Startup wisdom from Kabir Shahani, the 30-year-old tech whiz who just sold Appature

Kabir Shahani

Appature co-founder Kabir Shahani

Appature co-founder Kabir Shahani was running on fumes when I stopped by the company’s offices this week to discuss its acquisition by health data giant IMS.

But you couldn’t tell that Shahani, sharply dressed and buzzing with energy, hadn’t slept much in the past few days.

The interesting thing about Shahani — apart from the fact that he sold the company for upwards of $100 million today to IMS at the ripe age of 30 — is that the first startup he worked at, a Seattle social networking site called Blue Dot, imploded.

With the support of friends and other entrepreneurs, Shahani dusted himself off and jumped back into the startup game.

There are all sorts of lessons in failure. And Shahani certainly picked up some valuable ones at Blue Dot, applying those to the way he built Appature.

I concluded my interview with Shahani on Monday by asking him about how he bounced back from Blue Dot, where both he and Chris Hahn had previously worked prior to co-founding Appature. Here are the extended remarks:

“The frustration of the first (startup) was not having a seat at the table that we wanted. And we felt like the only way that we could have it, was to start it ourselves. I like to think that we built a culture and an environment here that — you don’t have to be a founder to have a seat at the table. I think that has made a huge impact on our success. The experience we had at a startup that we were hired into taught us that we didn’t want to operate that way — so that was in our DNA from day one.

Number two … you have to brush your shoulders off. I was really fortunate, and I am not going to take credit for it, because I had a lot of people around me to go do this. And, frankly, I wasn’t all that inclined. I just got my ass handed to me working at this startup. It didn’t work out. It sucked. (And I thought) I am just going to take a job, and build my career that way. Because I had so much support and I had so many people that believed we could do it, and really wanted to do it, and were willing to do whatever it takes to help us do it….

It wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for everyone saying: ‘we want you to win.’ Everybody really wanted us to win.

It’s hard because we are going to be working at IMS now, and we are excited about it, and we have a charter to go accomplish and we have a vision we want to go achieve, and so we are very focused on that. But we have to take today and tomorrow and realize that — every friendship I lost, every party I missed, every occasion I didn’t spend with my family, like everything we sacrificed was worth it for this one moment. It’s crazy.”

Asked for advice that he’d give to entrepreneurs, Shahani noted: “Just put one foot in front of the other. You just have to keep going. It is amazing how much people discount how the hardest thing to do is also the simplest thing to do, which is just keep going. You just got to keep going.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cameron-Newland/10700278 Cameron Newland

    Congrats to Kabir and the whole team over at Appature. They’ve built a very solid business and have made a lot of good moves along the way, having targeted the right industry as well as having built a product that adds value to customers. Here’s hoping that we’ll see more success stories like this one come out of Seattle–it’s the only way Seattle will continue to stay relevant! :-)

  • Anon

    Congrats to Kabir and Chris and the entire team at Appature for the success. Wonder if Eric Koester wishes he’d stayed.

    But someone has to say this, so I will.

    The comments about Blue Dot aren’t fair. It was still alive when Kabir and Chris left (though it was struggling). The idea that the only way to have a “seat at the table” is to be a founder clearly isn’t always true — Kabir even says so. So, if you take his statements at face value, the founders at Blue Dot were just jerks. Really? And does the CEO of a company that just got sold really want to publicly badmouth a bunch of people he used to work with? Guess so. Hope this isn’t representative of his real feelings.

  • Alex Castro

    Congrats to Kabir and the team. Special shout out to my boy Kleb, best darn board member and mentor a first time CEO/founder could have.