I really enjoyed interviewing Ali Shah – co-founder & CEO of TapeReal. TapeReal is a social platform where human connection, authenticity, and meaningful content comes first. I came across his company through Equivesto, the Canadian equity crowdfunding platform. The previous episode (Ep. 041) is an interview with Equivesto’s managing director, Alexander Morsink.
The mission of TapeReal is create a less intimidating space for aspiring creators. It’s a place where they can document their journey, grow and evolve.
In this episode Ali, chats about how the start of his entrepreneurial journey began as a franchisor for Subway. (His dad, banker by profession, became a franchisor for Mr. Sub, when he came to Canada). He then founded several companies before starting TapeReal. We chat about the early days of TapeReal, how it was originally posed as an idea of having a synchronous conversation with someone, before pivoting to focus on asynchronous content.
We also chat about how social media is integrated into our lives and just how addictive it can be. (Especially TikTok! Since recording this episode, I have revived my TikTok account, but I am barely on it. Maybe that’s a good thing?)
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Ali Shah 00:00
You know, when when I look at the first tape that I posted on TapeReal, you know I can, I can see how I can see my own journey as a creator unfold, I can see how my own speaking skills, you know, changed and improved over time, I can see the evolution of, or here the evolution of my thoughts that I share. And you know, I, I kind of liked that as the aspect of paper like this idea of documenting while creating, which is kind of unique.
Karen Swyszcz 00:40
You’re listening to The Bacon Bits ‘n’ Bytes Podcast , and I’m your host, Karen Swyszcz. This is the podcast where a bit of business and a byte of technology come together. Every month I interview entrepreneurs, investors, startup founders, and people in tech to learn about what drives them and what makes them tick. Hello, and welcome to another episode of the bacon bits and bytes podcast. And I’m your host, Karen Swyszcz. Isaac and today’s guest is Ali Shah, the CEO, and founder of TapeReal. TapeReal is a social platform where human connection authenticity and meaningful content come to life. Welcome to the show, Ali.
Ali Shah 01:36
Thank you for having me here.
Karen Swyszcz 01:38
I’m super excited to chat with you today. So before we get right into TapeRea; I’m really interested in learning about your entrepreneurial background, because while I was doing my research on you, I came across that you’re you’re a serial entrepreneur, you’ve you know, started like several companies. So I’m curious to know, like how you got started? And also another question to actually is growing up like, did you come from a family of entrepreneurs?
Ali Shah 02:02
Yeah, so my father was a banker by profession. But when we immigrant to Canada, he basically couldn’t get into the banking industry, due to not having local Canadian experience. And so he basically had to roll up his sleeves and figure something out to feed his family. And so he actually opened up a couple of franchise shops, Mr. Subs in Calgary at the time. And so I kind of grew up around, like, I was around 12 at the time. And so I kind of got to witness, you know, the setting up of the stores, and like the opening, you know, the busy lunch rushes, and I got to hang out, sometimes when, you know, my, my mom or my sisters were away, and my, my dad needed to watch me so we’d have a little television in the back, a little black and white little TV where I would watch like the hockey games. And, and so that’s kind of how I got my exposure to you know, how anyone can start a business if they, you know, put their heart and mind to it.
Yeah, and then since then, I’ve always like been thinking of business ideas, and really been interested in starting up something on my own as well. So when when I moved out to Toronto, in 2004, I actually did the same thing that my dad did, and I opened up my own Subway franchise. And yeah, just kind of like, wanted to learn what it was like to run a business and learned a lot about like, franchisors you know, local marketing operations, hiring, payroll, all the it’s like a crash course in entrepreneurship, because you literally have to wear all the hats to run a business like that. And then I ended up selling the store in 2007.
