Alain Wahba

Alain Wahba

Co-founder of Infobel

Co-founder of Infobel, the first telephone directory published on the web. 

Managing Director of Brussel-based company that’s transformed into a leading technology data company specialized in the provision of very accurate POI’s and business listings to the online search and map industry. Founder and owner of Oakland Invest, which specializes in seed capital investments for Internet and mobile projects.

Owner and Operating Manager of import/export business between the US and Europe based in Falls Church, Virginia.

Alain has a Master degree in Business and International Sciences and a Teaching degree from the ICHEC Brussels Management School. He is the elected City Councillor of the City of Rhode-Saint-Genèse, Belgium and Police board member of the Police zone Rhode-Saint-Genèse/Linkebeek/Drogenbos as well President of the City Environment Commission.

Now, meet the B-side!

Q. Do you have a daily routine that you follow? 

Yes, very simple things. I mean, I wake up in the morning, so I’m happy already. And when I’m getting ready, I take my breakfast and then go to the office and take my first coffee of the day in the meeting room. Then, I actually take the time to read the newspaper articles and things like that, but I started my daily routine with my first coffee at the office. Most people start their daily routine at home, I start it at the office. 

Q. Did your daily routine change since the lockdown?

Actually, in the beginning, in Belgium, we were really locked down and were quite strong. So the kids could not go to school but they had their remote courses. They had to wake up first thing and you have to set an example and wake up early. So I actually didn’t change much, except that I was working from my living room, instead of work because my daughter was working in the home office. And after that, the home office became mandatory for all employees. And also, I realized that the directory services and the search services were considered in Belgium as essential services so I have the opportunity to go to the office. So I went every day to the office and I tried the same habits. We were like three people in one thousand square feet square meter, so actually, it was a no-brainer. Nobody was seeing anybody in the office, but I kept going to the office as usual, and today, still everybody’s working from home, but as you can see, I’m working from the office every day. 

Q. Did you start any new hobbies during lockdown?

I like to walk, I live nearby fields so I try somehow to walk more, because that’s what I couldn’t do, actually, on a daily basis. I tried to get more fresh air by walking more in the fields and in the forest. But we didn’t have less work because we had to manage remotely. For the company’s employees and the management, remote management is not as easy or wasn’t as easy in the beginning. But after that everything settled progressively, and everybody has their own habit of working remotely. Then I had a bit more time, and I went back to walking every day but besides that, I didn’t have, you said, I didn’t have much time to develop new hobbies. I cooked more, that’s pretty much it. 

Q. What’s your favourite comfort food?

I like Italian food and Japanese food. We’re really lucky in Belgium, I think we have the most wonderful food in the world. It’s like the French touch, but with more craziness with beer with wine in the food. So we have a lot of good food around, it’s a pity that all the restaurants are closed. So as you may imagine, I had to cook because we couldn’t get, in the beginning, at the first lockdown, to get the food at home but then now we can get whatever we want. I cook less, but the main, my really favorite food I would say is Italian and Japanese. 

Q. What kind of books do you like to read?

Actually, I’m really interested in politics in the world, in the economy. I’m not the kind of guy that reads long books but I read a lot of newspaper articles about world politics, about what’s happening in the world, I’m really curious about everything. So I read a lot, but I tend to read fewer books. The only books that I’m reading are more business-oriented rather than novels and things like that. But when it comes to my daily routine in terms of reading, I’m really aware of what’s happening in the world, in my neighborhood, everywhere. 

I need to have a feel of what’s happening everywhere, and with the pandemic, we’re over flooded with information.  It’s always good to have a global perspective on what’s happening everywhere. So, that’s what I like to read, actually. 

Q. If you were to write an autobiography, or have someone else write it for you, what do you think the title would be?

That’s an excellent question. If someone writes a biography about me, that means that maybe I am dead so I wouldn’t want that someone to write about me. 

Actually, I can’t tell you what the title would be, because my life is ahead. That’s the perspective I have. I’m someone always optimistic and putting a title is putting on something that is in the past somehow, a sense of what happened in the past and that can determine the future. And I don’t want the future to be predetermined, I want to build it myself. 

Q. What was your first non-desk job?

I would say, actually both my parents were independent workers, my father was in the diamond industry and my mother had clothing shops at the Belgian seaside and since I’m very young, like eight years old, I started already helping my mother sell clothing in different languages. So I would be selling and always working from a young age, because, during the vacation, I would get my extra money by helping my mother working in the shop. And then, going forward, I’ve always had the I was, like, doing already, even as a teenager, import-export of Gameboy games and reselling them. Then after that, when I was in university, I was driving for medicine, the delivery company. And then my first real job that I created myself was after University. I was import-exporting Belgian waffles in the United States and like Belgian chocolates and so on. So I was in the import-export business until 1995. 

But I’ve always, I would say, except that delivery job, everything was more in the sales, and always and always worked for myself, my whole life. 

Q. If you were to have dinner with 1 or 2 famous people, living or dead, who would you pick? 

I wouldn’t have dinner with a dead person. I’m lucky enough, you know, that I’m also involved in politics. I am a local elected city councilor, and I know many people in the politics world, but what I really enjoy and really enjoy sharing is with the philosopher. So philosopher, so I would prefer it because politics and business, I’m always in business lunch with politicians or with business people. 

But a philosopher, I think, like, thinking about the future of the world, thinking about society. This is the kind of people you like to see around the table, and I wouldn’t, again, wouldn’t say, today, which will be the one around the table. In the past, I would say, I would have loved to have dinner with Spinoza, who was a free mind, someone who really tried to see the world in a different way. But he’s not there anymore, so that’s not going to be my lunch. 

Q. What message would you send to the Siinda community?

Actually, we all crave to meet again, because we are a really thriving industry, we really like to see each other. We see the bonds that we’ve created over the years. 

I’ve been lucky to meet one of the members that, when I was, I traveled a couple of weeks ago in the United States, and I’ve been able to see one member of the Association. That was also there for a long time, and we were so happy to meet each other. I just say stay strong, stay safe, and will need to, because we really crave to meet you all guys and girls again and in a, in a safe environment, where everybody will be meeting again, doing business again in the normal way, because normality is what we all are looking for.