written by: Vanessa Conabee
Passion is Key to Success.
After moving from Egypt to the U.S. as a teenager, Bassam Salem began programming professionally at 15, earned a master’s in computer science by 21 and quickly moved up the corporate ladder at MaritzCX, inContact and Omniture/Adobe before founding Mindshare Ventures, a management consulting and venture firm, in 2016. Consulting for other start-ups inspired Salem to create his own, channeling a lifetime of experience and knowledge into AtlasRTX, a platform combining A.I.-driven chatbots with human-assisted conversations (think Amazon’s Alexa, but for text). The story here is about what happens when smart people break from tradition to strike out on their own projects. We asked Salem for a few tips:
1. Why did you branch out on your own?
BS: After working in corporate America until 2015, I decided it was time to explore something of my own. At first, it was less about a particular idea and more about trying to capture everything I’ve learned in the last 25 years and to create a software business. The hypothesis was that software was the kind of business you could actually build from zero to a basic business in 12 months.
2. What is your concept?
BS: We are now almost exclusively operating on a person-to-person basis. People no longer email or make phone calls—yet most businesses still operate almost exclusively on the phone. The idea was to try to close the loop and allow businesses to engage their clients. No one wants to be stuck on a phone call—they just want to ask a question and have you get back to them by text.
3. What were your goals?
BS: I wanted to get to 10 paying customers by the end of the year. I gave myself a month to build an MVP (minimal viable product). In March, I recruited an engineer to turn my code into something real, and in April we found our first pilot customer in Woodside Homes. Our pilot went so well that, by July, the executives decided to use it in all 75 Woodside communities nationally.
4. What did you learn along the way?
BS: At my last job, I had 2,100 people working for me, but that didn’t prepare me for having no one working for me. There is something about the genesis of a company that goes from 0 to 100 employees that’s really amazing. I’ve never worked as hard as I’m working now, but I’ve never been as deeply passionate about something before.
5. How has AtlasRTX affected your family?
BS: My wife Ana is VP of Product & UX, and it has been amazing to work on this together. One of the coolest things about this has been sharing the concept of business with my sons in very real terms. It takes over the dinner table. It’s almost as if passion for the art of business has made more of an impression than the business model itself.
See more inside our 2017 September/October Issue.