FEC Talkshow: Episode 003 — Afshin Shafie
June 30, 2020 (San Francisco)
This past Monday, on June 29th, Harmony Plus continued our Future Entrepreneur Challenge (FEC) talkshow. For our third episode, we interviewed Afshin Shafie, an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley with a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University at Buffalo.
Now he’s the CEO of BYGA Inc., a club operations platform for youth sports, which was designed to be a comprehensive solution for all of a sport’s club’s needs in an easy-to-use platform. For many of those clubs, there is a seasonal life cycle to be followed, which includes tryouts, formation, registration, scheduling, team management, and evaluations. With BYGA, thousands of families and their children can come together and efficiently maintain communication, manage club workflows, and keep data secure.
When asked about why he preferred working with start-ups instead of with larger, established companies, Afshin stated that different types of people were suited for different work. For him, he enjoyed working in a difficult, fast-paced, and agile environment, which was something start-up companies provided that larger companies could not.
“People are absolutely right in the sense that they get lost in this aspect of ‘Is it stable? It this the right time in my life or my career to do something risky?’ But there’s a lot more to it. It’s really not good or bad, it’s just two different types of people who can survive these types of environments.”
With regards to how he developed his business skills as a software engineer, Afshin explained that he was able to form a professional network of people who complemented his skillset. As such, he would learn those skills from those people who supported and mentored him, and inversely them from him. Furthermore, Afshin felt that his advantage in forming a strong network came from being able to take initiative to look for opportunities with his skillset.
One of the greatest difficulties in the initial states of forming a start-up, according to Afshin, was being able to balance his own expectations and visions for the company and the expectations of the stakeholders. On one hand, Afshin had his own expectations for the future of the company, but for the investors and stakeholders that chose to invest and put faith in him and his ideas, their hopes exerted additional pressure on Afshin to keep that faith and do well. Despite this, Afshin welcomes these pressures, as he sees difficulties and challenges as problems to be solved, as well as something that motivated him to keep moving forward.
“If you love the thing that you’re building, it it’s yours, if you have a sense of ownership, if you have a sense of ‘I have to figure out how to make this better’, the difficulties all become small challenges… when you practice something, it’s not that difficult. The difficulty is in working hard.”
Afshin also offered advice for students who aspired to be entrepreneurs. He recommended that students take advantage of their youth to build and maintain a good network of friends and associates. He also recommended that students were at a good time to make mistakes and learn from them, as he believes mistakes are what will make and define a person. Finally, Afshin stated from personal experience that a lot of things have to go right for a start-up to be successful, especially when there will be a lot of factors out of one’s control.
“Timing is important, there’s a lot of luck that goes into it, you run into the right people… But ultimately, none of that will be good enough if [the start-up] is not the most important thing in your life.”
If you are interested in learning more about Afshin and his story, you can watch the full video here.
Tune in next Monday, July 6th, for Episode 004, with Albert Hao, Founder and CEO of OnTrack. You can sign up on our Eventbrite here.