Over the last 14 years, TechWadi has gone from the dream of five founding members to an established organization with partnerships and affiliations across the Silicon Valley and MENA region. How did it all begin? TechWadi sat down with one of the original founding members Ghazi Ben Othman on October 9, 2016 to find out.
Ghazi comes from a diverse background as a venture capitalist investor, computer engineer and entrepreneur. He now works at Malaz Capital, specializing in the management of private equity funds out of Saudi Arabia. Ghazi is one of the many successful Middle Eastern professionals who moved to Silicon Valley in the 1990s and quickly noticed that there was no clearly established community for Arab American entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers or professionals in tech to come together, network and mentor others early in their careers.
That is when Ben Othman combined forces with the other four TechWadi founding members to establish one of the first professional MENA-focused associations in the Bay Area:
- Ray Milhem, VP of Enterprise Solutions & Cloud at ANSYS, Inc.
- Akram Benmbarek, Director of Business Development Quanergy
- Mohamed Alzubi, Managing Director at Tharwa Capital Management
- Rami Habal, Co-founder and CEO of NewCo
- Yacine Rahmoun, Entrepreneur CaptureDoc – CBS
- Muyesser Taqi-Eddin, Chief Marketing Strategist World Fluency
To learn more about Ghazi and the history of TechWadi, read the interview with him below!
Q&A Profile with Ghazi Ben Othman
TechWadi: Can you provide me with a description of your professional background?
Ben Othman: I currently manage private equity funds on behalf of Malaz Capital out of Saudi Arabia. I’ve been a venture capitalist by trade for the last 15 years and before that I was a computer engineer. I made the switch to investment when I moved to the Silicon Valley in 1999 and what I appreciated the most was meeting so many people from different professional backgrounds. It became apparent to me very quickly just how many successful Arab American entrepreneurs, engineers and managers there were in the Silicon Valley at the time with no connected community in existence.
TechWadi: What motivated you to help launch TechWadi?
Ben Othman: There were so many reasons to launch TechWadi. Around 2002, different initiatives such as The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), which showcased Indian entrepreneurs, existed within other communities and garnered intense popularity. This was something that really drove Arabs and Arab Americans to create something they could call their own.
TechWadi: When did you and the founders first start TechWadi?
Ben Othman: Around 2002, each of the seven founders had different networks involving Arab Americans in tech and it became the ultimate goal to launch TechWadi and create an organization that encouraged and fostered innovation and entrepreneurship.
TechWadi: What was TechWadi’s first defining moment as an organization?
Ben Othman: One of TechWadi’s defining moments occurred when Sam Jadalla, current CEO at Tyto Life LLC, sponsored the organization’s first mixer in 2005. It brought together 50 entrepreneurs and professionals from all over the Arab American community. This was a special moment for TechWadi because professionals saw that they could meet each other and that key networking could occur within the community in the context of an intimate and personal gathering. After that, more community members started to become active, get together and organize events. In 2010, leadership transitioned to Dr. Ossama Hassanein, former TechWadi chairman and current chairman at Rising Tide Fund, who took it to the next level.
TechWadi: How would you describe TechWadi today?
Ben Othman: A nonprofit dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the Arab American community.