Book Review: The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions (Kindle)

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I’ve been reading a lot of business and entrepreneurship books lately. I’m especially interested in ones that deal with internet companies. One book that has been sitting in my queue for a while is this one called: “The Dream: How I Learned the Risks and Rewards of Entrepreneurship and Made Millions”. I saw that it was cheaper than the usual 9.99 on the Kindle and immediately bought it. It’s a fairly small book but I literally read it in 3 sittings. i can’t say that with many books.

The book is the story of how Gurbaksh Chahal, who dropped out of school at the age of 16 and at the age of 18 sold his first internet company ClickAgents, an ad network, to ValueClick for $22 million in stock and then at the age of 25 sold his second internet company BlueLithium, another ad network, to Yahoo for $300 million in cash.

Gurbaksh, a Sikh Indian who’s family emigrated to the US when he was 4, was amazed at the opportunities of the Internet from a very young age. His family struggled to provide for him and his 3 other siblings. Both his parents worked double shifts. His story is an inspiring true story of rags to riches.

What is amazing is that while many of the internet companies during the dot com bubble didn’t even have business models, this 16 year old’s company was keeping it real and posting profits. He had over $100,000 in his bank account when he decided to go to his father to ask his permission to drop out of school. If you aren’t from an Asian family, it is probably impossible to understand how hard that must have been and how disappointed his parents must have felt.

His book has a good mix of life story and business wisdom. You’ll also learn a lot about south Asian tradition, especially Sikh. I’ve read many business books a most are pretty dry. This one was a great read and I honestly wish it hadn’t ended so soon. I give it 5 stars.

Popularity: 2% [?]

First Product Show and Tell Meetup

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My friends Ziad and Rishi have started a new monthly meetup called Product Show and Tell. The goal of it is pretty simple – come to the meeting with a few cool products to talk about them. Nothing fancy. What made it interesting for me was the people who were there. These are some really talented people who have a great deal to share.

This meeting was held at Noble Tree Coffee shop on Clark and Fullerton. People who were there included:

Phil Tadros http://nobletreecoffee.com/, http://dollopcoffee.com/, http://www.doejo.com/, and http://www.texthog.com/

Rishi Shah, fellow Tech Labs Alum http://www.flyingcart.com

Ziad Hussain http://www.ezbluesoftware.com/

Sean Corbett http://www.havemyshift.com

Andy Angelos

and Ziad’s gf (I’m not even going to try to spell her name).

Everyone had cool stuff to show. I talked about the Eye-Fi Wireless SD card and my Mortal Kombat video game. Ziad showed off his retro Atari console release, some really cool headphones, and the blank vinyl doll that you can paint on (I forget the name). His theme was how these new products appeal to your nostalgia. Rishi talked about his invention called HapTap which is a keypad solely devoted to emoticons and lolspeak which he created years ago as well as this rubber pad that you put on the dashboard of your car to hold stuff like cellphones. Kim bought me one of those a while ago. Phil and Darren talked about their new startup called TextHog which lets you text message in your expenses to this online expense tracker. It’s very neat – what’s even neater is the fact that they cranked this out in less than a month and it’s already gotten over 300 registered users. Sean showed of his pomade (which is something my father used to use) – which is a very retro product. He likes it because one little 2.99 thing of that lasts him months as opposed to hair gel or whatever which doesn’t work as well and disappears much sooner.

Here are some photos from the event.

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Book Review: Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good – The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0

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This is the book written by the infamous Sarah Lacy who’s fiasco of an interview with Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook at SXSW 2008 caused such a backlash in the twittersphere and blogosphere. I had never heard of her before, but after that interview I was left with a pretty bad impression of her. The crowd booed her and yelled “You suck”, “Ask some real questions” among other things.  My friend Craig had read it and thought it was pretty good so I decided to give it a try. I can’t pass up a good book on tech startups.

So anyways, this is her book chronicalling the story of such dotcoms like TypePad, PayPal, YouTube, Slide, LinkedIn, Yelp, Digg, Facebook and Twitter. The book really centers around Max Levchin, who’s 1.5 billion sale to Ebay helped plant the seeds of many of the dotcoms covered in the book. Basically the PayPal alumn, otherwise known as the PayPal mafia, went on to start other successful startups. I’m not going to get into the details of each story but I thought it was a really well written book. All the stories are very interesting and insightful. Sarah writes in a very warm and approachable way, and it makes you feel like you really know these people. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It was also a very easy read as well as a page turner. I finished it in 3 days.

There are some very interesting bits of lessons readers can take away. One is perseverance. Did you know that PayPal was Max’s 12th or 13th startup? Also, Slide, the popular slideshow started out as a way for Max and friends to view hot chicks depending on who you hear the story from. I highly recommend this book to everyone in the tech startup industry.

