for global issues, Noor is changing the world in the process.

We guarantee you’ll learn something valuable from Noor in this wide-ranging conversation!

She is an amazing example of the power of determination and commitment.
She will inspire you to embrace your ambition and commit to the hard work of making a mark.
She truly embodies the term “disruptor” and the concept of adding value wherever she goes.

Noor Sweid, Founder of Global Ventures, on The Change Officer podcast

Host Vuk Zlatarov: I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, did a lot of research. So I’m going to try not to repeat all the questions that you’re going to ask already. There is a bunch of podcasts, webinars presentations, keynotes, where people can get familiar with what you do and the history. So I’m going to try just for the listeners who are maybe not aware who you are and don’t know your background, I’m going to try to summarize it really quickly.

You were born and raised in many different countries. You started in US then you moved to Dubai in 2005. You spent some time in consulting. You joined the family business Depa just for a few days, in the beginning, a few weeks, and then a couple of months turned to a couple of years. Eventually you managed and led the IPO, which is like, wow! You stayed with Depa for five years after that. In the meantime you found a yoga studio, ZenYoga, there is one in the ground floor. Was this the first one?

Noor Sweid: I know. This was the first one in 2006. So when I walked in here today, I was like, Oh, this brings back so many memories.

Vuk Zlatarov: In one of the interviews you said that building something from zero to one is much harder than actually managing a billion dollar company. Which is kind of hard to process. After a couple of years in lead ventures, you eventually started Global Ventures with Basil Moftah in 2018. And now three years later, Global Ventures is considered by many, one of the leading VCs in the region. So what was the problem that you wanted to solve when you decided to start Global Ventures?

Noor Sweid: So as an entrepreneur, it’s always interesting to look at the problems around you and see which ones might I be able to tackle and, you know, make a little bit of a difference. In this case, it’s the access to capital for founders. So I believe that founders in the region that are starting companies don’t have as much access to capital, strategic capital and networked capital, capital with operating backgrounds as they should. And so starting Global Ventures was really with a mindset of, can we provide strategic capital to founders and then global ventures, because we believe that founders can grow global companies from anywhere, including the region.

Vuk Zlatarov: So since 2018, has this changed?

Noor Sweid: There is more capital in the ecosystem, but still not enough. It’s changed a very a little bit. It’s still needs to change a lot more.

Vuk Zlatarov: Yeah. Do you think there is a significantly more space for the change or we’re like halfway there?

Noor Sweid: We’re still about $26 billion away. So if you take a look in the region…

Vuk Zlatarov: That was very precise!

Noor Sweid: Well, we invest 0.2% of our GDP into VC as a region, the US invests 0.7 or 0.8% almost, Europe invest 0.3%. We are 0.02%. So that gap is annually $26 billion.

The most important question to be answered is how to align capital with the positive intent and leave the world a better place than before.

Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Vuk Zlatarov: So when we discussed about doing the podcast together, you said that the most important question to be answered is how to align capital with the positive intent and leave the world a better place than before. Can you unpack that for us, what do you mean by that?

Noor Sweid: So, you know, we live in a part of the world where we are fortunate and blessed to have an infrastructure that enables us to really build and scale companies and attract talent. And we have electricity 24 hours a day. We have internet whenever we need it. And yet, if you take a look all around us, there’s a couple of billion people within a six hour flight or an eight hour flight that are not as blessed. And so if we want to address problems that these people face on a day-to-day level, like financial inclusion, like healthcare inclusion, like food security, access to enough food, even electricity, then we can invest in technology that addresses these problems and become very intentional investors and have huge markets around us. Because essentially, there’s hundreds of millions, if not billions of people who need these services and to create them in a way, given that technology is ubiquitous, that really changes people’s lives.

So you can do well and do good. It’s not that difficult. It’s about mindset and intentionality.

Vuk Zlatarov: Do you think there is enough startups out there tackling these problems as you would like them to be? Aligned with this?

