Pull Quote: You can't always win. You have to learn from the journey and move on.

Retiring Young From Bangladesh, Thanks To WordPress

When you are reading this, I am very near to celebrate my 33rd Birthday. I don’t know how this number ’33’ sounds to you, but in some ways, I feel it’s a big number. I know many of you would argue that 33 is not an age to be considered old. In this article I will share about my career with WordPress lasting over 13 years, and how I am planning to retire within a year, more or less. And if you are an Entrepreneur yourself or self-established person, I think this will be an intriguing discussion, I will add some key pointers from my life that lead me to this decision.

Me Enjoying the Sun & Jetpack Tees after a long drive to Key West!
Me Enjoying the Sun & Jetpack Tees after a long drive to Key West, FL!

What do I mean by ‘retire’?

So, may be you are shocked to just see the title. The word ‘retire’ could be little confusing. Does that mean I am going to take leave from all of my ventures permanently? Will not be involved with anything day to day basis. And will be walking out in my beach-shorts in broad daylight, or vacationing endlessly anywhere in the world?

In some sense, Yes, in some sense, No. The kind of office I have I could literally go in shorts though, and my life has given me the opportunity to vacation as I want, almost!

But, yes, I am talking about taking leave from most of my ventures, at least not being involved day to day. And kind of taking a break to reflect more into life. I have been working tirelessly for a decade. I need some kind of breathing space, it’s not exactly what you think though. It’s kind of reboot. I will keep expanding the idea throughout the article. If you are really into, sadly you have to keep reading.

So, who am I?

I am not sure how boring this might get, but still, let me introduce myself. My name is Asif, I am the CEO of weDevs, a large WordPress product company (in WordPress Ecosystem) with a team of over 45 people. I am also the Founder of ARCom, a decade old WordPress focused Media Company. I am involved with WordPress community since 2004 and been very actively involved ever since.

I have founded many startups in my Entrepreneurial career, including but not limited to (those are the successful one, but I obviously have fair share of failures as well)

The Tech Journal – A Tech Magazine with a peak monthly user base of 10.2 Million.

The Dhaka Times – The Biggest Lifestyle Magazine in Bangla language ( seventh most spoken native language in the world by population) with average monthly 15-35 Million user base.

WPDeveloper.net – A (half-baked) WordPress Product Marketplace, focused to solve simple problems in WordPress, connecting User with the Developers.

AnalytifyA very advanced and highlighted Free WordPress Plugin that makes Google Analytics easy inside WordPress, and helps ecommerce and other brands.

 

I am also involved heavily in either as Founder or Investor, or many weird capacities at

Geeky Social – A progressive digital agency in Bangladesh, focused on Knowledge Leadership!

AamarPay – A Payment Processor.

3rdBell – Bangladeshi Online TV – A forward thinking digital brand, focusing on Video Content. Not exactly, but kind of disrupting Bangladeshi Entertainment Space like Netflix in the US.

Alo Venture – Once very active, now semi-dead venture capital wing, invested mainly in mobile and game industry.

And ARCom is always rocking with several projects, for past few year we have a wing to handle Enterprise WordPress Support, and serving even Fortune 500 company, who rely on us entirely, and we manage their entire stack, month by month, for years.

Enough of me!

Is it? As this article is entirely about me, you have to tolerate a lot more. 😀

This is going to be the biggest ever article published in HeroPress!

So, I always wanted to do WordPress?

No, obviously not. In my childhood I always wanted to be a scientist, a Physicist to be exact. And it’s not just like an aim-in-life, I was literally very serious. I was always into Space Science. Later it grew more into Physics. To give you an idea how serious I was, let me tell you something. While going through some old boxes, I found out some paper-cutting from back in 1993(I was in 3rd Grade back then), about coverage of different space exploration, news about Pioneer, upcoming plan on a Probe in Saturn. I literally had a file to collect those. Back in that day, that’s what you could do most, without any internet, and from a remote part of Bangladesh.

