Venturing For Survival

This is a quick blog post designed to provoke a question…

Does anyone out there still intend to be able to retire by working a 9 to 5 job… working for a company owned by someone other than you… adding to a 401K… and counting on pension/SS to take you into your golden years?

I just don’t see it. I don’t see how anyone can reasonably raise a family, put three kids through college and retire one day without driving forward a successful venture where one has a solid equity stake. And still, there are no guarantees of success… but you have to play to win.

Comments anyone? How many of you are venturing or working for someone else and venturing on the side?

Advertisements

Dear President Obama and President Karzai

Dear President Obama and President Karzai,

Desperate times call for desperate, and perhaps creative, measures. In response to the NPR report from May 19, 2009 called “Assassinations On The Rise In Afghanistan” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104263248), I will offer from my humble viewpoint an idea for your consideration.

With technology as powerful and empowering as it is, put money into communications infrastructure that cannot be readily destroyed. If we really want to affect change then we need to protect people who are taking the stand… like Sitara Achakzai, the prominent female politician and women’s rights advocate who was gunned down outside her home as she chatted with her neighbor, or any of the dozens of politicians, government employees, activists and Muslim clerics have been targeted by the well-organized Taliban militants in an attempt to silence critics and disrupt the government. Let’s arm them with the protocols and technological tools that enable them to do their jobs without being open targets.

I suggest that people in power are given mobile communications tools that enable them to write and speak to the population and collaborate with other leaders in remote and safe areas. I suggest we enable the good guys to promote a message of piece, equality and social development through technological tools which broadcast them to the farthest reaches. I suggest they sign up for leadership duties agreeing to certainly safety protocols, and the use of certain technological tools, so as to ensure their survival and effectively build a society that can stomp out extremist forces.

From innovations coming out of academia and early-stage companies, to used 2nd hand cell-phones, I believe some of the simplest and commonly available tools could be game-changing if placed in the right hands and implemented correctly.

With respect,
Humera Fasihuddin.

Good Samaritan Finds My iPhone

Dear Commander Willis,

Thank you so much for finding my iPhone on the DC Metro and for trying to get a hold of the owner right away. Panic was setting in as I arrived at Reagan National and realized that my iPhone was missing. Frantically, I began using my computer to Skype my office-mates, asking them to call my cell and to track down housekeeping at the hotel. Then, I remembered that my attache case took a tumble when the Metro began to leave the station. I thought my iPhone was a goner. I was imagining the worst – identity theft – and about to contact AT&T to shut off the phone. That was when my spouse emailed me that a kind man called with news that he had found my phone and would FedEx it the next day. Within seconds, my office mates Skyped me the message that you had called there as well. I was moved to tears right there at the airport. Thank you for being considerate and communicating so quickly that you had found it. And, thank you for sending it along. I will walk more optimistically through life knowing that there are more good samaritans amongst us than not.

Thank you for protecting our country and my iPhone.

Forever grateful,

Humera Fasihuddin.

Entrepreneurial DNA

Are entrepreneurs born or are they made? I believe it is a little bit of both. I believe you may be so inclined, but like genetic mutation, you can acquire entrepreneurial DNA through your exposure and understanding of this life choice. Following is another correspondence between my MentorNet mentee and me:

Q: Did you always know that you were an entrepreneur?
A: I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. There are a lot of people that debate… ‘are they born or are they made?” I think it is a bit of both. They also say that if your parent were entrepreneurial, you’re much more likely to choose an entrepreneurial path at some point in your life.

My father was one of fifteen kids whose first mom passed away when he was five. He left behind 15 brothers and sisters in the poor village he was raised in to go to the big city of Hyderabad (at the time it was not the technology capital of India) and camped outside the college dean’s office until they finally gave him admission. A week before he was to come to the US, he was introduced to my mom, who was borderline ‘old maid’ at the age of 23 and with an architects degree. In the US, both put themselves through school for their Masters and worked full-time jobs, had three kids in Queens, NYC with support from imported sisters (recall the 15 left behind) doing daycare and owned a a couple of small convenience stores right off Wall Street. They were also were entrepreneurial insofar as buying real estate. When they made enough money, they cashed out of the stores so they could move us to the suburbs in the early 80’s were we received a much better public school education. All this to say that they were self-made individuals and they valued self-made individuals. They told me their life story ALL THE TIME. I guess it made it into my DNA as a result.

