Connections: An Interview Series with Entrepreneurs

08/02/2016 05:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Rania Hoteit is a woman to watch! She is inspiring beyond belief and I am so happy to have the opportunity to feature her here!

2016-08-01-1470073096-4419317-rania2copy.jpg

Rania is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ID4A Technologies, a San Francisco based design technology Company. She holds an extensive experience in the field of Environmental Design, Industrial Design and Product Development, User Experience and Design Strategy, Production Design, and Architectural Design Systems and Technologies. Throughout her career, she worked in cross-disciplinary collaborations with leading global companies in design, technology and business innovation such as Steelcase, General Electrics, Jet Propulsion Lab, NASA, Walmart and Amtrak, in addition to many R&D collaborations with privately held companies and research laboratories on proprietary projects and innovative processes in advanced manufacturing.

What does IMPACT mean to you?

I believe that IMPACT is the new authority, and it's about harnessing the collective into decision-making at all levels and making positive, transformative results. Impact connotes force and implies motion and change and is not about the means that we usually associate with power such as wealth. Power is based solely on the willingness of people to adopt your vision and follow your lead. To me, from a leadership position, if I am not touching people's lives with the knowledge of what I stand for, with my words, ideas, visions, and actions, while at the same time affecting them with my business's products, services or message, then I have no meaning, no relevance.

The term IMPACT by definition is a "measure of the tangible and intangible effects of one things or entity's action or influence upon another." Things remain the same unless we make conscious effort to set them in motion. We, as entrepreneurs and leaders, must set our hearts and minds right at the center of our circles of influence and grow these diameters wider in order to create impact and have a meaning. We are in full control of what kind of change we want to create, how much effort we are willing to put into it, and how fast we act upon it in order to see change happen.

What gives you the drive/passion to do what you do? In other words, what is your WHY?

Every entrepreneur and leader would share with me the irresistible surge and will power to execute ideas, and the intensity of the desire to reach their big vision and eventually arrive at success. It is determination, commitment to excellence, and a true love to what we do. Since I was a child, I had my own voice, a very strong sense of my own unique identity, abilities, ideas, values and standards, and I always carved my own path and never followed anybody else. I've been blessed to be followed and granted the leadership ever since. And I am driven by my big vision, a spirit of adventure and an aptitude for bravery to move forward despite any fears, failures or obstacles, and I channel my intellect, consciousness, creativity, and intuition at all levels of my life to take actions towards my dreams and ambitions. My WHY is my passion to build bridges and connections between people that never were thought to be together, to materialize ideas that were never thought to be possible, and to bring learning, equality and justice to situations that were never thought to be negotiable. Call me idealistic if you will because that's exactly what I thrive for at heart in everything that I do, whether that is in my entrepreneurial ventures, social impact initiatives, or in my business and personal relationships.

HOW do you get your mission out into the world?

My strong desire to make a difference and catalyze change dictates how I prioritize my choices and I take my actions accordingly by quietly executing plans and practically implementing strategies. I get my mission into the world through standing firmly by my game-changing ideas and consciously aligning them with my words, values, and ambitions to translate my vision into reality by every action that I take. I might be a dreamer with big ideas on how I want to make the world a better place like many claim to do, but I am no bragger nor a delusional. Instead, I diligently strategize with a master plan, and clear calculated steps on how to execute every move I take to achieve my goals and make the significant results that I am seeking like many dedicated people do. In my mind things can and should be better, so I go out there, initiate connections with people, speak up and highlight flaws and problems that need to be solved, share my knowledge and expertise, communicate my vision and turn strangers into an army of friends, believers and dedicated supporters who share the same passion and vision.


What's your favorite book/movie of all time and why did it speak to you so much?

I can't possibly give a fair answer here. I am an avid reader and a passionate seeker of arts and knowledge since I was a little girl. There are hundreds of books and films from across the world that speak to me and have enriched me at different levels. One of many favorite books is "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera, a philosophical novel set in Prague during the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968 that discusses concepts of lightness and heaviness through the lives of its characters. It sets a contrast between Parmenides philosophy that each person has only one life, and that all what occurs in this life occurs only once -thus the "lightness" of being, and Nietzsche's philosophy of eternal recurrence that the universe and all existence has been recurring, and will continue to recur in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space -thus the "heaviness."

The key dichotomy of lightness and heaviness in this novel particularly resonates me as an entrepreneur. The Lightness of being, that we live once, creates the urge to be bold and to seek the magic that comes along with a risk and that arises from succeeding at a big challenge. On the other hand, the concept of eternal recurrence means to me that when I follow one path and it doesn't lead me to the right place, I don't stay there. There are failures, setbacks and even complete start-overs along the way and I am willing to take a new path over and over again within one lifetime as if it's eternity. Philosophically it might sound complex but this is how we, entrepreneurs are wired whether we realize it or not.

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and why?

To be very honest, it is out of my character and it would be unnatural for me to go back in time. My mind has a tendency of its own and is very selective about what to hold on to and what to let go of. I am always thinking ahead, projecting forward, and connecting networks of ideas together to build something meaningful and transformative while I am focused on being fully present, now. Your question brings to mind what Socrates once advised, "The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."