I was not extremely good in school, it’s not like what you read in the story, never stood 2nd type(always 1st)! It’s more like I never stood 1st type! But I was good in math, I was always progressing, and the main blessing I had in my life was support of my parents, unlikely most parents in our time, they never pushed me into things, never tried to push their judgment into my life. When I advanced from one Class to another, making some progress, they were happy with it, and I always made progress. So, they were happy, I was happy being a mediocre-student. But the issue was, in my mind, I was the best. I know how childish it sounds, but I was really a child back then! I always thought that I am best if I try enough, and if I was given enough opportunity. So, Instead of trying to do best in the Class, I focused on many things, like starting a Detective Company to Secret R&D Team, and none of those was a joke, we were serious.

Reading!

I always loved reading, and I was extremely lucky to have so much opportunity to read in my childhood. My house has some collection of children’s book, some cheap but interesting translation, my parents always brought me books on every possible occasion, as that’s what would make me happy. When that was not enough, I practically sneaked into most houses in the neighborhood. I was in 7th Grade at that time, and if a neighbor had an older kid they would have more books, and good part was if you show interest in reading books, and return it carefully, they would not mind to open up their bookshelf door for you, and most of them even loved me for this. Later on, I also finished up most of my relatives collection in the same town. Later on when in high-school everyone around knew I love books. Later on, this grew on my friends as well. I was lucky to have good childhood friends, who also enjoyed books as well. So, we would gift books to each others birthday, so we could read it ourselves. And few of my friend was very good students, and they always got some scholarship money, so we spend everything in our school life on books!

So, what was I was reading? Everything!

 – Everything!

Starting from Children’s story later grew into Detective Story, Science Fiction, and later into the adventure story, literature, whatever comes into my hand. One interesting thing I also did from the very early stage, keeps track on what I am reading. It probably came from my hobby of collecting Stamps. We used to make notes and categorize our collection. So, I started doing the same for Books. I made a notebook, started noting and making a list of what I am reading, later on, I started to make some remarks, note, what I liked, what not.

Writing!

In my teenage life writing took even more meaning. I was always good at expressing myself, and creative writing. But when one of our best friends left the country, and the only way to communicate was to write letters, so, we started to do that. It took different turn very soon. We were enjoying writing letters so much, few of us in the same class who we see every day also started writing letters to each other. However, it was nothing like a love letter or anything related to the affair, we were writing about anything, everything. At one point we were in a competition who could write the longest letter. In this competition, one of my friends wrote a letter to me (again from the same class, sitting almost on my next desk! 😀 ) over 50 pages, and to defeat her I wrote an over 100-page long letter!

*If you are wondering what I wrote in those 100 pages – I have a very large family, where my relatives of great-great-grandfather’s cousin’s and their family are still very connected and if you saw me talking with any of them you would think they are my 1st Uncle or Aunt. So, what I did is wrote about my whole family tree, describing family history and later on describing each and every member I could remember! In my house we had a very old “Family Birth Register” (জন্ম কষ্টি খাতা), dating back in the early 1900s, I even took help from it!

Over all this had a different impact on our life. I don’t know how hard it is to believe, but I was into Bangla Literature, specially poem as well, I even had a notebook full with my own poem! One of our classmates even wrote a full-blown 150+ pages novel in that age! And I am still enjoying writing!

Dramatic changes in my Educational life!

As described earlier, I was average in studies but not extremely good. And I was happy about it! All my close friends were very good students and would achieve the first or second position in class every time. Whereas, I was happy being in the 8th or 10th position. But as said in my mind I was the best!

Our educational system requires you to memorize and write as it is. But I was driven into reading books, and other things (also including playing Cricket seriously). I never tried to focus on memorizing anything. And from childhood, teachers grow an impression of what to expect from a particular student. So, for an example, my social science teacher knew for years what to expect from me, and it’s very hard to get past that impression.

