A Slice on Hamid Shojaee, Serial Entrepreneur and Founder of AZ Disruptors
From the moment he came to the U.S. from Iran as a child, Hamid Shojaee was fascinated with computers. By his teenage years, Shojaee already had the dream of starting his own software company and set off to study computer science at ASU. His first attempt at entrepreneurship alongside his college roommate was more difficult than anticipated and eventually failed. Shojaee’s “backup plan” was to work at Microsoft for a few years until he was ready to get back into the entrepreneurship game, which he did when he founded Axosoft in 2002. Now, Shojaee is focused on giving back to his community with his own incubator, AZ Disruptors, a co-working space, AZ CoWork, and an Arizona tech news site, AZ Tech Beat. With AZ Disruptors, Shojaee and his wife/business partner, Lawdan, are committed to investing $10 million into 100 Arizona-based early-stage startups.
With the combination of AZ Disruptors, AZ CoWork and AZ Tech Beat, Shojaee’s goal is to highlight and help build the tech scene in Arizona by bringing resources and fostering camaraderie within the community. He’s seen firsthand the growth in the Arizona startup community over the past five years, and is in awe of the growing talent pool, especially in software. Shojaee created AZ Disruptors to help very early-stage startups, primarily in the tech industry, get off the ground. He noticed that those startups tend to get overlooked when it comes to resources, as opposed to the larger tech startups attracting capital left and right. Often these small startups have a prototype and are generating interest, but not making revenue yet. Investing in startups at that stage can be risky, which is why investors in Arizona are more focused on safer investments in companies with revenue. The one thing Shojaee requires of a startup he invests in, is a founding team who can execute their plans and make their product themselves rather than outsourcing.
For now, or at least the next few years, Shojaee will focus on giving back to the Arizona startup community through these three current ventures, but sees himself starting more software companies in the future. He is motivated by the creative process in entrepreneurship, whether it’s his own product or someone else’s, as a “parent” or “grandparent”. For Shojaee, it’s much more rewarding to invest in small startups and help them grow, rather than investing in public companies for the goal of making money. “Investing in startups is a little bit more satisfying in that you are helping bring to life something new that didn’t exist before. When you invest in a public company and buy a stock for $1 and sell it a couple years later for $2, sure, you’ve doubled your money but there is zero satisfaction. Eventually, you don’t need extra money. Extra money doesn’t provide any additional satisfaction, but helping create things does.”
As a founder himself, Shojaee is able to bring his experience to the table when investing in other companies. He’s been through the rollercoaster ride of founding a company and having it fail but also founding a successful company and eventually exiting. Shojaee notes that conviction and the ability to pivot when needed are important to being a successful entrepreneur. “I often tell people that the vast majority of things you do are going to fail. That’s not just business ideas, but includes the little things day to day, even for successful businesses. Very few things you do actually succeed, but the ones that do succeed make up for all of the failures… It’s not an intuitive idea, but the biggest takeaway is that every failure is a learning opportunity, and you just have to keep trying new things… Be surprised when it works, rather than the other way around.”
Hamid Shojaee is a serial entrepreneur and investor based in Arizona. He’s passionate about encouraging growth within the Arizona startup ecosystem. Companies Shojaee has founded include Axosoft, AZ Disruptors, AZ Tech Beat, and AZ CoWork. Connect with Shojaee on LinkedIn.