Your Idea is Worthless

5-ways-to-validate-your-business-idea
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No I don’t want to sign your NDA. No I’m not interested in buying your idea. No you are not an entrepreneur by having an idea for the Uber for X.

It’s a common misconception that the “idea” is everything. But in the Bangladesh start up ecosystem this is even more apparent. Its understandable because there is so little trust in this society. But if you think the idea you had was so valuable, so precious, that even speaking a word of it to anyone could jeopardize your chances of success, thats just bullocks. If anything, getting feedback on your idea will allow you to get a better understanding of how you need to execute. Even Einstein needed people to bounce ideas off of! When it comes to ratio of execution to idea to generate a successful business, these are the numbers I stick with:

Successful Business = 1% idea + 99% execution

That’s right. Idea is just 1% of what it takes to succeed. You have an idea, now what?

In order for it to reach any sort of traction you have to do the following:

– Have a great team
– Fully understand your markets needs
– Market like a boss
– Have enough funding to sustain
– Get the timing right
And a host of other factors

Amazing execution can make an alright idea work. An amazing idea with poor execution won’t get anywhere.

All of this is part of execution and without it, your business is nowhere! Amazing execution can make an alright idea work. An amazing idea with poor execution won’t get anywhere. Want to sell your idea? Good luck, if ideas were so valuable, people would be buying them left and right!

In fact, the single most indicator that the idea is worthless is that millions of people start businesses yearly. According to Bloomberg, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months . Let that sink in for a moment. 80% OF THEM FAIL. What is the difference between the 20% that succeeded and the 80% that failed? It purely comes down the execution. I’m sure there are plenty of coffee shops that are in the fail batch and success batch. Same idea, different execution.

An idea itself is also so vague. Most startups end up nothing like their initial idea. Its really the beauty in evolving your idea into something users want that creates traction. Some have done it, some failed.

Take Facebook for example. Mark Zuckerberg famously “stole” the idea from two of his classmates who hired him to create similar service. Was the idea that the classmates commissioned Zuckerberg to work on similar to Facebook? Yes, somewhat, yet Facebook flourished and those two classmates who launched ConnectU sooner after found no users. Why is that? Zuckerberg perfected his idea into an actual product, one that people wanted, unlike his two classmates.

Kawab – Failed PrankDial Copy

428b9ab79e3086ab238cc5ea49c84297_400x400

Fartogram – Failed PrankDial Copy


Another example is myself with PrankDial. PrankDial is not itself that complex of an idea. Send a prank call to your friends, yet in the five years I’ve been running it I’ve seen over seven companies start and fail to execute the same idea. Of course PrankDial is a good idea, I have millions of users to back that up.

So get out there, collaborate, tell people what you’re working on. Don’t be afraid. If you’re truly passionate about what you’re working on, theres no reason you shouldn’t be the one successfully executing your idea like a boss.

The State of Startups in Dhaka

Dhaka City
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I started a company recently in Dhaka called HackHouse. We have an amazing office located in Banani. It is more of an experiment for me to see what can be done out of this country of raw talents. There is a buzz in the air. A buzz that will eventually turn into the wave we see in India: billion dollar tech startups, flowing foreign investment, and a spotlight on a country that is often overlooked. It may not fully reveal itself for another 5 years but I am sure excited to be a part of it. HackHouse is all about finding the best f**king talent Dhaka has to offer. Just checkout this office:

HackHouse Office

HackHouse Office

Its an awesome place to work from. We have great perks. Highly-competitive salaries. Free lunch. Ping pong table. Plenty of junk food. But the most important thing is to create an amazing culture people want to be a part of, thats the hardest part, and I’m definitely still working on that. But as excited as I am about the Dhaka tech scene, there are a few things that concern me:

