۱۳۹۴ تیر ۱۶, سه‌شنبه

From traveling and meeting with different peoples and cultures to making your own business ... Read my latest on Iranwire

Monday 06 July 2015 Nargess Tavassolian


The Face of Change: An Iranian Entrepreneur Speaks

She loves travelling and meeting with different peoples and experiencing diverse cultures. She knew she wanted to be an engineer from the age of five. When she moved from Tehran to Montreal in 2005 at the age of 22, she faced many challenges, including a new language and culture, but Sara Ahmadian managed to overcome all of them. She obtained two master’s degrees: The first in business from Quebec University and the second in Information System Engineering from Concordia University. She joined the Canadian Engineering society and eventually co-founded the Google-sponsored Robotics Hackathon event, which gave her the opportunity to travel around the globe.
During her travels, she became excited about turning her passions into a business venture. The idea was to set up a company that would empower small businesses, and help them broaden the scope of their activities around the world. 
In 2011, Ahmadian moved to Silicon Valley after receiving a job offer from a prestigious startup, Taulia, which would put her in contact with some of the highest achievers and innovators in the field.  In May 2015, she was invited to take part in the first ever White House demo day, which focused on entrepreneurs from around the country.
I talked to Sara Ahmadian about her company, the challenges she faced in setting it up and what it was like to take part in the White House demo event.

Why did you decide to move to Canada at the age of 22?
In Iran, I graduated with a Computer Science and Mathematics degree from AmirKabir (Polytechnic) University in Tehran. I left for the same reason as most Sharif and AmirKabir graduates: I couldn’t see a future for myself in Iran. What could I have done if I’d stayed in Iran? I couldn’t be where I am now.  I couldn’t have achieved what I have since I’ve been abroad. I think I made a very good decision back then. Plus, one should always take into consideration that as a woman in Iran, you face more restrictions.

You loved engineering and your English was better than your French. So, why did you end up doing your first master’s degree in business and at a French-speaking university?
Well, I had to. At that time I just wanted to get out of Iran as soon as possible. So I didn’t wait to get admission and a scholarship from a top university, or even in my favorite subject. I believed that if I wanted to establish my life outside Iran, I had to do it at the earliest opportunity. I decided to leave as soon as I was accepted, and then change my university or subject later on. In this way, I managed to leave Iran just a month after my graduation, whereas some of my friends and classmates who waited to get admission from their chosen universities, had to wait a year or two before they left Iran.

Most Iranian students speak English at least to some extent, but not everyone is familiar with French. How good was your French before you left Iran and how did you manage to do a master’s degree in the language?
I’d studied French for several months in Iran. At that time, Quebec University didn’t require any French language exam because no one was crazy enough to apply without knowing the language! But then many people started applying without being fluent in French, so the university required applicants to take a French exam before giving them an offer. I have to confess that it was really hard. In the end, I had to talk to some of my professors and ask them to let me take the exams in English. I finally managed to get my master’s degree. As for my second master’s, I obtained admission and a scholarship to study the field I wanted (information system engineering) in an English-speaking university (Concordia). I have to say that I don’t regret doing a master’s in business, as I’ve benefitted in my career from merging my two degrees. Mixing two skills is an asset and can set you up with greater opportunities.

What other problems did you face, apart from the language barrier?
Well, it took me a couple of years in order to adapt myself to Canadian culture. For a person who wants to be an entrepreneur, it is very important to make a wide range of contacts, and to make sure that his or her network is not limited to fellow compatriots. Many of my friends in Canada, even after 10 years, still only socialize with Iranians. I believe this is not good workwise. Besides, if you only socialize with your compatriots, you’ll never fully integrate into the new country. It took me three or four years to adapt to this new culture, and to socialize with both Iranians and non-Iranians.
Since I had a scholarship, I didn’t have to pay for my tuition fees. But my scholarship didn’t cover my living expenses and since my parents were living in Iran, it didn’t feel right asking them for money all the time. There were times were I only had 20 dollars in my account. But I still didn’t want to ask my parents for money. Anyway, this period was inevitable, and it’s a period that everyone who wants to build up a new life outside his or her home country has to go through.
My first few months in Canada were really hard. I didn’t know anyone. I remember once I was sick and I had to call a cab and take myself to the hospital.
The cold weather was another issue. I don’t think I ever got used to that. That might be one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco….

Can you tell us a bit about your company, Seamless Planet? What does it do and how did the idea come to you?
Seamless planet empowers small businesses and tour agencies by allowing them to scale up their operations and reach customers across the globe. Seamless Planet works with tour providers in countries including El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nepal — and hopefully one day, when sanctions are lifted, Iran. We help small and medium size tour providers to get access to the big North American and European markets and sell their products to them. For example, we help travel agencies that arrange surfing in El Salvador or climbing Machu Pichu in Peru for travelers by making their awesome products available through linking them to the major online travel agencies.
The idea didn’t come to me in one day, but rather after thorough research and consultation with relevant experts. I came to the conclusion that travel agencies around the world needed this special software. In September 2014, I called Ramin Hazegh and talked to him about my proposal. He welcomed my plan and quit his full-time job in order to join me on the project. I was very happy; I’d known him for more than 10 years. He’s a brilliant programmer and has a PhD in Computer Aided Engineering and has more than 15 years’ of software development and management experience. We co-founded Seamless Planet together.

Could you tell us about your invitation to the White House? How were people chosen to take part in the event?
I was invited to the White House to take part in the first-ever White House demo day. It was the first time President Obama invited entrepreneurs to talk about their entrepreneurship and the reasons for their success. He’s the first president to have valued entrepreneurship, and he gave a very powerful speech.  He was looking for entrepreneurs who change things for people in various parts of the world and specifically the parts of the world that don’t have much access to the internet. More than 1000 entrepreneurs registered to take part in the event, from which only 32 people were invited. Prominent entrepreneurs, including Barbara Corcoran, Marc Cuban and Daymond John, were also invited. In his speech, Obama said we were the face of change and that we had the power to drive creative solutions against pressing challenges. He said we knew how to bring people together, to work toward a common goal, and that he believed in all of us.


هیچ نظری موجود نیست: