It Gets Scary

It Gets Scary

Shafiur Rahman

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs


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It Gets Scary

Getting into a startup is exciting, but it's also scary. Like, when I did it myself, when I was the actual Founder, the Owner, the CEO of the company, responsible for everything, and all of the money, and how your build the product, and all that goes in, it becomes scary.

You're no longer that right-hand person because you always have someone taking care of it, you are THAT person...


The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generatd transcription

getting to a startup is exciting but it's also scary like when i did it myself when i was the actual founder of the owner the ceo of the company responsible for everything and all the money and how you build the product and scale goes in it becomes scary uh you're no longer that right hand person because you always have somebody taking care of it you are that person [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i am your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's uh founded and grown several companies seven and eight figure businesses as well as founded miller i p law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and as usual we have another great guest on today's episode um and i i feel like i always intro and i always slaughter everybody's date so apparently it must be something with me but i'm going to try my best sharif ramen is that close shafir close and i thought that before we jumped on i'm like i think it's just a sharif and then he told me shafir and then i went back to the streets um so uh shafir not sharif is uh is uh been in startups for a while um it's done that in various startups over the past 15 years and as you can maybe tell by when he starts talking his current startup is on uh chatter works and he'll tell you a little bit more about that lives in orange county where they have the the land of the lockdowns and so you also get to do that as you also are dealing with are trying to run the business and keep the startup going so um that's the very brief intro to your uh background that we'll talk a little bit more but welcome on to the podcast i appreciate it thank you for having me so i jumped in did you have a very high level and curse your overview but maybe if you want to walk us through a bit of your journey that you've taken and uh what led you to where you're at today and we can dialogue from there yeah sure so for the past you know i've worked at big companies earlier on um and and you know i've never you know i always felt like i was missing something at the big companies right you're just like so siloed and focused and and when i finally got my first opportunity at some earlier startups i mean they're just i mean i've been through stuff that just really didn't work out and things that have been great successes over the time i sort of got this taste for startups and then i got a feel for doing a little bit of everything in each one of those so then it got me into like okay cool so how do i find a role that lets me do a little bit of everything which is fun and that's the you know the startup operations role so then i started getting it to really focus into getting a applying for startup ops jobs you know head of operation co or even just early stages operations right when they don't do titles they just call you operations like a lot of times they're like we don't we're all flat so we're going to call it operations this guy sells this guy's engineering there's no titles uh so i got really interested you know starts have been working with startups i got venture funding was a whole new twist too so i've worked with some startups that were like completely bootstrapped which was the biggest challenge right you can do anything when you're bootstrapped but then when you get into vc vc funding it's like oh wow we get to go hire a bunch of people we get to go try new marketing things we can do we get new intros from the vcs and so forth so it's been fun so the last like seven eight years you know i'd say over here i started really having some real fun with startups with a company called airware they're here in newport uh they went through the white i joined them right as they entered the y combinator they exited the y combinator a few months later demo day got some funding from like jason horowitz and google uh and then eventually i have a feeling we're jumping over like 20 years of your life and well because i figured we'd dive into it more but the previous stuff was just a bunch of little things that i was trying that uh that just to get a feel for my career right so over the last like eight ten years is what it really like really formed all right i just didn't want to i didn't want to jump or lose or lose all the interesting facts of where you or what led you up today without jumping it so so we'll we'll fast forward to the the last or 10 years ago and start from there how about that yeah yeah so what really led me today right if you look at it across building all these scale and all these startups your biggest challenge is hiring the team right whether you're bootstrapped or you have venture funding no matter what you look at you need a team you need good people to help you get to the next level and so that's always been a passion by trying to figure out how do you get that best team how do you hire that best team what do you need to poach talent and how do you talk them into your startup or new company and leave what they're at now and so forth uh so you know we did that like i said from like last day yeah probably 10 years right we went from um i consulted for various startups there was a core water bottle company out here in uh lisa viejo they had a spin-off of the other the founder of core was an apparel company called iv sports where they did all the ivy league clothing uh so i helped there helped them set up their e-commerce and so forth and go and then help them try and find an initial team but they had a pretty solid team we're just focused on e-commerce and growth so that's what we can we focus on getting some engineers to help build their e-commerce out uh then i moved on to uh airware which was a commercial drone company here uh i think that comes in really quick so you know you and you've done it sounds like were these startups you're working with as your full-time job or you're working for them or was it on the side of the side hustle or how did that they're all those were like those smaller ones are like side hustles uh so they were they're hoping we can get them big enough to where they can become a permanent hustle but but