Noor Sweid: Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve always been mission-driven since we started Global Ventures. Job growth is a great example. So in the region we have 40% unemployment in our youth. That’s 40% and half our population is youth. So if you invest in fast-growth companies — in the US for example, a VC backed company creates 2.8 times as many jobs as a non VC backed company. So if you invest in fast growth companies, they are more likely to create jobs. For example, some of our companies like Proximie is an augmented reality platform for hospitals, to allow surgeons to stream into an OR, that saves lives. It’s an amazing technology. It’s globally scaled. If you take a look at financial inclusion, through our portfolio of 10 million. People now have access to the financial network that before they didn’t. So funding these companies that can do well and do good and really impact people’s lives, even in a very small way is necessary when we think about how we allocate capital.

Vuk Zlatarov: Today you guys are considered by many as one of the leading VCs in the region — you are the first regional VC that managed to raise the foreign capital rate. And you are the first VC that joined the Draper Network.

Noor Sweid: Yeah. So we like to be that bridge. I think a lot of people talk about building bridges. We try to think, okay, it’s great to build the bridge. How can we become the bridge? So how can we have investors, international investors with 60% of our first fund? The LPs were based in the US and that’s because that knowledge transfer is fundamental to our portfolio, to our founders and to us as investors. And these people have been doing venture for 20 and 30 years. So yes, please let us know what are some of the tricks of the trade? What can we learn? And then obviously we modify that for emerging markets and for our markets specifically, but it’s good to learn from the experts. And they have been doing this much longer than we have.

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Vuk Zlatarov: I don’t know how many episodes ago I talked to Basil and we talked about that, how this is important for the region as well, because it’s a recognition that good things are happening. And that someone from US is willing to put money in this region is quite significant. I know you read a lot, I’m not sure if you still read, but the last time I checked, you were reading like 52 books a year.

Noor Sweid: I read about a book a week, sometimes two.

Vuk Zlatarov: So you’ve probably read a bunch of books about, you know, popular and famous startups like Netflix and Facebook, and Apple and all these guys and each of these books have at least one chapter about the team. How the team was important and how initially, you know, the founding team managed to scale the business later on. And you managed to build a great team in Global Ventures. How do you do it? What’s the secret sauce behind building a strong team, not only Global Ventures that you’ve successfully built, but also a couple of companies before.

Noor Sweid: I think it’s about passion. I think that the passion and the fire for what you do comes naturally and surrounding yourself with people who are like-minded and who have that same passion, that same drive is really important. I also think that leading by example is super important. So it’s really hard to expect people to show up at 8, if you’re going to show up at 10, right. I mean, we believe in flex time and, you know, since we started the firm, we did two office days a week. Now we’re doing three office days a week, really to build culture and to get to know each other better. But I do think that people look up to their leaders and will do as they do, not as they say. And it’s important to keep that in mind as a leader.

Vuk Zlatarov: But when you scale that, you know… At the moment I’m reading, for example, the Netflix book — That Will Never Work. And he was saying, it was cool when there was 40 of us, you know, I knew most of them, but then we started scaling and, you know, you don’t know most people - how do you actually scale then? You know all of that.

Noor Sweid: So we went from 1000 people in 2005 to 9,500 in 2008 and from 6 markets to 22. So it’s really hard to scale and maintain culture. I think that part of the secret sauce to maintaining culture is communication. So the more you communicate, the more you communicate what’s important, the more there’s ‘the why’. It’s not the what and the how, it’s the why — it is always about the why, why do we do things a certain way? Why is this important? Then you can maintain culture because people resonate with the why, the what and the how are just details.

Vuk Zlatarov: I’m sure that this is what you’re looking for in startups as well.

Noor Sweid: Yes, of course.

Vuk Zlatarov: One of the partners from Global Ventures said the capital is getting commoditized and the need for smart capital is getting higher. What’s your differentiation strategy here, when it comes to putting capital out there?

Noor Sweid: So we’ve built a framework which we call P A R T N E R, each letter stands for something very specific. It’s proprietary internal framework. And that’s how we add value to founders post investment. So we work with our founders very closely. We call them every two weeks. And the big question we ask them is what are your two biggest challenges so we can help them solve them, or try at least. With the full recognition that sometimes something seems like a big deal to the founder, but to somebody else, it’s something that can be solved with a two-minute phone call, as opposed to founders spending five days working on it. And as a founder, I find the same thing sometimes with our investors, where I think something’s such a big deal in my head, but then I talk to one of our investors and be like, Oh, I can fix that. So we got to a point where we think of ourselves as the extended team, we’ve built this proprietary framework, we’ve built an intranet called The Library. So all of our resources are available to our founders from PR to legal, to recruiting. We’ve structured partnerships with two of the top recruiting firms globally, so that across our portfolio founders can have access to these recruiters. So that’s how we try to get involved and engage and helping the founders operationally.

