[Editor’s Note: This is the first article of a new series called ‘10 Questions With’, where we ask C-level executives, serial entrepreneurs and senior professionals 10 personal and professional questions and give them a platform to share their wisdom in their own words. The series targets LebNet members.]
Habib Kairouz received a B.S in Engineering and a B.A in Economics from Cornell University and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. With 25 years of experience in technology, private equity and venture capital investing under his belt, Kairouz helps ambitious entrepreneurs build successful businesses and establish themselves as market leaders. He joined Rho Capital Partners in 1993 where he’s currently a Managing Partner. Prior to Rho, Kairouz worked in investment banking and leveraged buyouts in New York with Reich & Co. and Jesup & Lamont. He is currently a board member in 5 private technology companies and multiple organizations including LebNet.
What’s the best lesson you learned?
The best lesson would be the one I try to pass on to my kids as they grow up and that is to always aspire to reach one’s ambitions and dreams and take risks even if the likelihood of failure is high. Failures are lessons as long as one lands on their feet and tries the next move, albeit always within the rules of high ethics and integrity.
If you can describe your journey in one sentence, what would it be?
I found a partner I trust and respect, got into the world of technology investing at the right time, got lucky, learned quickly, and continue to learn and adjust my investment strategy as the world and markets evolve.
If you were to prioritize one aspect when hiring, which one would you pick: culture or skills?
Both are important but if I had to prioritize, I would pick culture since I believe it is easier to teach skills than pass on a culture.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In order of priority: spending time with family and friends, tennis and skiing.
What excites you about the future?
We are finally seeing the success model of Silicon Valley being exported and replicated throughout the world giving young entrepreneurs anywhere the opportunity to innovate and create new businesses at a scale and pace never seen before. In many markets around the world, young people are being encouraged to create rather than find their job opportunities.
If you had a rewind button, what would you change about your journey?
I would have probably liked to take a few months off to travel the world at some point rather than squeeze in vacations the way we do it when we’re working full time. I guess I will just have to wait for retirement at this point.
What or who is your biggest support?
Without any doubt, my family.
What are your three biggest accomplishments?
The first would be a personal accomplishment in the family I was able to build, my wife Lara and our three children. The second would be my professional success as I’ve been able to convert a beginner’s luck into a sustainable career. The third would be my ability to maintain my roots with Lebanon and continue to be engaged with the country at many levels and pass on this passion and commitment to my children.
Who is your role model?
Many members of my family have been role models throughout my life for different reasons. But to pick non-family members, one would be Bill Gates, who followed his gut to drop out of college and pursue his passion when the opportunity came knocking, created an industry leading company that survived many waves of disruption, and when the time came started to pay society back through his philanthropic foundations. The second one would be Mahatma Gandhi, who believed the impossible could be done by leading his country’s independence movement from the biggest Colonial power at the time albeit in a non-violent way.
What advice would you give to someone starting their professional journey?
Chase something you are passionate about, look for people you admire and trust to work with, and don’t worry about failing.