1. Regulatory rules are slowing business
It took me 6 months to set up a foreign investment company so I could properly send funds to Dhaka. During this time it was incredibly frustrating to send payments and I had to do several work arounds with paying through Western Union and other means. Why is it so damn hard to start a business? And why is everything so complicated and messy? My finance guy is spending every waking hour of his day going bank to bank to fill out reports. Thats his full time job and we’re only an office of 10 people! Bangladesh – you want people to be focusing on the business, not adhering to inefficient rules.  Furthermore, there are numerous regulations that stifle competition, and in turn produce inefficient markets. The telecom market is highly regulated, which I found out first hand. There are numerous price floors that are set by the government, which usually ensures competition is limited and big players can always stay ahead. If you want innovation, you need to let people compete on an even playing ground.

2. Lack of focus
Asians have a tendency to start conglomerate types of businesses. It first starts with a plastic factory, then the brother runs the garment factory, then the cousin starts an IT consulting firm. This is traditionally how many of the largest businesses in Bangladesh have grown. But when it comes to technology, it moves too fast, you cant’ do too much at once. You need to focus on one single thing and do it brilliantly, better than anyone else. What I’m seeing is startups that say they are making a product/service but then the mission is clouded with the offerings of other secondary services: IT consulting, digital marketing, server hosting, sms marketing, you name it.

So what's your product again?

So what’s your product again?

This not only confuses your end user but does not let the entrepreneur devote a proper amount of time and thinking into what should be a killer product.

3. Lack of experience/proof
There are few very tech startups in Dhaka that are doing well. Most are losing money and many have no idea what the roadmap for a tech company should be. Many are advised by people that have have no real technology experience and no wins under their belts as far as past successes/exits. So in turn, this is putting alot of bad knowledge out into the scene. Just saying, if you’re a pastry maker, you have no place advising a technology company.

4. Hype
Tons of people want to work for a startup, not because they want to learn or because it is what truly interests them but because its cool. While there is something to be said about creating a movement to make tech cool, in the end you just have a lot of posers who just say they want to be entrepreneurs, without the actual chutzpah (working on my Yiddish) to follow through. Its noise and makes it harder for investors to find the gems.

5. Hartals
Can yall stop this dumb shit already?

All in all, Dhaka is a great place to be. Even with these potential issues, I see a bright future ahead for this city of 15 million and growing.

I’m Working On FIVE Apps

Apps apps apps!
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Hello Internet! I’m working on so much right now (about 5 major apps). Thankfully I have a team of 15 helping me but sometimes it can still be overwhelming. I think that is one of my issues, I just have so many ideas swirling around in my brain, its hard for me to focus on one at a time. If you can find the proper talent to run each of these projects, then its fine. One man can only do so much. Thats why I’m in a constant hunt for talent, not a programmer, not a designer, just TALENT. Someone who is hungry and wants to get IT. If you are out there, I need you. Get in touch! FAHIM @ TAPFURY.COM

Here are some of the ideas that have swirled out of my head into reality. I thought I’d share these concepts and also the progress I’ve made with them so far. So lets start with…

GhostCall
GhostCall
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ghostcall-disposable-numbers/id864197815?mt=8
Sometimes we need to be discreet with who we’re calling. Especially in this Tinder day and age. My sister told me she saw her 42 year old married with 3 children lawyer friend on Tinder the other day. What has the world come to? It’s not pretty but these kinds of people need to give me their money. That’s where GhostCall comes in. GhostCall allows you to get a temporary phone number that you can hand out to your risky contacts or for a job post. It doesn’t stop there! Want to pretend you’re at work when you’re actually playing hookie? Simply turn on the office background effect when you’re on your call. There are plenty of sound effects to pretend you are wherever you want to be. You can even modulate your voice between female and male! The perfect app for all you shady mofos!