Vuk Zlatarov: So you said PARTNER, each letter stands for one.

Noor Sweid: Don’t test me, Zahid is the one who’s in charge of that.

Vuk Zlatarov: Eventually I am going to interview all of you.

Noor Sweid: Why not? It is fun!

Vuk Zlatarov and Noor Sweid on The Change Officer podcast

Vuk Zlatarov: The Change Officer, Global Venture series! Alright. How do you make sure that you systematically stay true to that promise? You get a couple of startups on board, you know - at the moment, how many startups do you have on board?

Noor Sweid: 27.

Vuk Zlatarov: 27. All So it’s becoming like big operation.

Noor Sweid: It’s a firm.

Vuk Zlatarov: There’s a lot of VCs out there. And a lot of nice discussions are happening in the beginning. We’re going to give you capital, we’re going to help you out, etc. But it’s challenging to stay true to that promise of truly helping startups on day-to-day basis or weekly basis. How do you systematically stay true to that? What’s your strategy so that you continuously provide them support?

Noor Sweid: So, first of all, you know, what gets measured gets managed. So we measure , I get input into the founder’s lives. But it has to be reactive to what they need. We can’t say here’s our template. This is what we’re going to do. And that might not be useful. So we work with founders, like I said, every two weeks, it’s a call. What are your two biggest challenges? How can we help? How can we support? And then we’ve built this framework. And for us doing that and allocating, we have three people that all they do is post investment value creation. So it’s really that portfolio engagement and that portfolio management to identify what are the common themes across all these founders and how can we support? How can we enable? And then every month there’s a summary, where are you on this? Where are you on that? So we measure it and that way we can manage it.

Vuk Zlatarov: That makes sense. One question regarding the venture capital. What’s a commonly held belief about venture capital firms that you passionately disagree with?

Noor Sweid: That we are aggressive. I think that people think of VCs they’re aggressive, they’re going to take too much equity. They want to reduce the valuation. It’s in nobody’s best interest for us to reduce the valuation. And we want the founders to be incentivized. We want the capitalization table to make sense. We want the right valuation so that the next round you can have a nice upground rather than a very rich valuation right now, which puts everybody in trouble in 18 months. So we are on the same side as the founders. And I think that the misconception is that we’re on opposite sides of the table.

Vuk Zlatarov: I think maybe the reason why they think like that is because you have to be extremely practical in your approach. I mean, how many startups do you see a year?

Noor Sweid: So we’re seeing now about 300 a month.

Vuk Zlatarov: 300 a month, but in the process of reviewing there is like a lot more probably.

Noor Sweid: 300 every month. So we’re seeing about 3000 a year. Just over 3000 a year.

Vuk Zlatarov: So they can’t expect to go for coffee with you.

Noor Sweid: I love coffee!

Vuk Zlatarov: Yeah, I think it is the machine that you need to make working and need to deliver because you’re responding to others as well. And in the world of venture capital, what should everyone stop doing?

Noor Sweid: Competing. I think it’s a very collaborative space and I think that the more we collaborate and cooperate with each other, the more the founders win.

Vuk Zlatarov: Switching gears now, talking a bit more about you. You’ve been around the world, you move places with your parents when you were younger, or you’ve studied abroad. How did this whole journey influenced you as a person?

Noor Sweid: So there’s a term called third culture. And then third culture individuals. It’s a well-known term that I only found out about two years ago. And it talks about people who are from one place ethnically, raised in another, but then live in a third. And it’s clearly a very quickly growing group of people around the world. And so now there’s research and there’s books written about third culture kids. Their adaptability, their flexibility, their ability to identify with many cultures but not feel like somewhere is home. So I think for me, it was always a big struggle in that: where is home? You know, people ask, where are you from? Well, how long do you have, is a question I have for them. You know, my kids now have the same struggle. So I think that really makes you adaptable and flexible, at the same time you know, it makes you feel like the whole world is your home, but there’s no deep roots.

