Resilient & Passionate

Resilient & Passionate

Mariam Ispahani

Devin Miller

The Inventive Journey

Podcast for Entrepreneurs

9/14/2020

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Resilient & Passionate

It's a long road, and you have to be resilient and passionate. Otherwise, you burn out.

It's just as simple as that.

Being an entrepreneur, having been in different startups, you can't survive unless you have that mentality.

 


The Inventive Journey

Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.

ai generated transcription

it's a long road and you have to be resilient and passionate otherwise you burn out you know it's it's just as simple as that being being an entrepreneur being you having been in different startups you can't survive unless you have that you know mentality [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another invent or another episode of the inventive journey and i am your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown uh several startups seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today on the podcast we have another great guest and i'm probably going to slaughter your name because i'm not going to pronounce pronouncing dave so all that how about you give your name so i don't slaughter it no problem it's uh maryam is pahani all right i'm just gonna uh my maria maria with the m at the end maria all right i'll try my best but no promise is that i won't uh i won't stop but to introduce you or just a little bit so she worked in the uh semiconductor uh industry in silicon valley for several years working on chips and then she moved over to the telecom space for a bit and then got more into the kind of uh what i would say kind of the renewable energy type things for you know working with batteries with industrial batteries and solar power systems and whatnot before deciding to jump more to her current startup which is more looking at bioplastic so a bit of a silicon valley now over to the more sustainable part part of the industry and i'll let her tell a little bit more about her her journey so welcome to the podcast thank you very much devon really appreciate it uh so basically you know i was always a fan of technology and from from my college days and before so when i graduated from college and i was going to get into a master's program on this side the first time i started a startup so to speak was uh called gadget galaxy because i was fascinated by futuristic technology so i decided that let me do something with gadgets and it was e-commerce website that back in the time where we didn't have you know e-commerce and i like walked into the bank and i asked for an e-commerce account and you know it was a very new thing but it was very exciting and i enjoyed doing that then i worked for after i graduated i worked for a non-profit but it on the side i used to develop websites and i just happened to develop a website for semiconductor company and they really liked it and they invited me out to california they said you must visit you must see what we've got going on here and when i went there it was a startup that was like already you know on its feet and uh yeah but that's an interesting point just jumping in really quick so sure but you created the website for the company and then they invited you out so was it when you created the website was it with the intention hey i want to go get a job with them or i want to want to get connected with them or what was the motivation for creating a website for a company you didn't work for yet oh no i i was in minnesota and you know i was living my life over there and you're designing websites while working for a non-profit and when somebody asked me to do a website for them you know i didn't even know anything about the entire semiconductor industry testing and things like that and uh when i did the website and then they said you know we really feel that we could use someone like you because you have an eye for detail and creativity etc so i said okay let's see what's possible so they moved me out to california okay so they they had originally hired you to do the website for them and then they were impressed enough with the job that they wanted to make it more of a full-time or explore a fuller time position yeah but they hired me not for the website they hired me full time uh as a sales person a program manager and then sales sales support and so i i did i wasn't that technical in the industry but i used to work with the phd engineers and so we used to go together as a team and so that way i learned a lot i i used to spend a lot of time in the lab and so just spending time and i got promoted and i went up the ladder to ma to manage you know sales for the the entire organization and the different branches and international and then the company was sold so once they were sold myself and a few others we went and started a startup doing the same thing and so that was very exciting and so it was a few of us from this company so i then we then we acquired two companies into that company and we got going that way so i was in semiconductors for a very long time then i thought that you know everything is going you look for opportunities and you see that things are going you know out of the country a lot of the production was going to taiwan and to china and so we said okay what are we going to do so i jumped ship and i went into telecom software and optimization software and so that was you know an interesting experience because it was different i had been in hardware and services and i hadn't been in software and again as a sales person so you know as a salesperson you have those you know certain skills and then you just learn you know what you can do about um the the company products that you have to sell so yeah i did that then i then from telecom actually for in the middle before i jumped into the renewable space i got into digital signage and i took the money that i made from uh the startup that we sold and i put that into uh digital signage and i ran a digital signage network is that like uh billboards on the side of the road that change you know that are kind of like