When I was advancing from Grade 8 to 9, I took part in a Scholarship exam. We prepared for a year. Only a handful of us was participating from our school, I was among those few, but I had literally zero chance to get the scholarship. I was not very bothered about it at all. But during the exam, we had to travel to another town to the exam, and it was in the month of Ramadan, and I did not break my fast. It was hard, I had 2 exams in a single day. When I came back home one day with my father, my mom was sad seeing me so tired and drained out. But was happy that I was still fasting. Then she told me something very simply, which started a chain-reaction in my life. She told me, “You think of yourself so highly, you spend all of your time with those same kids, who are doing so good in school. But if you really think of yourself so highly, why not try to reflect that in your grade?”

Maybe it’s very normal for parents to talk like that. But as my parents never compared me with anybody or always let me do in my way, I kept on thinking about this. What clicked in my mind was that, if I am really good, I should be able to do good in any circumstances, if this requires me to memorize everything I could do that. If I want to be really that good, and be a good scientist, I need to learn to cope up and fight in any situation.

So, I changed myself, was even memorizing books, that I absolutely did not like!

In grade 9 & 10, I studied very hard. I changed my lifestyle a lot. I changed the way I write in exam paper to change the impression of my teacher. Before I was always like studying in my mind, not writing what I just read, I forced myself in writing those answer I just read, it was very hard and boring at the beginning. But I had a very good private tutor, who guided me in every way. Later on my teachers in school helped in every way possible. In Bangladesh student have to take a part in a Certification Exam after 10th Grade, to advance in College, its called SSC, Secondary School Certificate Exam. I prepared for that. At the end of 10th Grade, I almost had the book fully memorized, I could write as it is, correct to each and every comma and space. I improved my english a lot. I learned some calculous which was not part of our curriculum, just to advance myself for college, and I knew if I had to do better in Physics I need to learn math and Calculous better. I did took part in more Prep test than most other students. And ultimately in the School Preparation Exam, I did extremely well to boost up my energy!

Everything was perfect, we took part in the big exam!

And I did not get the grade I expected!

Interestingly our batch did not get good grades in SSC, we were the first batch in a new grading system, and we did not know that even before the exam, so none got perfect grade of 5.0, I got a very average grade(not bad, but not very good either). I was extremely disappointed, broken, but later learned to cope up. I realized a good lesson of life that – Even though you may work hard and go to great lengths to do everything possible, still you might have to deal with failures and disappointments.

Another good thing also happened in my life too. I moved from the small town I grew up, Ishurdi, to the Capitol of the Nation, Dhaka, and was able to get a chance in the entrance exam, of all big colleges in the country where I tried. This gave me a huge boost in confidence. I selected to study in Notre Dame College, in English Medium of Science. It was another controversial decision I made, for me a kid coming from rather a small town, and from Bangla Medium it was a tough decision, but I stick to it for the future, because I still wanted to be a Physicist, wanted to study further in my life, I knew I had to be in English Medium.

I had very hard time at the beginning of College!

At the start it was very hard, our whole group suffered a lot to cope up with new curriculum, our first semester in College was the worst. But later we learned to cope up, we were 130 students in our Group (famous Group 8 in Notre Dame College), we all were helpful to each other, not everyone had private teacher in this point, we shared our notes, I was living first time without my parents, I was also dealing with occasional sickness due to not eating properly. So, there was a lot of struggle, but by the end of 1st year, I was dealing with everything properly. I got a good friend circle, I was not only doing well in college, I was also enjoying my freedom and mostly dealing with anything life throws at me!

My Introduction to Computer & Programming!

Actually, I always loved programming, before entering University I already knew some basic programming, like qBasic, FORTRAN, even some level of Pascal. The kind of society I grew up, a computer was extremely rare before the year 2000. I was kind of lucky to be able to learn basic computer usage starting from the year 1998, got my first computer in 1999. It was so rare to own a computer in that time for that part of the word, that I was not only the first kid in my class to own a computer, but only a handful of people in my town knew how to use a computer. So, though I am not from a very rich or privileged family, extremely lucky that my parents understood the importance in that time.

