I grew up surrounded by immigrant entrepreneurs; our house in Connecticut was the first stop for most of my dad’s 10 siblings and my mom’s 8 siblings as they moved from Bangladesh to the US. My family members counseled one another on their careers, education, and families with an eye towards establishing ourselves in America. This blog is inspired by my parents and all their siblings.
Today I work as a Venture Partner at Betatron, Asia’s top-ranked accelerator program. My last job was title was Entrepreneur in Residence at Bionic, where I helped launch businesses on behalf of Johnson & Johnson, Exelon, and Citi while working with their internal innovation programs. Prior to Bionic, I founded 4 companies, of which 3 remain privately held and profitable today. I put this experience to use by investing, advising, and mentoring startups. My angel portfolio consists of 26 companies in Asia and North America.
Education: BA, Wesleyan University. MBA, Carnegie Mellon University. LinkedIn
Companies & Creations
Other interesting experiences:
Suing Northwest Airlines: Plaintiff, February 2002 – April 2006, New York & California
A turning point in my political awareness occurred during a long and frustrating lawsuit with Northwest Airlines. In the process of the lawsuit I worked with the brilliant lawyers at the ACLU, I spoke at a Congressional hearing in Washington DC, I met Congressmen, and I explained my case on Good Morning America. The case went from the 9th Circuit in California to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal in New York – one step before the Supreme Court. I learned a tremendous amount about the DOJ, American media, and American law. I also learned that big problems can and should be addressed, even if you don’t always win.
I sued the airline for refusing to let me board a flight in October 2001 and for wrongly putting me on a security watch list. A Northwest pilot decided that my name was suspicious, so he requested that the FBI have me “checked out.” Even after the FBI, police, and airport security concluded that I was no threat, the airline refused to let me fly. Infuriatingly, the airline then added me to a watch list. From then on, every time I tried to fly, the FBI was called.
The case was stymied by the Department of Justice. To proceed with my case, my lawyers needed basic information about what actually happened that day. Northwest Airlines refused to provide any of the details, calling it Sensitive Security Information (SSI). Weirdly, the Department of Justice agreed. It’s weird because procedures known to airline stewardesses and pilots should be available to lawyers and judges with subpoenas, right? The end result was that my case literally stopped in its tracks. In fact, anyone trying to get off a watch list or trying to sue a company for wrongfully putting them on a list will face the same brick wall.
Protecting civil liberties and fighting discrimination continue to guide my political leanings. I support candidates who think along these lines and, thinking big, I hope to have an impact on the types of people who ultimately make it into office through my political activism.
Narrowly Escaping an Exploding Car
Life is short, so you may as well think big while you’re here. That was the lesson I learned in the summer of 1993 when, after a long road trip, my brother Ron, my friend Dave, and I barely escaped from an exploding car.
Dave’s 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme had had it. At the end of a 400 mile road trip, just one mile from home, the Check Engine Light went on. We decided to let to the car get more specific. Eventually the dashboard was lit like a Christmas tree, with all sorts of warnings blinking at us. With just 20 feet to go before our driveway, the car stalled.
Ron and I got out and pushed while Dave steered. I looked under the car and noticed that it was leaking droplets of oil. On fire. I yelled to Dave and Ron to run for it, and within a few seconds of leaving the car we felt a hot push of air on our backs. The hood popped open and a giant fire ball leapt out, followed by cracks and pops and a big explosion that shattered the windshield.
Everyone experiences close calls. Use those close calls as times to assess your path in life. Does what you’re doing now still make sense given that, any moment, you could go down in flames?