Today's Entrepreneur: Adel Zakout

Nick Such · April 25, 2011 · Short URL:

No. 1 mistake: Popping the bottle too early

Adel ZakoutToday’s entrepreneur is Adel Zakout from across the pond in London.

As founder of OpenBuildings, Adel, who is an architect by training, is living up to his top lesson: "Love what you're doing."

OpenBuildings is a community-driven, editable encyclopedia of buildings from around the world. Clearly, he has found a way to combine his love of computers with his lover for design. 
“During my first year of university, I started freelancing as a Web designer," he explained.

"This snowballed into, a new media design & development agency that I opened and have been running since.
"When studying architecture, I had to research buildings on a daily basis and found the experience terrible. There was no one place online where I could intelligently search for buildings but I rather had to rely on a mixture of Google, industry blogs, architect's websites and found this really ineffective. By combining my passion for Architecture and the Web, OpenBuildings was born.”
Adel co-founded Despark in 2003, and OpenBuildings in 2010. Both feature international teams, with offices in London and Sofia, Bulgaria, as well as international audiences. So, how did Adel start thinking on a global scale?
“The idea for OpenBuildings started as a hobby project; my ambition in the beginning was much smaller - to create something for the community. When we started working on it the 'largeness' of the idea slowly started becoming clearer and our ambitions quickly expanded; our aim is to collaboratively archive the world's built environment, be it historic, contemporary or conceptual buildings.”
After placing as a finalist in the Intel Challenge, Adel’s OpenBuildings garnered the attention of a few investors, and recently raised $2M. In spite of his ambition and progress, Adel reminds his team to stay focused and avoid celebrating too soon.
“I think we've had a couple of minor successes so far: launching our site, launching our iPhone app, getting that first user to upload a building and also our funding round. Having our users, as well as BlueRun and Index trust us gives me a real sense of accomplishment. I do think that we're still in the early days though and just at the beginning of a really exciting journey with hopefully many "pop the bottle" moments coming; like earning our first dollar of revenue!”
According to his VEQ (Vator Entrepreneur assessment test), Adel is a thought leade, and excels in product management and negotiation. 

I am an: Entrepreneur
Name companies you've founded or co-founded:,

If you are an entrepreneur, why?

I want to change the world.

What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?

Popping the bottle too early :)

What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?

1. Celebrate failure
2. Celebrate success
3. Love what you're doing

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Nick Such

CEO at BuildingLayer. Past at GE/Toyota/KSTC. Used to race solar-powered cars. Got into Stanford MBA, but chose startup path. I love assembling teams of smart people to solve hard problems.

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OpenBuildings, Inc.


Joined Vator on is a community-driven & openly editable encyclopedia of buildings from around the world. This database of historic, contemporary or conceptual architecture exists on multiple digital platforms; including a mobile application that enables the user to find, learn about and share nearby buildings of architectural merit.

Our aim is to collaboratively archive the world's built environment for future generations: to inspire architects, educate students, inform tourists and empower professionals.

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Adel Zakout

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