Henry Asseily, a tech entrepreneur, co-founder of Bizrate, which he sold for $525 million, and active investor, boasts an inspiring journey from his early years in Lebanon to leading innovative tech ventures.
His passion for technology and unwavering determination make him a key figure in the global tech landscape.
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A Childhood in War-torn Lebanon
Henry Asseily was born and raised in the turbulent city of Beirut, where he developed his resilience and entrepreneurial spirit.
The hardships and unpredictability of growing up in a war-torn region shaped his determination and laid the foundation for his future success in the tech world.
University of Pennsylvania and Wharton School Education
Asseily’s academic pursuits led him to the United States, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and, later, an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School.
It was during his time at UPenn that he first delved into the tech world, meeting his future business partner, Farhad Mohit.
Together, they would go on to launch Bizrate, an online customer review site that soared to incredible success, eventually selling for over half a billion dollars.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Henri Asseily was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a wining deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here).
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The Birth of Bizrate and Its Evolution into Shopzilla
Henry Asseily, alongside Farhad Mohit, launched Bizrate in the late 1990s during the nascent days of the internet.
The platform was initially conceived as a consumer resource for online reviews and ratings, where customers could share their experiences and rate online businesses.
This marked a major step in the e-commerce industry, providing consumers with unprecedented access to information to inform their online purchases.
Bizrate’s unique value proposition quickly drew the attention of consumers and businesses alike. Despite the dot-com bubble burst that took down many internet-based businesses, Bizrate managed to weather the storm. Their commitment to maintaining a lean operation and a strong focus on user-generated content allowed them to survive and grow.
As the internet matured, Bizrate recognized the need to evolve. In 2004, the company underwent a transformation, rebranding itself as Shopzilla.
Under the new brand, the company expanded its services to include price comparison features, making it a one-stop shop for customers looking to make informed online purchases.
Success and Sale of Shopzilla
Shopzilla was a trailblazer in the world of online shopping, being one of the first to provide a robust and comprehensive comparison shopping platform.
It aggregated products from various online retailers, giving customers an easy way to compare prices and products in one place.
At its peak, Shopzilla was receiving millions of unique visitors per month, making it one of the most visited e-commerce websites of its time.
This online traction did not go unnoticed. In 2005, just a year after rebranding, Shopzilla was sold to The E. W. Scripps Company for over half a billion dollars.
The story of Bizrate and Shopzilla demonstrates Asseily’s knack for spotting trends and evolving to meet market demands.
The journey of the company, from its humble beginnings as a customer review site to a giant in online comparison shopping, encapsulates the spirit of adaptability, innovation, and perseverance that Asseily embodies.
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Telnic: The Trailblazing Venture That Was Ahead of Its Time
After the success of Bizrate, Asseily embarked on a new venture, Telnic, with the aim of revolutionizing online communication.
Despite its innovative concept of making individuals’ domain names their point of contact, Telnic faced challenges gaining traction due to its early arrival in the face of social media platforms like Facebook.
The Entrepreneurial Journey and the Role of Luck
Asseily’s journey highlights the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship. His experiences with Bizrate and Telnic underscore the critical role of timing and luck in entrepreneurial success, reinforcing that while hard work, communication, and strategic thinking are vital, much of a venture’s success can boil down to being in the right place at the right time.
A Shift Towards Mentoring and Leap Ventures
Driven by his passion for supporting other entrepreneurs, Asseily co-founded Leap Ventures, a VC fund aimed at nurturing tech startups in the Middle East and Europe.
However, he soon found that his true calling lay not in the VC world, where managing Limited Partners and administrative tasks dominated, but indirectly in mentoring and assisting entrepreneurs.
Refocusing on Direct Mentorship and Support for Entrepreneurs
Today, Asseily is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs at all stages, offering technical assistance, mentoring, and occasionally stepping in as a temporary CTO for certain startups.
His mission is to keep his mind actively engaged, constantly learning, and embracing new challenges.
Staying Ahead of the Curve and Looking Towards the Future
Henry Asseily’s journey paints the picture of a tech entrepreneur who consistently stays ahead of the curve, pushing boundaries and making significant contributions to the tech industry.
He embodies the spirit of resilience, adaptability, and lifelong learning.
Whether it’s mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs, investing in innovative startups, or tackling technical challenges head-on, Asseily remains a formidable force in the global tech landscape.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Asseily’s early life in Beirut and his journey to the University of Pennsylvania and Wharton
- The creation and success of Bizrate
- The innovative concept of Telnic and its challenges
- His perspective on the role of luck and timing in entrepreneurship
- The launch of Leap Ventures and his decision to move away from the VC world
- His current focus on directly assisting and mentoring entrepreneurs.