About TK

I went to school for Computer Science, but ever since I was a kid, I have been seeped in Entrepreneurship. Today, I’m the Founder and CEO of ToutApp, a venture backed, San Francisco based startup that helps sales teams achieve greatness. Prior to starting ToutApp, I worked as a Technology Associate at Bridgewater Associates and a Product Manager at Plaxo.

I love blogging to share my journey, and I’m always open to helping people grow and unlock their maximum potential in their lives.

Why I Blog

I’m pursuing the entrepreneurial dream — the dream of building a product and business that means something in this world. I blog to meet and help people who want to live life the way I do and is pursuing the same dream. So, I hope you learn a thing or two from my blog entries, which for the most part are an account of my journey. And if my writing jives with you, definitely email me.

How to contact me

Tawheed Kader (TK) tawheed@gmail.com

My Story

A few years ago, I did a written interview for an entrepreneurship magazine. I thought the questions were great, and so I shared my answers here.

What’s your story? What’s your background?

Tedious, repetitive work has always been a pet peeve of mine; working to eliminate that through the use of technology has always been my passion. This started back in the early days when I started working for my father’s business. I started off on the streets of Jackson Heights, NY, giving out flyers to help promote the family business. Pretty soon, I started designing those flyers, and then I started working on the product itself.

I was soon managing the network infrastructure of my father’s telecommunications business, which he started when we came to this country with only about a $1,000 in his bank account. The main reason I “rose through the ranks” was because I kept bugging him about how they did things. “It doesn’t have to be that hard,” I said, as my mother was printing out one label at a time using a small labeling machine to create one of the first pre-paid calling cards offered to the South Asian Community back in the early 90s.

By the end of the week, I had automated the whole card creation process using Avery labels and a $15 labeling software (that and putting my mom out of a job. Don’t worry, she moved on to more productive uses of her time). In all seriousness though, in our ever-complicated world, we take a lot of annoyances for granted. My job has always been to take a look at that and say “It doesn’t have to be this way.” And with that mindset, finding a technological solution that enriches everyones lives.

It’s this exact mindset that got me involved with HipCal (a startup I co-founded in 2005, and then sold to Plaxo in 2006). It had started off as a class project by one of the other Co-Founders (Garret Heaton). As we started using his prototype to manage our busy schedule composed of exams, projects, group meetings and fraternity events, we realized that this was starting to solve a problem that everyone had: the calendar problem. Most of us tend to be disorganized creatures, simply because there is just so much overhead in getting ourself organized. What would you rather do? Spend three hours sifting through your email and creating the perfect calendar that is up to date, or just go to your meetings and do the actual work?

The thing is, it shouldn’t have to be that way, your schedule should be up to date automatically, the party your friend is throwing next week should show up in your calendar automatically, the class syllabus you receive from your professor shouldn’t have a dinky table with the exam dates, those exam dates should show up in your calendar automatically, and you shouldn’t have to jot down your homework assignment, it should show up as a to-do item automatically as soon as your professor gives out the assignment. These are the problems we tried to tackle with HipCal, we didn’t fulfill our whole vision, but I’m not too worried, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

What’s the niche?

I consider myself a conundrum. I always have a really tough time defining myself (and choosing an actual career track for that matter). Over the past ten years, I’ve served in roles that has involved building network infrastructure, building trading systems, programming and development, marketing, helping make strategic decisions for a portfolio of 50 enterprise products, design, and most lately product and project management.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed each of those roles, I recently realized that I am most happy when I’m doing a mix of the above. So maybe that means I don’t have a niche, or maybe it means that I’m simply an “artist.”

What’s the biggest challenge?

Time. There are a million ideas that I have, and sometimes I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day, or there was a quicker substitute for sleep. If there is one thing that I could use a lot more of, it would be a lot more functional hours in the day.

Best way to keep a competitive edge?

You should have one thing each week that has you scared shitless. If you don’t have that, then you are not growing as a person, and you are losing your competitive edge. With most 9 to 5 jobs these days, it’s very easy to get into a routine and get so engulfed into the details, that you stop noticing the repetitive and mundane patterns that fill your weeks. You think you’re working hard, engaging yourself, but when you take a step back, you realize that it’s all the same and you’re not learning anything new; you’re just fighting the same fires over and over.

Go out of the norm: find a new function that you can expand your current job into, teach yourself a new skill, work on a side project, step back and imagine how you would change the company if you were the CEO and actually propose it. Do something scary.

Yardstick of success

A dotted picture of myself, front page, Wall Street Journal. In all seriousness, business is just business. I try to make sure I don’t measure myself by success in my career. The real yardstick of success is the end game, when you live to see your kids get married and have grandchildren, when you sit on the porch with your three oldest friends, look back at life and say “Yep, that was a good ride.” Until then, you have not succeeded.

Best practical advice

“Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”

Most practical advice I can give you is to stop seeking too much advice. Get out there and make mistakes, that is the only real way to learn.

  • I admire your devotion and I truly love the posts you’ve got in here, really insightful.

    Also, I like the direction your taking with BrainTrust, but what do you think of the fact that enterprise communication tools is a crowded market, especially now with the announcement of Salesforce Chatter, who already has a direct connection with every major companies’ CTO?

    What’s the weapon of choice for small start-ups to fight giants like that?

    • Laurent, thank you for your kind words.

      While I am still thinking through the positioning for BrainTrust (I am an entrepreneur, a developer, an artist, but not a great marketer), I’m quite sure that I do not want to go into the Enterprise market. The idea of having a sales force hitting up Enterprises, and having to deal with ridiculous IT requirements is not something I am very interested in.

      I think there are plenty of companies that can benefit from a group communication tool like BrainTrust who do not even have a CTO, they’re just small businesses trying to make great things happen and need a simple tool to help communicate, collaborate and have meaningful conversations. That is the market I’d like to go after, and that market is not as crowded (I don’t think).

      Also, I truly believe I’ve got a superior product here because of a better user experience and some unique ideas on making people communicate better.

  • I think the small business market is a wise positioning for your service. I wish you all the luck!

  • You are definitely an inspirational entrepreneur. Its good to see more entrepreneurs coming up these days, specifically in regards to the economy. I am an entrepreneur myself. My friend (Ram Sharma) and I started a small web development business where we live, in Mississauga, Ontario.

    I am using BrainTrust right now with a couple of friends. Fantastic idea! We were in need of this. Definitely give you a few suggestions as I go along if you’d like.

    Good luck! 😉

  • Easwaran

    it is quite inspiring thanks easwaran India

  • Great Stuff TK. I stumbled upon your website and after few reads here…I had to signup to get updates from you and get some inspiration often.