Progress: 218th ranked US entertainment iOS app, new highly improved version coming out this month

 

PrankDial
PrankDial
http://www.prankdial.com
PrankDial needs no introduction. The website I created on a whim during the Summer of ’09 has turned into an internet phenomenon with millions of downloads, apps on Android/iOS/Windows, and over 160 million prank calls sent. It is undoubtedly the number one prank app/site/product/service online. But 80% of PrankDial’s traffic comes from the USA. What about the rest of the world? They must enjoy prank calling too right? That is where PrankDial international comes in. We’re going all over the world baby. Watch out UK, Germany, France, Japan, and many more – we’re coming for you. Will online automated prank calling translate as well around the world as it did in the states? We’ll find out soon enough.

Progress: 41st ranked US entertainment Android app, 74th ranked US entertainment iOS app, 39th ranked US entertainment Windows app, 3 million visits a month to our web, international versions launching in two months

 

Screamer
Screamer
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/screamer-scare-prank-by-prankdial/id928567051
Take instagram, now add freaking out your friends. You get Screamer. Screamer takes scaring your friends to the next level. It has an assortment of games/puzzles (including a Flappy Bird clone) to lure your friends into a sense of security and when they least expect it, a scary ass demon will pop out. It doesn’t stop there. We record their reaction. You can share this reaction easily with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Will it be the new Snapchat? Only time will tell.

Progress: Recently launched, new version with all games/puzzles coming in two weeks (no $$ yet)

 

DollSpot Games
DollSpot Games
http://www.dollspot.com
Made in Dhaka, DollSpot Games are an assortment of games and apps for young audiences. We are currently in heavy development on our first large game which is currently untitled. It will be our first big entry into the gaming market. Its highly experimental but we’re hoping to learn more about the market as we launch more games. So wish us luck!

Progress: First big game to launch end of this month

 

CallSpring
CallSpring
http://www.callspring.com
So how do we attack an audience that is largely untapped in this age of social media and smartphones? I’m talking about all these people with feature phones (shitty nokia phones), that think twice about sending a text because it might cost them too much $$$. Missed call marketing. Missed calls are a phenomenon which are hugely popular in the third world. Basically, missed calls are used as pages to let people know you got home safe, that you’re waiting, whatever you can think of. It doesn’t cost a cent to leave a missed call. But its also an extremely clever way to market to the largely un-smartphone population. ZipDial has done extremely well with this kind of marketing in India. Bangladesh is a great location to launch this platform next.

Progress: First successful campaign launched in George’s Cafe in Dhaka. Next campaign to launch soon. Checkout the video below to see our George’s Cafe campaign:

If you guys have any suggestions/comments, please do share! I’d love to hear what you think.

Mohammed Islam – the $72 million dollar fraud?

$72 million dollar teenager
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UPDATE: It was all made up.

A 17 year old bengali finance whiz kid making millions in the stock market? That kind of news is right up my alley and thats why I found the piece so interesting when I first read it on NYPOST. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t already heard about this kid, let me give you the summary:

Mohammed Islam, a Stuyesvant highschool student turned his tutoring earnings into $72 million dollars. We’re talking about a kid here with access to no more starting capital than $5000 (reasonably speaking, how much can a highschool tutor really make?). It’s an amazing story. Furthermore, there were pictures of Mohammed partying with friends at Lavo nightclub. The pictures and videos showed him at a VIP table enjoying very expensive bottles of champagne presumably for his adolescent business partners birthday (how do you get in when you’re 17? ah right, money). He also enjoys caviar and apple juice. An interesting addition to an already flashy piece. No wonder its getting so much coverage.

The author who conducted the original NYMAG interview that started the rumor confirmed to seeing a bank account statement from Mohammed Islam confirming eight-figure sums.

Islam has already denied the $72 million dollar figure.  He was scheduled to appear on CNBC today but later decided it would not be in his best interest. My question is, its fine if the $72 million dollar is wrong but if you still have eight-figures, that is still a hell of an accomplishment, isn’t it? Something I would not be embarrassed about sharing and setting the record straight about. Especially if you are the type of person that likes to show off which I would assume a VIP tables at Lavo, caviar eating teenager would be. That is, unless the bank account statement he showed NYMAG was photoshopped.

