City: Beirut, Lebanon

Passion: Swimming

Websitewww.instabeat.me

Twitter: @myinstabeat@hindhobeika

A few years ago, a fresh graduate from the American University of Beirut reached out asking to meet as she was visiting San Francisco. Hind had become a tech sensation in the Middle East. At age 21, she won the 3rd prize of Stars of Science and later 1st prize of the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Business Plan competition. Hind was building Instabeat, the first swimmer device that monitors heart rate amongst other features. Braving the bombs and the bribery, Hind chose to operate and run her company from Beirut. The charismatic 20-something founder is not just on a mission to revolutionize swimming tech devices, but also has been on a bigger mission to inspire and encourage more Lebanese women and men to stay, believe and build something meaningful. Her resilience, courage and ambition leave us with no doubt that she will accomplish both her missions.

 

On Passion

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How did I find my passion? It was put in front of me. Ever since I was a kid, my parents were pushing me to go to swim classes. You can only find your passion if you try different things. I tried running, ballet and dancing but swimming was always my favorite sport.
Swimming is a lonely sport. It is meditation time. Water gives you clarity. It works out every single muscle in your body. You are exhausted after it and you feel so satisfied.
I loved swimming so much that I looked to be a part of teams. I was on the gym swim team, and my school had a pool. It was never about competing, but more about the practice. It taught me the values of sportsmanship and dedication.
Instabeat evolved while I was in university. I focused on my engineering studies and swimming, and I found an intersection of both. My original career plan did not include swimming at all. Swimming was my after 6 PM project.

On Mastery

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I read everything, from very specific books on customer service, finance and accounting to books about leadership and success & failure stories. One of my favorite books is “Onward” by Howard Schultz. I also learn a lot from talking to and meeting other people.
Ayah Bdeir is resourceful, creative and very inspiring. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid of anything. Sometimes I don’t know what I want, and I get so caught up in the present moment that it’s hard to step back.

On Transition 

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I had an idea for a product, but had always believed that the art of building products was reserved for big companies and not for individuals. I was told about a product development competition that piqued my interest, and I submitted an application for a heart rate monitor for swimmers. They accepted the idea. For the competition, you go to Qatar for 4 months and build the product.
I convinced my university, AUB, to allow me to do both; they made an exception for me. In a span of one week, I convinced my professors, packed my bags and took off to Qatar. In Qatar, I got to build the first prototype, and it was the first time I experienced the power of learning outside your boundaries and by doing. The spirit completely changed me.
In university, you have a lot of ideas yet you never think of implementing them. The mindset of doing your own thing is very recent in Lebanon. People would have thought of me as crazy if I’d told them 4 years ago that I wanted to start my company. Doing something not standard in the industry takes a lot of guts. The experience in Qatar changed my perspective, and I saw that it was possible.
I got $100,000 as the third prize winner of the competition, and when I got back, I did not touch it. I was getting calls from investors and business people asking me if this was going to be a business. I was 21 and a fresh grad. I was looking to go on to work for big company.
After a year, I finally committed to doing it full time. There is never a right moment to quit - you just need to do it.

On Failure

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You fail every day in your journey. There are different kinds of failures and different kinds of successes. All kinds of failures. My attitude has always been to embrace it but directly make the best out of a current situation. As a startup, you have limited resources. Sometimes it requires money, sometimes manpower. Speed and positivity are key to overcoming failure.

On Fear

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As an entrepreneur, the biggest fear you have is failure. What if I fail? I’m not too worried because even if my business fails, I’m growing as a person and breaking my own personal boundaries. The important thing is to take fear and transform it into positive energy. You are also afraid of yourself as an entrepreneur, because you are the one controlling everything. Learning to trust yourself is huge. It takes time to accept that most of your friends are not going to understand what you do, and that things are not in your control. And most of the time, things are not going to happen the way you want.

On Money

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When I quit my job to work on Instabeat full time, it was hard to accept the idea that I wasn’t going to have a regular salary. Sometimes I gave myself one, but at times when I felt the company needed extra resources, I would wait until the next month. I’ve never had an extravagant lifestyle, but I’ve also never had to pay attention to what I spend. The hardest part of not having a fixed income is not being able to buy gifts for your loved ones, but a positive attitude and long term vision are needed to overcome this.

On Self-Love

Most entrepreneurs forget to love themselves. But you get to a point where you’re sick of neglecting yourself, so you decide to take care of yourself. Then you get overwhelmed and neglect yourself again. I am impressed by people who have a routine and maintain it consistently. There are a lot of days when I skip my workout. But then I get fed up with being lazy and I start going regularly again. It’s a cyclical process and it’s normal when I’m under so much pressure.
Bikram yoga is a form of meditation - it is the art of being able to control your thoughts to stay in the same position in the draining heat for an entire minute. It requires a lot of focus, just like swimming.

On Inspiration

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I get my inspiration mostly from products. Products that I wear that feel good; the small things that change your daily experience. I have a watch I love that monitors your heart rate and how much you walk. My Basis, I love the data behind it; it’s great.
I also get really inspired at Quantified Self meetups (www.quantifiedself.com). They are gatherings of people who like to track certain aspects of their daily lives (food, calories, smiles, sleep, habits, etc.) These people are passionate about knowing more about their body and behavior, and are exceptionally curious. They inspire me.

On Support

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The Lebanese entrepreneurship ecosystem has been really supportive. We’re regularly invited to events, awards and competitions. We would not have made it this far if it weren’t for all the help.

Advice to the Community

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I’ve always felt that it’s really hard to find a passion unless you try different things. Try random things and don’t be afraid to try something that you think you won’t like. I’m intrigued by how people have big passions, whether they’re experiencing them as a hobby or as a professional career. If you can’t afford to it full time, do it part time or as a hobby. Integrate into the community. Be curious.

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