uh that's where a lot of learning happened right you get it you get figure out all these intricacies between i think there's so many different types of founders out there too right so it's it's a it's a challenge when you have founders and uh some are just stuck in their own ways and some some believe they're kind of happy status quo uh and that's these early stages were bootstrapped they don't want to spend some money and uh that's kind of where you kind of push hard and now you realize like hey that probably wasn't for me because i'm not happy status quo i want to grow grow grow go grow and build a team and be really successful and do that stuff so as you're doing that so these were side hustles what were you doing as your main hustle or your your source of income during that time so my source of income i had various back then various like uh normal full-time kind of jobs uh so it would be whether it be like a kind of like head of support at a company or something like that where i started building up my startup hustle uh to believe it or not i went into the startup hustle more of i probably helped probably say like six startups and maybe that my entire house the job so i just take a little bit from each one um and that would become like my full-time job i wasn't really happy working at those you know desk jobs or your bud and seat eight to five uh and that's what really made me take on and you start really figuring out how to get into startups and this was over 10 years ago right when that all happened and then i started just okay maybe i can consult at a few and that'll cover what i need for now for my full-time income and have fun helping a bunch of different startups so you did that so because i think it's because i mean that's a dilemma that a lot of people that want to be in startups or run their own business right that's that either i can't afford it or i don't want to leave the job security or i don't want to you know x y and z and so you end up staying at the job you know the bigger business or the bigger job out of wanting to have that financial security you're wanting to know the pages coming in because you're not you know you're not sure if your startup idea will make it and how to do it and how long it will take and how much it will cost and so you know so how was it you know jumping back just a little bit and i get it was you know kind of 10 before the 10 years but you know working the site hustle trying to get the startups going working with them and doing the full-time job you know how did you manage it or how did you juggle that um i you know your life becomes your work at that stage uh so it was wake up early go to bed late uh and that's really how i managed it i just worked all day and night because i could at the time and it is challenging and the reason why you know i and it's not for everyone but i can tell you that i couldn't get where i wanted to at a big company i didn't have a degree right i i didn't go to college i i couldn't i was forced to work right out of high school to help family and keep housing and all that other stuff up and i didn't have time to uh go on and have a get a degree and and and when i have the experience i know i could i could do the job as like a director-level person or whatever it is and you apply for those jobs you're getting automatically screened out at that stage this was a while ago now they're looking past uh degrees but then that's a hundred percent if you don't have a degree and it's listed on there they automatically filter out regardless if you have a bunch of experience or however good you are even though i can run circles around a guy next to me in an interview i wouldn't even get that opportunity so then i got how do i do that and that's where startups came to mind they just they wanted experience they didn't care about degree if you could do it and you can hit the ground running and do a bunch of things then hey you're on board as a startup they don't give a crap about your degree if they can pay a cheaper they could get great experience without pay for the the college degrees in the meantime so no i completely agree exactly so and that's what it was that's what really did and i got as soon as i got into it i was really this is it this is what i want to do this is fun i know i can build myself i can grow up i can grow with the company think about you start ground floor like the fifth seventh less than ten higher you can really make something great out of it potentially right and and be on uh and grow yourself with that almost set your own career path uh with other big companies you could and that's why i chose the startup life so you chose the startup life and you know it sounds like around 10 years ago 10 years or so ago he said okay i'm going to make this the full-time hustle or i'm going to make it you know the thing where i'll do consulting i'll work for some of the startups and between the aggregate of doing it for enough of them i can make a living or i can make an income so then how did that how did that switch to you know where did that lead you to where you're at today of actually doing a full-time startup or doing your own hustle and you know how did that how did you kind of make that transition yeah so the last few companies i mean would you when you get in early and you help build and scale them and and and one of them was a kind of uh we worked really we the entire team hustled to get like at last an acquisition right i mean it wasn't on the plan a couple years after i joined uh team was amazing that engineer team built a great product great customers all the combined efforts of everyone from recruiting and marketing they put that company at the top of the map and got linkedin to see them and acquire them and then what i realized after that was just when when you when you go through that process it feels like this is great but god it wasn't my thing and and i feel like that's all i've been doing for the past decade is helping everyone else build their companies and i have a tremendous amount of experience in my head just ready to go why not do my own and my passion i love people i love working with people i love talking like when you interview and you recruit and you try and build that team i love that part of the job and i figured it's about time that i i get into a space that i i feel like i was very comfortable in i knew it very well i have a lot of industry connections in this space and uh and i've worked with a ton of recruiters over the years and we talked and brainstormed and i'm like hey this is it i'm gonna go build this product chat or works and i'm gonna launch on my own i'm gonna really put my foot down i'm old enough