Iyad Tarazi has taken on a startup mission that despite pitting them against one of the largest incumbents in the world has already seen his company achieve 50% market share.
During our interview on the DealMakers podcast, Tarazi shared how he overcame some significant challenges to creating a successful startup company in the US. He talked about embracing challenges that help build you as an entrepreneur, the top three traits he looks for in people when hiring, his unique approach to leadership and company culture, learning the fundraising game on the fly, and when to make the leap yourself.
Coming To America
Iyad Tarazi was born to an expat family in Libya. When he was 12 years old they moved back to the refugee camp area of the Gaza Strip.
During this time Iyad remembers spending a lot of time with his grandfather, who was one of the first engineers in Palestine.
To have a chance at getting out of this environment he would have to get incredibly good grades. Iyad would get up at four in the morning and apply himself to his studies all day. He graduated third out of his class of 10,000 students.
At 16 years old he and his brother got on a plane to America with $500. He earned his degree in engineering and went on to get his Master’s.
This experience of traveling and leaping countries and cultures, being forced to get a job in a completely new environment in just a matter of weeks, and doing it with all the challenges that come along with it, definitely prepared him, and gave him a strong mindset for what it would be like as a startup entrepreneur.
These are far greater challenges than most have to face. Yet, it seems the tougher the experiences some face growing up, the higher they rise.
It teaches you how much you can accomplish, and that you can do just about anything you set your mind to.
Tarazi specifically says that when it comes to the infamous highs and lows of entrepreneurship, it gives you the perspective that you’ve been through tougher things before, and you know that if you hang in there, even better days are coming.
Startups: It’s A Learning Thing
After college Iyad’s first job was for a small 20 person startup. They were a relationship database program startup that was a direct competitor of Oracle.
He says that being in a startup is all about learning. If you like learning, you’ll love it. You learn an incredible amount, incredibly fast. If you learn well and succeed, you get paid for your learning.
One of the first and biggest lessons he learned right away was that even though you don’t make a lot of money as an early-stage startup founder, you have to do everything. You might be coding, building accounting systems, packing boxes to go present at tradeshows, and everything else.
After this experience, he continued his learning inside MCI when it was still growing fast. Then he went to Nextel when they still just had 100k users.
This was when you needed a bag to carry your giant, heavy, dinosaur of a phone and the battery was still even 4x bigger than the phone itself. Nextel was bought by Sprint.
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