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A Short List of Excellent Lessons and Reflections From Best Future Startup Interviews Of 2023

Sylvana Quader Sinha: “I always say, to pursue the opportunities that allow you to grow and learn at the rate that you know you're capable of, no matter what those opportunities might be. That could be starting a company, working in a business, or working for a large company. It could be anything, but that should be your guiding light. Don't just go work for an MNC that pays a lot.”

Waseem Alim: “It's always a difficult time. Even in the good times, it's a difficult time. Sometimes you don't have to worry as much about survival and sometimes you have to worry a bit more about survival. That's the difference. Regardless of that, every morning we wake up and there are challenges. Life is an everyday thing. You can’t solve your problems all at once and get done with it. Most of the days in the last 10 years, I've worked as hard as I could. I don't think that's going to stop. The challenge when you are not growing is that the morale is usually low. Keeping people's morale high is important. Those are the source of the difficulty.” 

Solaiman Alam: “What can happen is that if we are not careful, we can get stuck in the past and forget to enjoy what we have now. For example, I am here now, enjoying my time with you. This is it. If I am not in the moment, and I am not enjoying being fully present in the moment, being engaged in that moment, being attentive in that moment, then it will just flicker away, pass, and then the next one comes, flickers away. In a matter of seconds, you will see that years have gone by. That is when you will cherish the moment and think, "There was an opportunity. I could have spent some quality time with that young kid." But it's gone. We should cherish each moment. Be present in each moment. Try to make the most of it, enjoy it, and learn something from it. This is the best that you can do.”

Mohammad Oli Ahad: “One lesson is this realization that since my behavior influences and impacts everyone in a disproportionately bigger way, I need to be careful. I cannot afford not to be careful. That's one major lesson I would say. Previously in our all hands, people would anticipate anxiously how Oli bhai would behave today, whether he would be upset or get depressed or sad, but now it does not happen anymore.”

Nabila Nowrin: “You need to be open to learning. You need to understand what someone else is trying to teach you. If you're not open to learning, then you won't learn. If you think that you know everything and the other person doesn't, you won’t grow.”

Asif Khan: “I'll give you some characteristics of good investors. First of all, they, typically, have a long-term investor mindset. They know nothing good can happen in the short term. If you want to build some legacy, it takes a long time. As an investor, you need to have patience. You need to be able to have high conviction in your research and your decisions to be able to stick through volatile times. At the same time, there's a clear balance in the sense that you also have to have a healthy degree of skepticism and be able to change your mind when things change.”

Amir Salihefendic: “My philosophy of work is more like a top athlete than a factory worker. With a lot of our work, what really matters is creativity. It's about being inspired and having a fresh mind. Your ability to think clearly is much more critical than the amount of time you're going to spend on something. 

The other aspect is the intensity aspect and aspects like stamina, and being able to do this for a long time. On Todoist, I've been working for 15 years now. In the tech sector, most founders have never worked on something for so long. I'm willing to spend the rest of my life on this. That is an aspect for which I try to optimize. I try to optimize for the long term — how can I sustain this for the next 30 years? The other aspects are thinking from first principles and trying to challenge the status quo. For instance, moving more into asynchronous work, more writing than talking in meetings, etc. These are also tools you can use to become more productive. 

For me, intensity is important. I need to work with intensity. But I also think about sustainability — being able to do something at a certain level for a long time without burning out. Those are the elements I optimize towards.”

Abdullah Al-Rezwan: “I started MBI Deep Dives when I was in a very difficult situation. I would’ve never started anything on my own unless I found myself in that situation. That's why I feel like, even if you are in a dire situation, try to listen to whatever the world is trying to tell you. I'd be pretty happy working for a fund, and getting paid every month. That was my dream before coming to Cornell — to work for a buy-side fund. Over the last two years, the biggest thing for me is the amount of joy I have from my work. I don't look forward to weekends, vacations, or anything like that. I don’t feel like I need to go somewhere to recharge. I am recharged. I have enormous joy in working on my own thing. I didn’t have this understanding when I was starting this thing. I couldn't possibly know that you could have something like that.” 

Kazi Faisal Bin Seraj: “Once I learned that being yourself also means being authentic, it changed my life. Being authentic means not trying to be like someone else.”

Zareen Mahmud Hosein: “The biggest lesson is that anything is possible. If you put your mind to things, anything is possible, but you have to work hard. Nobody will give it to you on a platter.” 

AHM Modasser Billah: “I think we need to look at the world differently because it's a complex and adaptive system. If you look at the trend, the generation before our fathers, came from agricultural backgrounds, and then they studied, and most of those who studied went into government jobs and things like that. And a lot of people in our generation are still trying to imitate that. But that's not where the advantage lies in our generation. The analogy of adaptive systems is that: you see there is heavy traffic on the road. You try to avoid it and take a different road.  But everyone else is also opting for the alternative route now. Eventually, that road also gets clogged. It means the most effective path is always changing. You need to be on the lookout for what's on its way up. Not something that's at the peak because something that is on the peak is going to come down sooner than you are going to reach there.”

Rare Al Samir: “Entrepreneurship is hard and it pushes you beyond your limit. I don't think I would have grown as much as I have over these years as a person if I didn't start my own business. In purely practical terms, I have learned a tremendous amount because I had to learn these skills. I had to learn communication, storytelling, finance, technical skills, leadership, and so many other things. I would say that I would probably do something like one-tenth of this if I didn't get into venture building.” 

Abdul Gaffar Sadi: “What happens with a 24-year graduate is that they're relentlessly optimistic. Although there were so many negative points of view from my own teammates and from myself, we decided to move forward. We said you know what, let's start and we would figure it out as we go. I think every startup and every business starts like this. Optimism is the reason why people start. At least that was the case for us. Otherwise, we wouldn't have. In any logical way, this is not something anyone should start.”

Faym Bappi: “I think a lot about the idea of success and happiness. People ask me, when do you think you will be successful? I say I don't think I will ever be. Because there is no fixed definition of success. It is a never-ending staircase. You just keep climbing. There is no station. If you think you will be happy once you reach a certain destination, then it might never come. I think the best thing would be if we try to be happy at every step of our journey. Instead of waiting for the ultimate happiness, it is better to be happy now with whatever you have. I think you shouldn’t make your happiness conditional on something else.” 

Azra Salim: “One thing I have realized fairly recently is the importance of consistent progress. Consistently showing up, and consistently making progress will make something big happen eventually. Making consistent progress is how you make magic. Showing up every day is more important than you know. I think consistency and resilience are of supreme importance. We underestimate consistency. So nothing great, no deep lesson from life, just doing the small things well and consistently.”

Dumebi Egbuna: “My biggest lesson as a founder so far would be that I am never alone. What I mean by that is, on this journey, you’ll find that you don’t know what you don't know. At points, you’ll feel like no one understands what you're going through or you have to figure out the situation on your own, but that is never the case. There are so many people in this world that have been in your shoes and that are willing to have a 30-minute conversation with you just to brainstorm or throw out ideas.” 

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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