While attending an accelerator programme in Singapore in mid-March 2020, the news of the borders closing due to Covid19 and the MCO forced Homam Alghorani to abruptly quit the course and return to Malaysia. Without a doubt, Covid19 wreaked havoc for many businesses around the world. As borders closed, most businesses, except those essential services, came to a standstill.
However, the pandemic has also paved the way for many businesses to go online and embraced digital transformation. Just like the saying, there is a silver lining in every cloud. We chatted with Homam on how he found a new opportunity amidst the gloom and doom as he shares the brilliant ideation behind his new chic brand Rockstars.Media.
Homam, you have an amazing portfolio. So, let’s dive in straight to your story. Tell us in brief about your life, career and passion.
I am originally from Syria but I moved to Malaysia at the end of 2005 to finish my studies in computer science; I have always been fascinated by science & technology, and how it enables people to be creative and use their imagination to create all sorts of tools and beautiful things.
Since my early days in university, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and found it difficult to work for someone else. I found it challenging for me to fit in as I always questioned things and like to make decisions for myself. So just a few weeks after graduation, I started my first startup with my classmate and that was my first step into entrepreneurship. Today I am a serial entrepreneur, founder of Rockstars.Media, an online influencer marketing platform, the founder and CEO of Wonderland Technologies Sdn Bhd, a Sci-Fi solutions provider and the founder of startups.zone, a Malaysian Startups Community.
You are a serial entrepreneur and have launched several successful start-ups. What sparked your interest in entrepreneurship and when did you start your very first one?
Living a standard risk-free life is not my thing. I like to be in control and I am always curious about things, and thus my favorite question is “but why?” That obviously irritated my teachers, parents and bosses.
In 2008, I got a job a few days after my final exams and all my classmates were jealous of how fast I got the job. It was in a small local startup but from the first day there, I started to think why I can’t do what they did – to start my own small company. I then talked to a few of my colleagues there but they called me crazy especially when I didn’t have any capital.
However, that didn’t stop me. In just a few hours after I blogged about the idea of starting my own company, I got an email from someone who was interested to partner me. Few weeks later, we started our company. The most ironic thing was, I brought my colleague who called me crazy to be one of the co-founders, just to prove that if we had the will, we can achieve what we aim for.
You were in Singapore attending an accelerator programme when you had to return to Malaysia due to the MCO. However, that incident gave you a new business perspective. Tell us more about this and where did this unfortunate event lead you to?
Yeah, I was selected to be a cohort member with a talent investor based in Singapore called Entrepreneur First. In this programme, they had invited some of the most intelligent and entrepreneurial people, gave them a platform to find a cofounder and for them to present their business ideas. If the ideas are amazing, the investors will invest in their business. For me, it was really a great experience as I met the most amazing people and learnt a lot from them. Unfortunately, midway through the programme, Covid19 disrupted everything and Malaysia went on a lockdown. So, I decided to go back to Malaysia to be with my family as they may not let foreigners enter Malaysia once the MCO is enforced.
While being stuck home all day due to the MCO, I channeled my free time to work on one of the ideas that I had thought before. I took it as an experiment and launched Rockstars.Media, an online influencer marketing platform where we connect influencers and brands. The aim is to help a nano or micro influencer earn some cash while helping businesses to promote their brands’ products and services in a more cost effective way.
Why the term Rockstars.Media? Do you have any musicians or rock stars among your subscribers?
Back in the 90s, rock stars were the icons of fame and success. They were daring, fun, cool, creative and living life to the max. Today, social media influencers are the new rock stars as they are the ones influencing, creating trends and driving behaviours of their followers.
Despite being only launched recently in May, you have got subscribers globally. What are your marketing strategies and how do you brand yourself?
Yes, in just a few weeks after Rockstars.Media was launched, we had more than 70 influencers on board and the number is growing every day.
We welcome all types of influencers, we don’t limit ourselves to only mega influencers and lifestyle influencers but also nano influencers (1k+ followers), micro influencers (10k+ followers), and macro influencers (100k+ followers). We are also keen to invite influencer marketers from all industries beyond lifestyle, on board. These include industries like tech, business, gaming, cars, photography, animals and pets, music, sports and much more.
Transparency and speed are our key advantage as the promotion offers and campaigns are created by influencers and brands. The prices are published on the platform with no hidden fees, rating and reviews are done by the community, payment is done online and we charge a small commission for every transaction.
We make sure the job is delivered by influencers and the payment is done by the brands.
Why and how can influencers come on board Rockstars.Media?
It’s quite simple. They just need to register online and create their profile. We will verify the profile and once it’s approved, their account will be published on the platform. Registration is free and brands and influencers can be creative in developing their profile. They can also set promotional services packages that brands can buy immediately on the platform. Rockstars.Media help the influencers get discovered by brands and we provide the platform for them to exercise their influence.
What is your secret to staying on top in this fierce and competitive industry? How do you differentiate yourself from the rest?
For me personally, I like to run my own race. I am not obsessed with what the competition is doing. Instead, I aim to provide the best service and stay relevant to the market.
There are many influencer marketing and digital marketing agencies in the industry but we are not an agency. Rockstars.Media is an influencer marketplace that started out in South East Asia with big plans to be scaled to a global platform. I am planning for it to be the Fiverr of influencer marketing.
How would you describe your journey as an entrepreneur in three words?
Thrilling, Hard, Lonely (sometimes).
How important is it to have a growth mindset especially during this tough period. What would be your advice?
It’s very important. I realised that all the challenges, tough times, betrayals, hardships and mistakes are the fire that forge a great steel like the Damascus steel (I am from Damascus by the way), and those experiences are what makes us stronger and wiser.
I have seen many young entrepreneurs freak out when they see a new competitor, when an investor passes on them or even when they face financial difficulties. I told them it’s just a phase, it will pass and they will be fine. For those who asked what if things don’t turn out as planned – I will tell them that it’s part of the journey of being an entrepreneur. The struggle is guaranteed but the result is not. So, you need to remember to enjoy the journey because it’s not about the destination.
What keeps Homam awake at night?
I want to leave a legacy where things that I have created are meaningful and make a difference in this world.
One movie or song that inspires you as an entrepreneur?
8 Mile. It is a very inspiring story of Eminem and how he came from a very humble and difficult background but managed to overcome his fears, challenge the industry, race and many other factors to be the best in the music industry.
What can we expect from Homam Alghorani in the next five years?
I have a vision to build a network of online marketplaces starting with Rockstars.Media as an influencer’s marketplace and expand them to datasets marketplace for AI machine learning and also as co-founders of matching platforms and others.