Interview with Al Eisaian, Los Angeles, California

iTechnology.am: It will be exciting for our readers to read your success story.  Having built 5 highly successful teams in your career you are a serial entrepreneur and a prominent member in American Armenian community. Please share with us about how you became an entrepreneur? What were the key moments in your career?
Al Eisaian:  My father was a restaurant-entrepreneur and I always knew that I wanted to build my own companies. My first real attempt at starting a company was in in 1989 with a company called Creative Computer Networking with my good friend Saeed Mehr. We folded the company in a matter of months because we fast realized that although on solid tech footing we were undercapitalized.
I then was recruited by a Japanese tech company where I focused on new product innovations and marketing. I was studying for my MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship. I was blessed with great managers that let me attempt a few very risky product introductions that proved very profitable.
Several years later I joined the premier technology incubator, idealab, and helped launch one of the original eWallet start-ups. I learned a great deal from the entrepreneurs that launched 58 companies in a short few years.
Next I joined the original and world-leading tech/web consultancy USWEBCKS and focused almost exclusively in working with technology start-ups in their initial go to market strategies and their web presence. I was then recruited to a newly funded tech start-up called LowerMyBills as their SVP and GM and built the tech and web-operations team. LowerMyBills was acquired a few years later for several hundred million dollars by Experian.
In 2005 my co-founder and I raised our series A round of funding for Integrien Corporation which I co-founded and was the CEO and Executive Chairman. Integrien was acquired by VMWare in 2010 and now has close to 100 employees in Yerevan and our product was sold and being used by more that 25,000 enterprise customers worldwide.
In 2010 I was recruited as the Global Head of Product Strategy and Marketing by Opera Corporation in NY which is focused on Big Data Analytics and all its various applications.
In 2012 I co-founded IconApps, Inc. a mobile apps company that was recently acquired by Science Inc. led by the former MySpace CEO Mike Jones.
I would point to three key significant points in my career that I remember very fondly:
- THE TANDON PRODUCT QUALITY DISASTER: Very early on (second month of my professional career after college) I was working as a design/test engineer for a company called Tandon Corporation which had introduced a very innovative portable data storage product that was seeing huge market demand. But it was also having a ton of quality problems. The whole company was in a disarray and several engineers and managers had either quit or been fired over the quality debacle. I saw a great opportunity in the chaos and volunteered to figure out the quality problem and fix it. My close team and I fixed it in 3 weeks. AND all of us were younger than 25. The big lesson for me was threefold:
    1. There is GREAT opportunity in CHAOS! When others run away I run in.
    2. Nothing ventured nothing gained. RISK and UNCERTAINTY can be great friends!
    3. The harder I work the luckier I get! I always ask for responsibility and am ok to fail as long as I try my best! I dont mind people’s criticisms. If you don’t want to be criticized, then say nothing, do nothing and be nothing!
- READING ABOUT IDEALAB IN BUSINESSWEEK MAGAZINE: In 1998 i learned about the famous incubator called idealab which was started by Bill Gross. I immediately wanted to be a part of that company and learn the mechanics of launching internet start-ups, venture capital, team formation in start-up environments, etc. So I left a very high-paying and safe job with the Japanese company and joined idealab. My stint there was only a few months but I learned massively. Most importantly, I learned about the power of proper marketing and also venture capital.
-  THE 2008 GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS AND…: In late 2007 and early 2008 the world was dealing with the massive financial crisis and I was dealing with the survival of my company. No one was funding and venture capitalists had become extremely cautious. We did raise funding and the company was eventually acquired by VMWare in a very successful exit. I RE-learned the big lessons of self-reliance, humility, and focus. Attention to detail and excellence no matter what is going on in the macro-environment. One’s commitment can move mountains.