I then started a location based marketing app, which was kind of building up off of my Subway experience. Because one of the challenges I had as a Subway store owner was that I was paying four and a half percent royalty to Subway to basically for advertising. And most of their campaigns were like national campaigns, you know, like eat at Subway that’s about it. And so from a local franchisee perspective, you know, like the campaigns were great from a branding perspective. But you know, I was thinking of ideas for like the local franchisee who needs to get foot traffic into his store. And so that inspired me to build this location based marketing app where franchisors could upload all their locations, and basically target ads or promotions based on each individual location or marketing area. And, yeah, that was quite the learning experience. I learned a lot about mobile app development, this was like in 2010, when apps were like literally only three years old. And, and then also, like the challenges of having a two sided marketplace where you where you have, you know, customers, but then you need the restaurants in order to get the customers and vice versa. And then since then, like I, you know, was continuing to work in my field of digital analytics as well. So I was bootstrapping a lot of these business ideas. And so I have a boutique sort of consultancy in digital analytics, web and mobile analytics. And then I had this other idea that I was working on another sort of tech startup around the ad space, the advertising space, the best way to describe it is sort of like an airmiles program for websites. So you kind of get rewards when you visit certain websites, which you can then like cash out into gift cards and stuff. And that was also a very interesting learning experience. But yeah, so it’s been quite the journey.
Karen Swyszcz 07:00
Yeah, sounds like you’ve had a very interesting entrepreneurial journey. So what made you decide to start TapeReal?
Ali Shah 07:09
Well, I mean, looking at modern day, social platforms, I just found them to be very noisy and, and also catering to a very young generation. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
But, you know, I feel like they’ve gravitated more towards how can we entertain and create viral content. And it seems like that’s all it’s about, you know, and a lot of creators sometimes will attach their level of success based on how viral they go. And I find that when, I mean, it’s great to create that type of content, there’s nothing wrong with it.
Karen Swyszcz 08:28
And I’m curious to know, because correct me if I’m wrong TapeReal was started in 2018?
Ali Shah 08:35
Well it was incorporated in that year. And then we started building we didn’t launch in alpha until August 2019.
Karen Swyszcz 08:44
Okay, so what were the early days like? Like, I’m curious to know about, like, what were some of the obstacles that you encountered? And how has it changed since you guys have initially launched?
Ali Shah 08:55
Yeah, so when, when we first launched, we were, I mean, the, the idea was to encourage people to talk to each other more, right, because that’s what our sort of main focus was, it still is, to a certain degree, because we still have that feature on our app. And so, in version one, you couldn’t post an update to a table unless you were speaking to somebody. So you had to literally call a friend or tell them, hey, download this app. I’m going to call you on it. And then we’re going to record an update together. And that was sort of designed to create more connectivity between people and and also to kind of go down this, this ethos of just natural conversations and insights that come from, you know, great conversations between people.
You know, when when I was young my my grandmother passed away and I don’t really have any memories of how she spoke or some of her stories. And so part of the idea for me was like, you know, you can record a conversation like a memory. And that can be your timeline, right? Like, right now your timeline is all photos and, and videos, but with TapeReal, it would be like your conversations as memories. And so we launched with that. And then based on initial sort of early adopter user feedback, they were finding it challenging to sync up with people, coordinating times, and then having calls, sometimes not connecting and stuff. So you know, they, a lot of our users, were asking for the ability to also post solo, and then the basically having asynchronous conversations as opposed to synchronous.
So we launched that in like, I think it was November of 2019. And then thereafter, we were continuing to build, we allowed for creators to publish to the web. We were actually called TapeBook before we were called TapeReal. So our initial brand name was TapeBook, but some of the feedback we got was that it reminded people too much of Facebook. And, you know, but their reputation, they didn’t really like it. And then the other thing was that Facebook was basically trademarking the word book in Europe and North America. And so, yeah, and I didn’t want any legal issues. So luckily, I came across a.com domain name with tape reel and decided to buy it for like $2.99, which was, which is hard to come by with .coms.
So yeah, we developed the ability to publish to the web, and then the pandemic basically hit. And, yeah, there were some challenges. Part of my development team started to focus elsewhere. There was a lot of uncertainty. And, yeah, it was a really tough time.
Karen Swyszcz 13:24
Yeah, that’s amazing.
Ali Shah 13:28
Sorry 22. I’m still stuck in 2021.
Karen Swyszcz 13:33
So funny. Yeah. And I actually really liked the name TapeReal. I think it’s more fitting, and the fact that you like, you also use the word, like the word real, like R-E-A-L like, in the way I interpret it as like, you know, like these real authentic moments, but at the same time, a play on words like a tape reel, when you think of like, you know, back in the day with, like, tapes, right? I think it’s a much better fitting name. Since you’re talking about like development, and then you have experience developing apps. I’m curious to know, like, what are some of the challenges that come along with developing an app?
