Q&A – Rami Rahal, Managing Partner, Blue Cloud VenturesLast Updated: January 1, 2019
“Don’t expect anything to be served to you on a golden platter.” Rami Rahal, co-founder and managing partner of Blue Cloud Ventures, looks back on the steps he took towards setting up his successful venture capital investment firm.
Rami Rahal, co-founder and now managing partner at the New York-based investment business, Blue Cloud Ventures, is a textbook example of the entrepreneurial spirit, pushing the envelope of excellence and exploring every facet of his area of interest with leading companies before making the leap to pursue his own vision.
“I have tremendous respect for, and am inspired by, any entrepreneur who fights daily to build a great business.”
Early on, he was aware of two things. Firstly, he knew that he wanted to be a venture capitalist, even though employment in the VC field is scarce, and post-school experience is usually necessary before a firm will even consider hiring someone.
And as if those obstacles were not formidable enough, he knew also that ultimately, he would find most fulfilment, professionally and personally, by being in charge of his own destiny as an entrepreneur, setting his own goals, pursuing his own targets, at his own pace.
This Mechanical Engineering graduate of the American University of Beirut—and also alumnus of Columbia University with an MS in Operations Research—made his first decisive move by joining the IT Strategy Group at Accenture. There, Rami Rahal advised Fortune 50 companies including Pfizer, Verizon, Walgreens, AT&T, TransUnion and State Street, and also co-founded Jot Messenger, a mobile and web instant messaging company.
However, finding the environment at Accenture too restrictive, he joined the tech-focused Madison Park Group, where he had the opportunity to partner with like-minded people and devise a new type of VC fund, focused on flexible investing, and within nine months of joining Madison, he had left to co-found Blue Cloud Ventures.
11 Questions for Rami Rahal
Rami’s work at Blue Cloud Venture is an expression of his passion not only for investment and tech, but also on early and growth stage investments. Rami Rahal recently cleared some time in his schedule to talk to AGENT about investment and venture capital, and about his entrepreneurial story to date, its challenges, and rewards, and what advice he would pass on to anyone starting up their own businesses today.
1. Briefly tell us how you first got into business, and describe your business goals.
I always aspired to become a venture capitalist. While at Columbia University, I tried to start several tech companies. None succeeded. They were all great ideas but I did not manage to execute, to grow them into successful businesses. As a venture capitalist, I would have the opportunity to back great teams that would execute on these ideas. I had then decided that VC is what I want to do. VC jobs are scarce, and usually firms do not hire students straight out of school. Upon graduation, I joined Accenture in their IT strategy department, hoping to learn more about technology. Within 6 months of joining, I noticed that I was not functioning too well in Accenture’s highly structured environment and that I could do more on my own. At that point, I decided to leave and eventually joined Madison Park Group, a tech-focused boutique investment bank. There, I had the opportunity to partner with great and likeminded people and conceive the idea of a new type of VC fund that focuses on “flexible capital investing”. Nine months after joining Madison Park group, I left the bank and started Blue Cloud Ventures.
2. What age were you when you realised you wanted to run your own business?
I always aspired to be an entrepreneur and run my own business. I believed that I could do better on my own, at my own pace, rather than as part of a larger organisation. I guess I decided that I wanted to run my own business at 22.
3. Who are your business icons and inspirations?
I have tremendous respect and am inspired by any entrepreneur who fights daily to build a great business. I believe in continuous education, self-reflection, humility and constant evolution and that each person should aim at always surpassing themselves to constantly get better.
4. What has been your biggest challenge in business, and how did you surmount it?
Challenges never stop, especially if someone is aspiring to become a leader in their space. The two biggest challenges I faced were ageism and recruiting. I started my fund at the age of 25. It was challenging to convince potential investors to trust me with their capital, especially when I had no track record to show. At the beginning, it was also challenging to convince CEOs of leading companies and other VC partners that I bring a credible source of capital to the table and that I’m a value-added investor. There were no easy fixes to these challenges, but through perseverance, hard work, outside-the-box thinking and dedication, I addressed and overcame them.
5. Work-Life balance: is it possible? How do you achieve it?
It’s a complex dilemma that each entrepreneur faces. Work-life balance is possible if someone is structured, knows how to delegate, focuses energy 100% on the present moment and knows how to switch off from thinking about work when doing other things. Even then, entrepreneurs will have to prioritize between family, health, social life and work.
6. What is the first thing you do every day?
Grab a cup of coffee, check my email and read the news while walking my dog.
7. What screen saver picture is currently on your phone?
My desktop screen saver is an image of Betty Draper from Mad Men, sitting alone at a bar and smoking a cigarette.
8. What is the most important app on your mobile phone, and why?
Soundcloud (music always puts me in a good mood and lift my sprit), Uber (I cannot operate efficiently without it) and Wag! – Dog Walking, Boarding and Sitting – Wag Labs, Inc. — it’s a dog walking app, that gives me flexibility in my schedule.
9. What is the last thing you Googled?
Agent Media. [Well played! – Ed. 👍]
10. What item do you never leave the house without, and why?
My iPhone – I would probably be lost without it.
11. What advice would you give to your younger self starting out in business?
Don’t expect anything to be served to you on a golden platter. Don’t be discouraged by negative people around you. Believe in yourself and get it done.