Timothy Sykes, a well known “social trader” has even called him out saying that just a year ago, Mohammed emailed him to get advice on how to make it big with the $1,000 he earned tutoring.  Not one but several emails along those same lines.

So something is definitely awry. There are already classmates that are saying Mohammed has made well under $100,000 in actuality. I’m sure more will come out about this as time goes on. The only real way to know someones networth is if they disclose it. Everything else is speculation based on the persons spending habits and their publicly known trades/business deals.

All I know is if I had $72 million, you bet your ass I’d have that Lamborghini already.

Lamborghini Aventador

The Time I Almost Sold PrankDial for $200k

AIMDUDE.com
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There are a lot of opportunities that come your way as an entrepreneur. I remember when I sold my first website AIMDUDE.COM.

AIMDUDE.com

I updated the site weekly as the “AIM Dude”

It was a shitty site about buddy icons, away messages, and tricks for a now forgotten programmed called AOL Instant Messenger. But back in 2003, AIM was the shit. I sold the site on eBay for $2,000. Hardly the mutli-billion dollar acquisition that we’re used to hearing about now but back then, that to me was filthy rich. I made it, well at least the 16 year old me thought I did.

Forward seven years later and I had another acquisition offer, this time for PrankDial.. with a few more zeroes. $200k to be exact with earn-out potential. The interested party was HumorHotlines, the original creators of something called “The Rejection Hotline” – a classy way for you to let the guy (or girl) who procured “your number” to know you weren’t interested.

$200k to a 23 year old me was very tempting. Just about as tempting as $2,000 was to the 16 year old me. PrankDial still wasn’t established. I just got out of college and needed the money. It was really looking like a viable option. So what stopped me?

I was having way too much fun. I knew the fun would stop if I joined another company. If this wasn’t my “baby” anymore. So after much thought, I declined the offer hoping that my curiosity and enthusiasm would take this project of mine to greater heights. Even if I did potentially lose $200k in the process, I was willing to take that risk. That’s what happiness meant to me at that time.

I look up to that young me. How easy would it have been to take that $200k? And where would I have been now?

I Got Lucky

lucky
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At times people comment that my success thus far has been a circumstance of luck. I used to vehemently defend myself: it was my cunning intellect, my unbridled passion, my razor sharp instincts. But now looking back, I tend to agree with them. See today, Gloria, the wonderful maid who helps me organize my apartment told me, “you are very smart Fahim, very smart”. It’s not like I spit out some complicated math equation that made her say that. She was just admiring my apartment and its furnishings. She was touching upon my intelligence as the reason for my success. But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t help but disagree. Sure, I’m smart. But am I smarter than any jo schmo that graduates with a 3.5 from college? Fuck no.

My situation in life has been determined more from luck than what I had control overI AM LUCKY.

I’m lucky that Steve Jobs invented the iPhone, without which this app boom would not be possible.

I’m lucky that people believed in me, when I was just a scraggly teen, with no idea what I was doing.

I’m lucky I met my muse, even if only for a temporary time, inspiring me to do what I love, and move on from failure. But most importantly, for giving me self confidence, and a sense of happiness when I needed it most.

I’m lucky I stumbled upon a person thousands of miles away as passionate as I was on an internet forum. A person who I credit all my early success and many of my current ones to.

I’m lucky I didn’t fall into the wrong crowd.

I’m lucky to have made such amazing friends, who put up with an awkward 9th grader, and gave me a reason to start my first website.

I’m lucky I was awkward. That I was a loser, choosing to tinker with code rather than play beer pong at the highschool rager.

I’m lucky that my parents pushed me.

I’m lucky that I fell in love with the internet, the power of it, at a time when everyone was writing it off as a fad, a dot com bust has been.

I’m lucky I was a part of a culture that was molded by entrepreneurs. A culture that encourages free thinking and creative expression.