i've got a family it's about time i do something for my future my my stability going forward instead of bouncing around because you don't know i might join the next startup and who knows what they like two of them uh so airware moved on me uh to san francisco connect if i was acquired moved by linkedin back over to mountain view i helped airbus launch a division and they required me to move to atlanta so it's like all these companies are just leaving my grasp and and then i'm stuck always starting over and that's not what i wanted anymore i was way too i'm too old to be starting over all the time with so what so is that really the tipping point then so after enough of you enjoyed working for the other startups or it was you know it was gratifying but one is you wanted to have it in control and two is they kept leaving you're moving to a different place so to speak and you're saying hey this is where we want to live this is where we put set down roots and establish and so you're saying i'm going to take the reins and rather than keep having them having to start over i'm going to do my own thing is that kind of what led where where absolutely i i wanted to start an orange i was born i was raised i was born here in southern california but i was raised in orange county i wanted a orange county based startup funded by some oc investors and build it here and keep it here and that was the goal and we we got it so far so it's uh it's it's a fun ride so far so so how did you so with that motivation you're saying okay love the startup life i can't keep having all the businesses that i work so hard to build be out of my control leave or move or whatever and then i you know i have to start over so how did you come up with you know chatter works or how did you land on what you're going to do for the business today um it was mainly what uh i you know when you look at starting your product you're thinking like what kind of what problem can i solve um and then i for me it's always been recruiting no matter how many tools are out there there's it's always recruiting it's always to me when i go into a company yeah you want to get things organized you want to help the sales process get in place you want to help the finances but but in order to do that it's always been you got to have the the a talent team on board and and you got to figure out how to get that team and i learned quite a bit at connectifier what those tools do for you uh when connect right about that platform was amazing we did a lot of our recruiting actually out of that platform um and then obviously we used some ats components but but once i realize how important passive information is you know phone numbers emails being able to curate messages and communicate directly versus trying to send you know the you know an in-mail which some people don't read anymore more jewelry people actually don't read emails now i've sent so many emails and and you're not getting responses um and whether they think it's a bot or whatever it is right so being able to have the phone numbers those emails really opened my eyes to that kind of recruiting efforts and i looked at all the tools out there another plenty of tools that give you the data um but it's it's what you do with that data right i can call myself ai and give you a ton of data but it's really not useful intelligence for the recruiting industry it's not really useful artificial intelligence what we're calling a uai and that's what kind of triggered like how do we build something that gives really useful intelligence to recruiters and people looking for work and not just say i'm giving this to you and it really doesn't help you in your job but give you the same stuff everyone else has given you and that's kind of how this came about and then i started meeting with those oc people talking a bunch of recruiters over the last year so figuring out how to kind of get to where we are today with our extent with our launch uh and that's how kind of chat works was born so you have the company board so you know you came up with the idea i'm going to stay in recruiting which is what you enjoy what you want to do and what you you know where your expertise lies and what you feel you're good at then you went and talked to a lot of people talk to the people in orange county you talk to the venture funds and so now you you you decided you made the leap you've done all that homework how has it gone since you started it has it been a rocket ship and taken off no no no no everything that you've ever dreamed it was a slow start so regardless of the team i put together which is an amazing like very industry i mean focused team advisors and entrepreneurs that have proven successful in their careers uh and and even with my background too helping build and skill certain startups the investment side was uh challenging um and the reason why is uh what i what i learned after six months of hard trying to get this initial initial what we call seed round i guess we'll call it um was that when connectifier got acquired everyone in the world started opening up all these tools like oh cool let's get into the space like let's get into the recruiting studies and build all these tools and then um all these venture firms invested in a lot of recruiting space text-based hr tech space and none of them all the pretty much tank majority of them just went down the tube so they lost all their money we're talking about millions and millions of dollars down the tube and everyone jumping on the bandwagon of this recruiting tech space so me not realizing that was the issue i went of course i got the perfect product i have a ton of recruiters already on board a huge network i have great advisors a team and ready to go we already have uh the initial product was already pr actually i would call like our alpha product was kind of developed already and i'm going to go out funding there's no way i can't get this i know a lot of people and even all the people i knew were like i can't they're just the space is just not not not good for them um and we need in order for anyone to start investing in that space again they want to see a ton of traction so they're so you can be a college kid coming out with some great tech idea in the bay area and someone will fund you with 10 million dollars but with all our experience background everything we're doing because of the space we're in and we're gonna do pre-launch pre-revenue uh it was like almost like untouchable at that stage uh and then i decided okay i'm gonna raise the friends and family around which i did we raised about a few hundred thousand for the family round uh built this thing out i met with uh carrie uh terry ransom uh from