Photo by David Rodrigo on Unsplash

Vuk Zlatarov: And you studied abroad. This is something that I’m really curious to kind of investigate on a personal level, how each live journey affects who you are, you know, how did you become Noor who you are and one of the questions that I’m trying to answer this whole concept of formal education, how important it is. How big of an impact did it have on your life, formal education in school?

Noor Sweid: School had a big impact. And I grew up, so I was in London for my childhood, which was a very rigid British system. And then we went to Saudi Arabia for a few years and I was in an American school, which, you know, taught me very quickly more adaptability. And we had subjects like archeology when I was 12 years old, we would literally dig up the desert and which is very different to a British system where I was learning Latin and physics and coding. I learned how to code when I was eight. So, you know, that was very, very British. And then the American one was very, very no uniforms, as opposed to the British, where I had a summer uniform or winter uniform, and your hat had to be on the right way. And your socks had to be a certain height. And I could tie a bow behind my back before I was six. And it’s always sunny in Saudi versus rainy in London. And then we came to Dubai when I was 15 and then went to Choueifat for a couple of years. And that was neither British nor American. It was just — here, memorize and we’re going to test you every single day on a different subject. And no matter how well you do, you’re never going to get above 16 out of 20. So then compared to the American system where it’s all about confidence building, here with somewhere where it doesn’t matter how much you studied, you’re never going to do well. So I was raised between all these different systems where you very quickly learn as a child that, you know, sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you study, you’re never going to do well. You still have to study hard. And then I went to college in Boston, which was very interesting. And I went to Boston college, which was very, very American. So the first day I walked onto campus, it looked like a public catalog, everyone’s in khakis and white shirts, which is very different to Dubai, which is much more, you know, jeans and t-shirts. And so that was a culture shock. And again, college was after Choueifat, very, very easy cause Choueifat is a very difficult school. And that’s when I explored a lot more. So the beautiful thing about liberal arts is you do everything in your freshman year. So sociology, psychology, theology. So the comparative religion studies between the 3Q religions for a year and BC being a Jesuit Institute was great at that. Art, back to biology. So when you do all these different subjects in your first year and you’re 18 it’s very refreshing. And then I focused on finance economics, prelaw. I always wanted to be a lawyer. Since I was very little, I love to argue. And the logic and the reasoning behind arguing always appealed to me. So I always wanted to be a lawyer, by the time I finished prelaw, I discovered that I hate studying law. So I could not think of doing four years of grad school. And so that was the end of my dreams of being a lawyer.

Vuk Zlatarov: What part of the school was the most important for you?

Noor Sweid: The variety. So I played piano. Ultimately in college I played for the orchestra. So learning music and, you know, my boys play piano and people tell me they’re never going to be musicians. I say, maybe not, but the ability to sit and see that this piece of music is very difficult. I can’t play it. And practice, practice, practice. And 10 days later, you create music, especially for this generation of instant gratification — if it’s hard, I don’t want to try. So when something is difficult, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you need to try. And it’s the progress principle. Every day you’re slightly better. If you practice for 15 minutes a day, at the end of 10 days, you can actually play this piece of music. So principles like that, I think you’ll learn in your education process, without it being a lesson that you study, you know, no one’s going to teach you this, you learn it through the practice of music of a sport of anything where, but that principle, I think in music is much more clear because you can actually hear the piece at the end.

Vuk Zlatarov: Yeah. It’s powerful. You’re kind of mastering, you’re fighting against yourself.

Noor Sweid: Exactly.

Vuk Zlatarov: That’s a strong message. So you heard about probably that — bad times are making strong people, strong people are making good times, good times are making weak people, weak people are making bad times and most people out there, you know, very often, think that now good times are making like weak people, and now these new generations are going through a very kind of comfortable life. How do you navigate through that? How do you take the best combination of education in these early days and later on for kids to set them on the right course? You have three boys. So probably you’ve been thinking about it a lot.