to change the signs is that what you're saying yeah yes billboards but not on the side of the road i had them in cafes and juice bars and so you know this was places where people come in a lot so there's a lot of foot traffic and so basically i went to the local uh shops around there the fl the florist the dentist and we collected you know advertising from them and from some of the big companies like bank of america and we put that on our screens and we showed news and comedy and all that also in between so i ran a big uh nice little you know company for about three and a half years then after that you know a friend of mine said sorry no yeah so so question so how did you get from you know at least i kind of get the semiconductors to telecom you know they had some overlap but what made you jump from that to digital signage sounds like it's a you know a bit of a different industry or a bit different animal so how did you get into digital signage or make that late yeah well i was you know used to sales and marketing and i wanted to do something different because i saw that like you know maybe silicon valley is going in on a downturn a little bit as far as you know uh the hardware is concerned and software so a lot of things you know were up in the air at that time and so i decided to do something different and it was exciting and i took the money that i made from our last startup and i put that into the digital signage business and then i was my own boss doing my own thing with the other startups you know i had partners or i reported to someone and here it was just me so i decided let me try this so i like trying new things i like learning new things so i did that and that was that was fun i really enjoyed that that was three and a half years of my life and then you know then somebody came along and said to me why don't you travel a bit and so for six months i traveled and i really really enjoyed that i went to different countries i'd never been to and i enjoyed the experience and then somebody told me about you know why don't you get into battery components and so like i'm as an entrepreneur jumping back just a little bit before we get into the battery so somebody just said you know so you got a company you invested in you grew for three and a half years you know i i'm guessing it wasn't quite as simple as hey why don't you go travel he says okay i'll close down the business never mind i'll just move on so what was the motivation of hey you know that business was it one that was you know getting more crowded wasn't as profitable was winding down you wanted to get out it wasn't as fun or kind of what made you jump because it seems like you know if i was if i was running a big successful business said somebody says you know hey you should go travel i wouldn't just you know close up the business so how did that work yeah well that yeah it was a good question well the thing the beauty of the business was that i could i could manage it from anywhere i could be sitting in the bahamas i could be sitting in siberia i could manage it from anywhere as long as i had an internet connection and i had you know some foot soldiers who could help out if there were some technical things and the way i designed the business was that the people who were actually at the cafes and the juice bars they were also responsible for making sure everything works so when they took some ownership you know then they took more care of what was going on but also after some time the big players started coming in and putting up the big billboards you know which you talked about and then once that started happening i also said yeah maybe you know i'm i'm not gonna uh this is not a sustainable business for me i i'm not going to be in you know 500 locations i'm in the bay area all the way from you know san jose up to san francisco but like i'm not this is not going to be something which is going to be beyond this and so i i was okay with that and so i had some money on the side so decided you know to to travel and manage things as best as i could remotely so i did that for for quite a while yeah and uh eventually i wrapped up the business you know and i let you know the the owners of the stores the cafes and the juice bars you know keep the screens and keep the equipment because that was okay they could just turn it into a television and just watch you know something else hook it up to cable or something and so i i moved on you know to do something else but we got a lot of revenue from ad revenue and so that was exciting yeah that was fun so you're wrapping up that company then you then you said okay now i'm going to kind of jump over to what would be the more renewables or sustainable energy whatever you'd like to call it and that is that which or what made you what kind of peaked your interest or sparked your interest in going to the renewable side or to that side of the industry yeah well i've always been conscious about the environment and for me you know that was a big thing but i just didn't know what to do about it and when i was you know selling components for the batteries and i found this one company focused on solar batteries i got very excited and i started spending a lot of time with them and i asked them to take me to their factory and to show me how they made everything and what they did and so i learned you know just by uh by observing and by reading up and then i got a partner back in california and we decided to make our own systems because we figured we could make something also maybe even better and so we did that out of my literally out of my garage in the bay area and uh you know we yeah we got going like that and once we designed something you know then we put the pieces together like the panels and the lights and and the entire system and then we sold it as as one unit and we sold a bunch of systems in a few countries in asia and like uh eight eight plus countries in africa and uh we didn't sell a ton of systems but we really enjoyed ourselves and i think that's important you know that's important as an entrepreneur the journey and you have to enjoy what you do so we did that yeah and