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5 Questions with Rishi Shah CEO of Flying Cart

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Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rishi, but you can call me Gerald for short. I was sent to planet Earth to start FlyingCart.com. It revolutionized life on my home planet because its A) awesome B) easy to use.

All kidding aside, I never had any friends, so I am obsessed with social networking on the internet. I am hoping to have 5,000 friends one day on facebook. Flying Cart incorporates networking to ecommerce.

Tell us a bit about your background.
I pretty much rock it 24/7 on the internet. Seriously, I spend so much time on the internet, sometimes I can’t remember what I do in real life, and what my avatar, Risk does. Its all a blur man.

Everything I learn comes from Jason Fried, my business partners Margo and Brian, JAW, and the Brainreactions community.

Tell us about Flying Cart and how you came about it.
All I want is more stores online that are awesome.  I hate it when cool super niche stores have a hard time competing with the super lame walmart/dropshippers of the eccommerce world. LET’S START THE REVOLUTION!

We want to allow small business owners to connect to each others store to sell online.  Think mini malls for the internet.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I’m a hardcore vegetarian. My roommate thinks its weird, but I think its weird that he locks himself in his room to watch Ryan Seacrest live.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs?
This is what my uncle told me when Flying Cart wasn’t doing so hot.  “You have to give any new business at least 1000 days.  Work hard and keep focused until then.”
Feel free to connect with Rishi in anyway.

Website: www.FlyingCart.com
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/risk
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8613159
Linkedin: http://linkedin.com/rishivshah

Popularity: 4% [?]

5 Questions with Sachin Agarwal, CEO of Dawdle

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I recently connected with a young entrepreneur named Sachin Agarwal who’s got a pretty cool website. His brainchild, Dawdle.com, is an online market place to buy and sell used games. It’s also a bit more than that. It allows mom and pop game stores who do not or cannot afford to have an e-presence to sell their used games online. He can tell you all about it a lot better than I can. With Ebay increasing their fees to ridiculous amounts, this is a good alternative to the giant auction place. The other thing about Dawdle is that it’s not an auction house. Personally, that was the one thing I didn’t care about Ebay – the whole auction thing. I just want to buy the damn thing. For websites owners and bloggers, Dawdle also has an affiliate program which pays out 4%. I just signed up for the affiliate network and am awaiting approval so I can help get him some traffic through my blog. I think Dawdle is off to a good start so it’s definitely a website to keep an eye on in the following months.

Without further ado, here’s the interview:
Who are you? Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m originally from Carbondale, Illinois, and root for the Salukis as well as both the Cubs and the Sox. Downstate, everyone got (this was before Interleague) an NL and an AL team. I chose Cubs over Cardinals and Sox over Royals. Before Dawdle, I worked at Ascension Health Ventures and Jefferies Broadview.

Tell us a bit about Dawdle.
Dawdle’s a dedicated online marketplace for video games, systems, and accessories. We try to apply the 37signals’ “Getting Real” philosophy to online marketplaces, so our goal is to make it “moronically easy” for gamers and independent stores to buy and sell on Dawdle.

What gave you the idea of Dawdle?
I tried to sell a PSP online since I wasn’t playing it any more. I tried selling it on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, and it was just incredibly painful. I ran up against scam artists and non paying bidders and PayPal problems and thought that there had to be a better way. You can read the whole story here: http://www.dawdle.com/press/index.php/origin . Interestingly, I was actually working on a totally different startup idea at the time, but this experience made me change course.

What are some of the pain points that you have faced in creating Dawdle and how did you deal with them?
The biggest pain point was integrating with all the third-party providers. We had to integrate with data providers, payment gateways, merchant accounts, and pass VeriSign and TRUSTe validation in a short period of time, as we wanted to launch our beta with plenty of time in the 2007 holiday season. We managed to get all that done, but we had to leave some cool functionality for later as we worked on those integrations.

And finally, What advice would you give entrepreneurs going into business for themselves or starting their own website?
One – it’s easier than it looks. With Amazon Web Services and so many open source packages and well-developed frameworks out there, it’s very easy to build a robust web application with little cost and in a short period of time. Two – you really should have at least one, and preferably two, co-founders. Sooner rather than later, one of the co-founders is going to spend more time on business stuff than coding, so it’s very hard for a sole founder to develop new features and do press, customer service, business development, blogging, accounting, and all the other stuff to support the site.

If you wish to connect with Sachin, here are his links:
http://www.dawdle.com
http://twitter.com/sachinag
http://tinyurl.com/dawdledotcom (Facebook page)
http://myspace.com/dawdledotcom
http://www.sachinagarwal.com

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