I’m lucky that I like to laugh. More so, that I grew up in an environment where laughter, dancing, and having fun are the norm, not the taboo.

I’m lucky my parents were so supportive and loving.

I’m lucky my parents strived and triumphed through adversity.

I’m lucky that my father made the decision to come to this country.

I’m lucky that my dad met my mom, and she actually said yes!

I’m lucky I’m healthy.

I’m lucky to be alive.

Here’s to luck.

4cb4MaMoi

Giving Out Drinks for Fun – Dhaka, Bangladesh

Handing Out Water
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Took me forever to get this video up but this is from a trip from Dhaka a few months ago. Just handed out drinks for fun on a hot summer day. Cost us like $30. Can’t go wrong!

Bad CEOs. Lets frame the argument correctly

gurbaksh-chahal
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An old post from April 26, 2014 I never had a chance to put up –

My blog is currently under works, so FB notes will be my temporary publishing platform. Sometimes you have a thought and you just have to get it out while it remains fresh. This is a thought.

As many of you may know – self-made millionaire entrepreneur, Gurbaksh Chahal was recently found guilty of domestic violence for assaulting his, I’m presuming now ex-girlfriend:

http://www.businessinsider.com/radiumone-ceo-gurbaksh-chahal-maintains-innocence-2014-4

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/gurbaksh-chahal-domestic-violence_n_5201334.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/25/tech_millionaire_caught_on_tape_brutally_assaulting_his_girlfriend_will_serve_no_jail_time/

The dude kicked her 117 times, even in the head, in which she suffered a hematoma according to reports. Now the internet is calling for his resignation, much like Brendan Eich – Firefox’s former CEO who two weeks into the job was canned due to his support of anti-gay legislation.

Chahal was given a slap on the wrist due to legal technicalities. The question is do we as the Internet have a right to dictate how someone should be punished? We have a legal system that specifically deals with morally questionable activity. That decides how someone should be punished. Sure, it failed this time but it failed for a reason – police retrieved evidence illegally and the key witness (the girlfriend) refused to testify. These rules in the legal system are there to protect us and if we’re not happy with the outcome, we either use our legal system to correct the issue or we understand that we’ve elected this system to fairly represent the truth of what justice is. Going outside the legal system and virtually flogging someone is barbarian and puts us in the same murky depths as say, someone who beats their girlfriend. Air your criticism constructively but to say that person X did this and therefore X punishment is deserved is irresponsible and creates a dangerous precedence of the public deciding the faith of an individual. A public with no rules or constraints. Its free reign on the Internet.

I’m not saying he should not be removed as CEO. I’m saying the reason he should be removed is because his actions have caused irrefutable damage to his company, RadiumOne: partners have pulled out (http://adage.com/article/media/conde-nast-reviewing-relationship-radiumone/292892/), an IPO is being put into question, and the brand has been tarnished from Chahal’s personal misdeeds. This is a business decision, not a moral one.

The guy sucks and its a shame that he did this. Especially since I looked up to him as not only an entrepreneur but a South-East Asian American that made it so far to the top. But I’m not going to point fingers and say what should happen to him. The public is obviously displeased with him and RadiumOne should act accordingly in an act of self-preservation.

If we’ve learned anything from Internet outrage, he’ll probably be at the helm of another successful company years from now given the fruitful endeavors of fellow members of the wife beating club after their “incidences”. One who notably threw his girlfriend out of his car like a rag doll after severely assaulting her (http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/269279/chris-brown-charged-with-assault-on-rihanna) now selling hit records. The Internet is as fast to yell, as it is to forget. Whats the point?

Patience

meryl-streep-1001-05
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Pretty much describes me in life right now.

I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience. – Meryl Streep

Fareed Zakaria – The Brown Goblin

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Anyone notice an uncanny resemblance between Fareed Zakaria and William Dafoe of Spiderman fame.

This dude literally looks like William Dafoe’s brown brother. Now lets morph them..

The picture hasn’t really changed. Creepy.