so how because i mean that that almost seems like the typical story in the sense of working out of your garage in silicon valley right or that type of area you had you know whether it's amazon that he was shipping you know the story goes whether or not it's true that he's you know shipping it out of his college dorm room or his parents garage or whatever it was for amazon shipping books and he had bill gates and he had apple and all of them started in the garage so this is a maybe a short side note you know working in the in silicon valley out of your garages and everything that the movies make it up to is it as fun and exciting or is it more stressful or cramped or how does that work no it's exciting if you're passionate about it you know but we're nowhere near you know i never made it like those guys or anywhere close but you enjoy the journey and you enjoy what you're doing and it's exciting to at least for me you know to design new things and to discover new uh ways of doing them and in that sense we made a lot of systems and we decided that like you know we wanted to take our manufacturing and make many of these systems and i went to different places to discuss that and we made what we could and we distributed the systems then we had like a lot of uh non-profits in the us who bought systems from us and took them to different countries and then they asked for more systems and that way then after that i decided that let's also work on projects like consulting because now that we've learned so much about solar systems we should work on mini grids and off-grid and you know and whatever else we can do to support others and consult okay and so i i did that for quite a while so then and if i remember as we talked before so you were in the solar solar industry for a while working on the battery systems and whatnot grew that from your garage and worked on that i think it's for rental we have nine years and then you know yeah so you you still have you know you still part of this solar business or you have you know some ownership in it but your partner is still primarily managing that but then he decided to jump over to now what is more of the uh the bioplastics and all that so how did you make you know one the transition have that discussion with your partner make the decision that you know he's gonna keep running the battery business while you focus on the bioplastics and how did you kind of make that transition or that adjustment yeah well uh you know you can sometimes you can do things in parallel and if a project comes up or if a request comes up you know then we are ready to uh ship those solar systems we don't we don't make batteries we we make solar systems and like solar home systems which are used mostly in rural areas in asia and in africa we don't do the you know solar systems which are the commercial ones or the home installations like we have in the us we don't do that and so as a small you know units uh to run a few lights and a fan or maybe even a smaller tv and these are for the villages where there's no electricity and so this is very beneficial for them because they're off-grid you know there's nothing there and yeah so basically we're still doing that we're still looking for projects we're still looking to sell things but then again you know i got excited about uh doing something about the plastic pollution problem and when somebody told me and a little bit educated me about bioplastics you know then i just jumped on it i got very excited about it and basically built a team set up a lab you know registered a company and you know got that going and with the with the plastics now we are we are still a you know a startup and with uh kovig we're kind of like slow right now but we're hoping to get uh some we're all self-funded and so we're looking forward to some funding and we have some potential investors who are interested in us and we're looking to see who else is out there so we can get this off the ground basically we want to make biodegradable products because plastic is you know a menace in society now especially single-use plastic and it's polluting the oceans the drains it's all over you know the fish are eating it the animals are being damaged by it you know you name it and i always was a recycling type person but then when i found out that recycling doesn't work that well i said we have to do that in addition to you know replacing the problem with the solution the problem being plastic so that's what we set out to do and i have a very nice team now i'm very excited about it and we're working well together okay no it makes good sense so so now you so you still are part of or you're still you know and primarily with the management of you know the partner continuing to do the solar industry and then you're saying hey this opportunity came along we think one it you know fits well with the sustainable you know type you know industry and and it's also tackling another problem so you have the power industry power problem with sustainability and you also have recycling your otherwise you know plastics not breaking down she said hey we'll kind of run these in parallel um and it sounds like i think when we talked about it before you know you're saying you know you're going to right now it's all been self-funded you're looking at it and you're going to get some investor dollars covet hit and now you're kind of looking to re-engage you know and i think that's where a lot of companies got you know people went out were getting investors or having deals that were going through the pipeline covet hitting all the investors kind of pulled back and says hey we got to let the market settle down see what's happening before we make any new adventures so how have you kind of navigated through that or you know traversed through the the the issue of you know we're planning on going out and fundraising or getting fundraising dollars only to have that you know pulled back because it just said okay we'll just ramp it back and go slower and do self-funding or is it have you seen that the investors are starting to re-engage or you know kind of what's the plan going forward to