Success. Failure. Good. Bad. Beautiful. Ugly.
I’ve included some facts, stats, dates, etc below. People often like to read these things so that they can draw conclusions about people. For example, when you discover that someone came from a specific cultural background, you automatically assume that they believe A, B and C. None of that is true when it comes to me. I don’t say things like “I was raised to believe X”. I will use my own brain to decide what I think.
The best way to get a sense of who and what I am is to watch my TEDx Talk. Everything else is just noise.
- Year of birth: 1968
- Live: Melbourne, Australia
- Marital status: Not married
- Children: None
- Religion: I’m an atheist. I believe in nature and the universe. If I “had to choose” a religion it would be Buddhism. Not a fan of Christianity and Islam.
- Born in 1968 in Alexandria, Egypt.
- My parents migrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1969. I was 10 months old.
- My name at birth was Tamer Elkharadly. I changed it when I turned 18 (see why below)
- I lived in Hallam (Victoria) `between (approx 1972 – 1986)
- 1974 – 1989: Primary school – Hallam Primary school
- 1980 – 1986: High school – Haileybury College.
- My upbringing: As a result of growing up in Hallam (a lower class neighborhood) and attending Haileybury College (an upper class private school) and being the son of immigrants, I ended up with a unique ability to understand and connect with people from any background.
- 1986: I changed my name when I was 18. Why? It’s simple. I always felt like my name was somebody else’s name. I changed it to Adam because it felt like me. I wasn’t planning on changing my last name and the reason for changing it was much less significant. My father decided to shorten the name to Radly so the rest of the family just followed.
- 1987 – 1988: Ba Biology, Latrobe University (major – genetics, microbiology). I dropped out after two years.
- 1988 – 1990: Ba Business, Monash University (major – Banking & Finance). I completed 20 out of 24 units then dropped out. Why? With the exception of a small number of professions, degrees are useless. I also don’t consider completing a degree to be an achievement.
- 1988-1990: First jobs: Waiter and bar tender at multiple hotels, cafes, bars (while studying in university).
- 1991-1992: First “real job” – Home loan officer at St George Bank
- 1992: My mother died from breast cancer
- 1993: Second “real job”: Business credit analyst at National Australia Bank
- 1993: I quit my job at National Australia Bank. I was 24 years old and have never worked for anyone since then.
- 1993-1998: I worked on multiple projects as a first time entrepreneur. The only one that worked was property development. The only problem (for me) was that property development was extremely boring.
- 1998: My father died from a stroke.
My parents have never seen me succeed at anything. My parents wanted me to join the production line of life – get a degree, get a job, get married, buy a house, have children, take an occasional vacation, die. This sounds like a plan for ‘getting through life” rather than enjoying life. I’m idealist and I want to experience more in life (and certainly refuse to work for anyone).
Real estate was boring but the Internet was exciting. Anything that can change the world is exciting – and that’s why technology is exciting and real estate is boring.
I started a company called Mediacom with plans to create a digital media business. I raised some seed capital from a small number of investors.
The business consisted of one major startup, one major acquisition, and some other smaller projects. I used part of the seed capital to fund the startup, another part to buy an option to buy the target acquisition, and another part to fund an IPO.
The main startup was called XSIQ. It was one of the world’s first online education businesses. It developed a digital and interactive version of the K-12 curriculum and the software was licensed to schools around the world.
The major acquisition was a company called Comcopy. It provided digital broadcasting services to major sporting networks (including Fox Sports, NBC Sports, CBS sports) as well post-production services to the advertising, television, and film industries.
1999: Mediacom name change
After a church in Adelaide contacted us to let us know that they owned the trademark to the name Mediacom, we changed the name from Mediacom to Isis Communications. I created a list of 5 possible names and asked 20 to 30 people involved with the business to select their preferred name – everybody wanted to use the name Isis.
Of course, none of us knew how this name would be used ten years later. This issue didn’t end up having any impact on us because the company merged with a larger competitor in 2002 (see below) and changed its name again before the other Isis became a thing.
1999: The IPO
We completed the IPO. The market capitalization based on the IPO was A$140 million and we raised A$55 million. I was the CEO and I controlled approximately 40% of the stock.
2000: The market capitalization of the company peaked at approx A$400 million in early 2000 then the market crashed.
I was listed in the Cleo Bachelor of the year. I don’t have anything more to say about this. People like to bring this up so I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t happen.
2000: World Reconciliation Day with Nelson Mandela
I was approached by an event promotor that wanted to see if we would be interested in “sponsoring” an event involving Nelson Mandela. The first thing that occurred to me was that the things that Nelson Mandela stands for are things that I feel very strongly about and he was always one of my heroes.