Al Eisaian interview for Horizon TV Armenia

iTechnology.am: What is it like to be a leader and build teams? What are the keys to your successful leadership?
Al Eisaian:  I think the most important attribute of a leader is selfless service. I am a committed servant leader since 1991 when I was first exposed to the idea. Success comes from great teams and great teams come together through honest and open leaders.
iTechnology.am: You are involved in Armenian startup networks and participate in different initiatives to support the community. What do you think Armenian startups are in need of most?
Al Eisaian: I think what is most needed in the Armenian tech scene is the concept and deep understanding of COMMUNITY! Networks matter and ecosystems are built by healthy individuals that understand that ultimately by giving to the community through mentorship, volunteering and good deeds everyone will benefit. I think the past three years since the first workshop on November 3rd, 2011 at the Armenian Chess Academy has been great and we have a vibrant community of young entrepreneurs driven by excellence and hard work and I am very proud of the work that the Armenia and Silicon Valley-based folks have done. Its just gonna get better. On July 2, 2014, The Armenian HIVE network folks will have a large gathering at TUMO and I encourage EVERYONE TO ATTEND and meet as many people as possible.
iTechnology.am: In your opinion what should Armenian specialists do to make the IT industry more attractive for investors and global entrepreneurs? In general what are your thoughts on the growing IT sector in Armenia? Does it have the potential to raise the country from the economic levels?
Al Eisaian: I think Armenian scientists and engineers have to expand their purview and really engage with the global centers of innovation, namely SiliconValley/San Francisco cluster, Boston, NY, LA, London and Israel. With education platforms like Coursera and edX, and other online resources physical location is not as big of an impediment as before. Also, if every great-developer agrees to teach/mentor just 3 young aspiring developers and scinetists over an extended period say 2 years… We can quadruple our developer/builder community in 2 years. We should put immense pressure on the university systems as well and demand that they increase the number of competent and committed professors, teaching assistants, etc. It COMES down to one word! COMMITMENT! We can certainly do all of this and dont need some gigantic soul-less rescue package from some 3-5-letter acronym-ed agency or country to do it. We CAN DO IT OURSELVES!
iTechnology.am: You have given several lectures on economic development in Armenia and some of the current restraints that are holding back development. Where do you see the greatest positive development and where should the efforts be focused on to have the greatest impact?
Al Eisaian: YOUTH ENERGY! I am amazed at the the talent and dedication and can-do attitude of our young folks. If my generation of 40-somethings can kindly and mostly stay out of the way and not give too much advice and just provide the proper infrastructure and environment I am certain our young talent can revolutionize the entire economy in 5-10 years.
iTechnology.am: Your lectures and workshops always inspire your audience. Please share with us your most valuable tips regarding startup creation, team building and market entrance.
Al Eisaian: There is vast literature in English on entrepreneurship and I have sited many of them in my talks. But it really comes down to CARING, COMMITMENT, COMPETENCE and COMMUNITY! Its that simple. You MUST truly care to be excellent at something and build something great that you can be proud of. You also must deeply care about the people that you choose to build a company with. Understand that start-ups are like soccer not tennis or chess.
You MUST commit! Which means don’t take on 10 projects. take on one that you really love and bring it to reality. FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS.
You MUST be competent. And keep competent and ONLY work with competent people.
And finally, you MUST leverage your community and more important be willing to give to the community as well. Startups are very hard, VERY hard… without the community they are IMPOSSIBLY, PAINFULLY and DANGEROUSLY hard.
iTechnology.am: You are now mostly involved in mobile industry as are most Armenian startups. Can you please share with our readers recent trends in the mobile space and any tips that would give a developer a competitive advantage?
Al Eisaian:  Not sure I can do that! Its a complex question with no easy answers. But Kleiner Perkins’ legendary analyst, Mary Meeker just came out with her 2014 Internet/Moble Trends that I encourage everyone to read word by word. Its on slideshare.com and Techcrunch.com.

iTechnology.am: Thank you for your inspiring story and great tips for Armenian startup teams. Our readers will enjoy your TEDx Talk in Yerevan!

TEDxYerevan - Al Eisaian - Thinking with your heart!