really you know expand and grow the business on the the bioplastic side okay well we do have uh two potential investors who have been interested in us and now are you know asking us for more information i uh thought that the best thing would be for myself and for the team to spend this time that we are in a lockdown or we are in a limited situation where we can't do as much as we'd like to uh to learn and to focus on our plans and to see what can we do and so we've spent like a lot of time making out literally our factory floor plan which machinery we're gonna get how we're gonna set it up what we're gonna do uh the financial plan the business plan the pitch deck you know so we've just been working on everything and keeping it all ready as well as networking like crazy with people out there to see what else is someone doing who can we connect with who are doing you know things which are uh better for the environment and so now i've like you know hooked on to a bunch of uh webinars where i learn a lot all the time and uh participating with some organizations and so that's helpful and we uh every time i hear especially these days that since we are an impact startup they're investors who are investing in impact startups because you're gonna need you know a startup like this with these kind of biodegradable products you're going to need them now as well as post kobe because we're already seeing an issue right with plastic with the gloves and the mass all being thrown and then now it's worse for the fish in the ocean and so you know you definitely will be seeing that investors uh will say that they want to do something like this because this is not something which is okay you know maybe we could have this this is a yes we need this now we need this for you know to improve the planet and so that's why we're excited about what we're doing and this excites me you know a lot more than solar even though solar energy is you know great and we do need that we do need wind power and uh you know anything renewable but this takes care of a lot of the united nations sustainable development goals and that's what we're aiming towards and i'm even taking a class on that right now that what are the sustainable development goals in detail so that we can also you know learn and better understand these things for our planet okay and the team is doing the same all right no that makes perfect sense so so as we kind of get towards the end of the podcast having walked through your journey i always ask two questions at the end of the podcast we'll maybe we'll jump to those now so the first question i always ask is so along your journey along your path what was the worst business decision you ever made well that's uh i made a lot of bad decisions but being an entrepreneur is you know about that you have to fail to succeed and i've had my ups and downs and uh i would say that the one of the worst decisions i definitely made was jumping into something without doing due diligence and that hurt me a lot in every way financially emotionally uh you know it really impacted me and um i felt that like you know they were the right team i felt like it was you know something which was doable and it seemed you know creative but at the same time i didn't do the due diligence behind it i sort of felt okay maybe this will just you know work itself out and i should have and so that cost me a lot of time and effort and you know how when one gets impacted the family also gets impacted and those around you and your team and for me team is very important and so that was uh uh you know awakening moment so that was a bad decision not doing due diligence and checking things okay no i in that certainly but it's one that's you know sometimes easy to make air do in the sense that one you you know if you're trusting individuals saying oh you know i think everybody will you know do things on their word they'll be still trustworthy and a lot a lot of people are but it's one that you just you know you sometimes are too quick to take people their word but i also think there's an element of excitement right so as you're a lot of times you're getting a company a new startup you want to focus more on the fun and exciting of building the product or you know doing the you know doing the sales building the company and sometimes you don't do as much diligence on the side of other things as you should because given the excitement yeah so all right well now as we jump to the second question i always ask so if you're talking now to somebody that's just getting into startup or small business just starting out what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them oh for sure keep in mind it's a long road and you have to be resilient and passionate otherwise you burn out you know it's it's just as simple as that being being an entrepreneur being you having been in different startups you can't survive unless you have that you know uh mentality in your mind already that it's gonna be a long road this is not happening fast and you have to be resilient i i think that's the way definitely i don't know all right well i think uh resilience and doing your due diligence are two different lessons to certainly learn along the way and i think a valuable lesson so well thank you for coming on for the podcast it's been a pleasure um for those of you that now have your own journey to tell and would like to come on a podcast and tell it certainly feel free to go to inventivejourneyguest.com and you can apply to me on the podcast and for those of you that enjoyed this episode and want to make sure to catch future episodes make sure to subscribe and uh lastly if you need any help with patents and trademarks certainly feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law thank you again for coming on the podcast it was a pleasure to have you on and uh wish you guys wish you the next uh best leg of your journey um as you guys tackled the bioclass bioplastics industry and make the world a more sustainable place thank you appreciate it English (auto-generated) All From Miller IP Law Recently uploaded

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