Allan Isfan is a co-founder of FaveQuest, a young start-up. This blog covers start-up topics.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


forty is the new thirty

I turn 40 in exactly 1 week. I had planned on starting my own company before I turned 40. I guess I succeeded. While I was an engineering student my employer didn't have any "headcount" to hire me into a position I wanted so I started Semicon Autotest which they contracted to do the work. More recently, my wife and I launched Isfan Solutions to deal with consulting gigs and that business continues to do well. I also launched MYDYO last December and will turn up a live site sometime this fall. This is the big one and it continues to feel like it is not actually launched until we get funded. I know this is stupid since we are developing product but somehow it doesn't seem real yet, probably since no one is getting paid and we don't have an office. I've got to get over that.

Fred Wilson wrote some great blogs about the "age question" as it relates to getting funded for a web play (see link below ... a very good read). He was unfortunately misunderstood and got a bit flamed but the subject is nevertheless interesting. The major web properties we hear most about, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace were all started by a young bunch of hackers that were trying to build something for themselves and their friends. It turns out that there were many just like them and their products took off into the stratosphere. 40 sounds so damn old .. 39 was infinitely better. Is it therefore possible or even realistic for a 40 year old guy to come up with something magical that will hit a nerve?

Of course it is but some things need to be unlearned to get into the right mental state. I started out in the ASIC business (electronics chips basically). We had to plan things to death, write extensive design documents, simulate the crap out of everything and cross our fingers before taping out (basically send the design to get manufactured into a silicon chip). Web development is totally different. You still need to have a vision and a plan but it is a much more trial and error type of environment. It doesn't imply you get can sloppy but it does mean you need to constantly throw the spaghetti on the wall to see if it sticks. It is very difficult to create something so compelling that millions of people come back on a regular basis. That is what you need to make a serious living on the web.

Back to the "turning 40" thang. I actually thought I had a couple of weeks to go but alas, it was not to be. Last week was one of my most exhausting weeks in a while. Many very late nights all to be capped by getting stranded in Cincinnati Thursday night due to weather. In order to get back to Ottawa in time for a meeting arranged by my brother in law with some big shot CEO, I had to take the 6:15am flight back to Ottawa. By the time I got to bed and starting tossing and turning, it was 1:30am. Since I had to get up at 4am to head back to the airport, I decided to pull out the laptop and get to work since there wasn't much point sleeping just 2 hours. I made sure the demo I had to show the CEO dude was running and all was good. Many hours later and after many donations to the Starbucks gods, I was sitting in a nice pub ready for my meeting with laptop booted and demo running. About 30 minutes before the meeting, I said to my brother in law ... "my spidey sense is tingling ... I don't think this guy is going to show up" but the beer was good and cold so I didn't worry. Kinda said the same thing back in Cinci before our flight got canceled. Anyway, at about 5:10pm, his phone rings and as expected, the guy's partner is on the line indicated that the CEO dude is not showing up ... stuck in Toronto due to weather! The guy should have know he wouldn't make it hours ago! Hang in there ... it gets better ... there's a reason I'm telling you this.

As luck would have it, we ran into some buddies and proceeded to have another pint and a bite. The only item left on the to do list this evening was to show up for my nephew's birthday at 7pm. He is 7 years old and having a party on a Friday night at the Lonestar Ranch seemed odd to me but my brother in law spun some believable story. A couple beers and roughly 6 hours of sleep over the previous three days ... who was I to argue. I get home, grab a quick shower and we head over to the Lonestar Ranch a couple of minutes late. As I walk in to the main building, I see the following poster and say "hey that looks like me!".

Well duh! As I look into the building, I see a bunch of my friends and wonder why they showed up for Alex's party. About a millisecond later ... I clue in. A surprise birthday party! Son of a #)()(#~! I didn't have a clue. Apparently it had been planned months ago and everyone knew and not once did I sense anything going on! So much for the spidey sense. As the amazing evening proceeded, it all started making sense. The meeting with the CEO ... all fake. I had been trying to set up a meeting in NYC on that same day and it was the only way they could get me to be in Ottawa on Friday. Apparently I'm like a firefly that you want to catch in the jar but can't. The guys we ran into at the pub ... just grabbing a bite before heading to my party. The triple espresso my wife made me before heading to the party ... designed to keep me awake for a longer evening than expected. The deceit goes on an on and on. Doing it two weeks earlier was an unfair advantage!

My brother in law wrote a song for my roast entitled "Buddy Bob" (Bob is my nickname ... short for Bogdan, my middle name ... long story). He actually sang it while playing to bongos! The last line in the song goes like this "When mydyo takes off, will you give me a job?" Fat chance now, you deceitful son of a $)$#&! Oh ... and thanks!

Thank you Yvonne for an amazing surprise party. Sorry about nearly giving you a heart attack with my very fluid plans. Many thanks to everyone that helped out including Tammy, Yvette, Jo Ann and I'm sure others I don't yet know about.

Let's hope someone will fund an old 40 year old guy with the spirit of a 30 year old. 40 is the new 30.

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