Building the future one step at a time.

With an unbreakable smile and an unstoppable determination, Ahmed has turned a crisis into a challenge to rewrite his own’s future.

I met Ahmed in 2015, during an entrepreneurship event at Open library in Milan. At that time, Ahmed walked with crutches and was in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to collect € 75,000 he needed for something that could have changed his life: the installation of a bionic hip bone. Many people would have been worried, tired or unmotivated. Ahmed, on the other hand, was solar, positive and full of energy. And this is the thing that struck me the most about him. His immense strength of will and trust in the future. After the crowdfunding campaign, Ahmed faces the operation and emerges strengthened, not only physically but also mentally. He decides then to build on the skills acquired and to launch a start-up in Tallinn, in Estonia (Elysium, a platform that collects people’s the health data), and one in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (Ahmed Barkhia Co-offering Management Consulting for companies); above all, he never stops and keeps working on new initiatives and new entrepreneurial projects, building his own future one step at a time.

Interview

When I first interviewed you for my book, you told me that, considering that your pathology is very aggressive, you wanted to create something to give to other people, because you believe that, remaining in other people’s memory is the best thing we have. This is a very deep thought and very much aligned with your work. Tell me, how can you be always extremely enthusiastic and full of energy? And what motivates you the most?

A great human instinct is curiosity. I like to observe, investigate and learn what people do in their everyday life;I love to discover life from other points of view. I keep feeding my will and my intellect of new sensations, I deepen my knowledge through listening and I like to dare; because getting involved is electrifying. Very often, I happen to imagine something and then to realize it, as it happened for my last successes, one with my technological enterprise or with my nomination as a technical expert for NATO. I am always elated, even when the sky darkens, because the most important challenge is to deal with yourself, so when you reach your goals and overcome them you can do nothing but smile.

For work, you often travel. When I look at your profile on Instagram or Linkedin, I see that you are always somewhere in the world talking about your companies. In your opinion, how important is travelling to get inspired? And what do you think are the five best activities that every entrepreneur
should always remember to do in order to seize new opportunities?

Travelling is like living twice. Every time I’m about to leave, I’m elated, I like it at the point that I cannot sleep. I love traveling and fortunately I managed to reconcile business with relaxation, and this is a great advantage. There are many people who think about their jobs as separate from their personal life, but I know that the strongest and most lasting entrepreneurial project often arises from a conversation at a restaurant or within a break after a crossfit class. I have the following tips: talking to people you do not know, visiting unpopular places, integrating with local culture through locals, do not using email/social media/ IM for at least 24 hours whilst you are focusing over your business (otherwise you are on holidays).

I am always happy, even when the sky darkens, because the most important challenge is to deal with yourself; so, when you reach your goals, you can do nothing but smile.

— Ahmed Barkhia

Your work, as well as your companies, entirely reflect your story and yourself. You put your face in everything you do. And I think that this is very important. In your opinion, when you are an entrepreneur, can you separate your person from your own business?

Absolutely not. At the beginning, your work absorbs you 24/7, but with experience you can acquire a certain degree of flexibility in managing the studying, family, and friends. I find certain PM methodologies crucial, as well as all tools that help you meeting the deadlines, sharing everyone’s activities within the company,and above all, communicating with the team. The free time, if you still have some, can be integrated into business trips or used for sport activities or studying; for instance, I managed to complete an MSc in Data Science at Johns Hopkins University and creating the pilot of Elysium with the Dubai Government at the same time.

As an entrepreneur, I imagine you had to look for fundings in order to launch your Start-Up. How difficult is it to get fundings in Italy? And what advice would you give, in terms of fundraising, to everyone who is now looking for fundings?

Well, my story is a particular one, since I started from a personal issue on which I founded my most important business. In Italy, I launched #UNBACINOPERAHMED (“a hip bone for Ahmed”), where I raised € 75,000 and only in the final phase of the crowdfunding I created “Elysium”, a project for sharing health data with clinical facilities worldwide. One of the most important problem when you want to set up a technological enterprise is to find the right fundings that allow you to work on your idea, to make it valuable and to start selling it. So, I started from my network, by asking people to participate in my projects. For the crowdfunding campaign I had the opportunity to multiply my communication potential due to the participation of many people well-connected to my network, both directly and indirectly; while, for my business project, it was much more difficult.

Funding the pilot of Elysium was extremely difficult. Three years ago, it was not immediate to demonstrate how distributed networks (DLT) could connect the world; so, after many defeats, I decided to try in Dubai, where my project was accepted. It allowed me to prove my thesis in a governmental project. Obviously, the difficulty in getting fundings is directly proportional to the understanding of who finances the project. Thence, Elysium has been defined as a “deep tech” project, and only after the approval of our key sponsor we have been able to start the revolution of the health market.

Travelling is like living twice.

— Ahmed Barkhia

A few quick questions

Now you are “Destroying”, in the Anglo-Saxon sense of “Disrupting” the Health Care industry, which other sector would you like to destroy?

Pharma.

If I could have lunch with an entrepreneur or manager of our time, whom would you like to have lunch with? And where?

Elon Musk, on Mars.

If you found a time machine (a working one…) and you could make one trip only,
Where would you like to live? In past or in future times?

In the future.

If you could write a single word on a big billboard in Piazza Duomo in Milan,
What word would you choose?

Resilience.

You have launched start-ups both in Italy and abroad. Besides Italy, which is the country where would you like to live and work in?

Switzerland.

What drives you to work more? Making profit and be successful (making money) or whether your job gives meaning to your life and might positively impacts the world (making meaning)?

Making Meaning – the reason why I founded Elysium.