Ali Shah 14:10
Well, I mean, one is that there’s no universe. Well, I mean, there are universal programming languages that allow you to publish on all platforms at once. React Native is one of them. But that also comes with its own set of limitations. And then you kind of have to manage and test across various computer screens, or sorry, telephone screens, and sizes and operating systems.
But, you know, part of the challenge with, for example, with Apple’s App Store is that they have very strict guidelines and it If you’re not fully aware of all their guidelines, from a legal standpoint, they will just reject your app. And they won’t allow you to publish. When we initially launched, they rejected the app because we didn’t have the ability to report users or, you know, block certain users from contacting you. And so we had to what we thought was just a simple MVP turned out to be not enough to get approved on the App Store. And so we had to develop all these extra features just to get approved. Some other challenges, I think, is that there’s a lot of apps, a lot of competition. It’s becoming easier and easier to develop apps. And then you have to compete for downloads and retaining users on an app is also challenging. It’s not you, you have to have a very sticky or like a really engaging value prop that resonates with an audience that will lead you to product market fit. And so navigating through all that is not easy.
Karen Swyszcz 16:22
I can only imagine. And so you had mentioned that the the Apple App Store has really strict guidelines. But for the most part, people tend to like develop their app on iOS first, usually before developing an Android. Can you explain the reasoning behind this?
Ali Shah 16:42
Well, I think there is a stat out there. I can’t remember the source of it. But I believe the majority of creators are apple, iOS users. And so they haven’t they haven’t
Karen Swyszcz 17:00
Like an Android. Right? Wait, hey, hang on a second. Are you? Are you iOS or Android?
Ali Shah 17:07
I’m iOS? Firstly, yeah. So is our app. So? Yeah, I mean, I think like the sort of early adopter mindset, the creator mindset, most of the creators gravitate towards iPhones. But, I mean, obviously, there are plenty of Android creators out there as well. But I think that’s one of the reasons why a lot of companies will start on iOS first. The other is that, you know, we don’t, we never start with perfect information when you have when you’re starting up with an idea. And so it’s not like you can just develop the whole app, and then, you know, launch and, and everything is a okay. Like, TapeReal, in the example of TapeReal, we went through many iterations, many changes. We’ll, we launch something a certain way, and then we realize, okay, that’s not how users liked it. And so we had to kind of backtrack and rethink how to approach the problem. And so you’re learning a lot along the way as well, you might think people are using your app, you know, based on a certain set of behaviors, and meanwhile, they’re thinking of it in a completely different manner. And so because you’re still trying to figure stuff out, having to manage two different code bases can be challenging. We decided to go with, you know, being iOS first, simply because you can also take advantage of some native iOS features that are not really available on Android. And, and then obviously, the cost and, and development time factor is there as well. So it’s better to, in my opinion, to go through sort of the optimization cycles, work through all the kinks with one platform and one user base, and then release it on the second platform.
Karen Swyszcz 19:21
Okay, good to know. And prior to your first round of equity on Equivesto sorry, I’m not sure if that’s how you pronounce, I know that TapeReal has been entirely self-funded. So I’m curious to know like, what made you decide to start with like bootstrapping first prior to doing equity crowdfunding?
Ali Shah 19:45
Well, I was looking for a co founder for months and months and months. And there you know, it wasn’t It wasn’t an easy, easy task, I think I must have reached out to at least 250 different people to tell them about the idea to, you know, excite them about it and offer them, like a co founder role or a CTO role and to start building it. But yeah, I mean, it was just got a lot of no’s and people didn’t want to get involved for whatever reason. Maybe I didn’t do a good enough job selling it. I’m not sure. But, you know, I, I believed in the idea that I didn’t want to, you know, not build it. And so I was like, Okay, well, if no one’s gonna join me, I’m just gonna have to build it. And then hopefully, somebody comes across it, likes it enough, and really wants to be involved. And then I can explore that later on. And so, you know, I also wanted to make sure that the people that were working with me on the project, were also getting paid. I find that it just leads to a better sort of work environment more, they’ll build a better product, because they know what they’re getting, they’re able to feed their families less stress. And so I kind of took on the burden of that on my end, instead of passing it on to the rest of the team. And, you know, I think it’s worked out well, because our app is stable, it works. It’s pretty reliable. We don’t, it doesn’t crash, it’s not really like super buggy. Most of the feedback we get is that, you know, it’s an elegant and easy to use App, which I think may not have been the case, if we were just kind of building this out of a garage without anybody, you know, being able to feed their families.