Another interesting aspect was unlike most people, I was not fully taken over by Computer Games. I am not saying gaming is bad, but most of the people I later see own a computer, the main thing they do with it was playing the game all the time. And you have to understand that almost pre-internet period in Bangladesh. I use the internet first in my life back in 2001. I was more into tweaking things, trying to create or modify the software or create very basic type tools. I am super amazed by internet from first interaction. The search engine was in its peak time, discovering new resource was easy. I tried creating my first webpage in Yahoo Geocities back in 2001, wap page generator was also taking shape in coming years.

Say Hi to WordPress in my life!

M Asif Rahman – Wearing Tees by WordPressian Group!

      I created my first blog back in 2003 in Blogger, but while trying to add a sidebar and customizing home page look, I find it’s very difficult for me to do anything in ASP.net, then I found WordPress, back in the year 2004. I still remember reading Matt’s blog and write up about how the whole project is moving ahead from b2 cafelog. WordPress was so easy, I hardly knew any PHP in that time, but my HTML and CSS knowledge was well enough for me being able to edit my personal blog. At the start hosting was one issue, but again I was lucky to manage one. Later when WordPress.com came, I migrated my blog over there and was happy at the beginning, as less hassle. I was also heavily involved with forum community. There was some very large community for webmaster and developer, I loved PHPbb and other solution for forums as well. But after experiencing some massive vulnerabilities, which lead to a major data breach, I focused more on personal blogging and soon into web development. Wth WordPress it was extremely easy to create a website, plugin and theming turn out to be not a complex task. The community and developers contributing in this ecosystem were another main factors. I feel very connected with the whole ecosystem, eventually became habituated with this, and started to feel it’s my comfort zone.

How I started my career and company!

I was using the name A. R. Communication, an as an acronym of my initials (Asif Rahman) back in 2001 as well, but it was nothing serious, no particular business. When in college, to support myself I first started a Marketing Trainee job in a Multi-international company. It was convenient with my college time and location, and they were literally paying to learn things. I started it just the as need of money, but later I enjoyed marketing, corporate training, and even enjoyed sales training as well. But I never took that job a as career choice.

My first venture!

In the year 2003, before even going to Universities I started a full 4 color magazine, printed publication with a close friend of mine. It was a fun ride. The name of the magazine was “Fortnightly Tumi”, the Bangla word “Tumi” means “You”! It was a lifestyle Magazine. My family already had a history with the printing business, so I had some experience. We did this business very thoroughly if you consider this as our first venture. We did a proper market study, interviewed potential readers, organized group discussion, and got good funding. And we also started with bang! Hired renowned journalist and writer. I was barely 19 years old that time, have very experienced people in my team over 50 years old, and managing them was good lesson. All together we published 3 edition, with good marketing trick we were able to sell 10,000 copy nationwide for that last edition, we had over 20 big brands in the country advertising with us. But still, that business did not work out. We had to shut down, as our investor (my friend’s family) want us to focus on our education instead of this, and we were probably way ahead of our time.

Too many choices after college!

I did fairly good in college, despite being in English medium. I applied for the various scholarship in different university all around the world, and was in a process of ISSB for Airforce as GD Pilot, the whole process was lengthy, and I was only doing it for 2 reasons.

  1. One of my friends asked me to collect the form, as it was close from my house, and I thought why not fill up together.
  2. GD Pilots also get the chance of studying Aeronautical Engineering and even switch to Engineering in future, and they will have a chance to study higher in that subject, which could open up my door for getting into Space Science. All for free, paid by Govt.

