Below is an edited excerpt from an interview given by Prince Fahad Al Saud to ITProPortal about what inspired him to become an entrepreneur and why he loves London so much. This post is brought to you by Lenovo Inspire Me, more info can be found at LenovoInspireMe.com, where you can enter our competition to win the trip of a lifetime.
When did you decide to go for tech?
You know what they said about the acting bug? I got the tech bug. When I graduated from Stanford, my degrees were in mechanical engineering with a focus on product design, management and science engineering and Middle Eastern studies and literature, so none of it is computer science, although I programmed a little bit. The attraction came through a chance encounter with one of my friends at Facebook. It was starting to grow in the Middle East and they needed to translate some of the Arabic content that they were getting and I was actually one of the few Arabs in the US post 9/11, one of 10 Saudis there and the only Saudi undergrad from Stanford.
That exposure to Arabs was limited just based on that. I started translating for them, made a joke, saying that they might as well pay me for this, I came in for an interview and literally history was made. Once I saw the opportunities and a group of people from different races, religions, sexual orientations and education backgrounds, getting together, sharing ideas and changing the world, that’s when I got the bug, want to bring change and that’s something I could not walk away from.
When I left Facebook, I ended up working for the Saudi consulate and the government in charge of student affairs, trying to help them integrate into the community and the culture because it was difficult, a true culture shock. Many came in fear and lived in fear because they feel they were guilty before being proven innocent. But even as “noble” as that work was, I couldn’t get away from technology, so I went back because I believe that it is a platform that allows me to deliver more change. So I blame Facebook for giving me the tech bug.
Why is London so popular with tech entrepreneurs?
The reason why we’re coming to London is that Londoners get Instagram. Whenever you meet people here, they ask “What’s your Instagram”, not your Twitter handle. The US market is saturated and tech drive, with loads of tech snobs. Seeing this stark difference made me think that we have no idea what we’re doing, that we need to get out of our comfort zone and experience something else. See how other parts of the world are really using this technology that we assumed everybody was using the way we use it. That’s what fed into our work a lot and that’s one reason why we decided to highlight international figures because this is one way people are communicating and identifying with each other.
Creativity is still celebrated in London, it is a very eager and early stage, but not in a negative way. Not that Londoners are behind, they are instead more selective about where they want to get into when it comes to the tech industry. Nobody wants to be the next snapchat. They (the startup industry in the UK) are focused on revolutionary platforms, having a purpose and a focus, which reminds me of Silicon Valley in the early days (2008 to 2010) where people were actually solving problems, as opposed to just trying to make money as fast as possible. Here it is still creatively-driven. We want to set up here as I believe it would be a good thing for my partners to experience being Americans rather than being singled out for their ethnicity.
You are very much “protected” and thus limited while in the US but not when you’re here. One of the beautiful things I’ve discovered here, and I understand well that it might not be everywhere, is the way Britons I’ve met do not tend to identify themselves with their countries of origin unlike Americans. I wanted my two other co-founders to come here and be referred to as “you”, Americans. So that they understand how that cultural difference affects an individual socially, on a creative level and how it can affect the product development. This is why I think London is comfortable enough for me. It is familiar but at the same time extremely different. What is happening in music, fashion and arts in London is great; there’s a generation here that’s very aware of things moving and that has dialogue. It is something we feel we need to be part of. In the US, everything is so centered on political correctness that you become numb.
I am hoping to come here and I want to convince to others to. I am ready and the theory I have is that they feel so different in the US that they will feel as comfortable here. It is easier to talk to people and they are generally more genuine. People here think in terms of what you are about, what you offer as an individual, not what clothes you wear or how much money you have.