Karen Swyszcz 22:16
Yeah, that’s really interesting and very admirable, of you to decide to take on that burden, like on top of, you know, running the company, and, you know, trying to, to build TapeReal. So then with regarding like, equity crowdfunding, what made you decide to go that route versus say, you know, looking into getting funding from venture capitalists? Or sorry, or like, do you have you received funding before from venture capitalists?
Ali Shah 22:45
No, I haven’t received any funding. I’ve pitched many people, many investors. Unfortunately, like the way venture capital works, usually, you need to get a warm introduction to somebody within the firm. And so there’s different layers that I was also learning. And I made some mistakes pitching along the way. You know, it’s this is all like, a new experience to me. And all I could base it on was based on like, a book that I read on venture capital funding and, and some blog posts and stuff like that. But no entrepreneur, like, has it all figured out. Now, some genuinely are good at fundraising. I believe I was watching This Week in Startups with Jason Calacanis and he had, and he was interviewing this gentleman named Farhad, from Roach VC. And he was talking about an essay that he read where he said, there’s two types of entrepreneurs, there’s like, the fox, and the foxes are really good at raising capital. Like, they know the game. They’ve, they know the strategies, they know how to how to pitch and they can raise funding, you know, in a heartbeat. And then there’s the other founders who are more like hedgehogs where, you know, they’re just working away, focused on the product. And so, I consider myself to be more hedgehog, like, I guess.
Karen Swyszcz 24:35
I could see like people, you have people asking each other like, they’re entrepreneurs. Are you a fox or a hedgehog.
Ali Shah 24:41
(laughs) But you could tell, yeah, you can tell when you see the fox you’ll know because they’re just like, they have their pitch down really well, and, and they’re just able to create that, that FOMO for VCs to invest. So I was facing some challenges on that front, trying to fundraise on my own. And so I decided to go through the equity crowdfunding route. And I think it kind of matches the sort of ethos that we’re trying to build around TapeReal, you know, putting people and creators first. And so we wanted to give this opportunity to, you know, everyday people to invest in TapeReal to own shares in this company and get in on the ground floor, as opposed to, you know, the folks who regularly invest in startups.
Karen Swyszcz 25:38
And so I’d like to talk more about TapeReal itself. So what type of content can be found on TapeReal, you see, like anything and everything, or there’s like a certain type?
Ali Shah 25:50
Well, we’re seeing a variety of creators. Like there’s a professor of innovation who posts like daily sort of snippets of motivational content. We see musicians posting music. Some of them have been locking their exclusive, their music as exclusives, so you have to kind of pay to listen to it. And then there’s quite a few astrologers, who have been posting like, tarot card readings, and monthly astrology readings, basically, what you would see, like, on YouTube, but more early days of YouTube, is kind of like what we’re seeing here on TapeReal. And I think that’s what I liked most about it is, you know, when you go on YouTube, it’s kind of feels like a jungle out there. It’s very algorithm based. And, you know, all the content creators are using the most high tech equipment I know, you know, the sound quality, the Yeah, the graphics and everything, right.
Karen Swyszcz 27:10
It’s like a production.
Ali Shah 27:11
Right? Yeah, that’s like a Netflix production. And, you know, and the sort of the aspiring creators might feel intimidated in that in that crowd. And so TapeReal kind of offers them that alternative, where they can come here be themselves and not have that sort of pressure cooker environment to create. And what I find is that it actually allows creators to be more creative, to focus on their growth, to document their journey, basically, you know, when when I look at the first tape that I posted on TapeReal, you know, I can, I can see how I can see my own journey as a creator, unfold, I can see how my own speaking skills, you know, changed and improved over time, I can see the evolution of or hear the evolution of my thoughts that I share. And, you know, I, I kind of liked that as the aspect of tape really like this idea of documenting while creating, which is kind of unique.
Karen Swyszcz 28:27
Yeah, and I think it makes it more real to use a pun, like being you can be real on TapeReal.
Ali Shah 28:35
Exactly. And you get to see how people kind of grow and evolve as individuals, right? Which is interesting, and fun to watch.
Karen Swyszcz 28:48
And, you know, given like the current group of creators you have on TapeReal, are there any certain ones you recommend, like following or there’s any certain ones you’d like to give a shout out to?
