An avid programmer since he was just 11 years old, Parsa Ghaffari is on the brink of a multi-million dollar startup -- selling nothing more fitting than artificial intelligence (AI) itself!
With his attributes of discipline, resilience, and self-awareness it is no wonder Parsa has been firmly on the pathway to success. Without a glimmer of doubt, Parsa is smoothly tackling a problem that has dumbfounded computer scientists since the 1950’s.
Parsa Ghaffari is originally from Iran. At 18 years of age, Parsa had already developed and sold a content management system. His entrepreneurial streak has been burning brightly ever since and Parsa, the founder of AYLIEN, has remained unstoppable.
ALYIEN is a natural language processor, machine learning application programming interface, (API) software. It is a widely applicable product facilitating numerous companies in accessing business insights from unstructured data across many formats.
The Seven Key Insights:
Working As A Sole Founder:
Parsa Ghaffari believes greater levels of "discipline" are required by sole founders of any start-up. This is especially true if you don't have a co-founder who you can bounce around your ideas with. In a startup you must have the opportunity to have outside "scrutiny" to know if your ideas will work, and to gain different insights into how you can bring this to pass and make it happen.
As a result, Parsa recommends those who do not have a co-founder to recruit one with similar objectives as you have and get them "in the early stages" of the product or service development. To overcome the challenge of being the sole founder, Parsa utilized the external infrastructure available to him. This support system involved individuals both directly related to the industry and those from a varying range of backgrounds.
Solving Problems By Generating Opportunities, In The Spirit Of A True Programmer:
Throughout the interview, it was clear that Parsa Ghaffari has faced his fair share of difficulties. These problems have been creatively managed, generating new opportunities.
It struck me that Parsa has acquired a unique level of resilience. His humorous approach to overcoming roadblocks of a vast scope is admirable. Although he had never been to Ireland before, "a web search" satisfied Parsa that it would be the next place to conquer -- just as his time in China was coming to an end. He jokes that "He came to Ireland for the tech, but stayed for the weather."
Originating from Iran, the cultural adjustment to Ireland has not fazed him. In parallel with this change, he has managed to build a powerful network and attract a wide customer base to AYLIENs futuristic API software.
Striking a balance between obtaining financing and getting his product development finished has been a difficult challenge, one which many entrepreneurs face. Often there is a tendency to immediately embrace a financial offer with open arms. The message put forward by Parsa was clear, try to prioritize the necessary needs demanded by the product in order to be able to progress and scale.
Parsa’s original desire was to build a natural language processor that analyzed unstructured blog posts. His aim was for this software to then generate relevant links from the blog after the sentiment analysis was conducted. Through identifying the "key signals" for product development amongst the noise, Parsa has formed the modular product offered by AYLIEN.
This has been a positive adaptation to Parsa's software and is a change that can make all the difference to the outcome of his project. This thought process is a critical skill for all entrepreneurs -- to be willing to adapt, change and pivot in their companies when needed. It is rare for finished products to possess many similarities to the original projections.
Entering A Space Where There Is No Present Market:
Inventing a novel product poses unique challenges. For example, there is no obvious market space. The emerging trends of progressive research, powerful hardware, availability and volume of data and cloud services were acknowledged as the critical infrastructures in a place that allowed for Parsa's API technology.
Understandably there were difficulties, including mapping the products progress without any quantifiable measures available, as well as creating a pricing strategy. However, in order to maintain his momentum and the investors' interests, Parsa adopted qualitative benchmarks that proved to be helpful.
Growth And Its Impacts On Organizational Structures:
AYLIEN experienced rapid growth, and as Parsa joked that "being on the front page of 'Hackers News' did mean servers burning down." However, this progress prompted new challenges. A structural transition had to occur and Parsa realized he could no longer "manage everyone." Different organizational styles were merged to create a hybrid structure suited to AYLIE's production processes.
The best practices AYLIEN follow are fundamental to the harmonious relationships across the organization. Each team can relate to the added value gained from the work completed by other departments. One could argue this is a great competitive advantage given the scale of variation and the difficulties that would be involved in mirroring this structure.
R&D in a Start-Up:
The credibility associated with AYLIENs software is based on a solid foundation of research. The combination of Ph.D. students, engineers and marketers has proved to be successful for AYLIEN. However, the cost of research students is often difficult to justify to investors as they typically have a different set of goals than that of a commercial benefit.
The strategy in place to overcome this bump in the road was to manage the selection process of research projects. This ensured that the experiments conducted had a 20 percent probability of generating commercial benefits.
Notably, once investors could grasp an understanding of the patents and IP rewards, combined with the customer "wow factor" due to the credibility of the product, the initial difficulties to justify research eased.
Changing Roles From Developer To CEO:
Parsa’s role as the developer has changed. He must now oversee the entirety of his business. Both self-awareness and discipline are required to make this change. Parsa joked that it was easier to see value in his product once he stepped back from his role as the developer.
As the sole founder, stepping back was a necessary step. To overcome the temptation of indulging solely on coding, he has tried to instill a mission throughout the organization, placing trust in managers to filter his values throughout the organization.
Parsa has provided a wealth of knowledge from product iterations to organizational and structural changes.
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