Meet Anthony Kantara, a serial entrepreneur with expertise in digital marketing, media, e-commerce, and advertising. Working with some of the fastest-growing companies. Currently the founder and CEO of 961, the leading independent media outlet in Lebanon.
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Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Anthony Kantara: Definitely led to. My journey started about 8-9 years ago while working multiple minimum wage jobs in restaurants. I started dabbling on the internet trying to find ways to make money. I built a viral media site from scratch which I sold just a couple of months later. Used that to launch a new media site, this time focused on students. Sold that too. Went into eCommerce, absolutely loved it, and found my biggest success there. After selling my first store, I decided to acquire small but high potential eCommerce stores, fix and build them out, then sell them – sort of like you do in real estate.
After a couple of 7-figure exits, I decided to take everything I learned in the digital space and put it into something I’m passionate about, my home country Lebanon. I created 961 five years ago, a media site catered to the Lebanese audience. It’s has been the fastest growing and most engaging media outlet in the country ever since. We’re surpassing traditional outlets who’ve held their positions for decades, one after the other.
With most outlets (80%) being politically owned or affiliated, I felt a duty to keep growing the 961 to replace them and remove their control of information over the population. We’ve been able to counter their propaganda through the October 17th revolution, properly conveying the message of the people, as well as ensuring their efforts to deter and cover up their role in the August 4th Beirut port explosion don’t succeed. Our media site continues showing the beauty the country has to offer, supporting local businesses, as well as digitizing our culture.
So definitely something I’ve been led to.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Anthony Kantara: Growing the verticals of 961. Entering new spaces, developing our brand, diversifying our revenue streams, both digitally and physically to ensure our company stays strong through the various crises (health, economic, political, etc).
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Anthony Kantara: Depends completely on the person and their role – putting aside poor time management. I expect creatives to view timing in a more subjective way since they see things and think more outside the box. Whereby roles such as accounting and engineering, I’d assume would be more structured. Personally, I tend to be a good 15-20 minutes off schedule. But my biggest pet peeve is also waiting for someone who isn’t on time.
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Anthony Kantara: Timing is everything. If we’re off by 10-15 minutes to report a news story or breaking news, it’s already too late and could make the difference between 50,000 people consuming the piece of content or 250,000 people. Same for non-news content. Showcasing a trending spot or local business first solidifies our position and our role as the go-to source.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Anthony Kantara: Absolutely. For an entrepreneur, you’re often wearing many hats (operating the business, innovating, doing legal work, doing HR work, etc) so if you’re not able to nail down your time management skills, it will be impossible to multitask and run your business. Entrepreneurs need a healthy mix of time management skills, multitasking, and prioritizing.
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Anthony Kantara: Milestones and having an eye for opportunities. I have set a list of goals and milestones, hitting those, I will reward myself with some breaks. Then you have to be able to spot opportunities for growth when others miss it. Many leaders downsized their companies during the pandemic, rather than pivoting. This left room for others to gain market share. When the pandemic is over and the economy recovers, it will be near impossible to regain that lost market share.
Where there’s a crisis, there’s an opportunity. So, evaluate, and if there’s an opportunity, hit the pedal. Most of our new launches and expansions took place during the last year and a half, this includes our current biggest revenue stream. All while competitors were losing market share and even shutting down.
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Anthony Kantara: Lack of motivation and energy. If you feel like you’re about to burn out, then it’s definitely time for a break. Time spent relaxing will be shorter than the time needed to recover from burnout, and that’s if you’re able to. This is why it’s important to be passionate about what you do.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Anthony Kantara: Timing is everything. When I first dabbled with viral media, it was the peak of it. Social media algorithms were friendly towards 1) viral content and 2) external links. This made it much easier to grow. Facebook later updated its algorithms to significantly limit both of those. When I entered the crypto space, a bitcoin was still just under $400 USD. When I launched 961, there was a need for what we were offering (countering mainstream to show a positive Lebanon), and then when we launched our news coverage just a few before the revolution, we were well prepared for extensive coverage – which further skyrocketed our growth.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Anthony Kantara: This is linked to “timing is everything.” It’s always better to wait for the demand and need before launching than to launch early when there’s no need for it.
COVID forced many businesses to adapt fast, some did so successfully, others failed, it was a lot due to good or poor timing. What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Anthony Kantara: Adapt, Adapt, Adapt.
COVID exposed the true leaders from the crowd. Those who were able to innovate and adapt were the ones who steered their company through the pandemic. Those set in their ways and stubbornness led their companies to closure and layoffs.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Anthony Kantara: Something out of this world, literally. I’d open a basic comfort food restaurant on a Mars colony. With many not able to travel back and missing home, this would be their go-to and they’d be willing to pay a premium for it.
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Anthony Kantara: I love supercars so definitely spend more time driving mine and taking it on long drives to explore the country. Also outdoor activities like hiking, horseback riding, camping, finding hidden gems, or simply spending time relaxing on the beach.
Mike Weiss, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Anthony Kantara for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Anthony Kantara or his company, you can do it through his – Instagram
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