Until the age of 12, Hasan studied in Umm al-Fahm, and that was all he knew. At the age of 13, his parents decided to send him to a fine school in Haifa, and that was a turning point for him:
“Once I went out, I discovered that Umm al-Fahm is a city that has the same kind of people - same religion, same opinion, etc. But in Haifa, everyone was different from one another.”
His perspective grew much wider from knowing all kinds of different people, and he wanted to learn all about their different beliefs and cultures. It also made him realize he’s not at the center of the world.
Hasan shared that it can be both good and bad to discover that at a young age. It can make you stronger, but it can also cause an identity crisis.
Seeing for the first time so many options for how to live life all of a sudden can shatter your confidence in everything you knew, or thought you knew. It was a lot to take in.
As for his interests and passions, at the age of 9, Hasan fell in love with Math, and at the age of 16, he got exposed for the first time to the world of Computer Science, which blew his mind. He told his parents he wanted to become an Electrical Engineer, but his parents, who expected him to become a doctor, disapproved.
Back then, he shared, no one knew what Tech really was or where it was heading, especially in Arab society and community. Even Hasan himself couldn’t see the whole picture, as he had no role model to follow - but what he did know is that, for some reason, he saw himself in that field, knowing it would bring him great joy every single day.
“It wasn’t easy. My parents fought against me, saying that they were disappointed with me, and more than that, saying, ‘If you won’t be a doctor, you won’t get any money from us’. That was the last time I took a dollar from them.”
Fortunately, these days they can all laugh about it as a family, and Hasan knows that his family is really proud of him. Looking back, he shared that this challenge was the best thing that happened to him, because it pushed him to found his startup and become self-employed.
He didn’t know if it was a bad decision - he didn’t even know from where he got the courage to follow and stick to this path; he just knew he was guided by his heart. His perspective on success changed - it was no longer external success and validation from his environment, but feeling alignment with himself.
His first step on that path was going to study at the Technion, which was a dream coming true for him:
“It wasn’t excitement; It was passion. It wasn’t just feeling like I’m excited to be here, it was much much more, because excitement is fleeting within maybe a month-the second semester, but I still feel to this day that this is what I want to do, it’s my inner drive.”
Dealing with the pushback at home and the lack of support has lit even more of a fire in him:
“It gave me only one option - I had to succeed and become the best. So I studied and worked like crazy and didn’t go home for months, and I really enjoyed it.”
All this hard work paid off, because at the age of 25 he was already a lecturer, and a few years later, he earned his PhD.
Ten years later, with a PhD, a wife and two kids, he came back to Umm al-Fahm, and was in shock - after living in other cities, suddenly as a family they had no places to hang out and have fun in, and some places, like the pool, had separation between men and women -
“In the first month I thought to myself - what am I doing here? I can’t live like this.”
He was frustrated with the lack of accessibility in the food services especially, as restaurants had no websites, no online menus, no drivers, or even an option for credit card payments.
He felt that he had to solve it, and the same fire from within ignited again, just like when he was 16. This time the pushback from his parents and his community was much more difficult, but he was prepared.
They launched HAAT in 2020 in one city, and three years later, they now have 150 employees and are located in more than 30 cities in three countries.
“One of the things that makes me the happiest is the impact it has on the community. In the beginning, it wasn’t part of my reasons to do it, but today, after seeing the effect it had on a huge community - it’s my main reason.”
When Hasan was on a business trip in Morocco to study the market there, his wife called, saying their baby daughter is having difficulty breathing, and needs to go to the hospital. A month later, They received the devastating news that she has a defective immune system. The only solution for that is to kill her current immune system and get her an external one.
So with two kids at home and his business opening in Morocco, they had to make it work. They’ve decided together that in this very difficult time, his wife would take full care of their daughter in the hospital, and he'd take care of the company and their two other kids.
It was an extremely emotional and difficult time in their lives -
“I felt like I had no control, not knowing what’s going on in my life, but I kept fighting, and no one felt anything - in fact, the company doubled itself.”
He felt great responsibility to succeed for his family at home, and for his family of employees in HAAT - his community.
Part of the capacity of responsibility that you choose to take on yourself when you become a founder is exactly this; accepting that even in the most stressful, difficult, and challenging moments, you will still be there, because you see it’s serving something bigger than yourself.
After all of the struggles they had to push through, Hasan experienced the top moment of his life, when he found out he could be the donor for his daughter, and saved her life. Thankfully, today his daughter is healing, and is much healthier.
When I asked him about his whole perspective on the entrepreneurial journey, Hasan answered with a smile:
“Generally speaking, the journey is super difficult. We usually see the success, but we don’t see the suffering and patience behind it. Physically, I’m really tired, but mentally, I’m super excited. It’s the happiest and the hardest time in my life at the same time.”