With roughly a couple of dozen team members, 34ML is 100 percent convinced that having a corner office is counter-productive.
The startup landscape has been going through an endless loop recently. Those who work in abusive corporates quit to eventually create abusive startups, but this company is on a mission to spread a whole other correctional culture.
Ahmed Saafan and Ashraf Mourad knew each other from college. Mourad was Saafan’s teacher assistant and their fates aligned several years after both left university. They tried their luck in corporate, found out it wasn’t for them, and finally met to establish a media lab that is liberated from the old-school hierarchy constraints. Even though that might be too good to be true, the co-founders argue otherwise; 100 percent convinced that having a corner office actually counter-productive.
“Our business model is called ‘Transformational Leadership,’” Mourad explains. “You can be a manager at one point, and you can be a follower in another project; it depends on what, when, and how you do it.
You’d think 34ML would be surrounded by so many power abusers now that the power is so generously distributed. But that’s essentially not the case, at least according to Saafan. He explains that being small in number, exactly 14 and not looking to expand, the power is distributed but it’s well under control. “We say that it’s a startup with the benefits of a multinational,” Saafan says. “You have social and medical insurance, but at the same time you don’t have to come at 8 AM every day and you don’t have to nod and plead to a boss.”
Due to that liberation from hierarchal obligations and rubrics, the way 34ML hires its people is also out of the norm. Mohanad Ma’amoun is a Syrian software developer whose journey towards a degree got interrupted by the ongoing war wrenching his home since 2011. When he arrived in Egypt, he applied everywhere and no one took him because of his no-degree-situation. So, he spent six years freelancing, and 34ML found him two years ago through Wuzzuf. “I chose a 9-to-5 job for more social interaction, I found that in 34ML. After six years of freelancing, I felt that I needed to talk and engage with people more,” Maa’amoun tells Startup Scene. Perks of the job at 34ML are mutual respect and the different kinds of people one meets there and learning to deal with each one of them. “The chances to grow are more as opposed to freelancing,” he adds.
Nada Gamal, a 26-year-old designer also worked at 34ML for the past two years. In college, she always saw herself working from home as a freelancer. “I worked on projects with big clients like Tamara, Temraza, Fitsquad, and I don’t think I would have achieved this while freelancing from home,” Gamal tells Startup Scene. “Also, being part of a team and an organised system is a big perk of working in a company; I wouldn’t have been that organized as a freelancer.” 34ML also exposed Gamal to projects out of her flat-designs comfort zone; she started working on 3D modelling, VR and AR.
Whereas, 24-year-old Mostafa Akram who works as an iOS and backend developer has a different story. “In the beginning, I looked at 34ML’s portfolio of clients and that was what got me interested in the job. But, later, I found that what’s more important than a portfolio was the environment of that company,” Akram tells Startup Scene. “It’s a safe environment, and everyone can speak his mind.”
Before graduating, everyone around Akram who were already working would tell him that their work environments are packed with backstabbing, especially through e-mails; replying all or carbon-copying a superior. “But I came here, and I didn’t see that at all. The best thing I like about this place is that the priority is the team; the departments never prioritise the client at the expense of the team members.”
You can visit their website here: www.34ml.com
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