TK is the Founder and CEO of ToutApp, a fast-growing, venture backed, San Francisco based startup that helps sales teams achieve greatness with the power of Tout’s sales productivity platform. Prior to starting ToutApp, he worked as a Technology Associate at Bridgewater Associates and a Product Manager at Plaxo.
TK has a unique background in engineering, designing beautifully crafted products, and being a thought leader in how to build Sales and Marketing teams to hack growth in a startup.
Why I Blog
I’m pursuing the entrepreneurial dream — the dream of building a product and business that means something in this world. I blog to meet and help people who want to live life the way I do and is pursuing the same dream. So, I hope you learn a thing or two from my blog entries, which for the most part are an account of my journey. And if my writing jives with you, definitely email me.
How to contact me
Tawheed Kader (TK)
The Tawheed Kader Story
What’s your story? What’s your background?
Tedious, repetitive work has always been a pet peeve of mine; working to eliminate that through the use of technology has always been my passion. This started back in the early days when I started working for my father’s business. I started off on the streets of Jackson Heights, NY, giving out flyers to help promote the family business. Pretty soon, I started designing those flyers, and then I started working on the product itself.
I was soon managing the network infrastructure of my father’s telecommunications business, which he started when we came to this country with only about a $1,000 in his bank account. The main reason I “rose through the ranks” was because I kept bugging him about how they did things. “It doesn’t have to be that hard,” I said, as my mother was printing out one label at a time using a small labeling machine to create one of the first pre-paid calling cards offered to the South Asian Community back in the early 90s.
By the end of the week, I had automated the whole card creation process using Avery labels and a $15 labeling software (that and putting my mom out of a job. Don’t worry, she moved on to more productive uses of her time). In all seriousness though, in our ever-complicated world, we take a lot of annoyances for granted. My job has always been to take a look at that and say “It doesn’t have to be this way.” And with that mindset, finding a technological solution that enriches everyones lives.
It’s this exact mindset that got me involved with HipCal (a startup I co-founded in 2005, and then sold to Plaxo in 2006). It had started off as a class project by one of the other Co-Founders (Garret Heaton). As we started using his prototype to manage our busy schedule composed of exams, projects, group meetings and fraternity events, we realized that this was starting to solve a problem that everyone had: the calendar problem. Most of us tend to be disorganized creatures, simply because there is just so much overhead in getting ourself organized. What would you rather do? Spend three hours sifting through your email and creating the perfect calendar that is up to date, or just go to your meetings and do the actual work?
The thing is, it shouldn’t have to be that way, your schedule should be up to date automatically, the party your friend is throwing next week should show up in your calendar automatically, the class syllabus you receive from your professor shouldn’t have a dinky table with the exam dates, those exam dates should show up in your calendar automatically, and you shouldn’t have to jot down your homework assignment, it should show up as a to-do item automatically as soon as your professor gives out the assignment. These are the problems we tried to tackle with HipCal, we didn’t fulfill our whole vision, but I’m not too worried, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What’s the niche?
I consider myself a conundrum. I always have a really tough time defining myself (and choosing an actual career track for that matter). Over the past ten years, I’ve served in roles that has involved building network infrastructure, building trading systems, programming and development, marketing, helping make strategic decisions for a portfolio of 50 enterprise products, design, and most lately product and project management.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed each of those roles, I recently realized that I am most happy when I’m doing a mix of the above. So maybe that means I don’t have a niche, or maybe it means that I’m simply an “artist.”
What’s the biggest challenge?
Time. There are a million ideas that I have, and sometimes I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day, or there was a quicker substitute for sleep. If there is one thing that I could use a lot more of, it would be a lot more functional hours in the day.
Best way to keep a competitive edge?
You should have one thing each week that has you scared shitless. If you don’t have that, then you are not growing as a person, and you are losing your competitive edge. With most 9 to 5 jobs these days, it’s very easy to get into a routine and get so engulfed into the details, that you stop noticing the repetitive and mundane patterns that fill your weeks. You think you’re working hard, engaging yourself, but when you take a step back, you realize that it’s all the same and you’re not learning anything new; you’re just fighting the same fires over and over.
Go out of the norm: find a new function that you can expand your current job into, teach yourself a new skill, work on a side project, step back and imagine how you would change the company if you were the CEO and actually propose it. Do something scary.
Yardstick of success
A dotted picture of myself, front page, Wall Street Journal. In all seriousness, business is just business. I try to make sure I don’t measure myself by success in my career. The real yardstick of success is the end game, when you live to see your kids get married and have grandchildren, when you sit on the porch with your three oldest friends, look back at life and say “Yep, that was a good ride.” Until then, you have not succeeded.
Best practical advice
“Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.”
Most practical advice I can give you is to stop seeking too much advice. Get out there and make mistakes, that is the only real way to learn.