I spent 14 years building and scaling my business, International Nomads. We launched in 2006 as the first full-service digital agency in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Middle East region. We crafted digital strategies for brands and built apps, games, marketing campaigns, and story-driven experiences long before it was popular in the region. We were explorers and adventurers, like many startups: Following our passion, trusting our gut, and building something we loved.
In 2019, I exited the business and relocated to Canada. Suddenly, I found myself in a period of my life that so many entrepreneurs know all too well after an exit: I felt unsure of my “place.”
My company was a grounding force in my life. Aside from my wonderful family and faith, my company was part of my identity—and it was my most significant driver of purpose.
I remember asking myself questions like:
- Am I still an entrepreneur?
- What should I be doing next?
I had two choices: Feel aimlessly lost or embrace the adventure of exploration.
It has been three years since the beginning of that moment in my life. I have learned a few things throughout the entrepreneurial lifecycle (build, grow, exit, restart) that might be helpful to entrepreneurs going through that same journey.
Be an Underdog
Like most entrepreneurs, I started as an underdog, and it remained a key part of company culture as we grew. I had studied fine arts in university instead of business, marketing or computer science. I was not the “obvious” choice to build and scale a company—but I did it anyway.
As a firm, we pitched campaign ideas and strategies to huge, internationally recognized brands, going up against big network agencies. We had no venture capital and weren’t part of a global agency network. We were resilient, creative, driven—and each time we were snubbed, it made us more determined to win the account. We did win those huge accounts, and we relished the moments.
The experience of being the underdog was a good reminder that I needed these last three years as my entrepreneurial life underwent a transition. Whenever I started to feel lost, confused or doubtful of my abilities, I remembered: When challenged, I was always the underdog who found a way to come out on top. Sometimes, an underdog mindset can be the best motivator for growth.
Live and Think Nomad
After exiting the company, I felt like I had no “home base”. Suddenly, I was a nomad wandering the world.
Shifting perspective, I realized that the nomadic lifestyle and mindset are incredibly powerful. I had always believed in it—so much so that I named the company “International Nomads.”
Nomads are not bogged down by traditional limitations. They embody freedom—and suddenly, I was free. I traveled, collected experiences and explored new cultures, places and people. My perspective grew like never before. Instead of being singularly focused on the daily “9 to 5 grind,” I was able to see a more holistic view of the world in a way I had not seen before. I put more time into building deeper relationships with my family and others in my life, both old connections and new ones. My ideas, energy and vision became clearer than ever.
Even though I’m now firmly based in a new city, the nomad spirit is rekindled within me. It reminds me that sometimes exploration without a clear destination is freeing, empowering and transformative. Take chances, say yes, and try things. When we are uncomfortable, we realize how much we take things for granted. Sometimes discomfort is a good thing. Whether in business or life, think like a nomad.
Embrace an Exploration Mindset
After my exit, people would ask: “So, what are you doing nowadays?” It was a question I did not like because I had no clear answer. Conventional wisdom tells us that life is linear and our paths, both educational and professional, should be linear, too.
I was living in entrepreneurial adventure mode: I was doing freelance consulting and advisory to a business here, investing in a web3 gaming startup there. From AR to social media trends to real estate, I was exploring. It didn’t make for a great answer to the question I was asked (repeatedly).
Then I realized: My first business was an agency. At any given time, we had 10 to 15 projects, all different in scope and shape and size, running at once—a portfolio of projects, clients, industries and contacts. I could have numerous ventures, projects and experiences happening simultaneously, too.
Suddenly, I became eager to dabble in different things—the more diverse, the better. I learned a ton in the process, had a lot of fun, made connections in various industries, and began slowly carving out my next path. A portfolio mentality can be a mighty tool to find singularity of focus.
At first, exiting the company I ran for 14 years challenged my sense of identity. Today, I realize that there is power in the exploratory process. Had I stayed in my business, my life would have been stable—but I would have missed out on the incredible adventure that will lead to my next venture (ask me about it in six months).
Entrepreneurs, make sure your journey of exploration never ends. Embrace the unknown of living in adventure mode—it might be the best decision you ever make.
One other thing I have learned: The beauty of all adventures are the experiences and stories we collect along the way. I have plenty of them now—and what is more powerful than the stories we live, tell and share with others?
Samer Hamze, an EO Toronto member, is an entrepreneur, investor, advisor and explorer of digital and real-life communities serving startups, agencies and SMBs with creative, marketing and technology strategy. He has worked with leading brands across the globe. Samer is an entrepreneur in adventure mode, helping companies explore new technologies, communities and stories.