Hometown: Glastonbury, CT, USA, Current Location: Brooklyn, NY, USA.
BA, Wesleyan University. MBA, Carnegie Mellon University.
I’ve spent the past decade creating products and services that aim to improve life at work. In the process, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of starting (and ending) businesses. This blog is me thinking out loud about questions my fellow entrepreneurs and I face every day.
I grew up surrounded by immigrant entrepreneurs; our house in Connecticut was the first stop for most of my dad’s 10 siblings and my mom’s 8 siblings as they moved from Bangladesh to the US. My family members counseled one another on their careers, education, and families with an eye towards establishing ourselves in America. This blog is inspired by my dad, mom and all their siblings.
Founder, October 2012 – Present
Power 20 is a mobile fitness company that I’m personally bootstrapping. The vision is to create beautiful, effective exercise videos for mobile devices, and make those available to people all over the world.
CEO, September 2010 – October 2012, New York
ClearGears was a spinoff from Crowd Interactive. While at Crowd, my business partner and then CEO Adil Wali struggled to provide performance reviews for our fast-growing team. Finding no suitable performance review software on the market for small businesses, we built ClearGears. ClearGears was Adil’s idea from the start, but he tapped me to take it on as CEO when he left to join ModCloth as their Chief Experience Officer.
Ever since MetroNaps I’ve had a deep passion for improving the workplace, so fixing the broken world of Performance Reviews seemed, to me, a great fit. I redesigned ClearGears, raised funds for the business, and took it to market. We built many products through ClearGears. Our original 360º review service wasn’t as popular as we had hoped, but one of our experiments, called Interview Jet, fared better. Interview Jet, an e-recruiting service, was bought by Mitchell Martin after just 8 weeks.
Co-Owner, November 2008 – Present, Colima, Mexico
Always keep in touch with your former bosses, colleagues, classmates and professors. That’s the lesson I learned when joining Crowd. My former professor, Thomas Emerson from Carnegie Mellon’s business school, introduced me to Crowd after I told him my first venture was closing. Specifically, he introduced me to the smartest and most dynamic entrepreneur I may ever meet: Adil Wali.
Adil had single-handedly grown Rich Applications Consulting into a 90-person network of freelancers taking on large development projects in a variety of languages. He asked me to join him to help with sales and strategy. Together, we rebranded the company as Crowd Interactive, focused on one language, Ruby on Rails, built an office in Colima, Mexico, and have been improving profitability ever since. Adil was the driving force all along, but I was glad to be a part of it. Our biggest client to date is ModCloth. Through Crowd, I meet entrepreneurs every day who are looking to start or grow their online business.
May 2003 – April 2008, New York
I founded MetroNaps with my friend Christopher Lindholst in 2003. We were thinking big at MetroNaps: we wanted the world to nap and we wanted to provide the places and products to nap with. We tried to uncover every possible market for napping centers and products. We opened nap centers in the Empire State Building, near Wall St, and in the Vancouver International Airport. We sold napping chairs, called EnergyPods, to hospitals, corporate offices, spas, hotels, and even mining companies. We had the most success with corporate offices, so we focused sales there.
By April 2008 corporate spending on products like ours came to a halt. We didn’t have the cash or the heart to keep the company going, so Christopher and I closed MetroNaps in the US. Happily, MetroNaps thrives in Australia and the UK.
Suing Northwest Airlines
Plaintiff, February 2002 – April 2006, New York & California
A turning point in my political awareness occurred during a long and frustrating lawsuit with Northwest Airlines. In the process of the lawsuit I worked with the brilliant lawyers at the ACLU, I spoke at a Congressional hearing in Washington DC, I met Congressmen, and I explained my case on Good Morning America. The case went from the 9th Circuit in California to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal in New York – one step before the Supreme Court. I learned a tremendous amount about the DOJ, American media, and American law. I also learned that big problems can and should be addressed, even if you don’t always win.
I sued the airline for refusing to let me board a flight in October 2001 and for wrongly putting me on a security watch list. A Northwest pilot decided that my name was suspicious, so he requested that the FBI have me “checked out.” Even after the FBI, police, and airport security concluded that I was no threat, the airline refused to let me fly. Infuriatingly, the airline then added me to a watch list. From then on, every time I tried to fly, the FBI was called.
The case was stymied by the Department of Justice. To proceed with my case, my lawyers needed basic information about what actually happened that day. Northwest Airlines refused to provide any of the details, calling it Sensitive Security Information (SSI). Weirdly, the Department of Justice agreed. It’s weird because procedures known to airline stewardesses and pilots should be available to lawyers and judges with subpoenas, right? The end result was that my case literally stopped in its tracks. In fact, anyone trying to get off a watch list or trying to sue a company for wrongfully putting them on a list will face the same brick wall.
Protecting civil liberties and fighting discrimination continue to guide my political leanings. I support candidates who think along these lines and, thinking big, I hope to have an impact on the types of people who ultimately make it into office through my political activism.
Narrowly Escaping an Exploding Car
Survivor, 1993, Glastonbury, CT
Life is short, so you may as well think big while you’re here. That was the lesson I learned in the summer of 1993 when, after a long road trip, my brother Ron, my friend Dave, and I barely escaped from an exploding car.
Dave’s 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme had had it. At the end of a 400 mile road trip, just one mile from home, the Check Engine Light went on. We decided to let to the car get more specific. Eventually the dashboard was lit like a Christmas tree, with all sorts of warnings blinking at us. With just 20 feet to go before our driveway, the car stalled.
Ron and I got out and pushed while Dave steered. I looked under the car and noticed that it was leaking droplets of oil. On fire. I yelled to Dave and Ron to run for it, and within a few seconds of leaving the car we felt a hot push of air on our backs. The hood popped open and a giant fire ball leapt out, followed by cracks and pops and a big explosion that shattered the windshield.
Everyone experiences close calls. Use those close calls as times to assess your path in life. Does what you’re doing now still make sense given that, any moment, you could go down in flames?