Ali Shah 29:00
Yeah, a recent creator who joined her name’s Janice Norley. She’s an older lady, but her content is very mindful, mindfulness focused. You know, she talks about the, like, she’ll include. I’m an astrology junkie myself. So she’ll include, like, you know, the position of the moon and how it may be affecting how you’re feeling. And she kind of gets into helping people kind of tune in into who they are or how they’re feeling, which is inspiring. And, you know, when you’re on other social media, it’s always just like information coming all at you. You know, I find when I go to TapeReal it’s like I can, I can focus, I can listen and I can consume content in a very different way.
Karen Swyszcz 29:54
And with that being said, actually kind of I think segues into my next question just about regarding social media in general, and you know, it’s enabled us to connect with each other and different people in so many ways possible. But at the same time, too, we can be disconnected when we’re with people in person, like people are constantly checking their phones, even though the, you know, the having an interesting conversation, or I remember coming across an article saying that people are spending more time at the restaurants because they’re taking much longer because they’re taking pictures of their food and then posting it on social media. So I’m really curious to know, just about, like, your thoughts on how social media has become so integrated with our lives? And you know, given the fact that you are the CEO and founder of a social media app?
Ali Shah 30:42
Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, social media, I think is a great servant, but a horrible master. And if you use it in the right way, it can be beneficial. But you kind of have to have the self awareness to know the under workings behind social media.
Now, all social media platforms are basically driven by an ad based revenue model. That’s why the product is free. Now, and unfortunately, the only way to generate more revenue is to get people more engaged on the platform, get them coming back more often. And so the business model is based on getting people addicted, and they’ll do whatever they can to then boost engagement. So in the case of, you know, most social media platforms, this could mean the surfacing of polarizing content, or fake news, stuff that might, you know, enrage you, or get you to comment. And I feel like social platforms should have a responsibility to the user to basically safeguard the health of the user.
And, you know, it’s, I think, more and more people are realizing sort of the dopamine effects that you get from social media. And, and, and many I think, have also kind of slowed down their sort of engagement with these platforms, you know, when you when you have documentaries coming out on Netflix, like The Social Dilemma, and you got the whistleblower for Facebook, coming out sharing, like stats on how these platforms are negatively impacting, you know, the mental health of teens, etc. People I think, are realizing it. And I think they’re hungry for human connection now. And alternative platforms where it’s not about getting you addicted and engaged all the time. You know, I’ve seen people like, I’ve because I do, like, obviously, market research and look at what other apps are doing. And sometimes they have, like, you know, features that can appear quite novel and interesting. But then, like, as soon as you use it, you realize, oh, like this is going down that cycle of being addicted, and always having notifications, and that dopamine sort of rush that you get, and I don’t, I don’t know if that’s good and healthy. I think that’s part of the reason why a lot of the newer platforms target younger users first, because they don’t know any better. And it’s kind of sad. I mean, I mean, as a parent myself, that’s also one of the motivations that I have is to create a platform that allows people to share and create and focus on their art as opposed to, Oh, I gotta, you know, achieve a certain level of fame or go viral on this platform. That’s going to be my definition of success.
Karen Swyszcz 34:39
Yeah, I feel like as. Yeah, as a creator, you have that pressure for other social media platforms. And as you mentioned, and then also like as a consumer, you’re talking about the addiction piece, and it came to mind like thinking how it’s almost kind of like the way they’ve designed it, and I’m pretty sure I got this from a book I’ve read in the past that oh, it’s like, like slot machines. You know, just just want to keep on putting in the coins and get the, you know, the you want to increase your chances or you want to keep on trying to get like all three cherries, right. So yeah.
Ali Shah 35:12
Absolutely. Tick Tok is exactly like a slot machine because it’s just an endless stream of content. Yeah, when I use something like Tik Tok, I just feel like my own attach attention span, like, gets very short. And I have to like, turn off my Tik Tok mindset to like, come back to reality. And that’s part of the reason why I don’t like using that app. And it’s kind of scary, because it is very, very addictive. Many people like if you, if you go to the App Store and read the comments that people leave, like, all of them. Oh, it’s so addictive. I love it.
Karen Swyszcz 36:08
Yeah, mind you, I don’t have a Tik Tok account. I feel like I’m, I’m too old and already trying to juggle like all the various social media accounts I have already. I’m not even sure I can like add on another one to my plate to like consume. Right? Yeah, so I, we talked about, you know, the business models for the current social media app there. So I also like for you to describe in more detail how creators can, you know, monetize their content on TapeReal?
