Ahmed El-Sharkasy


Starting a Startup Within a Scaleup

The story of how Onfido empowers its team to be the entrepreneurs of the future.

The Onfido Team early in 2016

The Early Days

In December 2013, I decided to join a company called “Onfido” while I was still in Egypt preparing to apply for my UK visa. I was hugely interested in their vision and the passion that drives the three Oxford-graduate founders. The product was still at MVP stage and the startup was in an early seed stage, so I was taking a big risk being the first full-time employee –but I always believed in risks and facing challenges. That’s what drove me forward with this opportunity.

We rolled up our sleeves and got straight to work! Month after month, the company closed more deals, the product continued to improve, the team hired some of the most brilliant minds in the US and Europe and raised more funding from top world venture funds and angel investors.

Looking back, I can’t believe that time has flown by so quickly! The same startup company I joined more than three years ago now has offices in the UK, US and Lisbon, and over 150 employees. What I liked the most about Onfido was that despite that growth, the culture remained as strong as when I joined. The company managed to scale up its culture alongside its exponential growth, keeping the values with which it started at its core.

We worked hard and played hard. We are a family!

The Future

Today is my last day at Onfido, and it’s very sad to leave all these close friends behind. I am running after my dream of building my own startup, and helping people in startups get access to the best quality knowledge and cut through the noise of spam and low quality content. I am joining Entrepreneur First in London to work on Knowledge Officer: A platform that helps startups gain and share hard-earned knowledge within and across their teams. It’s inspiring how Onfido helped me reach this stage, and I believe every company should follow the Onfido model. I am writing this post because I owe so much of what I have achieved now to Onfido and my friends there..

Onfido and “People”

When I joined Onfido, I was working on a very early version of Knowledge Officer (though it had a different name and a slightly different scope then), and it’s amazing how encouraging the founders were of me, asking for the latest updates and my progress from time to time. You might even be surprised to learn that in my first week in London, I participated in TechCrunch Disrupt and pitched my idea there. These activities not only fulfilled my passion as an entrepreneur, but also helped me expand my experience and better my contribution to Onfido as a software engineer, and then a Product Manager (I transitioned to the PM role one year ago).

Historically, companies have believed that it’s dangerous to encourage people to work on their own ideas as they will eventually leave, but that’s exactly the opposite of what Onfido believes in. Husayn Kassai (Onfido’s CEO) explicitly mentioned in a meeting earlier this year that it’s Onfido’s responsibility to help people get closer to their goals, even if that means that they will eventually leave and pursue their dreams. It’s the company’s belief that what’s best for its people, is best for itself, and Onfido is an extremely people-driven place to be.

Our team believes that if you care about people and treat them as human beings and not resources, not only you will get the best outcome possible, but you will be achieving the highest retention rate as well. I worked at Onfido for more than three years and I would have been happy to continue for many years to come, had it not been for my dream and responsibility to carry on with this mission of Delivering Knowledge and finding a solution for the clickbait culture that’s affecting us all. If you like our vision, give us your love on Product Hunt!

With that in mind, I’m also proud to announce that Onfido is officially Knowledge Officer’s first client! Onfido will be the first to use our team edition of KO, which will be released very soon.

As today is my last day at Onfido, I’d like to state one thing I learnt here (among many):

“If you want to build a successful business, you need to make sure that everyone in your company is pursuing his goals, and that the company values and targets are 100% aligned with their visions and dreams. When you do that, magic happens!”

Companies should stop wondering “Why are you leaving?” and start asking “How can we help?”– that’s the type of company that really cares about its people.

And guess what! Onfido is hiring! I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a people-driven company, with huge ambitions to change the world and power human interactions worldwide.

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