From Afghani refugee to successful serial entrepreneur, Nawid Habib now aims to clean up the ICO market with his newest venture, ICO HeadStart.

In the current digital age, the term ‘entrepreneurship’ has almost become a buzzword for motivation and success. But while media headlines tout the seemingly overnight success of 20-something multi-millionaires, it can be easy to forget the blood, sweat and tears that fuelled it. Such hardship is no stranger to serial entrepreneur and blockchain enthusiast, Nawid Habib, who is also the Co-Founder of fundraising platform, ICO HeadStart. Having entered the Netherlands as an 8-year old Afghani refugee, the trailblazer defied all odds and jumpstarted his entrepreneurship journey by starting his first online business at the age of 17. After going on to establish successful companies in several fields, it was only a matter of time before Nawid turned his attention to the blockchain industry.

With a past that is defined by determination and the pursuit for excellence, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Nawid aims to bring the same principles to the crypto community. By injecting integrity, stringent standards and empowerment to the burgeoning ICO landscape, ICO HeadStart is poised to become the go-to fundraising platform for projects investors can trust.

Hard Beginnings

While Nawid stands with much to lose today, his story reveals a start with nothing but the clothes on his back. Originally from Afghanistan, his parents were affluent pharmacists before the war uprooted them from their home. As he explains, “My father especially did not want to leave Afghanistan. But at some point during the war, he was shot and we had to move. This was the starting point of our journey; I was around three to four years old at the time.” Nawid and his family then shuffled between countries like Pakistan and Russia before being stopped at the border in the Netherlands en route the UK. “Coming to the Netherlands was special because it was not actually in our plan. But destiny has its own ways,” he muses.

But these formative years were far from easy, as Nawid recollects, “I came to the Netherlands with one pair of clothing and lived in refugee camps for many years. The first five years were especially uncertain as we did not know if we could stay in the country or not.” But despite the challenges, Nawid maintains that they helped him train a mindset for success that has proved invaluable in his entrepreneurial career. As he explains, “When you have been through what my family has been through – how we lost everything and went from a good lifestyle to having nothing in a strange and foreign country – you go into a mindset of success. You learn that every step forward is a success. Today when I look at businesses I do not see challenges, just opportunities.”

Nawid, the oldest of three children, spent his childhood shuffling between Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia, before settling in the Netherlands.

A Land Of Opportunity

Apart from his challenging past, Nawid credits the Netherlands’ commitment to equality as one of the reasons he could achieve what he did. “Here, everybody has equal rights and equal opportunities to become the best they can be. You can even argue with the president according to the rules and regulations and if you are right, you will get your rights,” shares Nawid. It was also this keen understanding of opportunity that eventually led him to quit his studies in pharmacy and pursue his own business, despite having been awarded the coveted ‘Student of the Year’ title at Utrecht University. While he began his ventures in the online world, Nawid soon moved to the fashion industry before setting up his own pizzeria. He then went on to start and market several successful businesses ranging from software to healthcare and even an environmentally friendly mobile cleaning franchise.

In 2014, Nawid saw the next opportunity in blockchain technology and founded Encerbo Holding, a Netherlands-based blockchain investment company. While his dabbling began as a hobby, it was not long until he grew passionate about the industry itself. “Blockchain can change the world in many ways but its biggest potential is bringing the power back from big corporations and into the hands of the people. The smaller business owner stands to gain the most from decentralization. It also has life-changing potential for Third World countries,” says Nawid.

It was also at this time that he made several strategic early stage investments into ICO projects which saw hugely successful returns of up to 1,000 percent. But as fervour began to grow and new projects cropping up at exponential speed, Nawid found investors increasingly seeking advice on how to sieve the ICO wheat from the chaff. In 2017, he decided to put the question to rest by co-founding ICO HeadStart.

Despite earning the title as Student of the Year at Utrecht University, Nawid left school to pursue his dream of being an entrepreneur.

A Seal of Trust

ICO HeadStart is a fund raising platform which serves to eliminate the problem of ICOs raising large funds but not delivering on their promises – thus leaving their backers with nothing. As Nawid elaborates, “We wanted to be able to give a legitimate answer as to which ICOs people should back. To do this, we gathered a superb team with members from the banking industry, due diligence and compliance. We also have serial entrepreneurs and leading crypto-thought advisors – all these people to help us select, screen and list ICOs on our platform.”

While a team of experts is ICO HeadStart’s strongest link, its goal of listing the top 3% ICOs in the world also requires a robust process and sturdy platform. “We have a unique ecosystem as it is the most honest one out there. We do not use a spaghetti system where we just list whatever ICO applies to our platform. We have a very strict selection and screening process so that we can really deliver ICOs that are worth for people to invest in or to back,” Nawid emphasizes. The platform also gives the final say to the platform users, thus democratizing the selection process in true decentralized fashion. The projects that finally get listed will carry a seal of approval of sorts and it is Nawid’s hope that the platform will soon become a trustworthy go-to for anyone looking to invest in a worthwhile ICO.

Achieving these meticulous standards will have its challenges, Nawid observes, especially regarding rules and regulators. But despite this, the company is well on track. “Until now it has been a great journey. Our pre-sale ICO has launched and we have already raised about US$ 11.8 million.”

Miles To Go

Despite being in the midst of raising funds, ICO HeadStart is already poised to go operational in just a little under two months. But apart from starting to list projects on the platform and raising funds, Nawid reveals some of the company’s broader plans that are in store, “Step by step, we will start implementing an ICO university. We will also start organizing events and drive education for our community so that they can make the right choices within this industry.”

For Nawid himself, the journey has just started. “My dreams and my goals are so big that I am still striving to maximize my potential. But I am only 30 years old and I believe there are a number of beautiful things yet to come in my career. I will continue to work very hard to achieve those goals.” But while Nawid seems to have his fundamentals straight, what is the one piece of advice he believes every entrepreneur should know? “I think it is important for an entrepreneur to dream very big and to set goals. Not just goals to reach five years from now, but goals to reach every week, every day, every hour. I believe success is a compounding effect of all the small steps taken every single day.”

This article was first published on the MilionaireAsia Issue 48 - June 2018

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