December 21, 2017
Member In The Spotlight Dec 2017: Richard Rabbat, Co-Founder/CEO of Gfycat
It’s not every day we come across a well established Lebanese entrepreneur with an exceptional career trajectory- someone who has emigrated from Lebanon and achieved the American dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur while staying close to their Lebanese roots through community engagement and contribution.
Richard holds a Ph.D. and an S.M. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.E. and M.E. in Computer and Communications Engineering from the American University of Beirut. He is also Vice-Chair, USA of the MIT Enterprise Forum for the Pan-Arab Region and is an advisor to numerous companies.
Besides being an exemplary LebNet member, Richard drives the vision and mission of Gfycat, which has skyrocketed to success over the past 2 years. Gfycat is a platform that enables users to make amazing Gfycats, video-quality short looping silent GIFs. Gfycat is a top 100 US site, top 250 worldwide.
Prior to cofounding Gfycat, Richard worked at Fujitsu, Google, Tango, and Zynga.
Needless to say, he’s a busy entrepreneur. We’re thankful he took some time to chat with us and answer a few questions for fellow LebNeters!
Tell us a few things about yourself that are not widely known.
I grew up in Beirut and came to the U.S. for graduate school. In my spare time I run marathons. I have two beautiful kids, Leyla and Waleed.
How did you become an entrepreneur and how did the idea for Gfycat come about?
Becoming an entrepreneur was a dream of mine since childhood. After working at some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley for many years, I decided it was finally time to pursue that dream in 2015. Along with my cofounders, we realized that GIFs were taking off in popularity across the Internet. We noticed there was no easy way for people to make them. So we focused on creating the best tools for creators to make great GIFs that they could share on social media and messaging apps.
What has been the high and low of establishing Gfycat so far?
High: we just announced that we reached 130 million monthly active users (all organic growth) and launched our AI projects. This is a really exciting time for us, and I can’t wait to see how we continue to grow in 2018.
Low: Being the top 100 site in the US is very pricey and we sometimes had to slow down new feature development to optimize our backend.
You’ve recently been in the news for incorporating AI technology into Gfycat. What is your ultimate vision for what Gfycat can offer users?
I think short-form content will play an increasingly important role in our lives. We ultimate want to fill those short moments in your life where you pull your phone from your pocket and we can delight you with a snackable bite of fun or entertaining content. We will continue to innovate on the product side to help more of our users create amazing content.
What idea, mentor, or book influenced you the most throughout your career and why?
I love thinking through strategy. Running a startup is not unlike going to war. The book that has influenced me most is Sun Tzu’s Art of War. When an entrepreneur starts a company, he/she is immediately at war with many other large companies and startup and they need to think and play out the battle ahead so they maximize their chance at winning. Always thinking about the unfair advantage you can have when building a new product or service.
You have been an active member of LebNet, what is the value that LebNet has provided and why is it important to you personally?
Lebnet connects me to my community in ways unlike other professional organizations. Each person in the community has an amazing story to tell about hardship, survival, strength, success but also love for both our countries Lebanon and the US. I personally really enjoy getting to know the newer generation of Lebanese and Lebanese-American individuals doing fantastic at their jobs and in their personal lives.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring Lebanese entrepreneurs who need mentoring?
There’s never a “right time” to start a company so take it on when you have the conviction in your idea. Of course, leaving a cozy job with a steady paycheck is scary but the experience will be invaluable. Seek mentors along the way, ask people for help. It’s amazing what people will do to help you and open doors for you. Always be asking for introductions. The value of the company is partly in the product you built but so much more in your team and your network.
How can LebNeters support Gfycat?
Download our mobile app and tell your friends and family about us! We want Gfycat to be in every social network and messaging experience. If you know people or you work at a messaging app and don’t see Gfycat in that messaging app, help us connect to people who can integrate our amazing content in these messaging apps and social networks.