oc for ventures now uh he was talking about forming a new fund here in oc trying to think the way oc thinks about venture funding uh and i worked with him probably over the last uh i'd say eight months solid before we really got to an investment point just because they were building their fund out we were strategizing how we would do it and all that good stuff and he was truly a good mentor advisor and and one guy and uh very well connected in this area um so it was a challenge at first until i kind of met kerry i knew i could eventually i was just gonna do it right i could bootstrap it i could keep going with my friends and family but i didn't want to keep asking friends and family for money to build us out even though we had it um i knew what we needed to do in order to take it to the next level and that was my goal was was to get that instead of keep trying to raise friends and family money i thought we fought we struggled hard but it was slow because we were just using fun family funds to build this out um so it's very challenging you know i walked into it thinking they're ha you know people are going to believe in what we're doing we have the perfect team we have the perfect product we have the perfect we even had you know hundreds of people uh saying hey i'm ready to use this and i'll pay for it and that still didn't work so yeah it was very it was tough at first so so then you have to deal with those hurdles you eventually i i assume you did the friends and family round then you got the the oc venture fund that put in some money got things going got it to a point that you could start to grow it or you could have your minimally viable product or whatever is that where you're at today is it have you got it launched or is it still in processing yeah so we have we have a uh a private uh access only launch so we have probably about 50 people on it right now uh they're just testing it out for us making sure i mean we have a pretty long list of people waiting to use the platform but my thing is i want to release something that's really functional and i know that can actually display some of the tools they're using and paying for now because we're here to help right i'm not here to nickel and dime people in this industry there's a million plus recruiters and why not help provide a tool that can help all companies find people and help our economy jump start and so forth so we're here to help and we want to make sure we provide that right tool at the right price point uh so initially we're not charging uh but we will be come say like six to twelve months or so all right no makes sense so one question i had a bit of a tangent but i think it's within your wheelhouse is you know so i see and this is now just player playing the employer's side you know you have a few different ways that you can go find talent right one is obviously you can go and ask any or ask the people you know or people you're aware of that are in your in your in your close network and see either if they're interested or they know of anybody which is usually in my opinion maybe the most successful if you can find people that are that you know that are that you've established have a good relationship with you know their talent usually the best and but that sometimes that works sometimes it doesn't depending on who's available but then you kind of have the stratus of you can almost go two ways which you know i would say on any given week or month on linkedin you get a whole bunch of recruiters opinions say hey let you know can i help you find one and then you also have what i'll call you know the the ai or the zip recruiters or those different things and so you know which way do you see the industry going is it still going to have that human touch that is going to be hey and i don't still need someone to do the cold calls or to do the reach out and is there the personal recruiter the best or is it going to go more of technology and hey we're going to help you find somebody and identify them and do the work in the background using technology or is it going to be a combination of both it's going to be a definitely combination of there's no way at least to me my opinion is there's no way you can ruin the personal touch because i am not going to sit there and talk to a message bot all day or email thing and not hear a voice and explain to me you know the the the the opportunity or why i should join this company and and talk to that person on knowledge a little bit about the company as a recruiter here's the thing a recruiter defines the job essentially right i mean you're you're the first person that company sees that person that candidate hears and sees so you have to be if you're not a good recruiter then there's no way i feel confident and even discuss an opportunity right i mean you could tell by speaking to a recruiter do they know their stuff do they know the job do they know the company do they know the people the culture all that good stuff very well you can't get that across all these no matter how intelligent your bots or messaging gets there's no way you can tell that you can always have the combination on the back and run and help the recruiters identify right identify the best times to contact the the type of individual they are and and show them all the social information so they know how to kind of curate those messages and help them tailor it but they're that you're it's gonna be very difficult to always take away that personal response out of a recruiter the human human and being person of it aspect of it all right no it definitely makes sense so so now you take where you guys are at today what's the next six to 12 months look for you guys where do you think things are headed yeah so for us the next 6-12 months our goal is to get to a a thousand recruiters on our platform and also for us our product side is releasing our entire uh we call our uai suite our intelligence suite uh which is helping recruiters understand the the best platform to communicate with candidates on the average time of days these candidates may be available to communicate with um kind of sentiment analysis to understand the type of individual and culture type they are so you know how to kind of tailor that response so this is the kind of automation of someone on the back end where you provide all this information real intelligence and real helpful insights so the recruiter can then curate that perfect message to the perfect platform for them so that's our goal is to have that intelligence suite launched all right sounds like an awesome goal to me so all right well as we get towards the end of the podcast i always ask two questions so we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is