’’From struggle to success’’ Bring Value
When it comes to starting a company, there are so many things to worry about, that many times we forget what is really important. Instead of focusing on money and competitors, we should spend time on creating and bringing value to our customers.
In this article Safwan Hak will tell us his story and how his idea creates value to users. He is a founder and CEO of 9Sharp, an IT/Social Media company.
1. What is your idea/ business about? How the idea was born?
Our goal is to replace the regular CV/Resume that is out there. The Resume has barely changed for the past 50 years and does little to tell Employers and Recruiters about the true talent of a person. It started in 2002, early in my career, I was made a team leader at a startup. IBM had invested in our company and we had to grow the team 10 times. I was given hundreds of Resumes to go through and after a while I realized that almost everyone looked the same on Resumes. Fast forward to 2010, I was contacted by 2 of my ex-colleagues separately. They both had asked me to be a reference on their Resume. I asked them both to send me their Resumes for review. As I was looking at both Resumes, I realized that they were almost identical, same project, same job description; however, having been their supervisor, I knew that they were not of the same level. The Employers would never know that from looking at the Resume. That’s when I realized that I would like to create a better Resume and a better service than that of LinkedIn. People need something that better represents who they are. 9Sharp is a great tool for branding oneself and standing out. It allows professionals to bring into one page everything that makes them unique. We allow users to bring every aspect of their professional life into one page such as Twitter, Youtube, Github, Behance, etc. Having everything about you in one place would help Employers and recruiters focus on what makes you stand out.
2. Tell me about yourself and your team?
I moved to Canada from Syria when I was 12 years old. I got into software when I was very young and worked at a couple of startups. The last startup that I worked at was Systemcorp, which was bought out by IBM in 2004. I worked for IBM for some time as a consultant to some of their fortune 500 customers. My job there was to solve project management issues with software. It allowed me to get insight into how large corporations saw project management.
3. What are the main struggles that you have experienced?
The hardest part for 9Sharp is telling people about it. Most people don’t realize that they need 9Sharp. Since the standard Resume has been determined as the only way to describe who you are, it’s not obvious that there are better choices. LinkedIn and the standard Resume still rule as the default medium. Our challenge is to show people that 9Sharp is a better alternative
4. How did you solve your problems?
Luckily, when we show 9Sharp, people quickly understand what we have and are excited about what it can do for them. They are surprised that such website is available and what we are doing is actually possible. Word of mouth has been tremendous for us, people are excited about 9Sharp and they tell their friends and family about us. Our growth is due to people who love our product and what we are trying to solve. After 6 months, we have more than 60,000 users, but we are not satisfied, we want a million and then 10 million users. We have heard back from some people that they believe that 9Sharp has helped them land a job. These comments are what keep me going every day.
5. If you had a chance what would you do in differently?
If I could do it all over again, I would do everything the same way. I have a motto in my life that I never regret past decisions. I learn from them. Yes, we had some painful moments and some painful realizations but each one of these has brought us here and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. I don’t waste time on what could stop me from looking forward. I chose to learn from my mistakes and look forward.
6. What was the best advice you got and what was the worst?
The worst advice was from ex-employees who wanted us to release a product that wasn’t ready. Luckily, I did not listen to them and they do not work for 9Sharp any longer. Releasing a feature that is just there without bringing value goes against everything I believe in.
The best advice was from my old boss, who had had a successful computer hardware company in the 1980s in Canada. It was one of the largest in the country until it went bankrupt. He told me that a huge part of the reason for the failure of his old company was poor quality control; also, if you want to succeed you need to spend less time for fixing and more time for innovating. We take that advice seriously at 9Sharp, in fact, we have delayed multiple releases because we didn’t feel the product was ready.
7. What will be your advice to the other entrepreneurs?
My advice comes from an article in the 90s (that turned into a song) and it goes something like this. “Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth”.
July 22, 2016