Interestingly I get past all the test and selected finally. But they informed me, I have to stay in GD Pilot as a cadet and will be commissioned in 2 years, but have to think Pilot as a career, I was confused, I never enjoyed or felt the passion for speed before in my life. And we had few months time before joining the Force.

In the meantime, I got so many opportunities in various universities. And one of my dream to study further in Physics was too close, as I got a chance in Uni Penn, and got a scholarship there as well. I had few other opportunities at Canada and Australia. I even applied for Visa for Australia as well, but later had to decide against all of those for some family and personal reason.

I ultimately left Air Force as well, me & my parents agree that’sts not a good career choice for me, given the option I had. I got a scholarship at North South University in Electrical & Telecommunications Engineering. And as I started my company seriously at beginning of 2004, then a University that offers Open Credit, where I am able to choose my workload, it was just convenient. So, out of all promising option, I almost chose the risky one, to make my own company and study in Bangladesh, at least for the Bachelor.

The inception of ARCom:

Actually, ARCom is the short version of A. R. Communications. As I found making website too easy with WordPress, and a new found talent was helping me as well.

Just as I never waste time on gaming, rather enjoyed my time to tweak things, creating new application. Instead of most people, when they visit a new website, they look at the shiny look, or how good or better information it provides, whenever I visit a good site, I was always thinking how they are making money, how is this built and sustained. This quest has helped me making our first successful business. It took years, it did not turn into something very big in a night. During University years I did make many different kinds of websites, in that time I started earning first from selling websites. That was during the year 2005 or 2006, it was long before Sitepoint turn into Flippa, back in the shining days of DigitalPoint! I used that money to buy more domain. I hired my university classmate to work with me. The first outsider I hired in my company was a designer, as I needed help in there. Later it kept growing over the year.

First Big Success:

Though I already enjoyed some good (if not very big) payday by selling a website, point to note here, I was selling website as a business, not like you design a site and sell, its more about creating a business, create a process and sell it for a 2X – 5X yearly profit. But my big success came after 2008. Everything was turning so well, I was done with my University. My company was already a Team of over 20 people, with an office of 2500 square feet space. We started The Tech Journal, it worked so well in every aspect. As I was into writing blogs and also into the gadget. After the first iPhone release I was involved in many ways, from working with the secret group who were Jailbreaking each and every firmware, also new kind of responsive websites, I was also into News & those kinds of stuff. And because of my quest to understand how a thing works, I had a good grasp already into Content Distribution. Facebook and other Social Media are playing a role in content and distribution already. It all helped.

The Tech Journal became very big!

Within 6 months of start, we ranked within top 20k website. I was enjoying the ride to play with monetization and taking things into next phase. At one pick point, we were ranked even within top 4000 websites in Alexa. I had a good team with me. I finished my university already, 3 of my University friend was working with me full time. We all shared same vision for The Tech Journal, and it kept on growing. Because of our experience with WordPress we kept on innovating, for us we could build anything in WordPress, I had a solid Development team as well.

Marriage & Beyond!

I got married at 2009, I was 25 years old back then. I don’t know if there is any perfect age for marriage, but I felt that was the right time, I was doing good in business, was looking for more stability in emotional life as well. I suddenly found my long lost childhood friend, Bipasha, whom I did not have any communication for past 13 years, but suddenly fall in love and we decide to get married. Just like that! I will not go into details here(it’s already too big) how we studied together since 1st grade and got detached when we were in 7th Grade, but still got married 13 years later. We started a new life, life was never better!

Moving Further with WordPress:

Over the year WordPress kept growing so was I. I was writing, blogging, building things with WordPress. WordCamp was already something, but I was not able to attend or participate as I was still in Universities, but after finishing up, I decide to get more involved. I spoke in my first WordCamp in WordCamp Melbourne. For many years I was also very vocal about security and optimization, so I started to get so many opportunities into speaking and participating in various things. I still remember I spent one crazy summer in the US, participating 6 WordCamps, visiting 9 States and 13 cities in the process, starting from Boston and finishing at San Francisco!