However, if this was going to be a sponsorship opportunity then it needed to make sense for the company. After my marketing team completed some research we could see that it would work as a sponsorship opportunity for our online education business. We had spent a lot of money on TV ads and this would be an opportunity to promote the event in schools and get “a much bigger bang for our buck” – so I decided to go ahead.
Shortly after making that decision, I discovered that the event promoter did not have a green light from Nelson Mandela to appear at the event. In fact, the event was nothing more than a loosely configured idea.
At this point in time, the event promotor stepped aside and I decided to take over the entire event as opposed to just being a sponsor. This allowed us to create the event that we all really wanted – a “much bigger” and “more significant” event than was originally planned. The event was called World Reconciliation Day and it was broken down into three parts:
Event 1: Conference on reconciliation: A midday conference on reconciliation was held at the Melbourne Convention center and was broadcast live on television (ABC). The conference included speeches and presentations from various people including Bob Hawke and Malcome Fraser (two former Prime Ministers), Hurricane Carter, Sir Gustav Nosal (The Australian of the year), Steve Bracks (Premiere of the state of Victoria), Achmet Dangor (CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund) – and me.
Event 2: Private function: This private event was held at the Hyatt hotel in Melbourne and was a unique opportunity to have more intimate and candid conversations with Nelson Mandela in the absence of the media and the usual formalities.
Event 3: Concert: The concert was held at a football stadium (called Colonial Stadium at the time, now named Marvel Stadium). Approximately 20,000 people attended the event to see numerous musical acts and Nelson Mandela’s final major speech about reconciliation.
We received dedicated tributes from Morgan Freeman, Samuel L Jackson, Henry Kissinger, Ray Charles, George Lucas, among others.
You can see links to speeches from me, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hawke and others here.
The media criticized me for going ahead with this event because they didn’t believe that it was the best use of the company’s money. The “net” amount spent on the event was approx A$3 million and the value of the media exposure was approximately A$15 million (the cost to buy the same exposure with ads).
The event was a success on every level. The media puts a negative (or false) slant on everything in order to generate revenue. This was when I learned the true meaning of the expression “no good deed goes unpunished”.
2000: I moved to the United States
The online education business had started getting some traction in the US and I completed secondary capital raising in the US so I started spending a lot more time there.
After the market crashed, I took the view that the US would recover earlier than Australia so I decided to live in Los Angeles for for a year or two. I ended up staying there for 15 years. Why? See my comments in the section below: “2015: I moved back to Melbourne” where I talk about California versus the result of the world.
2001: The Merger
The company merged with a larger competitor called AAV. AAV was double our size and financing the acquisition of a business that is larger than your own is tough.
We had been negotiating to buy AAV on favorable terms before the crash – but the negotiations dragged on. The deal terms changed after the crash. Instead of acquiring AAV, the only available option was a regular merger.
In this case, AAV would be the dominant business within the combined entity (combined revenue of approx A$80 million) and I would effectively become an employee.
This merger would not be good for me but it would be good for the regular shareholders so I decided to let it happen and resigned. With the benefit of hindsight, this was a mistake. The company later went to merge with a larger company called Staging Connections (combined revenue approx $180 million) then it was eventually privatized.
2002: Everest Base Camp
I hiked up to Everest base camp. I like mountaineering.
2002 – 2015: S7 Group
I started S7 Group in the US. The market was still recovering from the crash. There was an opportunity to acquire companies that were struggling financially (for a low price) then turn them around. S7 was a “mergers and acquisitions” company that focused on turnarounds in the mid-market range.
A lot of deals were done over a long period of time. Every time I completed an acquisition I thought I was buying an opportunity. In the end, the only thing I ended up buying was unhappy employees and lawsuits from creditors.
I learned a lot and met some interesting people but it became obvious that I was working on projects that I thought were “good opportunities”. “Good opportunities” isn’t good enough. I needed to work on things that I was actually interested in and felt strongly about.
2004: My Nonprofit Project In Mali
I visited Mali in 2004, 2006 and 2008. This is an extract from my TEDx Talk:
“There’s a lot of people in the world that need help but who should I help? Helping one group of people meant not helping others so it was serious decision. I decided that the poorest people need the most help. I found a United Nations report that ranks all countries from richest to poorest. The country that was lowest on the list but safe enough to visit was Mali in West Africa. The people in the north get less rain than the people in the south so I decided to help a village in the north. The village needed a million things but my resources were finite so what should I do for them? At the time they had no electricity and 1 one in 5 children died before the age of 5 from malaria and childbirth complications. So I provided some solar power and health center and sure enough the child mortality rate improved significantly.”
2012: Phoenix marathon
I ran the Phoenix marathon in 3:11. I like to run.
