Being an entrepreneur is not about waiting for the storm to pass by but rather, learning to bounce back.
One of the most distinctive characteristics that separates entrepreneurs who succeed from those who do not is their undying persistence. Standing out with distinction from the crowd has never been a challenge for Payman Taei, an inspiring entrepreneur who translated his vision into reality with sheer determination.
The Start of Something Big
In his final year of college at the University of Maryland, Payman had just $170 in his bank account. He resisted the temptation to get a school loan because, even then, he knew that he wanted his future earnings to go into funding his business, not into repaying loans.
He launched ‘UclipM’, a single web page where small businesses could post their coupons. In hindsight, it is perhaps fortunate that the site had no takers because one business owner asked for a website instead. Payman had his first web design client, which marked the start of a venture that would become the HindSite Interactive digital agency the following year.
By 2008, HindSite was creating interactive animated websites using Flash for major clients like ABC News. Apple’s 2010 decision to bar Flash from the iPhone gave the company a massive jolt – no one wanted Flash-based websites anymore. Business dropped by 50% subsequently.
HindSite survived and continues to operate today as a custom digital agency but Payman had been taught an invaluable lesson: “I learned that to succeed in business you have to keep up or get left behind.”
The experience opened his eyes and he used the demise of Flash as a stepping stone to incubate a start-up known today as Visme.
Creating and Executing an Experiment in Success
Visme began as an experiment to try to recreate flash animations using HTML5, which is the fabric of the internet, not a plugin that can be squashed by a conglomerate. The idea was to empower individuals and companies as visual communicators.
“This has broad meaning and that’s the beauty behind Visme; our mission is to democratize the creation of visual content so even someone with little or no design knowledge, and with limited time, can create professional-looking visual content – presentations, infographics, reports, flyers or social banners,” says Payman.
The Initial Challenges
As with any other company, irrespective of the industry and size, Visme faced many hurdles when it was a fledgling start-up. Chief among them was a lack of funding but Payman used that obstacle as an opportunity to learn, to create something from nothing with limited resources. It taught him the importance of every decision and the value of every dollar.
Speaking of that tumultuous time, he reveals, “The first intuition of most founders is to go after funding, everyone would tell me that, even those internally involved in Visme. But I had a strong feeling that this would eat way too much energy early on. Since we didn’t even have a proof of concept, bootstrapping was the lower risk option.”
Payman knew that building Visme from the bottom up into a successful venture would take longer than most venture capitalist would have the patience for, and he relished having control over its decision-making process in those early stages.
He adds, “Since there is no set path before you, you have to create your own and along the way, you make so many mistakes and take wrong turns. Over time, as you learn from those mistakes – or as I now call them, ‘experiments’ – you build a sort of sixth sense where you can distinguish between what could work or what very likely won’t.”
The other major hurdle Payman faced was recruitment and he has had his fair share of mistakes hiring the wrong people. Those experiences have made him much better at it and he now hires individuals not based solely on their experience but also on motivation, dignity and trust; “a combination which is very hard to come by but critical to the success of any business.”
Leading by Example
Being an upfront and hardworking individual, Payman likes to lead by example. “I don’t like to waste time beating around the bush; life is too short for that and there are too many things to accomplish in a day.”
His passion and zealous attitude ignites a sense of excitement that drives him to do everything within his power to succeed. Aside from this, Payman cares deeply for his team members, especially those who go above and beyond the call of duty.
The Road Ahead and Advice to Emerging Entrepreneurs
Although not one to plan too far ahead, Payman typically does one- or two-year outlooks to keep abreast of changes. He believes that Visme will completely disrupt the speed and ease with which non-design professionals communicate visually if the company can achieve its list of goals for the next two years.
As for his advice to emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs, he says, “If you want to increase your odds of being successful, make sure you have a deep passion for your endeavor. There is a dark side to the glamour of being an entrepreneur – you can get hit from all sides at any time and if you don’t have a deep passion and love for what you do (it’s really an addiction I think), don’t waste your time and do something else.”