The Selfie That Humanized the Celebrity

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Americans are obsessed with celebrity. They want to know everything about them, even when they’re off screen. Celebrity gossip is a $3 billion dollar a year industry for a reason. We want to be personally invested in these celebrities lives like they are our friends. And since we can’t hang out with them, we’ll pay magazines/photographers/bloggers to give us that peek. But this is obtrusive and many times dangerous for celebrities and their families with paparazzo trespassing and hiding out for days just to capture that one “personal” shot.

Ellen played on this American obsession while hosting the Oscars. Not in a nasty way like we’re used to with the TMZs of the world but kindheartedly. She was chatting up celebrities live like they were normal people, like they were just some jo shmo on the street. Except this jo shmo was adorned with a million dollar necklace and the street was a red carpet aisle. At one point in the show, she ordered pizza and had Brad Pitt hand out plates like a mere mortal.

Brad Pitt Hands Out Plates

Brad Pitt gives Julia Roberts a plate to avoid crumbs on the floor

These celebrities we so adore were eating pizza with their hands, from paper plates, JUST LIKE US. They are PEOPLE. And finally, came the picture that sent Twitter in a flurry – the celebrity selfie. A-list celebrities coming together for an activity that is as normal in this digital day and age as pecan pie in the south. It was candid, it was slightly awkward, yet it was perfect.

Its funny that for an award show which celebrates the extraordinary abilities of these men and women, the internet is won over by their mediocrity.

Bravo Ellen.

Kawab – the French PrankDial Copycat

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A couple months ago, I ran across a site that look startlingly similar to PrankDial. The colors may not have been the same, the language might have been french, and the layout was different but there was no doubt that these guys just sat down and copied our site piece by piece. The more I looked into Kawab, the more similarities I saw to PrankDial. Here are just some of the similarities I found.

  • 3 free calls a day
  • token id login
  • get tokens
  • tiled images for pranks
  • a prank counter
Kawab copycat examples

Kawab copying the PrankDial send prank page

The thing that makes me mad is, these guys didn’t just steal the PrankDial concept, they stole the layouts of our pages, the pranks we’ve done, basically our entire business and ported for the French market. Here is the send prank page, the images, the input boxes, laid out completely the same as on PrankDial.

Kawab copying the PrankDial send prank page

Kawab copying PrankDial pricing

They even completely ripped off our pricing structure. Do these guys even know what original is?

Kawab copying PrankDial pricing

Kawab copying PrankDial pranks

Finally, the most annoying of all. They stole our pranks. We think long and hard about these conversator pranks, while Kawab just listens to ours and translates them into French. Here are just a few of the pranks Kawab stole from Prankdial:

Kawab steals pranks from PrankDial

Kawab steals pranks from PrankDial

Facebook Should Have Stayed Private – Here’s Why

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Tomorrow, the world sees its largest tech IPO. Facebook will be debuting on the NASDAQ market for $38 a share, at an estimated $100 billion valuation. That’s 25 times annual sales! If Apple were valued the same, it would be worth three trillion dollars (its only valued at half a trillion)! Obviously there is a lot of optimistic expectation on how Facebook will perform in the coming years but is Facebook ready to face the scrutiny that comes with being a public company? Absolutely not. There are way too many unknowns variables in the Facebook equation:

1. Bad Ads

WTF is this? What would ever make anyone click this ad? Furthermore, what is Facebook’s ad review team thinking when they approve it? These ads are akin to the spammy ads I see on other huge publisher sites, you know the ones that say “MOM LOSES 30 POUNDS BY CUTTING ONIONS EVERYDAY” or some random shit like that. If it looks like shit, it has to be shit right? Looks like the saying works in this situation, as the numbers don’t lie. Facebook’s Ads have lower CTRs (still dropping), less flexibility, and higher CPCs than Google Ads. No wonder big brands like GM are dropping their Facebook ads budget.
The Fix: Better ad solutions that leverage Facebook’s understanding of the user and their location. More ad options.

2. Slowing Growth

Facebook has had tremendous growth in the last seven years. Yahoo projected Facebook would have only 83 million users by the year 2015 when they offered Facebook $1 billion dollars in 2006. Some people thought Yahoo was crazy for offering that much, then later they thought Zuck was just plain nuts for turning it down. How we were all wrong. The last seven years has been great but it seems that Facebook has basically gotten everyone on Facebook that wants to be on Facebook. They’ve nearly saturated the market. This means that Facebook can no longer count on user growth to drive revenue, its only option is to optimize the value it gets from its current users. Easier said than done.
The Fix: Explore other planets for inteligent life. Get them on Facebook.