Ali Shah 36:40
Yeah, so we’ve built a very simple monetization mechanism, where before you publish your content, you can mark it as an exclusive and set a price for unlocking it. And when you lock it, and you let’s say you charge, I don’t know. 10 Real Coin, 11 Real coins.
Karen Swyszcz 37:08
Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt is Real Coins, like the kind of like a currency in TapeReal?
Ali Shah 37:14
Yeah, it’s the in app currency that we use to allow the viewer to purchase from the creator. So you don’t have to provide like credit card information, you don’t have to subscribe. The creator locks that content. If that is something that you want to unlock, you’ll get to watch the first 20 seconds for free. And then you’ll Yeah, you’ll get a paywall. If you have the real coins in your wallet, you just unlock it. And then you can watch the rest of the content as many times as you want after. So it basically creates a little bit of exclusivity between the the creator and the audience or the fan. And the cool part is that whatever price that the creator charges, they get to keep in terms of their earnings, so they can cash out their Real Coins from their wallet, once they reach 100 US dollar in value. Each Real Coin is worth nine cents. So based on however many people unlock your content, or how much you’re charging for your content. You can start cashing out in US dollars once you reach 100.
Karen Swyszcz 38:37
Okay, yeah, that’s a really interesting idea. So with growing concerns around like privacy and data being shared, and, you know, we talked about the existing social media platforms out there and how you’re, you know, forging your own path and creating something different, like TapeReal. Do you think like, more people will gravitate to certain apps like TapeReal? Or? I’m just curious, you know, because were so like, addicted to these particular social media apps and the way they work? I’m just wondering, like, do you think people have a hard time like adjusting or they’ll like, feel it’s very refreshing and then like, quickly gravitate toward it?
Ali Shah 39:20
Well, it’s a mixed bag, because some people understand, like, right off right out the gate that, hey, if the product is free, I know my data is going to be used and they’re okay with that. And some people I think, take it a little bit more seriously, based on what and the research that I’ve come across and what I’m seeing just how things are unfolding in the marketplace. Apple is more focused on privacy now. You know, with their iOS 14 updates. It really impacted the ad industry as a whole. The online ad industry, especially Facebook, and Google, it’s limited their ability to track users within the Apple ecosystem. And a majority of people, when asked whether they want to share their data, we’ll say No, I think it’s like, almost 80 to 90%. And so, you know, I think the numbers speak for themselves, people do care about their privacy. They just were never given the mechanisms to enable that privacy. Because it was all about like, oh, you know, sync your contacts. Okay, now, I know everyone in your address book, and I can send out invites to them. And with because you just quickly tapped okay.
Karen Swyszcz 40:56
I think I’m pretty guilty of doing that just like, you know, get me like quicker access to the app is like, okay, yeah, like blindly clicking?
Ali Shah 41:05
Right. So, you know, I think privacy is going to be a, you know, a key thing for the future, people are going to preserve more of it, and, you know, then I’m building for that future where people will be just sick and tired of platforms, where their data is being used unethically and will gravitate towards, you know, alternatives or options that are available to them.
Karen Swyszcz 41:45
That’s really fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your insight. So I’d like to ask you some more like entrepreneurial based questions. And again, just kind of circling back to like, I think it’s very impressive that you’ve, you know, started like five companies do like, but that’s one whole hand and compared to some people, you know, they just start like, one, but you have five is truly amazing. Um, so given, um, you know, you’ve started that many companies, how do you know, when a company has run its course or, and it’s time to move on to the next idea? Or at least like in your experience?
Ali Shah 42:21
Yeah, that’s a that’s a tough question to answer. You know, you never have perfect information. Sometimes you could be close. And then you’re, you know, you give up. And then a little while later, somebody else picks up where you left off, and suddenly it becomes, yeah. And that happened when, when I was working on Bubble Finder. So I remember one day I, me and these two interns that were working with me, we started at the top of Yonge Street in Toronto, which is like, around North York, and they took one side of the street, I took one side of the street, and we basically went down, we walked down, and went door to door to every single business, to try and get them to sign up to Bubble Finder.