so what was the worst business decision you ever made uh so i would say business decision is tough because as as a right hand to founders uh you always have to go through different uh approvals to get a lot of things done but uh for me overall i can say from my experience any business decision i've made would have been poor communication and i can tell i can own up to that it's meaning that when i come into a startup i'm like okay cool the founder needs to be focused on strategy big picture and product and stuff i need to take care of the rest so then i go take on that burden of of the rest and uh it's always been like i don't need to bother them with that but instead you need to communicate and let them know so they understand the business where you're going any challenges all that stuff and i would always try and be that kind of the you know the rottweiler at the gates and and try and protect when i in my head i'm thinking you're protecting the founder from all these issues in all reality you're you're you're causing more issues by not communicating and trying to deal with it on your own so for me that's happened across a couple where i just i finally broke that habit i'll tell you that but it took a while to get there and that always uh i can speak back on it now and say i know that was a problem a business decision business problem um and it affects a lot of things when you don't communicate well especially when you're running all the operations and organization um right no makes makes perfect sense and that's a one that's a it's an easy mistake for a lot of us to learn and even when you know communication is a hard one because you know and i've founded and co-founded some companies and i have people that work for me and whatnot and you know i'm always i have a very busy schedule so you know if you're not if you're always trying to get they're always trying to gauge when is the right time to come knocking on the door or relay message and how much you should relay and how much you should not they don't know they don't need to tell you and they just need to get taken care of so i think it's always a a balance that you have to find but making sure you get that right amount of communication so that the people that are running the company that are making the decisions are able to make the make an informed decision or know what's going on while not having to get in the details when they don't need so i think that's a good lesson absolutely you may not think it's needed but i promise you that is a big business problem if communication isn't there yep so all right so we jump on now to the second question which is so you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or small business just starting out what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them um so for me you know it's you probably hear this a lot actually getting to a startup is exciting but it's also scary like when i did it myself when i was the actual founder of the owner the ceo of the company responsible for everything and all the money and how you build the product and scale goes in it becomes scary uh you're no longer that right hand person because you always have somebody taking care of it you are that person um so always you know you got to be organized and and understand you know i've been taught quite a bit even from oc4 guys is about the product fit right i mean it's great to get in the startup and you have this great idea but before you go willy nilly into all of it and go spend a bunch of money in resources make sure that you actually have a problem you're solving and not something in your head that you think you're solving um because i know at the very beginning oh yeah i'll tell you this at the very beginning i i thought i saw a big problem by building this all-in-one ecosystem for startups um and and because i knew all the problems as an operations guy everything you need to do but again that was my problem while solving but i wasn't solving the world's problem that's how you kind of pivot to where you're going so make sure you understand what you're really solving if it really is a problem that's visible across the spectrum no i think that makes great sense and it's always identifying that problem identifying what if it's a problem it's just for you and if you solve that and nobody else wants it then it's not going to be any good project for you to get done but not necessarily for other people to get done and you know and i i do agree that one other thing you said is that you know it is a much different different shoes to feel when you're actually the one making the decisions when there isn't somebody else you get you can go ask the questions too there isn't someone else that if the decision is wrong that you can say well i didn't make the decision or anything else so even if you work closely there is a much different feel to a startup when you're actually the person in charge so i agree on both of those and think that they're both good pieces of advice so well people want to check out chatterworks i know you're kind of more on the private side but as you either you know if they want to sign up they want to know more they want to reach out they want to use a tool or they just want to be informed as it goes live what would be the best way to connect with you uh so this way you can just you can sign up if you want on our splash page we have um or you can just email me everyone can have my emails my first name shafir at that's s and sam h a f is it frank i you are at so you can get all of me my email's open to everyone if you want to chat all right well definitely if you're looking to invest you're looking to get a job you're looking to sign up you're looking to find hires or anything else certainly reach out to you so um thank you excuse me thank you for coming on it's been a pleasure it's been fun to hear your journey for those of you that are looking to tell your own journey we always welcome or people that come on the podcast that have a great journey to tell you can go to and apply to be on the podcast and for those of you that are listeners and you caught this episode or any other ones make sure to subscribe so you can get a notification when each new episode goes live and uh certainly if you need any help with patterns or trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law thank you again for coming on it's been a pleasure it's been fun to hear a journey and i wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last i appreciate it devin thanks for having me all right [Music] English (auto-generated) All Podcasts Recently uploaded

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