3. The King and His Empire

nice sandles BRO

Its cute being 21, running a hot new startup in Cali, and hacking the night away with nothing more than beers to keep you going. Its dangerous to be in your 20’s, running a public company valued at $100 billion, and basically flat out admitting you don’t care about revenue. Its fine if you don’t want to make money, just don’t do it publicly! Investors are going to be complaining left and right about Facebook not taking the right approach in order to garner more revenue. Lucky for Zuck, he can give them the finger because he has 57% of the voting rights! He can basically dump Facebook down the toilet and take a big shit on it if he wanted to. It would put wannabes pouring bottles of Cristal on the floor to shame. “Oh you’re wasting that outrageously overpriced bottle of champagne? Fuck you, I just shitted all over a $100 billion dollar company.” But seriously, every move Zuck makes from now on will have an impact on the stock. Remember the whole controversy of Zuck wearing a hoodie to an investor meeting? Imagine that happened after Facebook went public. The stock would of taken a drop just because Zuck doesn’t know how to tie a tie. An investment in Facebook is an investment in Mark Zuckerberg. Lets just hope he doesn’t go crazy like Charlie Sheen.
The Fix: A crazy good PR team that makes Zuck look godly.

Facebook was basically forced to go public because it broke the five-hundred investor limit. If it had put constraints on the number of investors early on, it could have easily avoided going public so soon, having more time to solve these issues. If Facebook needed capital, it could have easily gotten it. Who doesn’t want to be part of the hottest tech company before it goes public? These issues will make Facebook bearish in the long run, unless they get their act together quick. But I’m in it for the short sale. See ya at the rat races tomorrow.

Press, Press, Press

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My new years resolution to update this blog has been a complete failure. But some good news, PrankDial has been getting tons of press! Check out some of the links:

Mashable –

Huffington Post –

Cafe Mom –

Killer App – (in Italian, I’ll take what I can get)


new york is where it’s at

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If you are getting into tech, you might want to stop by New York before you head full speed to the valley. Things are really moving here.

It may be because of the “2.0 tech bubble” (which i think is bs) but I feel an environment of excitement in New York like never before. There are tons of shared work spaces and networking events popping up left and right. The New York Tech Meetup alone has about 800 attendees with tickets regularly selling out. And look at some of the startups that call New York home: Foursquare, Gilt, GroupMe, Kickstarter, Etsy, the list goes on and on…

I always thought I’d have to move to the valley to make my billion dollar startup dreams happen but I’m finding that to be more and more not the case. Startups are all about people and if the people are here, who gives a sh*t about cali.

Plus its New York City. You can’t go wrong with NYC.

The prank empire continues

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So we’ve been working on four projects. This is one related to our prank stuff, its pretty awesome.

tapppppFURIOUSSS – kicking 2011’s ass

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I’ve gotten a few emails asking how well TapFury is doing. We’re a private company, so I’m definitely not getting into exact revenue figures but as far as growth, its been spectacular. 10% month over month, INSANE.

Each week we seem to beat a new traffic record. PrankDial alone racked up 108k unique yesterday (statcounter).

The craziest thing, its all been organic. I’ve had no time to come up with a solid marketing strategy because I’m just so busy with product development. We have the development power but we’re missing the other part of the puzzle – business/marketing. I’ve been rocking way too many hats, its been fun but tiring. Definitely going to be a factor in deciding the next few hires. Decisions… decisions.

Some exciting things planned for 2011, including an application that will put PrankDial to shame. Was playing around with it earlier, COULD NOT STOP USING IT (rule 1).

On a personal level, I went to the gym everyday for the past two weeks. I’m ready for ya’ 2011, BRING IT.

Around the World and Back

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On Tuesday, I went to go pick up my sister from JFK. She was returning from a crazy ten country adventure after leaving a job that she hated (which I totally commend her for). 100% envious. I wish I could just leave and do something crazy like that. I mean, I could close down my office and live the 4-hour work week but I like my job and I like the people I work with. Not happening anytime soon. So I just sat there on the Air Tran, dreaming of where’d I’d go, overhearing yuppies with overstuffed designer bags discuss their next exotic destination – Australia, Chile, Malaysia. Malaysia? Malaysia sounded good. As a joke, I checked in to JFK and commented “Off to Malaysia pz”.  If I had a laptop, I really would of just booked a flight and left right there… alright maybe not..

That night, I wondered how authentic I could make this trip look. I was on the fence of actually pursuing a fake vacation until a friend told me how hilarious the idea was. Why not?

I needed to fake some check-ins, which I thought would be fairly difficult considering how much value services like Foursquare put on location. Apparently, it really isn’t that hard. All you need to do is spoof your location on WiFi/GPS and VOILA, you’re in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Although to their credit, when I tried to return to JFK in an hour, they did basically say I was full of shit.

