In this episode of the Dealmakers’ Podcast, Ramin Shirani, a seasoned entrepreneur with a remarkable journey, shares his inspiring story of going from a young immigrant delivering pizzas to becoming a successful technology innovator in Silicon Valley.
Ramin’s story is a testament to the American dream, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit.
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A Journey Begins: Leaving Iran in Search of Education
Ramin Shirani’s story begins in the 1970s in Iran, where he was pursuing an education at top schools. Life was good, and his love for his family and country was undeniable.
However, everything changed when they decided to immigrate to the United States just before the Iranian Revolution. Ramin initially planned to return to Iran to complete his high school education but had to adjust his plans due to the revolution.
The family embarked on a journey to build a new life in the United States, starting from scratch in the late ’70s.
Struggles and Determination: Pizza Delivery and Teaching Math
Upon their arrival in the United States, Ramin’s family faced financial challenges. To make ends meet, Ramin started delivering pizzas, earning a mere $4.95 per hour, which was considered minimum wage at the time.
Despite the hardships, he was always passionate about math, eventually becoming a math teacher, earning $95 per hour. Ramin, along with his family, worked tirelessly in various businesses and restaurants to support themselves and pursue their American dream.
They were determined to rebuild their lives from the ground up. Ramin and his siblings paid for their education themselves, with Ramin pursuing engineering while his younger brother became a dentist.
The Shirani family’s journey from having little money in their pockets to achieving their educational and entrepreneurial dreams is a true embodiment of the American dream. Ramin’s story reflects the determination to succeed against all odds and the power of education as a pathway to a brighter future.
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Choosing a Different Path: From Dentist to Engineer
Growing up in an environment where becoming a doctor or engineer was the norm, Ramin’s family had high hopes for his future. His mother wanted him to become a dentist, but Ramin’s passion lay elsewhere—in electronics and engineering.
He decided to pursue engineering, a decision that would shape his future profoundly. His journey was about going against the grain and following his true passion, eventually leading him to excel in his chosen field.
Ramin’s educational journey took him to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Beyond the academic excellence, he was drawn to the campus environment, where he pursued his interests in sports like soccer and weightlifting.
Initially, he enrolled in a Ph.D. program but later decided to put it on hold to gain real-world experience in Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley’s Influence: The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem and Ethernet Revolution
Ramin highlights the significance of being in Silicon Valley for an entrepreneur. He initially didn’t fully realize the advantages, but over time, he recognized the tremendous opportunities the region offered.
The proximity to venture capitalists, resources, and like-minded individuals made Silicon Valley the ideal place for pursuing entrepreneurial ventures.
Ramin’s career path took an unexpected turn when he became involved in the early days of Ethernet’s growth. He embraced the opportunity to learn and contribute, eventually leading him to become a key player in the development of National Semiconductor’s Ethernet controller products.
His story exemplifies how seizing opportunities and continuously learning can lead to remarkable success.
Mastering Multiple Disciplines: Digital and Analog Design
Ramin’s dedication and hard work led him to master both digital and analog design, a rare feat in the field. He became the lead for National Semiconductor’s Ethernet controller products, showcasing his ability to excel in diverse aspects of technology.
Ramin’s journey demonstrates the importance of continuous learning and pushing boundaries to achieve excellence. He played a pivotal role in leading the development of the next generation of Ethernet, transitioning from 10 Meg to 100 Meg.
He and his team’s efforts resulted in significant market success, with National Semiconductor achieving a 95% market share in the 100 Meg Ethernet sector. This accomplishment showcased Ramin’s entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in the technology industry.
From Employee to Entrepreneur: Navigating the Path to Startups
Ramin’s family had always encouraged him to pursue a career as a doctor or engineer. However, his passion for electronics and innovation ultimately led him to explore the world of startups.
He approached his then-boss, Edwin De Soza, with a proposal to start their venture, but the timing wasn’t right. Ramin’s desire to create something new and make a significant impact pushed him to embark on his entrepreneurial journey independently.
Ramin co-founded Enable Semiconductor, a company focused on the next generation of Ethernet technology. They tackled the challenge of transitioning from 100 Meg to 1 Gig Ethernet, achieving substantial market success. Eventually, the company was acquired for $100 million.
Ramin’s story underscores the importance of seizing opportunities, taking calculated risks, and persevering in the face of adversity.
The Power of Vision: Pursuing a Vision Beyond Funding
During the dot-com crash, Ramin faced numerous challenges in securing funding for his ambitious projects. He had a vision for the next generation of Ethernet and was determined to make it a reality.
Despite hearing “no” from potential investors more than 50 times, he remained resolute in his pursuit. Ramin’s experience highlights the significance of unwavering determination and the ability to weather tough times on the entrepreneurial journey.
Eventually, he took his next company Aquantia, public and eventually, the company got acquired for $452 million.
Ramin emphasizes the critical role fundraising plays in the success of a startup. He encourages entrepreneurs to align themselves with investors who share their vision and have the patience to support long-term goals.
Ramin’s insights underscore the need for founders to have a say in the company’s direction and maintain their commitment to innovation.
The Compass in Your Heart: Building a Successful Company
In Ramin’s view, successful companies are driven by founders with a compass in their hearts—a deep sense of purpose and vision. He stresses the importance of founders possessing not only technical expertise but also a comprehensive understanding of the business, management, and market dynamics.
Ramin’s journey serves as a testament to the value of innovation and unwavering dedication to building transformative companies.
The Future of Ethernovia: Transforming the Nervous System of the Car
Ramin’s current venture, Ethernovia, aims to revolutionize the automotive industry by introducing Ethernet-based communication systems within vehicles.
Recognizing the outdated nature of existing automotive networks, Inovaia seeks to bring the efficiency and reliability of Ethernet to the core of the automotive nervous system. Ramin successfully raised a total of $64M for this venture.
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Ramin’s commitment to solving complex industry challenges reflects his passion for innovation and his drive to impact the world positively.
His experiences offer valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasizing the importance of pursuing one’s passion, embracing challenges, and staying committed.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Embarking on a life-changing move to the USA before the Iranian revolution, starting from scratch in a new country.
- Choosing engineering over his family’s wish for him to become a dentist, following a passion for electronics, ultimately shaping his career in the tech industry.
- Understanding the invaluable advantages of being in Silicon Valley, emphasizing its unique ecosystem, access to resources, and proximity to investors.
- Involvement in ethernet technology at its early stages with a blend of luck and dedication leading to his central role in its evolution over the years.
- Latest venture, Ethernovia, that aims to revolutionize automotive communication systems, emphasizing the importance of understanding and solving customer problems holistically.
- Valuable advice on fundraising, emphasizing the need for aligning objectives with investors, creatively raising seed funding, and retaining ownership control.
- The significance of persistence, patience, and maintaining a founder’s compass to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape successfully.