2013-2016: I Imagine Film Festival (“IIFF”)
I created the I Imagine Film Festival to support filmmakers that want to maximize their impact with films. IIFF was held in New York city at the same time as the United Nations General Assembly so that we could screen films and documentaries about the issues discussed in the UN General Assembly while it was in session.
IIFF became difficult to manage after moving back to Australia so I have since closed the New York event but I’m planning to create a new version of the event here in Melbourne.
2014: Face Of Unity documentary
“Face of Unity” is a documentary about the legacy of Nelson Mandela featuring never before seen footage of Nelson Mandela delivering his final major speech about reconciliation at World Reconciliation Day. The documentary won awards from multiple film festivals.
2014: Contempt Of Court
One of the S7 acquisitions resulted in a lawsuit with the former owners of the business over money they claimed was owed to them. I ended up in a dispute with the judge over a transfer of assets (that never happened) and he found me in contempt of court. I ended up spending a day in a cell. Under California law this is just a “civil penalty” so I have no criminal record but it was all very “inconvenient”.
I subsequently arranged for three independent, former judges to review my case to see if they agree with the decision to find me in contempt made by the judge in my case. All three of the independent judges agreed that the judge in my case made an error. The reports from the independent judges are here.
If I was in the same position again I would do everything the same way. Stand up for what you believe regardless of the consequences.
2014: My book: “I Imagine”
It’s a book about my philosophy of life. I also talk about it in my TEDx Talk.
When I look back at my life up to this point, the only thing I have ever found to be truly interesting was trying to figure out the point of my own existence.
Looking back at the origins of the Maximum Positive Impact (“MPI”) philosophy and seeing that it came about organically as a result of helping a village in Africa leads me to ask the question: Was I helping the people in that village because I wanted to help them or was I just trying to figure out the point of my existence and the act of helping other people was just a byproduct?
In the MPI framework they are the same thing – maximizing your impact on others concurrently maximizes your impact on yourself.
2015: I moved back to Melbourne
Why? Let’s clarify something. I’m a big fan of California – not necessarily the rest of the United States. If not for California, I prefer to live in Australia. So, what’s so special about California?
Los Angeles is dominated by Hollywood and San Francisco is dominated by silicon valley. The products produced by Hollywood and silicon valley are the most influential in the world and most of these products were created by people that were “dreamers” – a bunch of nobodies that had big ideas and wanted to do something different.
So, what’s so special about the LA and SF communities? Not only are they tolerant of dreamers, they encourage them. As soon as you cross the California border and go to any other part of the US or the world, you run into people that think dreamers are useless losers that deserve no respect and should stop dreaming and become realists.
So, why did I leave? After living there for 15 years, most of the world’s bigger cities have moved in California’s direction. They have become cities that want to build their own silicon valley. They have become cities where dreamers have ceased to be people that everybody likes to spit on (BTW, there’s still room for some improvement).
2016: My TEDx Talk gets a million views
This was a major pivot point in my life. I had lost interest in “making money” and wanted to start living life in a way that’s more focused on experiences rather than anything material.
All of my projects from this point in time involve doing what I was doing 25 years ago – working on projects that I feel strongly about, have a massive positive impact (if I succeed) – all while enjoying the hell out every day (okay, it’s more complicated than that but this isn’t the place to go deeper).
Watch the TEDx Talk here.
2016 – Current: Australian Independence Movement (“AIM”)
I don’t think the Australian “republic issue” is about Australia having an Australian head of state. I think it’s MUCH more significant than that. This is something I wrote on the AIM website back in 2016:
“A foreigner has the power to overturn the results of our “democratic” elections, Australia Day has been permanently rebranded as “invasion day”, our flag does not unify us and our constitution allows the government to discriminate based on race and was written as if indigenous Australians never existed. There’s no way that I’m the only Australian that thinks this totally unacceptable.”
The Australian constitution makes it clear that Australia is NOT an independent country and it NOT a real democracy. I challenge anyone to find a constitutional lawyer that will disagree with me.
This is not a former project. It’s a current project and I’ll get around to making more “noise” about it soon. More about AIM here.
2021 – Current: IIMAGINE – the platform
The majority of my time, effort and energy is going into this project (and the sister projects – AIM and One Direct Democracy).
IIMAGINE is a platform for people that want to turn ideas into reality. It allows people to crowdsource ideas to solve important problems then crowdsource people to work on the idea, funding for the idea, and even the people that will generate awareness of the idea. Yes, it’s about “ideas”.
2022 – Current: One Direct Democracy “ODD”
One Direct Democracy is a movement for upgrading the global democratic system by taking the power away from politicians and putting it in the hands of the people by using Direct Democracy. It will also eliminate left and right politics. I’ve created the technology and a plan for how to make it work.