Appature’s Kabir Shahani: Startups are 95% luck, 4% timing and 1% hard work

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Kabir Shahani at the UW Business Plan Competition dinner.

Appature CEO Kabir Shahani is one of the most energetic and charismatic young entrepreneurs in Seattle. He’s also wise beyond his years, with a startup flop and a big success under his belt.

So, who better to speak to a group of emerging student entrepreneurs than the 30-year-old UW grad, who is still flying high after his company’s blockbuster sale to IMS Health earlier this year.

“I have seen the light, and the light is good,” said Shahani as he took the stage at the Bell Harbor Conference Center in Seattle for the 16th annual University of Washington Business Plan Competition awards dinner.

The light, of course, is startup life. However, Shahani never really saw himself as a “startupper” per se.

“I don’t really think of myself as an entrepreneur. I’m just a dude who started his business. It is crazy, because most of you in here are either in college or recently out of college, and you are just a dude or dude-ette just like doing some stuff, right? And, it’s crazy because you realize, and I’ve had this experience over the last six years, where you realize that entrepreneurship is a platform. It is a platform for your life. I am not talking about a job, or talking about this thing that you are going to do. I’m talking about your life. And that platform, lets you do literally whatever you want. And it’s crazy. If you want to change the world, as an entrepreneur, you can do that.”

Kabir Shahani

Kabir Shahani

The great thing about Shahani is that he speaks without a filter. And that filter was off on Thursday night as he described some of the down times in his life, including when he struggled to raise venture capital for Appature (noting that some of the VCs at the dinner turned him down. Check out the funny interaction with VC Bill McAleer in minute 19 in audio clip below).

Shahani also noted the importance of luck.

“As an entrepreneur, you have to rely on luck. Honestly, being an entrepreneur, in my opinion, is 95 percent luck; four percent knowing when to recognize it; and one percent hard work. I mean, that’s the equation.”

You can listen to the entire talk below, including a funny intro by nearly-50-year-old startup lawyer Craig Sherman as well as Shahani ribbing me (in minute 9) for taking his photo during the remarks. Shahani also spoke of the devastation he felt after getting fired from his first startup, noting that he fell into a “deep depression” (Minute 12); how he lived on bootstrapper wage of $22,000 in his first year at Appature (minute 17); and when things got “really, really shity” during the so-called “dip” period when VCs ignored him (minute 19).

Previously on GeekWireMeet the clean water startup that just won 1st place in the UW biz plan competition… Startup wisdom from Kabir Shahani, the 30-year-old tech whiz who just sold Appature

  • rayburt456

    TRUTH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dan Price

    Anyone who has ever doubted Kabir was definitively proven wrong :)