I grew up seeing my father working hard all the time - days, nights, and weekends - trying to build a business empire in the struggling economy of Pakistan. He was always hopeful no matter how big the challenges were. He was quite successful in his business, along with his brothers and my grandfather. Seeing him thrive, one thing was ingrained in me: that in order to be successful the only main ingredients you need are hard work and a positive attitude towards things, no matter how daunting the task ahead appears. I found I was always optimistic and had a positive attitude towards life, but after evaluating myself I discovered that one can only put 100% of their effort into something when they are totally passionate about it.
I started working in the family business but somehow it felt to me that I was not doing something I loved to do, but rather doing something that society thought I should be doing. I knew I loved computers and as a kid, when there was no formal computer training available in my home town, I was able to write small programs. I grew up at a time when the internet and technology was taking off, so I decided to come to the United States to follow my heart. As the US is a leader in technology, it was the right place to be.
After working for a few years as an IT consultant, I decided to jump into the world of start-ups. I am now part of a team of similar passion-driven people who want to harness the power for AI for the betterment of humanity, working towards an effort to prove that business are now ready for AI. I believe AI does not exist to take away jobs but help existing jobs to become a bit smarter.
I grew up in a middle-class construction family – where Old Style was the beer of choice and yes, I’ve eaten spam, on more than one occasion. Although athletics was my largest participation interest, there was always strong reinforcement from my parents on education. Neither of my parents went to college but they weren’t ignorant of the fact that having a college degree would change their children’s lives. Having seen my grandfather’s construction business quickly grow and then fail, at an early age I was somewhat aware that being an entrepreneur was in my blood.
My father started his own construction business and for as long as I’ve known him – my whole life – has always been a construction entrepreneur. It was their successes and failures that led me down my path. I still have on my desk an inspirational framed photo from my grandfather: “Risk. You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” He gave this to me right before we incorporated DCM Technology Solutions.
My entrepreneurial road has been a rocky one. I once owned a “raver” clothing company; three years sewing clothes and going to parties. Not a bad gig, but not profitable. Then I met my wife, and realized sewing clothes and going to raves wasn’t in my future. After graduation, I stumbled into computers through online day trading. My connection was never fast enough, my computer seemed to always blue screen, and I had no money to fix either problem. As a result, I learned quickly to fix computers on my own, and soon that was to be the industry path to follow – mostly because I had lost too much money day trading.
My wife and I started our first business in 2001 and have never looked back. Having spent 20 years so far as business owners, we both feel it is time to not only expand, but also give back. Hopefully, the next 20 years will be not just impactful on our lives, but also on others.
Before turning 30 I was fortunate to have already lived and worked on three continents facilitating business partnerships in roughly a dozen countries. From Haiti to Hong Kong, my career has focused on job creation and innovative growth in complex environments. I graduated magna cum laude, was chosen "Student Leader of the Year" by my peers, and selected the "Wall Street Journal Business Student of the Year" by faculty at Taylor University.
From 2006 to 2010 I worked among thousands of entrepreneurs in three major continents and ten countries. During my five years with Partners Worldwide I crafted the Regional Strategy and co-led the L3C Investment Initiative and High-Impact Entrepreneur programs. Starting in Kenya I trained two MFI and one SME financing client on new lending software, while providing business development services to membership under the USAID Million Mentor Initiative. In 2009 I transitioned to Asia Regional Facilitator overseeing staff and business partnerships in the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong/China, and India, including a network of over 300 entrepreneurs. I co-founded the Indian network "Business Seva", which now has over 3,000 members in 16 cities across Asia. From Hyderabad I also served in leadership with a Brazilian-based MNC where I managed the international launch event and established interest in franchise partners.
After Partners Worldwide I co-founded a social organization in central India that trains villagers on vocational skills, helps guide entrepreneurial ventures, and provide employment opportunities for graduates. In eight years we have trained over 1,800 individuals in our five vocational training centers. Additionally, I co-founded and serve as a partner for TheSkippingStone, a social enterprise that sells handmade products in India to support women and children coming out of trafficking and other challenging situations.
What excites me about Sheldon AI is how complex, daunting issues big and small can be tackled using deep learning technology.