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Eight Entrepreneurial Insights from Brain Station 23 Founder and CEO Raisul Kabir

Raisul Kabir, the unassuming founder and CEO of Brain Station 23, one of Bangladesh's top software exporters, has quietly defied the odds to build a 700-person juggernaut. His nearly two decades-long entrepreneurship journey offers a masterclass in venture building. 

How Brain Station 23 came about is a fascinating story in itself. In 2005, Raisul Kabir was a student of electrical and electronic engineering at the elite Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). He was also moonlighting as a software engineer at Latitude 23, a 3D visualization firm based in Dhaka. He was tasked with managing a large flash project for an overseas client. He assembled a team of ten contractors to complete the job within three months, satisfying both the foreign company and his employer. 

Impressed, Latitude 23 offered him to jointly start a business and Brain Station 23 was born in 2006. Over the ensuing years, the company has blossomed. Today, it employs over 700 people and has a presence in over 25 markets globally, making it one of Bangladesh's largest technology companies. 

"I thought I had some responsibility to my country," Raisul recalls of his motivation to create employment through Brain Station 23. 

Over the years, we have covered Raisul and Brain Station 23 extensively and believe his journey offers instructive lessons for seasoned operators and aspiring entrepreneurs alike. Mr. Raisul has a fascinating story, which we wouldn’t delve into today, for that we encourage you to read our interviews with him here and here.

In this article, we bring you eight key entrepreneurial insights from two of our conversations with him. Enjoy! 

Vision inspires perseverance

Having that larger driving purpose, beyond just profits, helped sustain Raisul Kabir through inevitably tough times in the early days of the company. It fostered longevity among his early hires too, many of whom stuck around thanks to being "part of something bigger than themselves." “The thing that helped us very much during our early days was our vision,” says Raisul. “We started Brain Station 23 for a reason which was way bigger than money or any material goal. We had a common vision. We wanted to achieve something bigger than ourselves as opposed to building a mere business. As a result, everyone in the company was happy and used to feel empowered and part of something bigger.”

In many instances, we overlook the importance of having a true vision. We take vision statements as an exercise in public relations and narrative building. But that is a terrible way to look at vision. For business builders, keeping that deeper "why" in sight can provide crucial inspiration when things don’t go exactly as planned. As Friedrich Nietzsche poignantly pointed out, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”

Stay lean 

Brain Station 23 has always maintained a frugal approach to operation and venture building. The company always eschewed the trappings of a typical corporate leader to get Brain Station 23 off the ground. "I'm used to taking local buses and doing things in a very middle-class way," he says of maintaining minimal overhead. That frugal living allowed him to self-fund operations by reinvesting all profits into hiring staff, averting distractions from outside investors early on.

One of the sure-fire paths to entrepreneurial success is staying in the game to the end. As YC founder Paul Graham famously wrote: if you don’t die, you get rich. Most companies die or go out of business because they run out of money. And many businesses run out of money because they are wasteful of resources and time. Keeping it lean means you are always mindful of your resource allocation. However, it doesn’t mean you don’t spend where you need to spend. Rather the opposite. You invest where you must but you make sure you are efficient and you are not wasteful and you avoid things that you don’t need to do. 

Find your niche, specialize to dominate

As we have written in the past, lack of focus is one of the reasons many companies fail. Many founders struggle with focus while chasing scattered opportunities. Contrarily, Brain Station has maintained a relative focus over the years. The company found its lane by specializing in the service side, avoiding the resource-intensive product development many flocked to rashly. "If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing," Raisul cautions.

Trust breeds ownership

Rather than micromanaging, Brain Station empowers its people through transparency, like sharing project economics and facilitating direct client collaboration. "When you trust people and empower them, then people who are really good take ownership," Raisul explains. Those who underperform end up leaving on their own. This hands-off style frees up leaders to think strategically too. “When I started to trust people to this degree, two things happened: 1) they started to take ownership 2) I became free and I could focus on other important things and expansion of the business.”

Build processes and systems

Like many startups, Brain Station operated ad hoc initially around things like compensation. But taking a long-term view, the company instituted structured processes and levels common at large corporations. Implementing such systems smoothed Brain Station's own scaling path.

Many founders consider investing in developing processes and systems as expensive. It can feel time-consuming in the early days because doing things following a process does take time. However, the initial inconvenience and investment pay off manifold if you can eventually establish meaningful processes and systems. Having systems that work helps streamline operations and scale without requiring additional hand-holding. It also prevents recurring errors and empowers teams to operate independently without relying on one certain individual or team for support or approval. 

