[quote style=”boxed”]From what I learned until now. The best answer to this question is to build the right team.[/quote]
Ismail Salhi is the founder of Ozenge Studio a digital Carpentry that aims at fixing the relationship problems people have with theiir computers. His seminal work was in the field of Ubiquitous Computing during a Ph.D. in computer science. He is currently working on Qleek.me, a project that creates a New Medium for New Media. He describes himself as a disciple of both Marc Weiser and Stefan Sagmeister’s work by trying to distill in his products a sense of honesty and boldness without the unecessary noise of candy-coloured marketing. Ismail was born and raised in Cherchell, sleepy little sea-side town in north Algeria. He lives now in Paris.
Where did the idea of Qleek come from?
It all happened a couple of years ago. I was wondering why I should be in front of a screen to play my music.
I’m not what you can a nostalgic, but loved how simple it was to play my music at home simply by grabbing a record and playing it with a simple gesture. I didn’t have to launch apps, plug cables and scroll lists to find my favorite artist.
It was simple and intuitive because my music was in plain sight, in my living room.
So I started doodling a system on my own and quickly realized that Design was a key part of the media consumption rituals. So I started looking for a Designer, and met Johanna, our Chief Design Officer, and the hands who shaped what is now Qleek.
After few iterations on the prototype, we decided to make a company out of this side-project. So we started looking for a CTO: Pierre who is an embedded system magician and a real maker. We knew the team was perfect when he showed us his Noisebox, a prototype that looked a lot like what I was doing in the first place.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Tough question. Since we integrated LeCamping (the first startup Accelerator in France), our calendars are full. A typical day at Qleek includes:
Coffee – Otherwise there’s no way to be productive
Emails & phone calls to suppliers & partners
Hours of prototyping (laser-cutting, soldering, coding, etc.) – probably the most fun part of the day
Crowdfunding Campaign preparation
Sport (Jogging for me, Rock-climbing for Pierre & Johanna)
How do you bring ideas to life?
From what I learned until now. The best answer to this question is to build the right team.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The Calm Computing philosophy. But I’m not really sure it’s a trend these days.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Probably to give myself some time every now and then out of the entrepreneur ecosystem and also Cooking.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was 14 years old and I sold pop-corn close to a port, during a very hot summer while all my friends would go to the beach. What I learned is how to make good pop-corn and a love for class-free products that you can sell the same day in the same place both to a white-collar and a blue-collar workers.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
For now, I think I would do pretty much everything how I did it, but faster and with more confidence.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I like to surround myself with as many different people as possible. Whether we’re talking about your team or your friends. Evolving within different circles makes you better understand how global the market has become and how to talk to your clients. It’s also and above all very enriching personally.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Our core strategy has always been to try think of our product as an Experience rather than just a solution to a problem. An experience engages people emotionally and drives social interaction. When you design your product beyond its functional purpose to bring a good experience, you start thinking about things you couldn’t think of otherwise.
For instance, when designing Qleek, we knew how fulfilling it is for people to share handpicked music as a gift to someone they love. We also knew that people don’t see photo albums as an object but rather as a souvenir. These observations helped us design not yet another media streaming device, but a new way to experience Digital Media.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure that was probably due to my naivety is to look for money before looking for a team, and that with money you obviously get the right people to work with you. This was a mistake that I’ve overcome with finding people that believe in your project especially when there’s no money involved. Those are the people you wanna keep, and so I did.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’ve always thought that someone should make an app that tells you how much rent-money you are spending on useless stuff in your house. For example, if I pay 500EU for a 50m² apartment, how much does it cost me per month to give away 5m² of my living space to a piece of furniture that may be not so useful.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
When I was young I wanted to go to art school. I still do.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I recently started using 8tracks, after trying pretty much any music streaming platform. For me it’s one of the best music apps you can get. I love how simple and accurate it is. Otherwise I love feedly and was an early adopter of squarespace.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. For me his Metaphysics of Quality was eye-opening. It’s a beautiful travelogue about the philosophical quest to quality and a tribute to meditation and Zen.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Mark Weiser’s Manifesto on Calm Computing http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/SciAmDraft3.html
All Hans Rosling TEDs : http://www.ted.com/speakers/hans_rosling
Small Empires with Alexis Ohanian : https://www.theverge.com/video/small-empires
I’m a fan of Qz.com.
I love Andrew Kim’s blog on product design http://minimallyminimal.com/ is a real source of inspiration and an ode to beautiful engineering.
Podcast : This American Life – http://www.thisamericanlife.org/