WordCamp SF 2014 – Mission Bay Conference Center

I was very lucky to be able to speak at last ever WordCamp San Francisco.

Pursuing more into Investment!

It’s mainly because of The Tech Journal, I was involved in many tech conferences, and always getting the pitch from various startups. And my new grown circle of friends from WordPress and various other tech scenes, I already established a good connection in Silicon Valley. It was in the year 2009 when I made my first Angel investment, the credit must go to my friend circle, it was years before Angel List, there was offline syndicate where folks will share investment opportunity. But I really loved talking with young entrepreneur and seeing how new business works. I kept my focus in my sector, the field I understand. So, I mainly invested in tech. Out of several investments, one of my lucky ones was Facebook, I was able to invest in Facebook before their IPO, not very early, but still Pre-IPO stage, it was one of my lucky breaks. As I was already doing good in my business I tried to utilize it. I did not start investing because I had too much cash laying around, I started because I liked those opportunities, I wanted to help those ideas or startups.

Moving into the US:

I started another business in US, where my partner was from Orlando, I spent one Thanksgiving with my Wife in Orlando, really loved the place, people, and we already got a long term Visa, and had full opportunity to live anywhere we want. My company in Bangladesh was already in a stable phase, and as I was traveling heavily for years, my team was used to being managed remotely, so it was not a hard decision. But staying far from parents was hard. So, what we started maintaining both houses in Bangladesh and Florida. For years we spend some part of the year in US, rest in Bangladesh.

Child & Changes in Life!

Like everybody else our life was bound to change when we had baby. In year 2014 we were getting for our first baby. We decide to stay in US, because of better medical facility and my involvement in different things. Just a month after speaking at WordCamp San Francisco in November we were blessed with Aaniyah. Actually, our life already changed when we were planning and waiting for the baby. I was feeling the work routine I have would never let me spend the time I want to have with my baby.

Analytify & A New friendship!

I became friends with Muhammad Adnan online back in 2014, he was working with his premium Plugin Analytify back then. I found this as a real good project and started talking with him, giving him various advice, and we later decided to team up, and we released the first free version of Analytify WordPress plugin on 1st January 2015. It was a success, it completely revolutionizes how people use Google Analytics in WordPress. Later Adnan visited me in the US in 2015, and together we attended WordCamp Miami and had a good trip and drive to Key West! The most interesting part of the friendship lies somewhere else. I am a Bangladeshi, and Adnan is Pakistani. Both of our nation has a very bad past. Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan, back in 1971 we fought for about 9 months, and millions of people died in the process before we got Freedom and Declared Independence from Pakistan. But it creates a life long enmity between two countries. I know for an outsider it does not make sense to keep some feelings for that long, but for its very personal for us. Our country lost so much in that war, even if you speak about just my family, My Grandmother lost half of her family in that war, Bangladeshi especially have a very strong opinion about any Pakistani. But meeting Adnan, becoming friends, and working together made me realize few interesting thing, this feeling, this agony against any Pakistani was one-way. Most of the Pakistani did not have any idea what their Government or Army did, they hardly have idea about their Ancestors’ doing. They rather still consider us Brother! Some of the history he never knew, they never read in their history book. I would never know this if it’s not for WordPress, we would never meet, this change in understanding for both of us never happened.

And we together kept on growing Analytify, as the best Google Analytics Plugin in WordPress, and planning many interesting things together.

Coming Back to Bangladesh!

