The synthesis of passion and ambition drives the creation of a significant business leader. To make practical use of one’s potential and to derive success out of collective efforts determines the efficiency of a leader. Realizing opportunities and crafting pioneering works of art out of them should be a leader’s definition of achievement. A beacon of inspiration, an amicable coworker, and the enthusiasm to be the torch-bearer of an organization’s vision, are the evident traits of a complete leader.
Karen Contet Farzam, Co-founder of WHub, is one such exemplary business leader. While describing her muse of innovation, she quotes, “the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is composed of two Chinese characters respectively signifying ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. The financial crisis of 2008 was a key turning point in my journey and forced me to reinvent myself by choosing a new career path. This worldwide crisis turned out to offer me the best opportunity in my life.”
Karen started her career at JP Morgan as an Equity Derivative trader. She moved to Hong Kong in 2010 to reflect on the path she wanted to follow. Along with her best friend and now co-founder Karena Belin, she dived into the startup ecosystem and started WHub which is now Hong Kong’s biggest startup community and connector.
With a mission of building successful ventures in mind, she started to speak at different types of local events and international conferences such as JSconf, Vivatech and RISE. During this time, she attended a lot of web developer meetings and founded WomenWhoCodeHK. It started as a women web developers gathering and later became a professional community for women in tech that provides an avenue for women to pursue a career in technology, help them gain new skills, and foster environments where networking and mentorship are valued.
Karen is also a founding board member of the FinTech Association of Hong Kong which is composed of 12 board members, 14 committees and over 950 members. “It has been an extraordinary journey building a new community from scratch with passionate volunteering people,” states Karen while describing her achievements.
Fostering Innovation Globally
WHub.io is Hong Kong’s biggest startup community, gathering more than 75% of Hong Kong startups on its platform. It is based on 3 pillars to help nurture and grow the ecosystem: Connecting the community – connecting startups with other startups, corporates, universities, government, accelerators and incubators; Recruitment – enabling startups to build their team; WHub has organized 9 Job Fairs for Tech & Startups; Education – organizing events and supporting global conferences, as well as issuing white papers on the Hong Kong Startup Ecosystem and Hong Kong FinTech Ecosystem.
WHub also connects corporates for innovating startups through Hackathons, startup competitions, workshops, top executive seminars, helping entrepreneurs prepare to raise capital, creating employment and building innovation.
The Conception of a Pioneering Idea
WHub’s tagline is #StartupPassion, as WHub’s mission is to help startups innovate, scale as well as foster the growth of the entire community.
“Everything began around a cup of coffee on a Monday morning. Sitting with Karena Belin, who would later become my co-founder, we wondered why so many talented people could not find a job they really cared about,” were Karen’s thoughts during the time, she was looking at several opportunities to start her own business.
WHub’s startups, corporate clients, investors and other stakeholders recognize the company for making a true difference in providing quality access to resources and the ecosystem in a most efficient and transparent way. WHub has received several awards including Talent Unleashed Award by Richard Branson, Women of Hope Award, 10 Best Female Entrepreneurs of the World award by True Global Ventures, and has also achieved strategic partnerships with leading startup accelerators, organizations and conferences worldwide.
While describing her initial struggles as a leader, Karen expresses, “dealing with the unknown difficulties, loneliness, team building, decision making and consistency are the most encountered obstacles in an entrepreneur’s lifetime.”
“Being an entrepreneur is lonely. That is why I feel lucky to have my co-founder Karena Belin, someone trustworthy to discuss honestly and deeply about the problems we encounter and who has complementarity skill. Karena is not only my co-founder but the runner with whom I have achieved 2 night trail marathons and a 60km ultra trail race in Nepal,” expresses Karen, while describing her companionship and partnership with Karena Belin. Finding the perfect co-founder to share the ups and downs is a key trait of a successful leader according to Karen.
“With entrepreneurship, what matters the most are the efforts you put in every day. You need to learn new things, meet new people, and reflect on yourself and your business. Successful entrepreneurs and runners don’t give up and do not talk about failure but about opportunities to execute differently, which at the end results in a winning and successful outcome,” is what Karen asserts while expressing her views on the attribute of consistency in a leader.
Passing on the Key of Success
“When leaders are sincerely enthusiastic and passionate, that’s contagious” quotes Karen.
While guiding the aspiring generation of young leaders and entrepreneurs, Karen expresses her views, “Get surrounded by people that are smarter than you. Smart people make you smarter and better. They spark interest in you, introduce you to new ideas, concept and opportunities you have never thought of. Be strong and decisive but stay humble. Humility is a proof of strength and it will enable your team to come up with ideas and constructive feedback.”
“Listen carefully to everyone but make up your own mind. Train hard, build strong foundations every outcome will depend on it. This is where races are lost and won and where companies succeed or shut down.”
Using the example of Emil Zatopek, she states, “he is one of the greatest runners of all times but he was not genetically gifted. He made sacrifices and he won. As an entrepreneur and a leader, you will lose friends, spend less time with your family, but you can’t have it all at the same time.”