Noor Sweid: I don’t think there’s one right answer. I think it’s about having a holistic individualized approach. So it’s — who is this person? And being able to tap into someone’s personality, who they are, what they enjoy, what they love, what they’re passionate about, what they’re good at. And using that to form something and to enable them to be the best person that they can be.

I think is the point of education — giving people the skillset and the tools that they need to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

Vuk Zlatarov: All right. You’ve got me thinking and inspired a bit. I hope everyone else out there is — eventually I’m going to find the answer to all of my questions. You’ve probably heard about this global movement. They have events all over the world: “How I F* up”. Basically, they are celebrating failures. So instead of inviting people to talk about their successes… everyone today is being praised for their successes. LinkedIn is full of successes, but nobody’s just really sharing their failures, which are, if not more, equally important. The lesson that you learn from the failures. Can you share with us story about the failure that you had in your life that maybe set you up for later success in your life?

Noor Sweid: Sure. So I think it depends how you define failure. I always think that failure is only failure. If you define it as such, otherwise it was an experiment, and you learn different things from different experiments. So one time about, I want to say seven or eight years ago, I wanted to start a small catering business, but very specific for schools. So moms or parents could subscribe, and we would deliver lunch to the school. It would be a hot lunch and it would be healthy, and you would sign up the schools and then the schools would encourage the parents to sign up. Started, got it rolling, realized that there was too many logistical issues, too many health concerns. You know, we started getting people signing up and then complaining. And with these since even if you have 95% customer satisfaction, that’s still too low. So decided that if I was ever going to do a business again, it would not include food. It would not include logistics. It would not include a bunch of things that weren’t worth it. And that the B2B to C model is actually incredibly difficult to do. This was pre kind of digital, let’s order everything online. Now my kids at school, I go onto their app every weekend and they order exactly what they want from their cafeteria. It gets delivered to their classrooms. It’s exactly the same, but it’s run by a massive catering company and they just went digital. So I looked at that the other day when they were ordering and I was thinking, that’s exactly what I wanted to do, but it was seven years ago. So that another learning there — it’s about timing. So we couldn’t have done this seven years ago because the market timing was off. We couldn’t do it digitally. You know, people weren’t ready for it.

Vuk Zlatarov: I think timing is big. You probably read the book Outliers. It’s exactly that, you know, there are so many people out there who were just not at the right place at the right time.

Noor Sweid: Absolutely.

Photo by Jeroen den Otter on Unsplash

Vuk Zlatarov: My next question credits go to Tim Ferris. In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

Noor Sweid: Training in the gym. So I started exercising in the gym about three or four years ago. Before that I had never walked into a gym in my life at all. Yoga, I was a big Yogi. All I did was yoga. I started yoga 20 years ago. And it’s all I practiced. And maybe I went to pilates, but that was the extent.

Vuk Zlatarov: Pilates can be tough.

Noor Sweid: Pilates can be tough, but I’ve never gone into a gym. And then in 2017, I started training in the gym. I have my first triathlon coming up in two weeks.

Vuk Zlatarov: No way, full distance?

Noor Sweid: Full distance. Classic. Climbed Kilimanjaro last year, I lift a lot. I started boxing, I box. So all of these things, and even I lift, I lift a lot and I really enjoy it. So it’s something that if you had told me five years ago, in five years, you’re going to be training and lifting and doing your dead lifts… and I would have thought no way.

But I also do Yoga. I still do my yoga. So that’s something that I’ve recently discovered, and I really, really enjoy.

Vuk Zlatarov: How did it impact your life?

Noor Sweid: First of all, I think that anything new you try opens up new parts of your brain. So the personal learning journey. And then the other thing is when I first started lifting, I could barely lift, I don’t know, half my body weight. Right now I can lift a lot more than my body weight and seeing that progress, again, the progress principle. So in the beginning, I can’t do it, this is impossible. And then ultimately you do it and it’s like, wow, you can train and do something. And think about it, if you do that for your body muscle, you can also do that for your mind muscle, for your brain, for anything that it’s really a matter of practice, persistence, and you can keep changing and growing and evolving. I’m sure eventually I’ll get bored of the gym. I get bored eventually. But until then, and I think that’s why I’m now in this triathlon where it’s, you know, the endurance side of things.

