We interviewed one of the most successful IT solution providers in the Middle East
He started the company over twenty years ago
A 6’7″ man in a sharp-looking, well-fitted grey suit, he squeezed his knees behind the suffocating bulk of an economy seat. He was headed to his fourth meeting that week, following the preceding three which were held in different countries. His neighbor watched him fish out a handkerchief, pearl white and soft as silk, and lay it gingerly on the tip of his knee. Next, he drew out a pen and was, all of a sudden, jotting down code. An hour into the seven hour flight, Mr. Walid Tahabsem was done producing the software. With a pair of unfazed hands, he summoned his laptop and typed the code in. Code accepted.
President and Chief Executive Officer at Integrated Technology Group, Mr. Walid Tahabsem is one of the most well-rounded business leaders in the Middle East. He graduated from Yarmouk University in Jordan with a BS in Computer Science, and was capable of doing so in only three years.
In 1989, Mr. Tahabsem founded the Integrated Technology Group, which, according to Bloomberg, is “one of the most successful IT solution providers in the Middle East, offering quality end-to-end IT solutions and services in the fields of education and government.”
Not only did he expand his firm by size and revenue, but he was also the first to patent an artificial intelligent parser.
Mr. Tahabsem also sits on many national boards and cousins, including Jordan’s National Agenda, Jordan’s Board of Education, Jordan University for Science and Technology (JUST) Advisory Council, German Jordan University (GJU) Advisory Council, Jordan’s ICT Advisory Council, Information Technology Association of Jordan Board, and Prince Hamzah Bin Al Hussein School Board and the Endeavor Board of Directors.
He is additionally co-founder of Oasis500 and was recently awarded the Order of Independence by His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein.
The Tab had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Tahabsem, aiming to provide insight into the visionary mind of this entrepreneur.
In your own words, define “entrepreneurship” for us.
To me entrepreneurship is a style of life, and although sometimes you can learn to become an entrepreneur, it is a feature of your DNA. Entrepreneurs don’t venture into new businesses and ideas to generate profit; they do so because that is who they are and how they do things. Profit and success come second, and usually it is a natural result of their work.
Tell us your story.
My story is very simple; from day one, I knew that I did not want to be an employee, which made me focus while studying on how I can start my own business. After graduation, and while teaching at the same university, the opportunity came and it was seized. I am always proud that I was able to start ITG with $150 which proves that it is possible to make it without big financing from the beginning. Hard work is the key to success. Working 18 and 20 hours a day is a normal practice to most people who want to succeed.
What was your dream job as a kid? How did that shape your road to founding ITG?
I knew that I wanted to be an engineer and thank God, all odds worked against that. The story behind that is a perfect example of the outliers.
What were some of the sacrifices you had to make to reach your highest potential as the founder and CEO of one of the most prestigious businesses in the Middle East?
I can’t say that I had to sacrifice anything in that sense. But of course there were some high prices that I had to pay; such as seeing less of and spending less time with my family and friends.
Business and personal lives. Do they mingle?
They absolutely can. But in my case, I make sure that my personal life is completely separated from my business life, and that my business life is completely separated from my personal life.
What was it like to start a company in the Middle East?
Very difficult and hard and the reason was not related to the geography as much as it was related to the culture that existed in the region. People at that time did not believe that one of their own could come up with solutions capable of solving local and international challenges.
What tips do you have for young, aspiring entrepreneurs?
Do your homework, be confident, work hard, and don’t take no for an answer.
Book guides to business start ups. Do those actually help?
Absolutely yes. In order to be able to do something, you need knowledge and such books can be one of the sources to acquire that knowledge.