Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is serial business-starter Ouissam Youssef, who’s currently working to create one of Canada leading technology business groups. We caught up with him to find out what inspired his career path and what advice he would share with other young professionals…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I am the CEO of Valsef Group, a Montreal-based technology investment company that acquires, builds and manages web-based and software companies. We also occasionally invest in tech stocks.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
I’ve been in business for as long as I can remember. When I was 13, I would go door to door and get people to sign contracts to get their snow removed or their grass cut. After a while, I had a team of people doing it with me. One year, there was a huge ice storm and we all profited handsomely. Later, I went to Concordia for computer engineering. I had already been in business at this point for six or seven years, so I knew my way around, but I needed to learn a lot more about the digital sector. In the early 2000s, I realized that the Internet was causing a big disruption. And whenever there’s a big disruption, there’s a proportional opportunity for wealth creation. That’s when I started doing affiliate marketing, which led to my first company.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Today, I would say Valnet and TheRichest.com are the career moves I am most proud of. We bought the company relatively inexpensively five years ago, and now it’s huge. We have more than a million page views a day and a million likes on Facebook. All we did was optimize the monetization of pages, which allowed us to purchase traffic at scale, which allowed us to invest in video content. The property has grown by a hundredfold under our care. We applied a similar process to ScreenRant.com, our more recent acquisition, and we’re seeing the same improvements.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
I hope to still be doing what I love with my partners and friends. I would like both Valnet and Valsoft to keep growing like they’ve been. I think if we’re doing the right thing, we can still be having a blast doing what we’re doing and build the Valsef Group into one of Canada’s leading technology business groups.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
First, work hard and be nice.
Second, have the right habits everyday and start young in developing them; tiny things such as making time to go to the gym, or staying in to work on your projects instead of going out with friends. Those sacrifices that you do every day add up and eventually help achieve your goals.
And finally, you have the power to be what you want to be. If you take control, and have the right habits, you can shape your life into what you want it to be.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
My family and I have been big supporters of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. We have an affinity to the foundation at the Children’s Hospital because of some events that happened in our family and my partners and I are starting a foundation to focus on education and paediatric research.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
In 2010, I sold my first and very successful company with 300 employees. It was very hard to go from being the CEO of a highly successful company to not really having anything, and then having to rebuild from scratch. I overcame this challenge by failing many times and getting back up every time. We had many failures and we are not ashamed of that.
What does the word notable mean to you?
To me, someone that is notable is somebody who is a master of his craft. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., if your faith is to be a street sweeper, be the best damn street sweeper you can be.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
Beatrice. I just find the atmosphere in the summer is unique. Any time I bring somebody there, they are delighted.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
The most visited website on my browser is CNBC, and the most played song on my phone would probably be “Stand By Me” by Ben King. I tried thinking of a hip song but this is the best one I could come up with!
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
I would love to talk about a business icon or someone more meaningful, but really I love following Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson because he’s so damn entertaining.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
My favourite country would probably be Costa Rica because of its realness. It just feels like the natural beauty of the country is intact; that the industrial world never got to it. There is just a tremendous part of the country that is beautiful. The next country I plan on travelling to is Greece.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
I would say this is more related to my family, but for me family comes before anything and I have a huge fear of missing out on anything that is a first for any of my kids.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Stuffing my face with sweets.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Something I wish I didn’t spend so much money on would probably be my house. Between one thing and another, I always wanted it to be perfect so I kept spending and spending, and it ended up being a ridiculous amount of money for something that is not that valuable for me.
On the other hand, something I wish I spent more money on would probably be vacation.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
To me, success is first and foremost to live a fulfilling life; to have the strength to live the life you want to live, or that you are supposed to live. This is one of the main reasons I’m in business. It gives me the independence to build my dreams.