Vuk Zlatarov: You heard about Spartan race probably?

Noor Sweid: Yes.

Vuk Zlatarov: End of this year in November in Abu Dhabi, it’s the world championship, Spartan beast, 21 kilometers with obstacles. I officially publicly challenge you.

Noor Sweid: No, I won’t accept! I double dare you, based on the kids. But no, I think that for, you know, for setting these challenges and these goals, it’s just part of, you know, pushing yourself to keep growing.

Vuk Zlatarov: That’s true. I mean, there is a lot of similarities with business as well. I mean, from company to company growing one, exiting one, building the next one, probably it’s part of your DNA. I mentioned Ray Dalio before, he wrote the book Principles. And he was basically talking about his life and work principles. And some of them that he is mentioning are like on the life side, embrace reality and deal with it, or be radically open-minded. Do you have, or did you develop certain principles in your life over the previous 15, 20 years you’re sticking to, and that are shaping who you are today, your day-to-day life?

Noor Sweid: So I have a list of them. So none of them are original to me. I think that, you know, you start your day with gratitude, and you keep in mind that the wheel, the only constant in life is change. And that’s not just a saying, it’s really the only way that your day is going to happen - is the way it’s meant to happen. It’s not the way you’ve planned it. You need to plan it regardless, but then it’s going to evolve, and things are going to keep changing. And it’s your job to kind of roll with the punches and to the extent that it’s what you planned. That’s great, maybe, and to the extent that it’s not what you plan, do you have to have conviction that the universe has a better plan than you do. And when I approach things with that mindset, it actually makes the journey of life much more interesting, much more easy. And you can just smile when things don’t go your way and say, okay, I’m so angry, but I’m sure there’s a good reason why rather than get very, very upset about it.

Vuk Zlatarov: Now I have another interesting question for you. It’s also based on the book and the book is setting the stage up for it. Have you heard about or read the book Ikigai?

Noor Sweid: No.

Vuk Zlatarov: Ikigai roughly translates into reason for being and it’s a Japanese formula for happiness. So finding your Ikigai means having a purpose in life that fulfils not only your desires, but also world’s needs. And if that is something that you love, you will naturally want to do it every day. So they also describe it and there is like a small drawing here as well.

So it’s between what you love, what you’re good at, what you can get paid for and what the world needs. So the question is a lot of people are on the life journey of finding their Ikigai. I don’t know if I found my Ikigai, maybe occasionally during the day, but sometimes they also describe it as things that you can get lost and do it for like for 24 hours and just don’t pay attention to time. So the question is, have you found your Ikigai or you’re close to it?

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

Noor Sweid: So do you only have one? You can have many.

Vuk Zlatarov: If you are lucky, you can have many.

Noor Sweid: And it can change back to the only constant is change. So yeah, I think that right now, what I do at Global Ventures is definitely my Ikigai. When I show up in the office, the next thing I know is 10 hours later, I’m in my flow and there’s different parts of the business that have me different states of flow. So whether we are with founders, whether we’re with investors, whether we’re managing the firm, different levels of flow. And then running, I love running. So that’s another thing that I love to do, but if you took me 10 years ago, I just told you for sure, yoga is definitely better for the world bringing wellness. And we had 72 teachers in the yoga teacher training, and that was my Ikigai at that point in time and even working with the family business and creating a global best practice company out of the region, reemphasize the region. And I was in flow when I was doing those things. And when I was practicing yoga and in meditating on until now. So I think that it comes and goes, depending on where you are in your life journey. And there are definitely days where, you know, you’re in flow more than other days and where your energy shifts and changes. But I think that for now, yes.

Vuk Zlatarov: When you talk about it, it sounds so easy regardless of Ikigai or not. Some people, a lot of people out there arejust struggling to find one thing that they’re really loved to do, and they enjoy it, and they can get paid for it, they can live out of. It seems like that you’ve been continuously doing what you love while making it worthwhile and living out of it. Was this something that you kind of worked on over the years to build yourself like you are, or you were born with it, or like how to explain it?