When I graduated from Smith College with my Math degree (parents would only accept a science-like degree and Smith didn’t have an Engineering program at the time), I didn’t look for entrepreneurial opportunities nor did I think that was going to be my path. I thought I was going to rise up through corporate. My parents would have liked that. It was an option they didn’t perceive available to them. Very thick and somewhat opaque glass ceiling for immigrants, I guess. My role models were Carly Fiorini and I aspired to be on the cover of Fortune as a corporate leader. I veered off the path deliberately because I valued my freedom as a woman. The clear expectation was that I’d be returning to NY, having an arranged marriage to someone of the same ethnic/religious background, pursuing a career and having children. That just wasn’t for me. I needed to do things my way without bringing complete dishonor on my family. So, I hid out in Western Mass. Didn’t plan on finding my partner here, but that also happened. Found a piece of corporate America in the Happy Valley as they call it. Worked my way up the ladder at a very dysfunctional, but typical global corporate manufacturing company. After a seven year stint during which they paid for my MBA and I received manufacturing, R&D/Applications, technical support, product management and marketing experience, they gave me the opportunity to be an Intrapreneur. So, on someone else’s dime, I had to understand a new market opportunity, spec out a product portfolio, develop a brand, manage a new channel… I was hooked. I’ve led an active entrepreneurial life ever since, exploring new startup opportunities for myself and others while holding paid positions that enable me to be entrepreneurial (founded http://www.rtccentral.com, manage http://www.invention2venture.org and http://www.nciia.org/bmeidea, support http://www.route9auto.com, volunteer support http://www.hadleypreschool.com and http://www.kelloggplayschool.com, formerly spearheaded http://www.edicalmay.com). My latest venture is a Web 2.0 startup in the mobile and social media space for which I’ve filed a provisional and am building a commercial beta… very exciting. What I didn’t mention is that all along, I’ve been an active and avid networker. I love meeting people. Social media has changed my life and I see that it is going to change society in very profound ways. I think I’ve spotted a significant problem in the marketplace and I intend to solve it.

It’s all about the people

I’m mentoring a bright young woman through MentorNet.com, a great match-making website for women and minorities in the sciences to receive mentoring from accomplished individuals, mostly through email contact (think pen pals). My first post on this blog had some advice I offered her about her career. She followed it up with a few questions, the answers to which I think might be helpful to other young scientists and budding entrepreneurs:

Excerpt:
Q: How did you find a supportive partner that fit all the necessary qualifications?
A: Luck (though they say you make your own luck). My spouse and I met. We had mutual respect; core values that were shared. But no one can predict it, I believe. You have to start being in a relationship in order to extrapolate how they’ll be as a life-long partner. The way obstacles/attitude/trust/respect/support are tackled early in one’s relationship predict how obstacles that be handled later in life when the stakes are high with kids, startups, money issues, et al.

Q: When you have a chance, could you give me some insight on the initial stages of your start-up…
A: Find the BEST team possible. People you 1) like, 2) trust, 3) respect as my former close colleague and former business partner says. That is job one.

Q: … and how you were able to make it a successful venture?
A: Haven’t seen it yet in dollar terms. The business model was all wrong… I know that now. But, I’ve been rich with experiences and I know what not to do in my next venture.

(since this Q&A, there’s been another correspondence … one with richer personal detail on ‘why the entrepreneurial path’ … I will pace myself and post it later in the week)

Help Wanted: JavaScript, Perl, PHP, DOM

High growth MA-based Web 2.0 company at intersection of smart phone and social media (with future in ERP and eCommerce) seeking key hire. The ideal candidate…
1) has the right attitude: someone we like, can grow to trust and respect;
2) possesses very strong technical abilities: Javascript skills critical – Greasemonkey, XULRunner, and MozRepl experience highly desirable. Comfort with the Document Object Model and manipulation of elements with Javascript are core skills for this position. Some Perl, PHP, Python, or Ruby experience (especially regular expressions) necessary. General LAMP experience a part of the process; and,
3) will sign NDA and either a Services Agreement for project work OR an employee contract for pay and stock options;
Resumes and cover letters received through referral only to humera@humera.com.

Love note from a son.

I debated about whether I should post this entry. Dee was the voice of Noah, saying he’d be so embarrassed if he knew. But, as a person who works really hard in life, in pursuit of the entrepreneurial dream and for the singular purpose of giving her children the opportunities they deserve it is especially gratifying to get a love note from her oldest son. Yesterday, my 6.5 year old son Noah took great pride in typing up a little letter on his own computer in Windows Notepad. It brings a smile to my face every time I read it. Now, I know it won’t have the same exact affect on you, but it brings me great pride to publish my son’s first piece (exactly as he typed it, spelling, punctuation, et al):

“Dear moma Dee and moma Huie. I Love you becouse
you tace care of me. and you play bascetbaLL.and 2+8=10. that is math.
and 100+100=200. that is math to .I Love you very much and viLits
are bLue Rouses are red that is a song for you mom.
and 1+8+9+2+3=23.that is a Lot of math.
and I Love you becouse you heLp me wen I am hurt.
that is a Lot of ways that I Love you. I Love you very much moma Huie and moma Dee.”

Talk about the balance of right brain, left brain activity going on! If there is a pattern, it is: Love, Basketball, Math, Love, Poetry, Math, Love, Love. Here’s hoping the love notes to Mom never end.