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eBusiness

Do it now!
Some advice from the chairman of the internet's new craze

By Sanaz Khalaj
September 27, 2003
The Iranian

The man behind a major contributor to eCommerce as we know it today, is yet another fellow Iranian. No, it's not the eBay story on Pierre Omidyar. This is the story of entrepreneur Farhad Mohit, the founder/Chairman & Chief Product Officer of the internet's new craze Bizrate.com.

The solution to the very active online retail market, Bizrate.com is a place where you can comparison shop. What is comparison shopping you ask? It is a way to add more bargain factor to your spending margin. This implemented philosophy gives you a chance to filter your online shopping by allowing consumers to compare prices and quality of merchandise sold through multiple and various electronic storefronts.

A graduate of Wharton School of Business, and a product of this technology-oriented generation, Farhad has helped launch a whole new market, tool, and business angle for the online world. Below is an interview with Mr. Mohit on his life path and successes. Enjoy.

Where were you born?

Tehran, Iran; February 24th, 1969.

Where did you grow up?

Iran (0-9), France (10), England (11,12), USA (13 - 34). For the past 21 years I've lived in the US (primarily Los Angeles, but I've lived in SF Bay Area and Philadelphia as well.)

Were you studious as a child?

I did as little as necessary to get good enough grades and avoid parental headaches.  I was definitely not studious.

What three adjectives would describe you best?

Honest.  Intelligent.  Unconventional.

What was your course of academic study?

UCLA: Double major BS in Math/Computer Science & BA in Economics
UPenn Wharton School: MBA Entrepreneurial Management

Who do you consider to be the greatest influence(s) in your life?

My father for his logic and common sense. My mother for her impeccable honesty and strength of character. My uncle for his ever-youthfulness and harmlessly rebellious nature.

Growing up Iranian in the US, what sort of experiences have you had? Positive? Negative?

Negative:  '81 around the hostage crisis wasn't a fun time to move to the US.  I was in the 8th grade and kids aren't particularly accommodating at that age.  I suffered quite a bit.  However, I'll take being picked on by 8th graders any day over being in the front lines of the Iran/Iraq war... ;)

Positive:  Growing up an Iranian in the US, I quickly recognized that both cultures had good points to be embraced and poor points to be dropped.  I celebrate x-mas & aide because it's fun to give / receive presents...

My girlfriend is not a virgin and is my equal because men and women co-exist better that way.  The family unit is very important and needs to be nurtured as we do in Iran, not neglected as it is here.  Mass consumption is an unhealthy byproduct of US's consumer culture and we must fight the urge for more more and more. In the US everyone doesn't have to become a "doktor" to be considered successful.  And, so on...

Did you have an epiphany of sorts or was this a mapped out business plan?

No it was a very deliberate process.  I saw the Internet as something fundamentally transformative (like the printing-press or the telegraph -- anytime you have an increase in communicative powers, you have a whole new world of possibilities). 

This represented an opportunity (or if you like, "the epiphany"). It was going to be big, like an expanding balloon, so what I had to figure out is what little corner to write my name so when the balloon expanded, I'd have my name as big as California... ;) 

The actual idea for BizRate was a very step-by-step process.  In fact, I hashed out the business plan over the course of my final year at business school as my MBA thesis... (how much less of an epiphanic process do you want than that? ;)

Do you feel that you were born an entrepreneur?No.  But, one stint at consulting company wearing a suit and tie everyday basically made me unable to think of the corporate route again, forcing my hand into becoming an entrepreneurÖ  If you can't work for someone else, you have to work for yourself, right?

What made you decide to get into eBusiness?

I saw that the Internet would transform everything involving the storage and transfer of information -- that is basically EVERYTHING. As if that wasn't enough motivation, I also found myself luckily in a very nice position back in '95. 

You see, back then, the people who knew the Internet inside out were 18 - 25 year old geeks (the kind I hung out with in college computer science classes) who just wanted to do "cool stuff" and could care less about making money. 

The people who would be effected by the Internet were the 50+ year old business executives to whom the PC was a revolution and whose language / vernacular I was learning in business school.  I was the perfect guy in the middle. 

I could scare the crap out of the business people about what was coming to kill their wonderful way of life, using all the latest business jargon, and then get the geeks to create a solution while thinking that they're working on "cool stuff". That's basically how I rounded up $75MM+ and got BizRate going... ;)

What does it take to be one of the top etailors around?

Simple:  Take care of your customers and deliver on your promises.
 
What are your thoughts on eBusiness and its future?

The Internet will become more and more a part of our lives.  The future is therefore very bright.  The Internet bubble burst not for lack of promise, but for lack of timeframe.  In time, ebusiness will be just as big, if not bigger than the wildest predications of the stock-market boom of the late 90's.

Any advice for up and coming students and/or fellow Iranians?

If you want to be an entrepreneur, here are three things to consider:

1) Drop all your other options.  Options create distractions.  Also: You will encounter severe hardships and seemingly unbeatable odds, if you have options you will take the option (i.e. second job), instead of fighting through the hurdle.

2) Choose your idea and your partners objectively.  Your idea must be able to stand on it's own feet and not need your TLC to lean on.

Your partners don't have to be your friends (in fact, it's better if they're not).  All that is necessary is that they complement your skills and be compatible with you in personal makeup.  My personal criteria for my partners are as follows:  They must be honest, intelligent and passionate -- without these three attributes we won't be compatible.  Aside from that, they must be as different in skillset / interests from me as possible.

3) Don't procrastinate...  Do it now!  if you're going to fail, better fail sooner rather than later, because later you always have more to lose (i.e. a family to support, a lifestyle to maintain, etc.)

Did you ever consider medical school in your academic career?

My dad is a "doktor" so the answer is NO.  Basically, at the age of 16 I told him that I had given this thought and I would not be pursuing a medical career.  He asked why and I told him it was because his friends are way too boring!

What is your favorite Iranian dish?

Tough one because there are so many, but I'll go with ta-cheen.
 
Your thoughts on our culture?

Subtract the religious influences and we have a hell of a great culture.

Would you consider expanding the 1% existing ebusiness culture in Iran one day?

I would definitely consider that.  I'm hoping to return to Iran for the first time in 25 years this winter.  I'm going to snoop around there and see what opportunities exist.

What's in store for the future? Any new ventures (business or non) to conquer?

Plenty in store for the future.  None have to do with business.  I'm working on what one day will hopefully become a book of poems...

Major interests/hobbies?

Reading /writing, poetry and short-fiction.  Travel.  Now appreciation with friends and family.

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