I quit my job, moved to Silicon Valley & did a startup

My parents talked me out of the quitting part (probably for the best), but about a year and a half ago, I moved to Silicon Valley to experience the amazing world of startups first hand. I couch-surfed for 3 months through Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View and eventually settled in San Francisco. Doing a startup on the side wasn’t really ideal but I made it work. We built our product the lean way, based on weekly calls with a large enterprise customer who had given us a vague commitment to purchase an annual license to the tune of ~$100k.

I worked long nights designing & developing the product and even longer days working fulltime at a Big 4 audit firm. Long story short, the deal fell through, we lost momentum and our startup fizzled away. It was tough, I was completely burnt out; I felt like crap.

A few months passed and I randomly heard back from the Startup Institute. I had applied a few months back and hadn’t heard back. I had assumed that my application was rejected, but lo-behold, here was an offer to interview sitting on my inbox! I wasn’t sure what to think. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to re- engage the world of startups; but it also felt like a crazy/risky decision just when I had gained a little coherence and stability.

Since I lived in San Francisco, I couldn’t physically check the school out, so instead I started to ‘follow’ a few of the alumni on LinkedIn. I inMailed, emailed and even called them to try to get a sense of what they were doing before, what the institute was like and what they did after. I heard nothing but positive reviews. But I was still skeptical: is two months really enough time? Will they really teach me something I didn’t already know? Do I even want to work at a startup? Is it prestigious enough? I wonder how many people get in?

In hindsight, I was just looking for reasons not to take the plunge—because as unfulfilling the status quo was for me, and as desperate as I was to shake things up—I was in a really comfortable place: I had just been promoted, gotten a pay raise and was now a senior—which meant that I could focus on the bigger picture and delegate work to Staff and Interns.

Now, if you’re a prospective student, you’re probably wondering: what made me join? Why did I take this leap of faith? The answer: something about it just felt right. The aforementioned talks with alumni, my final Skype chat with Aaron, the team’s willingness to be flexible—it all added up to a strong gut feeling that I simply had to do this program, and so, I found a way to do it.

Half way through the program, I’ve lost count of the number of times my mind’s been blown. We’ve had intimate fireside conversations with some of the top founders in Boston. They’ve kindly shared their stories, their advice, their mistakes and even their pitch decks. On the product and design track, we’ve been taught wire- framing techniques that will make building that next MVP that much faster. We’ve learned the ins and outs of the design process and are continuously polishing up our design and front-end skills.

Most important of all—and this comes from the heart—I’m blown away by my peers. They inspire and challenge me at every twist and turn. They’ve made me a better person. I consider myself blessed to have crossed paths with this vibrant group of entrepreneurs, designers, marketers, musicians, developers, photographers, and of-course: meme-designers.

We witness each other’s successes and failures. And are the first to give high-five and empathize. What makes these moments especially profound is that despite our differences (our various talents and diverse backgrounds), we’re all here together at a very pivotal point of our lives. We’re at a crossroads; and it’s my belief that our potential is limitless. SIB has given us the key (props to the team!), and a little nudge in the right direction. It’s up to us to unlock the door.

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Hadi built webapps in high school & college for fun. Leaving Texas in search of adventure, he couch-surfed through Silicon Valley and bootstrapped Playquid (an enterprise startup) while working on the side. He loves exploring new ideas, meeting new people and is enamored by the art of story-telling.

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