Though his LinkedIn profile doesn’t mention it, Nayib Abdala is an undercover anthropologist. Fascinated by people and their intricate hidden stories, Nayib’s favorite pastime has long been setting himself up in a coffee shop and observing the people around him, Jane Goodall style.
When someone peaks his curiosity, he is the type of guy that finds himself compelled to ask total strangers about the motivations behind their choices. His love for understanding people, their motivations and problems, brought him to where he is today, the CEO and Founder of ConvertLoop, an innovative company dedicated to increasing personalised online communication to empower companies to interact with online users at scale.
So where are you from?
Bogotá, Colombia. (Lebanese Grandfather, that’s why my name is Nayib).
What do you like to get up to?
Bike riding, teaching, meditating, playing guitar, programming and putting on my anthropologist hat and guessing the archetype of random strangers walking around me (I don’t actually have a hat… I wonder if they sell those on Amazon).
Got a favorite quote?
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” by Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche and Viktor Frankl are two of my favorite authors. I used to have long talks about their works with my father, and it’s one of my fondest memories of him. That quote has always inspired me because it helped my father, whom I greatly admired, get out of bed every single day when he got cancer.
So what makes you tick, what are you all about?
I have always been passionate about understanding human behavior: learning about people’s motivations, frustrations, and actions and finding ways to use technology to improve people’s lives. I combine my willingness to help people and my love for creating solutions to set in motion an infinite loop that aims to permanently create value.
Nowadays, there is a “hustle culture” in the world of entrepreneurship. The workaholic culture is really hurting up and coming entrepreneurs. I think balance in life is essential, because in the end, it is all about people. You do not want to look back at your life and feel that you wasted it. So, for me, helping people is what makes me tick.
What originally attracted you to the entrepreneurial world?
I have been immersed in entrepreneurship since I was a child. My father’s family, with Lebanese origins, were merchants. I spent my holidays learning about business with my family’s merchant veterans! But to tell you the truth, my real interest was always about understanding people and creating solutions. Later in my life I understood that that’s what business is all about!
After my father died of cancer when I was quite young, I grew up taking care of my family. Early on in my professional days, I worked for a big tech company in Europe. After a few months there, I felt really frustrated. It wasn’t because I was an employee (I really respect that path in life, and I have learned a lot as an employee), but because, in those days, what I really wanted to do was to identify people’s needs and create solutions. I was in an “Execution environment”, and not a “Search environment”, like my mentors Steve Blank and Bob Dorf frequently say.
So, after my experience in a big European tech company, and wanting to create new stuff to help people (that was my internal call), I decided to pursue studies in Technology (at the time, my background was mainly in Business). Since then, I started creating my own businesses by identifying problems and creating better solutions to improve the lives of specific groups of people.
What was the inspiration behind starting your venture?
Back in Colombia, after my experience in Europe, I took up Web Application Programming as a hobby. This hobby transformed my life because it led me to meet my Business Partner, Germán Escobar. He created a Software Programming Bootcamp called Make It Real Camp, which revolutionized the way people learn how to code in Colombia. I joined the Bootcamp as a student in 2014, and today we are Business Partners in Make It Real.
Through Make It Real, we uncovered the need to communicate with our students in the most effective and opportune way. To do so, we needed a tool that showed us exactly what our specific users were doing on our Web App, so we could use that information to create personalized communications, at scale. This need gave us the opportunity to start innovating how we communicate with users, allowing us to message them in a human way, but also at scale. That way, we could provide a better service, boost retention, and increase the completion rate of our students. So German Escobar and I created ConvertLoop.
After creating the first version of ConvertLoop, we shared the new product with a small group of people who also had online products offered as services. In 2017 we created a new company, ConvertLoop Inc, that aims to improve communications with online users by giving businesses the right tools to communicate with their users at scale, but without losing their human touch.
Go ahead and shamelessly tell us us about your baby, ConvertLoop
I’m currently working with German Escobar (my Business Partner and CTO at ConvertLoop) and a great team, to create a better way to communicate with online users at scale. We want to engage users and get them to take action based on their unique experiences with a product. We always approach this in a human way, a way that understands that each user is unique, and has their own motivations, needs, and time-frames to take action throughout their journey. To date, we have created our first version of ConvertLoop, and are continually improving the way businesses can communicate with their online product users, with cutting-edge technologies in the fields of behavior understanding, and automation.
