Lara Varjabedian UBQT

Building a startup while maintaining a healthy lifestyle is no small feat. Lara Varjabedian, co-founder of the social networking app UBQT, knows this challenge well. A natural night owl, Varjabedian now finds herself starting the day at 6 a.m. since she co-founded emerging startup UBQT

Here, she shares how the new business has changed her lifestyle and sleep patterns – and her strategy for staying productive while growing a social app that connects people in real life.

Lara, are you an early bird or a night owl? 

I used to work in Insurance (employee benefits) and Healthtech (wellbeing solutions). Having worked in a genetic testing and digital health startup, I know that genetically I am a night owl.

For some reason now I wake up super early and start working as soon as I wake up… unseen to me! I guess my sleep patterns have changed. Probably – a little bit like when you have a baby – when you have your own startup, you just wake up and do what you have to do. 

I used to wake up around 8:00/8:30 a.m. and snooze for a good 30 minutes. Anything earlier was a real pain. Now I wake up at 6 a.m. like a robot and get up from bed as soon as I open my eyes. 

What do you do first thing in the morning?

I will be on my computer at 6:05 a.m., after having pushed the button on my coffee machine. Although I usually see blur the first few minutes and need coffee to awaken my body and mind, opening my computer and checking the Apple store download numbers is the first thing I do in the morning. 

Being an entrepreneur is being obsessed about your company like you can be obsessed with your kids. 

What do you think fuels this productivity?

I guess when you are an entrepreneur, your productivity comes from your hunger to make it happen. You do not have a boss counting your hours nor anyone you need to prove you have been working hard all day. You just do it because you need to, because you have to. 

Food, sleep, and working out become the only instruments you need to balance to succeed in the marathon that it is – knowing that no matter what, the first months are actually a sprint. It is a pure sprint and then you turn it into a marathon because you know you can’t be sprinting for years… And the turning point is when you’ve raised enough money for your pre-seed round and built your runway.  

Plus, if you are passionate about what you are doing, you are on auto-pilot to reach the moon! 

As a natural night owl, do you still go to bed late while waking up at 6 a.m.?

One thing that is extremely important is to start sleeping earlier because I realized that no matter what, I will wake up early. I sometimes work till past midnight to wake up at 6 a.m. and continue. 

But my sleep is deep once I go to bed. I often dream of funny things happening for UBQT – us on billboards, or meeting who becomes our investor, and more fun things. Will, if you read this, reach out! 

UBQT has a co-fonder – how do your lifestyle changes affect your business relationship?

My two co-founders Jonathan Hasson and IQ Sayed are my friends.  Before launching in January this year, I said to Jonathan we need to put some rules in place. No talking about UBQT before 9 a.m. nor after 7 or 8 p.m. and neither during the weekends. I’m a night owl and he’s an early bird. 

I guess we’re both going above and beyond our limits and now I end up calling him frequently at 6 or 7 a.m. or in the evenings (past his bedtime) and all weekends to talk about UBQT! It was an illusion to think that we could implement such rules and we often laugh about it. 

We still find the time to share personal things and also share about if we feel down, about a call that didn’t have the outcome we expected, or about stressful situations. 

We had the pleasure to welcome our third co-founder, and that makes us stronger. One more shoulder to share with, and one more back we can count on. It’s like when in a family you have more siblings, you have a larger support system. If you are a single child it’s difficult, if you are two it’s great, if you are three it’s even better!   

We celebrated our trio with a night out, and I love the energy that our team creates when we’re together. A diverse team with great values brings a state of wellbeing.  

UBQT co-founders Lara Varjabedian and Jonathan L. Hasson; Photos: courtesy of UBQT

How did you and Jonathan come up with the idea for UBQT?

UBQT’s idea emerged in late 2022, when Jonathan and I realized we were in the same city for almost a year without knowing it. A common friend of ours told him during the summer, while he was in Brussels, that I was living in Dubai, too. And here we are. 

We properly started a company in 2023, did a “dirty MVP”, worked on it further and launched in January 2024 what we internally called MVP2. We’re restlessly working on improving it every day. 

That’s the story behind UBQT. It’s also the story of our lives. 

My co-founder and I grew up in Africa, we then both studied in Europe (where we met), both lived in Asia and got reunited in the Middle East. Being a global citizen means you have your personal and professional network scattered around the world. How can we know where our tribe is and when to catch-up in real life without the noise of other platforms? 

But with UBQT, we don’t think just just about global citizens. London, New York, or Paris are very good examples of cities with major pain points. People work in the city and live one or two hours away, commuting every day. During Covid, people went out of the city to find more space in the countryside and remote working became more flexible. 

When and where will my professional and personal network be in the city next week for a catch up? How can I optimize my schedule and get my catch-ups with my peers but also with my friends before going back home? 

UBQT solves this problem and makes it easier to stay in touch with the people who matter in our lives. 

What are some other things that help you stay healthy while growing your business?

Working out is extremely important and it is probably the biggest commitment I have to make to myself: an hour of exercise per day. This is coming from someone who’s not a sports addict. 

It’s very difficult to maintain this commitment as I start working as soon as I wake-up and keep going until late into the night. I often don’t find the time to interrupt myself to go to my favorite Revl Hiit session that is literally a 10-minute walk from my house in Downtown Dubai. 

Saturdays and Sundays mornings are non-negotiable – I go to Revl training no matter what. But including workouts in my weekdays is becoming challenging and I try hard to add one or two sessions when I can. 

I used to work out at least five times a week before launching UBQT. When you’re just starting your business, as a founder you go through a lot of emotions. Every single day is a rollercoaster. So working out helps you manage the negative emotions and be more productive. 

When I push myself, all the frustration of the day is released. Every session makes me feel like a new-born. Also I am not a yoga person at all, and can’t be bothered trying one more time… If you put me in a yoga room, I get bored and even more frustrated – funnily enough! 

I think each personality has its type of sports. For me it’s HIIT or boxing and with people telling me what to do so I don’t have to think. I love tennis too, but it requires a partner and that’s challenging.  

What about food? What do you eat to be in the best mental and physical shape?

As we say, it all starts with your guts. So eat things that you know are kind to your guts so you can be productive all day long. Very often I don’t have the time to cook and my best weeks are when I prepare my vegetables for the week on Sunday (ends up to be a version of ratatouille). Then I can use these vegetables with different types of protein every day. 

Bottom line, I’m far from being a health and wellbeing guru. Even less with my hectic life of building the next most disruptive social app in the world. But I know that the effort is monumental and requires strong mental and physical health. Working out and eating well are investments in myself – both as a person and a business owner. 

More about Lara Varjabedian

Lara Varjabedian brings a wealth of global experience from both corporate and startup environments, particularly within the Insurtech and Healthtech sectors. Over time, she’s become industry-agnostic, supporting startups across industries as a consultant, advisor, and board member.

Co-founding Thought On Paper (TOP), she has helped transform ideas into realities, fostering entrepreneurship. This journey eventually led her to co-found UBQT, a social networking app designed to help people reconnect with their network, no matter where they are in the world.