How a Casablanca Library Inspired BBN Times Founder Badr Berrada
Well, it may not actually be ironic, as mega-million selling performer Alanis Morissette warbled in one of her early super hits, “Ironic.”
It’s perhaps more whimsically paradoxical. But when young London-based online content entrepreneur Badr Berrada was growing up in Casablanca, his inspiration was reading books. It still is.
But this October, ambitious, high energy yet modest Berrada celebrates the first year anniversary of his BBN Times, a fast-growing online platform that uniquely helps people read articles from reputable authors that are experts or “gurus” in their fields — finance by bankers, global economy by economists, science by doctors, society by influencers and politics by politicians. BBN Times, which launched 5 October 2017, has already acquired 3.87 million page views by 1.93 million new users as of mid-October 2018. So, it’s trending upwards and quickly.
Berrada’s story all started back in the 1990s, when the Internet was in its ascendant infancy. Back then, Berrada, a wide-eyed child used to sneak into his grandfather’s library room. He recalls that very specific and brilliant North African light creeping into the room and illuminating the great swath of his grandfather’s books, all written in French. Berrada doesn’t recall for sure but they may’ve included: “Les Trois Mousquetaires” (The Three Musketeers) by Alexandre Dumas; “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; maybe Moliere’s “La Malades Imaginaire”; and, so many others.
Berrada, who’s still in his early twenties, attended Cass Business School and acquired a masters degree from London School of Economics, which he says changed his vision about the corporate world: “In order to succeed, you have to work even harder, make a lot of sacrifices, innovate and think outside of the box on a continuous basis.” But he confesses, he still checks back into the LSE library to read books that he can’t find online or at Waterstones.
And this continual thirst for knowledge tracks back to his childhood inspiration:
“I loved visiting grandfather’s room filled with numerous and appealing books ranging from science to politics and literature. Most of these books were and are must-reads, and all were written in French. I asked him in wonder: ‘Do you read all these?’ He said, ‘Bien sûr, yes!’ and then he selected one and gave it to me, a heavy book on history and imperialism. It was a bit intimidating at the beginning, but once I started reading it, I became obsessed. I realized that there were so many things that were not taught at school. And, reading books, from a very young age, changed my life forever, opening up whole new worlds. I am still an avid reader. Feed me more!”
He quips that whenever he’s traveling, and even before sleeping or when he’s just bored, “I always read a book…or three.”
After graduating from LSE, he became a trader but then changed it up. He was told he was crazy to leave that burgeoning career to become an entrepreneur, and his mother was one of the very few who believed in him.
His founding of BBN Times has also been inspired by an outlier’s admiration of Silicon Valley, offering, “I’m a huge fan of the latest tech trends, and truly believe that technology can empower people. I love Silicon Valley and its competitive nature. You have the best talent in the world to choose from, along with capital, infrastructure, social support, the overall mindset of people, and the concentration of industry all in one place. What’s not to like?!”
So, with that in mind, he created his online platform, almost single-handedly, at first. He now recalls with a laugh;
“I had to write articles on a daily basis on my own. I also learned programming because nobody at that time wanted to help me. I knew it was tough but I had faith in myself. Luckily, hard work always pays off, I got noticed by several LinkedIn influencers who accepted to join me on this adventure. Then I started to network with famous people who provided a lot of guidance and support. By listening to their advice, we redesigned our website and launched our mobile app.”
And, he explains how his 100+ gurus have supported his revolution:
“BBN Times is committed to focusing on quality, free access, and to educating our readers by directly connecting them to experts, via our website and mobile app which aims to deliver accurate and thought-provoking content from industry-recognized experts. They’re eminent industry leaders and LinkedIn Influencers we respectfully call ‘gurus.’ We have partnered with these 100+ gurus to provide a richness and diversity to the content on our platform. We also plan to leverage artificial intelligence (A.I.) to translate articles into every single language. I really hope with BBN Times I can be the voice of the voiceless by providing a voice and a platform to anyone willing to know more about the latest trends. But this is just the beginning for me. I truly want to become a serial entrepreneur. I would love to follow in the footsteps of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. And, it would be a dream come true to relocate BBN Times to Silicon Valley, at some point.”
Big goals, indeed.
In the meantime, Badr Berrada is participating in a funding competition run by London School of Economics to move BBN Times forward. And, he’s reading more books, including these recent ones: “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters; “Crushing it: How Great Entrepreneurs Build their Business and Influence” by Gary Vaynerchuk; “Educated” by Tara Westover; “The Rules Do Not Apply” by Ariel Levy; and, next up on Berrada’s list is “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.
Berrada’s grandfather would be proud his grandson showed such interest in books, because as famous mega-selling author J.K. Rowling put it: “I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book.”