Portrait of the Artist as a Young Startup

New York Tech, as Seen by an Antipreneur

mo yehia New York Tech, as Seen by an Antipreneur

Mr. Yehia.

Mo Yehia is co-founder of Sqoot, a daily deal API that helps publishers monetize. He’s lesser known for stints at Sparkle Buggy Car Wash, Cracker Barrel, and Lehman Brothers. He’s kind of a big deal.

It finally hit me: “I drive a Beemer but make less than a McDonald’s manager (hourly), my hair is thinning, sunlight hurts my eyes, and my Mom says I’ve become an asshole.” It was time to leave. I grew a pair and left my job on Wall Street, scared shitless of what was to come. I moved as far from New York City as possible and spent the next year unlearning everything it taught me. I was so brainwashed by my Vineyard Vines-wearing peers (when is a sperm whale on your belt ever OK?), that I didn’t know what I wanted anymore or where to start. From the outside looking in, entrepreneurship was as foreign as Japanese.

Through a series of random, cosmic events (and mind-boggling hustle), I met Andrew Warner in Buenos Aires, Avand Amiri in Boulder, Chris Stanchak in Philly, and Aniq Rahman in New York City. I wanted to be like them. So, for the next six months, I drank the proverbial Kool-Aid and marinated in just about everything startup. I moved back to New York, finagled my way into the tech scene, shook hands, kissed babies, and promptly began a strict three-pronged regiment to combat my hair loss.

It took six years for the novelty of Wall Street to wear off, and six weeks for the uncertainty of startup life to wear on. Without further adieu: a rant on the transition into and observations of NYC tech. Warning, this is my first post, anywhere, ever.

Help Me, I’m Poor.

Two years ago, I left a six-figure job. I thought, “WTF can $400/mo get me?”

1. A non-reserved seat at a communal table at GA, so I can act as if I’m not distracted by wide-eyed visitors who cluster together to learn “Digital M&A Secrets: How to Position Your Startup For Acquisition.”

2. Everything I need in Argentina. While vetting ideas w/ potential customers stateside, I lived next to the zoo (BIG mistake), ate $1 empanadas, took $0.25 subways, & learned polo (bonus: no one in Buenos Aires is fat).

Where my Arabs at?

As one of four Arabs in the NYC tech scene, I’m more likely to sell you shawarma than software. Women are just as scarce. Introducing… “Layla,” the first all-Arab, all-women accelerator. Would you like hummus with that?

Entreprewhat?

I hate the “e” word. It’s hard to spell and can refer to Divya at Dunkin’ or Drew at DropBox. I just don’t trust words w/ that many vowels. Starter isn’t much better. It’s a defunct brand that went from hero to zero.

 

Money Ain’t a Thang.

No business model, no problem (read: real fucking problem). For a year, we weren’t making money. So, we raised prices (not money). Novel right? PS, we gained customers. “You have customers, they pay you money… you get profit!” – DHH

Banker Turned Human.

I traded in lunches at Del Frisco’s & late nights in Meatpacking for lunches at Russ & Daughters and late nights in Lower East Side. I have a legit beard, well-formed gut, & exclusively wear tees. Jesus, I might as well ride my fixie to work (read: my apartment), move to Brooklyn, and get Pabst & American Apparel as proud sponsors.

Sick Hat Trick.

I accomplished the TechStars hat-trick: three rejections from three cities. When they finally succumbed to our incessant bombardment and accepted us, we turned them down. Touche. “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength, but through persistence.” – Buddha

Listen to Your Heart.

It takes 7 jobs to truly find something you’re passionate about. In the meantime, most of us shlog through life. Happiness is elusive (like hypercolor shirts & Norwegian gnomes). If at first you don’t find it, don’t settle. “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.” – Nassim N Taleb

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