Samer Hamadeh: How CEOs Are Like Sherlock Holmes

The founder and CEO of Zeel on the book that changed his life and how it relates to business.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Samer Hamadeh: I jot down the ideas that came to me overnight — often solutions to knotty work issues I’ve been thinking through. Then I check my email, brush my teeth, kiss my wife and kids, and grab a cup of coffee.

TG: What gives you energy?
SH: I make time to work out whenever I can — and get a massage as often as possible.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
SH: I always try to take the stairs.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
SH: The Sherlock Holmes series of short stories and novels. I discovered Doyle’s work right after I graduated from Stanford. I was fascinated by the way Sherlock Holmes thought — intuitive, logical, outside the box. Like Holmes, CEOs are called upon to solve seemingly intractable puzzles.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
SH: It doesn’t sleep with me, technically, but I place it at my bedside on silent once I go to bed, and it serves as my alarm in the morning. Honestly, Thrive Global was launched for a person like me.

TG: How do you deal with email?
SH: Ruthless prioritization, quick responses, lots of deleting.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
SH: Touch base with an employee I haven’t spoken to in a while. There’s no substitute for an in-person conversation.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
SH: I think people tend to burn out when they’re not doing something they love. I’ve been very fortunate as a serial entrepreneur to build, run, and invest in multiple companies and projects that give me meaning and purpose.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
SH: Mid-2012. Zeel launched in late 2010; a year and half later, it was apparent that our original business model wasn’t working, and we were short on cash. While the fashion is to “fail fast,” I knew that we had discovered something revolutionary. Data, combined with intuition, led to an epiphany: Massage On Demand®, a totally new category in the massage industry that we created and launched in late 2012.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
SH: Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never. (Winston Churchill)


Samer Hamadeh is the founder and CEO of Zeel, a Stanford grad, and a life-long entrepreneur who has created, led, and advised multiple tech startups, including Vault.com and Dotmenu. Find him on Twitter at @samerham.