Anchor in explicit values

At Brain Station's core sits an explicit culture code emphasizing empowerment, transparency, honesty and excellence. Intensive reinforcement of those tenets happens through training and constant practice and application of these values. Getting granular in defining and nurturing organizational values in this way can breed sustained competitive advantage. "If you invest in your culture, it comes back in spades," he affirms.

We have written about Brain Station’s culture in the past: “Brain Station over the years has built a distinct culture. People are empowered. There is a feeling in the company that "we are working towards a goal, let’s build the company." The organization is horizontal. There is no boss or sir culture. Having a minimum hierarchy has created a sense of ownership among employees and a conducive environment for new ideas and innovation. The company constantly encourages and supports its employees' development of skills and pursuit of their interests in new technologies. These policies around human resource management have helped the company develop skills in new technological verticals and maintain a high people retention rate.

The company puts a lot of importance on honesty and transparency….The openness fosters long-term relationships and trust.

Brain Station 23 has always been a quality-obsessed company where people strive for excellence and engineers compete to become the best in their field.”

When you have a strong culture backed by explicit values, it works as a forcing function for getting things done. You don’t constantly need to worry about what happens when things go wrong or how to deliver quality consistently. Things get done and problems get solved on their own. 

Open communication as a mechanism for building trust 

Co-founder dispute is one of the common challenges early-stage businesses face. It is not well reported but co-founder is among the top reasons behind startup failure in the early days. According to Raisul, lack of communication is one of the key reasons behind almost all kinds of partner misunderstandings in a business setting. People assume things instead of communicating with each other which eventually leads to challenges. 

Raisul faced some messy partnership disputes in his brief e-commerce foray in around 2012. Out of that crucible emerged conviction about open communication between founders. "You have to trust that the other person wants only good for you," he advises. “It is very hard, almost impossible, to build a business alone,” he says. “So put work into building a team and strengthening your relationship with your partners. In order to build a solid partnership, you must have trust among partners and only transparency and open communication will help you to build trust.” 

He explains a framework called slicing the pie theory to offer an understanding of how to approach partnership: 

“There is a theory called Slicing the pie. The theory addresses the core reasons that create problems among partners. The idea goes something like this: one partner is supposed to execute marketing but he/she did not perform that responsibility but when it comes to remuneration he complains about not getting his/her share. According to slicing pie theory, a partner gets what he gives and what a partner gives must be in writing and if he/she doesn't deliver on the promise or deliver at a lower level, he/she should get a lower level of share. People often feel that whatever work they are doing is the most important work which creates the problem. But when you put things in writing and keep a record and put a process in place, it becomes easier to deal with.”

This idea of writing things down in partnership doesn’t occur to many young founders in the early days of their venture. Raisul suggests writing things and communicating openly helps build trust and lasting relationships and thus lasting enterprise.

Remain a humble novice 

Raisul, now in his 40s, professes surprise at his own career arc since reluctantly ditching electrical engineering studies. Maintaining curiosity and specifically valuing domain expertise helped him steer Brain Station through unchartered territory. "The idea of education is that it begins after school," he says. 

As we have written elsewhere, entrepreneurship takes a long time because learning important skills takes a long time. For Raisul, conscious incompetence and intellectual humility fuel perpetual learning. People who know him know that he operates with a deep intellectual humility and a perpetual beginner mindset, a skill we think we all should try to embody.


In many ways, building a business is not that complex a job. It can be brutal and comes with a ton of challenges and trials but it is not a job without precedence. 

If we look at the lessons from the journey Mr. Raisul, it is about the basics: have a vision that you can dedicate your life to, don’t spend the money you don’t have, build systems and processes, build a culture, communicate with your partners, and have a perpetual learning mindset. 

But the challenge is, as Mr. Raisul pointed out, we get distracted and focus on things that we should not focus on and avoid things that we must do. 

In conclusion, two key lessons for us from the journey of Mr. Raisul is: focus on the things that matter, ignore the rest, and have ambition but stay grounded. 

Take your business to the next level. 

At Future Startup, we offer in-depth, intelligent-grade analysis of Bangladesh's entrepreneurship and tech scene. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get our insights directly in your inbox. We also provide narrative strategy, content marketing, market research, and business consulting services to help brands and companies build enduring market positions and a better world. Get in touch to explore collaboration opportunities.

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