Ilir Sela is now on his second successful startup. He took his first full cycle and is now fueling the success of thousands of other small businesses with his latest venture.
During our interview on the Dealmakers podcast, Ilir Sela shared his journey to achieving the American Dream, the power of building communities and rebranding, tales of bootstrapping, and doing things that don’t scale, as well as tips on picking the best investors. Plus, the number one superpower talent every entrepreneur needs to develop or hire for.
The Magic Of The American Dream
Ilir Sela has proven the American Dream is still alive and well. If you put your mind to achieving something and put in the hustle and work, there may still be no better land of opportunity than the US.
Born in Macedonia, Ilir comes from a very small town with no traffic lights.
His father was an entrepreneur. He had owned a pizzeria in Manhattan in the 70s, then opened and ran his own tailor shop in former Yugoslavia as Ilir grew up.
At ten years old they made the move to the United States. Ilir told our listeners how that magical moment of landing in NY with all of its lights has been etched into his memories.
They stayed with family on Staten Island, and his father worked furiously to make ends meet and create opportunities for his children. He would commute to Manhattan for a full-time day job. Then he would come home to set up shop in one of the bedrooms and work until two in the morning on his own business and clients.
Ilir picked up that work ethic from his father and wanted to help the family by doing his part. So, at 13, every day after school he would stop at the local deli and beg the owner to give him a job. He finally caved, and let him work four hours a day, seven days a week, for $2 an hour.
Discovering A Passion For Technology
It was around this time of working in the local deli that his older brother was starting college. Their parents bought him a computer. Right away Ilir was fascinated by it. How would toy around with its capabilities, and was inspired by the possibilities new technology offered. From that moment he knew that he wanted to do something in computer science and tech.
When it was Ilir’s turn to go to college broadband and wireless were just taking off. He and many other students in his cohort had side gigs offering computer repair and networking for small businesses who couldn’t afford other help.
Individually, none of them knew everything about computing technology. So, he started an email chain so that they could all ask questions and share their knowledge with each other. He found they were all much better by working together.
In 2003 he took this idea of collaboration and turned it into his first company, Nerd Force.
Growing from a handful of friends to 30 techs in the tri-state area of NY, they started getting attention. The New York Daily News even featured them as one of the breakout companies blazing a trail in the wake of 9/11.
They began receiving a lot of calls from others who wanted to be involved in the business. So, Ilir started franchising. They grew to 124 locations across the country.
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