An Entrepreneurial Chat: Ramine Darabiha of MySites

Now that I’m starting a business of my own [remember them alpacas] I’m very interested about learning more about things around making business, leadership etc. What I also want to achieve is to share and pass the word forward to those who are thinking of entrepreneurship themselves or are otherwise interested about these issues. And I can also say that in Finland, we have still a lot of things to do in these matters.

So, this is the first post of hopefully many to come, where I chat a while with an entrepreneur that has seemed an interesting fellow to me and has had the time to give some of their precious time to tell some insights for what it’s like to be an entrepreneur or a start-up.

About a week ago I had the pleasure of chatting with Ramine Darabiha, CEO of MySites, a web service where you can share files with your friends. Here’s his thoughts about entrepreneurship.

Marko Teräs: So, why did you want to start a business in the first place?
Ramine Darabiha:
Well, I’ve been doing these things as a hobby for 12 years already. For example I’ve been an active member of the gaming community.

I studied as an exchange student in TAMK (Tampere University of Applied Sciences) and we often had these problems with having your files in the school network and not having a good way of accessing and sharing them. We had Citrix, but it wasn’t that good.

We also had many parties and people clearly needed an easier way to share lots of party photos and other content and there wasn’t that good choices at that time. So the idea of MySites got it’s start there.

MT: What do you want to achieve with your company, the major goals?
RD: Simply put, make it easier for people to share their files.

MT: What are the major qualities you believe a starting entrepreneur should have or what you believe are helping you?
RD: Big set of balls and a lot of luck.

Love and persistence in what you do. Being ‘your own boss’ is equal to more hours than in normal work and you can’t do it just for the money.

You’re gonna be under a lot of pressure and if you believe you have a great idea, you have to continue believing in it no matter what and engage yourself in doing it. It’s worth of doing if you have the passion for it.

MT: What were the major obstacles you had when trying to establish your company?
RD: It wasn’t the easiest thing to start. I was a French student who didn’t speak Finnish, in Tampere Finland, trying to start an international project on Internet! (laughter) It doesn’t get much more difficult than that.

It’s also been difficult on few other aspects. One is bureaucracy. Because every single official paper is in Finnish and that’s annoying.

The second thing is more about the mentality of business here. We decided to not to pursue a lot of effort in making deals in Finland because Finns don’t like taking risks and that’s been a bit of a barrier in my opinion. So lot of the stuff we have done have been with foreigners who have loved the idea.

I’d like to see more of start-ups and new business in Finland, but the overall atmosphere isn’t always that supportive. However, we have had support from Finnvera for example. They were super helpful. But in the end I would say that the infrastructure here isn’t made easy for entrepreneurs.

MT: You kind of answered the next question already but, Where did you get help for your company?
RD: First of all from my dad. It was really great that, although he wasn’t super excited, he still supported me.

Also from TAMK (Tampere University of Applied Sciences), not so much in the sense of the courses, but they helped me get good contacts and were super flexible with my schedule. In some way they also pointed ways of what courses to do and who to talk with in the light of the business idea.

And finally of course finding your great team and being with these people.

MT: How do you feel now and what are the greatest / worst things about being the one in charge?
RD: Well, it’s a lot of responsibility. It’s a good thing that I can execute the things I come up with but at the same time I’m in a deeper way responsible for the things I do where as if I worked in another company in a day job.

I do feel it’s the best job in the world. I can express myself and have this weight in what I do. I like that really much. And what I really love is that I feel very free. Of course you still have the uncertainty, but you still free doing your thing.

MT: Why still in Finland? (Note: Ramine is the only one of the MySites team still located in Finland)
RD: Combination of things; I like working here. There’s this good mixture of people who aren’t that scared of tech. And I like that people give each other more space also.

Also the competition here is a bit more healthy than in other countries. It’s not as hectic as you would have for example in Paris.

MT: Where do you see yourself and your company after 3-5 years from now?
RD: For the company: I hope it will become a way people share files, I hope it’ll make easy for people to share files with their mobile and I hope there will become a point were this whole issue of sharing content is solved. You know like video online is basically solved.

I just hope we become a good way of sharing content. As for myself, I’d just love to continue that, making it bigger.

MT: What would you say to those who think of starting up their own companies?

RD: It’s is doable.

I have even heard a one teacher of economics telling new entrepreneurs “Don’t start a company”. I told him later after the class that it’s because of stupid people like you that the economy in Finland isn’t growing. He didn’t like it that much. (laughter) This country needs more Internet success stories, more entrepreneurs. You can’t drive the economy with not having entrepreneurs.

My point is that, you hear a lot of people telling you things like “it’s not possible”, “why would you do it” or “No one hasn’t done anything like that here before”. People are trying to put you down with lots of different reasonings and instead of establishing a business they want you to have a comfy job, family and two dogs.

It may be a dumb idea you’re having, you never know. But at least you tried and don’t have to think it later on how it could’ve been. So basically you should just go ahead and “do it”. It’s a leap of faith; you don’t know if it’s gonna work. It keeps banging in your head and you just have to do it.

There are also those people who are thinking of having millions, telling other people what to do, want to become Bill Gates or whatever. A lot of people want to have a business because of that and they don’t understand what it is.

MT: For the final question, From who do you think that starting entrepreneurs should learn from?
RD: I have no one specifically. I don’t want to send people learning from Guy Kawasaki or watching Steve Jobs presentations, everyone’s telling that.

I admire people who had balls to go direction where no one has gone before. Generally people who made bold decisions, sticked to their idea and made it work.

For example people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. When he started the company he didn’t have any idea of being a savvy business guy, but he made decisions that brought more users.

In other words, he made users happy.

Do We Need Creativity Programs?

Image by zen [License]

Nowadays it seems governments and towns have invented creativity. Thus they have put up different kinds of programs to further this new acquaintance which will lead us to the light of the more glorious future.

However in present light I think these kinds of programs can sometimes have the opposite effect. When you visit their web sites, you can see that in many cases creativity couldn’t be more far away. Often the contents can sound and seem even naive, like you had given crayons to an adult and asked him to draw something spontaneous and creative. And he has taken the grayest crayon and drawn a box.

These websites mirror how I feel after being in contact with some people who are ‘helping people to be more creative and further their projects or business in the creative field’. A word to people who run these kinds of projects: It’s OK to have them, but for god’s sake make them actually count. Make them efficient in developing creative projects and business, not just another meaningless program where you can waste people’s money.

It doesn’t matter if you say you are creative if you really aren’t. Creativity isn’t something you can easily map out and then it happens. That’s why it is creativity and always runs away from definitions.

So a word to those people too who are thinking of jumping into making things in the creative business field: think before/after you ask for help from public instances. Do you really need help, or is it just a good kick in your buttocks that will do it? Is the help program that was meant to assist you, resisting you instead? Could you ask someone like-minded or already in the business to spar you, or could you even do your thing faster and better on your own, if you just did it?

Sometimes it’s good to ask help, but many times too much planning and designing with others [who possibly aren’t even that much interested] may just slow you down and mix your original idea.

So like they say in the good ol’ Nike, Just Do It.