And just going through that experience, you learn a lot about, do you have what it takes to continue doing this or not. And one of the feedback, like when we finally reached the bottom of Yonge Street, which was like the core of downtown, I think it was like the last restaurant that I had knocked on. You know, he, he actually seemed interested. So after all these knows, it was like, Finally, somebody’s like, excited about this. And he’s like, you know, I really liked what you’re doing here. But if only this, you could deliver the food. And this was like around 2010, 2011. So, you know, the idea of Uber wasn’t really out yet.
That whole sort of model of like, you know, there’s a term for it, gig workers, people would be like sitting around idly with their cars and ready to deliver stuff or pick you up and drop you off somewhere. That whole model wasn’t there yet. And when he said that, I was like, oh, man, how am I going to build like some kind of delivery infrastructure for this? It didn’t really clue into me that, hey, I could use this model and and continue and so it was insightful feedback. But I you know, at that point, I decided okay, you know, that this is going to be too challenging for me to kind of build on my own here and Ah, so I decided to shut it down. And then it was only a few, I think years later, I think within a couple of years is when Skip The Dishes and all these other delivery, food delivery apps started coming out.
So I would say it’s really hard to know when to stop. Because you could just be really close to that, you know, diamond mine, and yeah. And suddenly, you know, you give up. So one of the key things to success, and I think entrepreneurship is persistence and being willing to continue to forge ahead. Now, there are obvious signals, and signs that the idea is not good. And sometimes people have a tough time accepting that, too. So, you know, it’s a sensitive sort of topic, and and there’s no real, you know, surefire way of knowing. I think listening to your community is one indication, having mentors that can maybe guide you is also helpful. In my second one, AdFits, I had an advisory board, while they were, you know, helpful. I think they were also very candid with their feedback in terms of like, whether the idea could work or not work, which helped me understand like, Okay, should I continue focusing on this? Or should I pivot it? Or should I just hang it up? And at that point, for for my own reasons, I decided I didn’t want to go into the advertising space. Just because there was way too many layers. And people were locked into those layers, that it was really difficult for them to kind of break out of it.
Karen Swyszcz 47:11
Yeah, that’s, that’s really great advice. And thank you so much for sharing your experience. Like, yeah, I can’t even imagine like, that’s, that’s true dedication is going like, door to door like the entire street.
Ali Shah 47:23
Yeah, I know. Wow. It was tough. It’ll toughen your skin. That’s for sure. Right? Yeah. When you deal with a lot of no’s and yeah. So.
Karen Swyszcz 47:36
All right. Um, one of my final questions for you is, who is an entrepreneur you admire and why?
Ali Shah 47:43
Well, I, I really like Jeff Lawson. He’s the founder of Twilio, I’ve heard him speak quite a few times. And I always find, you know, his, the way he built his organization, some of the things he talks about on his entrepreneurial journey. I was, I find it really fascinating and insightful. The other founders that I admire are the founders of MailChimp. Now, the cool thing about MailChimp is that it was a bootstrap company from day one. And that’s one thing that I really liked about that company and 20 years later, they were acquired, but you know, that it’s, it’s a true bootstrap success story. The founders of Basecamp are, are like that, as well. And so, you know, for me, being in the position that I’m in I, I find that inspiring that, hey, if others can do it, then, you know, why not anybody else?
You know, you set your own limitations and funding doesn’t always have to define, you know, your success i, a startup journey, so.
So yeah, those are some of the and then the obvious ones like Steve Jobs as an innovator was also very inspiring.
Karen Swyszcz 49:24
Cool. All right. So if people want to to learn more about TapeReal and yourself, where can they find you?
Ali Shah 49:31
Yeah, they can go to TapeReal.com. They can download our app. I’m on the app, I post audio video updates. I share my thoughts, occasional moments from my day. And just random projects or things that I’m working on. My username is @ali and if you want your own unique username, now’s the time to get in and reserve it before it gets taken by somebody else. And I’m also on LinkedIn. I try not to use some of the other social media platforms. I find. Yeah. I mean, even even for TapeReal itself. I just find it strange promoting a social platform on another social platform. So yeah, like within TapeReal you can find me or on LinkedIn.
Karen Swyszcz 50:33
Okay, amazing. Thank you so much for joining me on this conversation today.
Ali Shah 50:39
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me on your show. I really appreciate it.
Karen Swyszcz 50:42
Thanks, everyone for tuning in. And stay tuned for more episodes. Ciao for now.