Today we’d like to introduce you to Shahzil Amin.
Shahzil, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Pakistan in 1989 and lucky enough to have moved to the states when I was 5 years old, thanks to my parents. My father was murdered when I had just turned 16, leaving my mother to be the sole provider of the family with my older sister already in college. That was when I had to stop chasing my hoop dreams to grow up and become the man of the house. We’ve always been hovering just above the poverty line with my mother was making $20,000 a year with my sister in college and me about to enter college in a couple of years. She still managed to keep the lights on and food on the table somehow.
As I turned 18 gearing up for my first semester at UT Dallas in 2007, I took a risk in starting my own company knowing very well that I was giving up that “college experience” all my friends received. Somebody had to get the family out of hell and I knew it had to be me. So, I took $1000 of my savings and started my own company working 18 hour days all throughout the 4 years at UT Dallas.
Since then I never looked back. As a sophomore in college my company was grossing almost $1M in revenues. Imagine coming from practically nothing and netting over 6 figures in profit as a teenager in college. It was surreal, but I didn’t spend it on cars, clothes and other expensive items. I kept reinvesting it back into the business which I eventually sold in 2014 to a fund called Karlani Capital. I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity of joining Karlani as a managing partner where now we invest in startups around the world. I also started an audio brand as a senior in college (2011) which I’m still working on today.
For the record, no I never expected to be this blessed and have the endless amount of opportunities that I have today. I just wanted to help my family get out of poverty.
What’s the secret? Nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s a shit load of hard work mixed with a lot of self-created luck.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
How smooth of a road is being a Pakistani born immigrant, living in borderline poverty and losing my father at the age of 16? Hardly smooth at all. But that’s what has made me who I am today. It also wasn’t all sunshine and daisies even after my company started seeing some successes. Pivots after pivots to keep up with the competition, months where profit was in the red, clients paying late or sometimes not paying at all, losing friendships, going in and out of a depressive state of mind and so much more.
Most successful people that I know or look up to have not had a smooth road at all. The bigger the ambition the bumpier the road. But it’s the life we choose and honestly if it was smooth all the time it wouldn’t be as exciting or motivating, now would it?
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Karlani Capital, Blue Track Media and Plugged Labs – what should we know?
Blue Track Media is a global performance trading desk that specializes in mobile customer acquisition. With our proprietary performance and programmatic technology, we help many top brands monetize their traffic and gain a positive return on their ad spend. BTM helps businesses acquire new customers through their mobile phones and/or tablets. I’m the proudest of my team and how we’ve grown our company without sacrificing our integrity or ethics.
Plugged Labs, Inc. manufactures and sells beautiful, high-quality audio products with straight from factory prices. What keeps you working until 5am? What will constantly fuel that fire inside? For me, it was music. It was when I put on my headphones and jammed to Kanye, Drake, Cole and others because their music inspired me to keep going. When I put on my headphones I felt transported into a world where my family was financially stable and where I could do anything I wanted. That drove me constantly. That’s how powerful music was and still is for me and Plugged wants to give others the opportunity to experience it the same exact way that I did without burning a hole in their pockets.
Karlani Capital is a hybrid venture capital and operating fund started by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. We not only make anywhere from $100k to $2M+ investments into startups, but we also remain active in the company by getting in the trenches and helping the entrepreneurs through every hurdle they face. We have a team of operators that have started, built, went public and sold companies worth over a billion dollars.
Think of us as your 6th man off the bench ready to help you with all aspects of the business from marketing to fund raising to tech.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My family for being my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. To my partners in Karlani for taking a gamble on a 23-year-old kid that just wanted and still wants to change the world. To my teams at Blue Track Media and Plugged for running and executing with our vision. To my many mentors and the people I look up to who always return a phone call. And to my best friends that stuck around through thick and thin, lifting me up when I was in my darkest moments… I thank all of you repeatedly and I would not be where I am today without you.
But the journey has just started. This is only the beginning and we have much more to accomplish together.
- Website: www.shahzil.com
- Instagram: supershazman
- Twitter: @supershazman
- Other: http://linkedin.com/in/shahzilamin/