Lessons Learned in 2011

As the clock turned to midnight, I paused for a moment and thought to myself, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else at this moment in time…..

I am pretty certain that in time when I look back at my journey as an entrepreneur, 2011 will be a defining year. It will be an year about which I will recount hundreds of stories and incidents that shaped and lay the foundation of things to come. This year has had its share of extreme highs and scary lows. It was a year in which I definitely felt alive every single day. A year I pushed myself to go outside established comfort zones and do the best that I could in them.

In the end it all comes down to the people we work with and the vision that you are working towards. There are two people I really want to thank for making 2011 such a meaningful one at work, Shahzaib Khan & Song Kwang Lee. I have co-founded companies with both of them and I truly believe that working side by side with them has made all the difference.

The three key lessons from this year for me were:

1. Listen and review advice from mentors, ultimately do make a decision that you are most comfortable with. I need to thank Shahzaib again here for helping me to rely more on my gut and intuition for moving forward.

2. When raising money, choose your investors carefully. Avoid angels who are not active investors (min 3 investments a year). Do background checks on them before due diligence starts. (I met some truly scumbag investors this year which will make for an interesting chapter for the book I want to eventually write).

3. Avoid business ventures with family at all costs. Even though I have written about doing business with family, I broke one of my own rules and learned this lesson the hard way once again.

2012 is poised to be a great year. If you are in technology space consider yourself one of the fortunate ones who are in the right place at the right time.

I miss writing on my blog and for 2012 I plan to write one post/essay every month, a more realistic target!

For all the readers that are still subscribed to this blog, thank you very much! Wishing you all great success and happiness in 2012!

6 Comments Lessons Learned in 2011

  1. John @ Start Mission

    Ah! Item 3! I experienced the exact opposite in 2011! The day I chose to do business with a non-friend, I ended up getting burned!

    For much of my experience as a software developer running my own shop, I’ve always hired my friends, people I’ve known since I was a child. We went to the same high school, same engineering school and worked at the same companies at one time or another. And throughout this whole time, I was always the “leader” of the group, whether it’s a school chemistry lab, a university design project, or project manager in a company. So naturally, when I started “entrepreneuring” in 2008, I hired my friends!

    In 2011, I made the mistake of partnering with a contractor that I’ve only known/worked with a for 1 year. That ended up being a total disaster within 3 months. I dissolved partnership at month 6. And spent half of 2011 rebuilding the business and re-hiring all my friends.

    So the lesson I learnt is never trust a stranger! Always stick with the friends who you’ve worked well with 20+ years!

    It’s weird how my experience with 3) is different from yours

  2. Usman Sheikh

    Different experiences is what makes entrepreneurship exciting! I do think exceptions do exist.

    Having done business with friends I can attest that somethings are much easier. However somethings like asking them to carry their weight or when they are not contributing as agreed are discussions which I find more difficult to have. Also given that the probability of things going horribly wrong is high, would you want to risk the possibility of a falling out with your friend.

    In the end finding the right co-founder is extremely challenging. I have a small talk that I give where I show how it took me over 6 years to find one.

    One piece of advice, be it a friend of someone who you have been working with for sometime. The key thing that you want to look out for is, do both of you share the same set of beliefs and core values. Values alignment in my opinion is key in getting a relationship to work!

    Hope that helps. Wishing you all the very best in your venture.

    (p.s You web app looks very interesting. I would adjust the main call to action button into something more clickable. Would be happy to discuss in greater detail)

  3. Shama Sheikh

    Am always so proud of all you do…and feel Usman…your comment…I wouldn’t trade places with anyone else , makes me so very happy for you! The prayer is that happiness and success are always your companions in this journey of life…amen!

  4. John @ Start Mission

    “do both of you share the same set of beliefs and core values”. I wish I had talked to you last year and learnt this lesson earlier. And you’re right, my friends right now are employees, not partners, so the relationship is different.

    And it is so hard to find someone who:
    a) shares enough of the same values
    b) can be as committed as you expect them to be

    Thanks for suggestion on the button! I’ll make a change.

    And I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep posting. I still have lots to learn about business, and your blog really helps me with that.


  5. John @ Start Mission

    Oh and also, I have something on my mind, and not sure if you have a post that talks about it.

    I’m still relatively new at business (been doing mostly contract work since 2008, and have my own team). But I occasionally get questioned by wanna-be entrepreneurs who want me to comment on their start up ideas. I call them wanna-bes because my instincts tell me they just fantasize about success and have yet to show me any indication they can persevere, stay focused on a problem, or have the resources/experience to carry out their idea. I don’t know for sure, but that’s what my instincts tell me.

    I want to assemble a checklist on how to identify wanna be entrepreneurs. Would you happen to have written about that on your blog somewhere? It would save me a lot of time!


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