But the check-ins weren’t enough. I needed to take it to another level: photoshopping (although I use Fireworks). At first I just ripped pictures, cropped them and uploaded them from my phone (hey, i’m on the go right?). But then to be more authentic, I placed myself into the pictures. But I wasn’t getting much of a response chilling with the locals (horrible photoshop) or in front of Batu Caves.

I decided to turn it up a notch and head to Singapore, where the mysterious Eduardo Saverin is rumored to be hiding. Naturally, I met up with him for a few drinks.

Late night drinks with Mr.saverin

Original Picture - sorry dudes for taking your body

Still not much of a response.  At this point, I was getting pretty tired of photoshopping stuff, its fun but incredibly tedious. I needed an out and looked towards former President Bill Clinton. He travels quite often for his organization.

Clintizzle. Dude got old

Someone has to call me out on this, RIGHT? Kind of.. but most people bought it.

I actually told my sister I was faking all of this the day before (Ruby) and even she believed it (pretty sure she thought I was a loser). You’re so gullible big sis.

But I was busted nonetheless, bringing an end to this little charade. Ah, I was hoping to go to Thailand too : (

Lessons Learned:

  1. Gaming location-based services is easier than stealing candy from a baby
  2. I am awesome at photoshopping
  3. I need a vacation

Turn your passion into a killer business

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Two years ago I was coming out of my first business jaded and ready to give up the entrepreneurial lifestyle. I had this business all throughout college but a lack of motivation and management slowly dwindled it into obscurity. Why was I not motivated? Partly because I was just busy with college but mostly, I just didn’t care for the topic. My interest was spurred initially by the simple idea of making money on the internet, once that became a reality, the motivation to work hard on these sites faded.

If it wasn’t for the terrible state of the economy when I graduated (I couldn’t find one decent job in NYC), I’d probably be working some desk job at a Fortune 500 right now. I sat down that summer and asked myself: what can I MAKE that would blow ME away?

1: Do something you are passionate about, that you would use ALL THE TIME. Chances are, there are others like you.

And it was important that I made it. I wanted to understand what I was developing, I wanted it exactly how I pictured it in my mind.

2: Understand your product and service inside and out. If its a website, you should absolutely build the first version yourself. I know all of us aren’t computer geeks but it really doesn’t take more than a month or two to pick up simple programming languages like HTML and PHP.

I went through all my hobbies and interests, one thing really stuck out – I’m a HUGE practical joker. What could I do with practical jokes though? And how would I make mone…

3: If you are building a website, there isn’t that much initial investment anyways! Just make the product AWESOME and work on monetizing later.

I had an old site lingering, it allowed people to send text-to-phone calls but not much more than that. PRANKDIAL. Great name. So I spent that summer learning how to program and developing the best prank call website that ever existed on the internet. I asked myself what I would want, which is the great thing about #1, the ideas flowed easily. Finally, after a few weeks of learning how to develop and a week of development, I had a prototype. This wasn’t anything serious, it wasn’t the next Facebook or Google but it did what its name implied, and it did it well. I couldn’t stop using it, my friends couldn’t stop using it, and eventually as I put it into Beta, the internet fell in love with the concept.  PrankDial was killing it. Not only was it a great service but it was viral, and purposely so. People shared reactions with their friends directly from the site.

4: Make it viral if possible. Think about how people share, what people share, and how they share it.

From there I monetized the hell out of PrankDial, testing out multiple pricing structures and ways to earn tokens. I still haven’t perfected it.

An Android app, iPhone app, and 20 million pranks later – TapFury (the app company I started) is a fledgling seven-figure business, yes BUSINESS. PrankDial -> Business, really? I still have a hard time believing it.

So here’s to those who follow their passion. May your silly ideas guide you to fortune.

Claiming “fahim” on Google

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Its all about branding yourself these days. At least thats what one of the million social networking gurus say. Ever since I ousted an Afghan bagel merchant for my name on Google, I’ve been pretty happy with #1 for “Fahim Saleh” (the bagel merchant still lurks in the top 10, damn bagels). But today, I’m going to set a more ambitious goal, #1 for “Fahim”. I have some pretty stiff competition. Mohammed Fahim’s Wikipedia article comes in first: an Afghan military commander, followed by reality star Fahim (season something on I Love New York?).  Then there’s Fahim Ferdous who beat me out to get the “fahim” handle on twitter (whatever, i’m cool with fahims).

So whats my strategy? A whole a lot of updates and link sharing.

I did claim #1 for “prank calls” but to be honest, I didn’t do much work to get it. PrankDial is just awesome. I have my work cut out for me.