Newton Lecture Series: Darian Shirazi

When he was 15, his parents used to drive him to work. He was a programmer at eBay.

By then, Darian Shirazi had already discovered his salesman spirit and was managing his own small business from home, reselling electronic imported products in the U.S. He earned enough money to buy a car.

Shirazi, who is now 28 and is the CEO of his own successful company, Radius, participated in a fireside chat with CET. In conversation with host Victoria Howell, Program Manager at CET, and dozens of students from diverse majors, Shirazi shared his exciting journey–a journey that didn’t start long ago but has nevertheless been full of achievements and challenges.

As young as 19, Shirazi joined a promising company of six people led by Mark Zuckerberg: “The Facebook.” He said he enjoyed his three years of hard work programming for the popular social network—which at the time didn’t have any photos besides the profile picture—but decided to leave it and get an undergrad degree at Cal.

But he didn’t like school.

“I didn’t enjoy my time there,” said Shirazi, who added that he was too stressed out. Finally, he decided to drop it. His parents were very supportive, he said.

After leaving school, Shirazi packed and travelled the world with his good friend and co-founder of Facebook, Andrew McCollum—who later became a board member of Radius. The company, launched in 2012, offers a cloud-based software so businesses can make data-driven marketing decisions. It currently has around 300 customers.

Radius’s first customer was American Express, which shows how relationships between big enterprises and small startups have changed within the last decade. According to Shirazi, big companies know that they have to work with startups from Silicon Valley if they want to innovate.

“Timing, luck, and hard work” are the ingredients of success, said Shirazi, who considers himself to be “really lucky.” He advised the eager audience to take advantage of a lucky situation, although “most people don’t identify these situations,” he said.

Shirazi, who said he is “a salesperson at heart” and that programming is a means to the end of building great businesses, also recommended that students improve their communication skills and learn the best way to talk to investors, partners, and customers.

The entrepreneur shared anecdotes about two big missed opportunities: working with Box and Waze, two companies that are extremely successful nowadays. He explained that, back then, he was evaluating based on the product, but one of the lessons he has learned is that “it’s all about the people.”

Shirazi also said that hiring is “the most difficult thing in the world” and that the key is to hire great people who are smarter than you. Choose what you love and work with passion were other pieces of advice from Shirazi, who said that “there isn’t one way to succeed at all.”

Looking back to his own journey, Shirazi affirmed: “I wouldn’t change anything of what I’ve done.” 

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