What’s the big vision for ConvertLoop?
ConvertLoop is definitely a people-first company!
We strive to give businesses that provide online services the possibility to communicate with their users at scale, but in a personalized, human way, seeing each user as a unique individual, with their own needs and motivations. This helps businesses provide an excellent service, which increases engagement and revenue for the company, and makes the user’s overall experience exceptional.
How is your company different?
We are a human-driven company. This makes us different in two main ways: our solution, and our principles.
Regarding our solution, we allow online service providers to accurately understand users as individuals, and communicate with them in a human way, but also at scale. We help them understand what really interests their users, based on what they do, or any other personal attributes that our clients want to record related to the user’s interactions with their product.
Regarding ConvertLoop’s Principles, as a company we value:
- Simplicity over complexity
- Fixing over complaining
- Being explicit over bluffing
- Lifestyle over money
- Long-term over shortcuts
- Scientific approach over imposition
- Spending wisely
We create software that improves people’s lives, not for the money, but for the pleasure of helping people.
As a group of people, in ConvertLoop we always remember that we have a cause greater than ourselves: being helpful.
What was your biggest challenge getting ConvertLoop up and running?
Balancing the work that each of the founders, Germán Escobar and I, had to do for our other companies while putting in the effort needed to create a great beta version of our product. We originally meant for our product to be a solution to our own company’s needs, however, as soon as we started using the solution we created, we realized that other businesses that provide online services would also find our solution to increase online user engagement and retention as valuable as we had. ConvertLoop became an independent business so we could share the benefits from the solution we had created.
What have you learned from your journey with ConvertLoop?
By accident, we discovered that a great way to create a new product that can go on to become a great business is to solve your own problems. After that, you can find some peers and offer it to them to try out. These first users will be your early adopters. Once you have your first users, focus on delivering a great experience, maybe not with the product (since your first version could have bugs and limited functionalities), but with your attentiveness and the customer service you provide them. (Years ago I read this advice from Paul Graham somewhere, but now I have lived the experience.)
Don’t worry about scalable practices at the beginning, when you’re getting early adopters; instead, focus on getting to Product-Market Fit with a narrow niche. If possible, create the first version of your product on your own, and put it in front of users as soon as possible. This is the quickest way to learn what you need to fix, and it will help you define your next steps in terms of the upcoming product and market cycles.
Most people will dismiss and discourage you from creating something new, but remember that the vast majority is not your first target audience in your go-to-market strategy: your initial target market is comprised of the early adopters, the people who have the same ‘Job to Be Done’ that you have, and who are experiencing friction with current solutions, either because they are simply not enough, because of cost, performance or availability issues.
What do you see in the future for automation technology?
Basically, the future is about how we as humans can implement new technologies to create more tailored experiences for people. Business-wise, this would result in an increase in engagement, retention, and revenue, and people-wise, it would make technology work for us while we, as individuals, invest our time in what is really important for every single one of us.
As an entrepreneur, what advice can you give someone seeking to start their own business?
Start by solving your own problems, those that you really care about. Then find similar people who have the same problem. If you are in a context where this does not apply to you, then think about how you can serve others. By serving them the right way, you will create things that add real value.
Once you have identified what you want to create, build a great team. Keep in mind that you will iterate a lot, but you have to start somewhere. People will come and go, but at the end of the day, you will find a few who share your vision and who can help you build something great.
It is really important to pick a field that you love and enjoy working with (for example, “Education”) or a problem that you face (for example, “cold, spammy, generalized communications that bother online users”) . Otherwise, you will run out of gas in the middle of your journey.
Motivation is limited, and emotions change daily, life has continual ups and downs like a roller coaster. In order to have the momentum to make it over the humps and through the low points, you need to pick something that is meaningful to you, that is aligned with your life’s purpose. With passion driving you forward, you won’t give up when you feel like you can’t go on. Be loyal to your vision, to that which is deeply meaningful to you; change the strategy, the product, the market, etc., but stay loyal to your vision. If you do, you will create something great and improve people’s lives.