Do it now!
Some advice from the chairman of the internet's new
By Sanaz Khalaj
September 27, 2003
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.
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
Tehran, Iran; February 24th, 1969.
Where did you grow up?
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
in SF Bay Area and Philadelphia as
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?
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.
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
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...
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
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... ;)
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
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?
care of your customers and deliver on your promises.
What are your thoughts on eBusiness and its future?
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
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
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?
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...
/writing, poetry and short-fiction. Travel. Now
appreciation with friends and family.
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