As an entrepreneur, industry leader and visionary, I strongly stand in my position to advocate transformative ways of thinking as fundamental to innovation, progress and growth, and that applies to business and to life in general. For that, I'd rather be here, today, yet on the edge of tomorrow, focused on building something new that can make other people's lives better in whatever ways I can contribute; whether through my company's products and services, or through my restless social impact and humanitarian efforts in education and equality at large.

What's on your bucket list this year?

This year has been very productive at multiple fronts and I am grateful for that. I am committed to my company as CEO to lead ID4A to the forefront of Design Technology along with my co-founder and team by developing innovative platform solutions, robotic automation tools and advanced manufacturing processes, and by helping designers and businesses to make their ideas into real products. Additionally, I have multiple public engagements and initiatives that I am leading forward this year, both in business and in global social impact on education, equality and gender justice.

Some highlights of this year are being honored with 3 invitations from The White House: The United State of Women, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the U.S. Department of Education, recognizing my contributions to support education, women empowerment and gender equality, and for our contributions at ID4A Technologies to empower, support, inspire and expand the resources available for designers, architects, makers, inventors and entrepreneurs that foster the development of advanced manufacturing in the United States as the World. After our soft launch in Dubai and London to grow our base in the Middle East and Europe last year, we're launching Flō in the United States by the end of this year, a platform to match and connect users with supporting technologies, solutions and services at any stage of the manufacturing cycle to bring their products to life.

In the past year, I dedicated time and efforts to support girls and women in technical education and careers, and mentored hundreds of female founders in design and technology industries. I also helped many early-stage companies and organizations to to build and implement strategies to break stigmas in their workplace and to ensure equality amongst their teams. I had the honor to be nominated to the United State of Women Conference as "ChangeMaker" for my efforts in women empowerment to make the world a more gender equitable place. My efforts to support education extended to help hundreds of high schools across California and other parts of the country to integrate design and technical learning, and I mentored their students on developing technical design skills and on making educational and career decisions across different design and technological fields.

Few months ago, I was invited by The US Department of Education to join a panel of a little over 50 highly selected representatives from the nation's top makerspaces and maker organizations to judge, review and score the design proposals submitted by public high schools across the country to the CTE Makeover Challenge, a competition initiated by the government to help transform education by designing makerspaces to strengthen the next-generation career and technical skills. I was invited by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to attend the Champions of Change for Making event and kickoff of the National Week of Making for my efforts in making advances in technology platforms, and educational opportunities that foster the development of advanced manufacturing in the United States and empower more Americans to become inventors, and entrepreneurs. The prize winners of the CTE Challenge were announced during this event and were granted funding to build their makerspaces. Their proposals replicated in other schools over the next few months, and I will be mentoring tens of teams from High Schools across California during the project management and development throughout the entire build-out process.

Amongst my various business activities, this year I've extended my expertise to advise and mentor over a hundred startup teams in early stage, as well as to judge on many global hackathons panels and startup showcase demos and pitches in Silicon Valley and around the United States and Canada. I also have many public speaking engagement, including my recent invitation to speak at the Wonder Women Tech. I am also coaching and teaching educational and entrepreneurial courses and workshops at various accelerators and startup programs in San Francisco/Silicon Valley area. I'd love for you to follow on my twitter and facebook, there will be multiple major announcements in the upcoming months including more international engagements in the entrepreneurial world, a new collaboration with the United Nations and Nasdaq, and the launch of Flō, our latest platform solution by ID4A Technologies. So my bucket list is quite nicely filled up this year and I am looking forward to more progress.

What is the craziest thing you've ever done and would you do it again?

Peter Drucker once said, "Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision." And I'd say if you haven't started a business, you probably have not done the craziest thing yet. I've started my first business with a friend of mine while I was a full-time undergraduate student then a second attempt few years later when I was doing double Masters degrees. So the craziness is definitely in the genes I guess, and I was lucky to find a business partner who was willing to ride this wave with me as we pivoted the business 3 times before we established ID4A as the technology company that we have today and under which we are developing multiple product brands to release at different phases. I find this to be by far the craziest thing I've done and that anyone can do because it takes a certain genius, courage and power to be this bold. It also requires inquisitiveness, refined skills and intelligence to be able to emotionally and mentally create a rapport with others.

Success is heavily dependent on cultivating relationships and it cannot be achieved without the people who believe in you and in your vision in order for them to follow your lead, invest in your ideas and in your business, and adopt your products and services. As an entrepreneur, I wake every day making a conscious decision to jump off knowing that there will never be guarantees to land safely and successfully every single time. However, I still take a chance to see what rewards will come out of that courageous decision while trying to calculate risks, because I'd rather not settle for a false sense of security and I'm better off for having taken the challenge. I know that my decisions are "gambles" however intelligent they are. But there is always evolution in continuing to move forward, questioning the status quo, dreaming of things that never were, and being daring every day.

Andi Wickman is on a mission is to help elevate business owners. To lift them into the entrepreneur world. To hold their hand when they think they can't go bigger. To help them realize the fire within themselves. To help them share their mission with the world.

You can hang out with her in her Facebook group for kick-ass service based business owners who are building empires while having fun! The group is for the passionate, high achieving business owner who wants to collaborate with high level entrepreneurs.