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Working With Disruptors

Few things in business are as gratifying as working with startups, particularly those intent on disrupting an industry. Real game-changers are pretty rare in Silicon Valley and New York, and all the more so in Washington, DC. But when you come across one you know it immediately. True game-changers solve real problems for real people. They’re led by individuals who have big, clear visions, and the kind of workaholic, get-it-done drive that enables them to tackle seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

Over the course of my career I’ve been fortunate to work with and for a handful of truly disruptive startups, including NexTone, which was acquired by Genband; Lightningcast, an AOL acquisition; Great Plains Software, which was acquired by Microsoft; and a company called Digex that was acquired by MCI. The founders of each organization had a vision for how they wanted to change the world around them. They spotted the problem and envisioned a solution way ahead of the competition.

NexTone’s founders saw the future of communications and developed technologies that enable us all to enjoy mobility today. The founders of Lightningcast understood that the Internet would transform the media industries, and consequently developed groundbreaking advertising insertion technologies that are still used by Hulu and others today. Great Plains’ founder instinctively knew there was a better way to design accounting software and reset the bar for the rest of the industry. And the founders at Digex saw the future of  “cloud services” before there was ever a cloud.

These days, I am working with another disruptor—an entrepreneur who has figured out that a simple idea could completely transform the way we shop for cars. Khurrum Shakir’s vision was born out of the frustration he experienced trying to find a new family car. There were multiple sites to consider, no options for comparing vehicles, and no way to save searches. Back in 2011, Khurrum Shakir became frustrated with a search that covered multiple sites. Shakir saw the problem and envisioned a solution—in this case iGrabber, a metasearch engine for automobiles.

By the time I met Shakir in 2013, he had already recruited small team of experts, designed, and developed the first version of the iGrabber platform. Named “hottest startup” in DC by TechCocktail, his team had entered into an accelerator competition sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District. That’s when Shakir enlisted me to help flesh out the brand, develop a more consumer-friendly user experience, and create a roadmap for the next generation platform. In the next few months, we honed the vision for Carsquare, and won the accelerator competition.

Since that time, I’ve joined the team here at Grafik, continuing my partnership with Shakir and Carsquare. Together, we’ve closed our first round of funding, and invested in the refinement of the Carsquare brand, as well as the development of a user experience for the third generation platform to be released mid 2014. And while I can’t reveal too many details about the features and functionality of the new site, I can tell you this is absolutely a disruptor brand. Khurrum Shakir is a founder like those of NexTone, Lightningcast, and Digex. And Carsquare is another game-changer.

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