Noor Sweid: I think it’s about listening to your intuition. And I think, you know, very early in life, I started on a yoga meditation journey that was about 20 years ago. And I had to take a pause from what I was doing. Cause I was not in a state of flow and I was getting quite ill and it was very much stress-related. 20 years ago I discovered that stress is not my friend. And so I had to stop stressing out. And when I stopped stressing out, it actually was the only semester that I got a 4.0 GPA.

Vuk Zlatarov: How did you just stop stressing out?

Noor Sweid: I started doing yoga and meditating. So it was literally a wakeup call and it was okay, this is not working. And so when I started doing yoga and meditating, and starting to think I should do things more smartly. And so it was working smart versus working hard. So I still work hard, but really sleeping well and taking care of really integrating and thinking about your mind and how you integrate and what you’re passionate about. And then you can get to a level where you’re creative, if I’m passionate about this, and I’m good at that, maybe I can do this other thing. So that was 20 years ago, and everyone has ebbs and flows. I have good days and bad days, but generally when I remember that, actually when you’re in a state of oneness with yourself and true to who you are, then you can be a lot more creative and add a lot of value and people will ultimately be happy to pay you for that value that you’re adding rather than, you know, trying to force things and what is it? A round peg in a square hole or vice versa. So it’s not easy, but the work is internal. And once you start working on your own meditation on your own state and your own mindset, then things around you start to change. And if that’s hard to believe, then I say, you know, and I tell my kid, I’m like, maybe it’s not that things around you start to change, maybe you start to see them differently. And if you see things differently, you’re respond differently. And then the universe responds in a better way, but it’s about seeing them differently. And that’s an internal mindset. Sorry, it’s not supposed to be in meditation and mindset lecture. But that’s a book worth reading. Have you read Mindset?

Vuk Zlatarov: I didn’t, but I heard you in one of the podcasts or some of the shows you talked about it and I wrote it down that I want to read.

Noor Sweid: There are some great books and really, it’s about how you switch your mindset to find your zone of genius or your Ikigai.

Vuk Zlatarov: You’re recommending the book Hard thing about hard things. What was the hardest things that you had to do in your life?

Noor Sweid: Probably raising Global Ventures. Yes, for sure. I think that that was one of the hardest things. And I think that it was hard specifically because everybody told me this was going to be the hardest thing you’re ever going to do. And my reaction was, “eh, you know, how hard can it be?” Everybody who’s ever raised a VC fund or tried. And I said, how hard can it be? And then I went, and it was a year and nine months.

Vuk Zlatarov: In total, a year and nine months took you to raise first one. Wow.

Noor Sweid: The average takes two years. So we’re like right on the average mark and it’s larger than a typical first time fund, but the region needed it, but still, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And we saw 392 potential investors.

Vuk Zlatarov: And then startups are saying, it’s hard to raise money.

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Noor Sweid: I think that’s what startups forget is that the VCs also need to raise money. So as a VC, we also have to go raise our funds. And so it was fund one. That’s how many investors, so think about how many no’s we got. So dealing with all that rejection, rejection, rejection, and still getting up in the morning with all the belief in conviction is a really hard thing to do.

Vuk Zlatarov: Honestly, I’m pretty sure that at least more than 50% of startups out there don’t understand how VC actually works. That VC goes and raise funds. I’m pretty sure about it. Probably the mature startups were already experienced in raising funds understand that part.

Alright, to call it for the end, I have a game for you. So I’m going to say one versus two, and then you just tell me one or two. All right.

Innovation versus emulation.

Noor Sweid: Innovation.

Vuk Zlatarov: AgroTech versus EdTech.

Noor Sweid: EdTech.

Vuk Zlatarov: CTO Versus CFO.

Noor Sweid: CTO.

Vuk Zlatarov: Jeff Bezos versus Elon Musk.

Noor Sweid: Jeff Bezos.

Vuk Zlatarov: Book versus movie.

Noor Sweid: Book.

Vuk Zlatarov: Education versus experience.

Noor Sweid: Experience.

Vuk Zlatarov: Bitcoin versus gold.

Noor Sweid: Bitcoin.

Vuk Zlatarov: Thanks for coming over, Noor.

Noor Sweid: Thank you for having me!

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The Change Officer

Weekly podcast introducing you to the brilliant humans who are shaping the business landscape of the Middle East.