While I was staying and mostly investing in the US, I started investing in some interesting Teams in Bangladesh from the year 2012. Over the year, a few failed, but some really kept on growing. In the year 2016, in Pre-Trump period we were expecting our 2nd Baby, and it was too hard for us to manage alone in the US, and we both were missing our family. I want my kids to grow up having their family close to them, the way I grew up. I want my parents to feel close to them. Occasionally when we visited Bangladesh with our first child, I was quite blown away the way they loved and took care of the baby. It all made sense if we spend some more time in Bangladesh, and have the Baby in here. And the weird things going on with the US also motivated my decision. The kind of craziness we are seeing in the US, actually did not start just by having Trump elected. It goes way back. We were living in a  very peaceful neighborhood in Florida, a small town called Orange City, near Daytona Beach! But we could still feel the change in air. Our parents have a pending Immigration Application for near a decade, they are on the que to become US citizen anyway. We first tried to have them with us, but US Embassy in Bangladesh rejected that application, for absolutely no reason. And my other venture was already growing in Bangladesh. So, all together we decide to stay in Bangladesh for awhile, we moved in mid-2016.

Welcoming Aadiyah into the Family!

We had our 2nd Baby Aadiyah in September 2016, a bit ahead of time, my wife got little too sick, but we were able to handle everything because of having family together. We moved into a large Duplex house, to have enough space for the baby. We feel we are complete as family and never been this happy before.

Complete Family!

weDevs & My Legacy!

I will discuss later my involvement in Bangladeshi WordPress Eco-system. But back in 2013 I first met Tareq, a very talented Bangladeshi Programmer, running a successful WordPress product company. He and his Partner Nizam built an amazing company, and they had few very interesting and super successful products for WordPress. I started helping as possible from my end, I want them to succeed and pushing them to move forward. I became an official partner and board member of weDevs back in 2015. I was helping them to grow internationally and advising them as part of the board. We established a US company and kept on growing. Though I was in WordPress for very long time, my main company ARCom was never serious into WordPress Product. I released some of our work in Open Source via WordPress.org Plugin Directory, and with my growing experience with Analytify made me dig more into WordPress products.

Somehow at the end of 2016, Tareq and I was looking at our numbers for weDevs in 2016, we noticed something very important. Three of us spend more time digging deep into the numbers and re-analyzed our process and priorities. Soon we all came into understanding we have to take things forward with weDevs, the growth of the industry is very important if we want to be big in future this is the right time. They proposed to me if I could take over as CEO. Nizam was running weDevs successfully as CEO for years, and I never thought seriously about running another company, and my retirement plan was already in place. But we found this could be the best thing we could do in the year 2017, where I have little over 1.5 years before my planned retirement.

So, I jumped into the ship. I always dreamed to make a rocking and successful company in WordPress product space, and it was my chance. And as it’s already a running successful company, my goal here to build a legacy, instead of just making a profitable company, built a sustainable company, and proper team, a fine management, that could grow into future, that could outgrow us, something even bigger than us combined.

weDevs new office – Reception Area from inside – WordPress Flavoured!

 

So, I took over weDevs of CEO in January 2017, I took 2 months as the transition period and blend fully into the day to day system. We announced this officially in the month of March. Dhaka is a very jam packed city with the highest number of people living in per square miles in the world. We were already a Team of about 25 people. I still had few other business that I have to take care. So, we moved to a new large space. A total of 5000 square feet space, fully open, we built a unique office that could sustain us for next few year. I moved my house and office in the same area, called Mirpur DOHS. Me, my partners, and almost 12 of us together moved into this area together. As we now live within 2 min distance from the office, the Traffic could not bother us at all. We gave the option for our employees to move into too. We paid the moving cost, we even adjusted salary if they faced any increase of cost for housing or anything. We took time, but now our new office is complete, it’s one very interesting WordPress themed workplace.

 

We are growing further, our team of 25 people will soon become a team of  50+. We are working on new stunning products, we just launched a brand new super fast Form Builder plugin named weForms. It will revolutionize the way people build forms and create anything from just a simple contact form to organize a quiz. Our team built it entirely on Vue.JS, as a single page app. It’s unbelievably fast, almost nothing we have seen so far inside WordPress.

Our Team internally working very hard to update our existing product and we are working on some new things that I am incredibly looking forward to. Before I join, weDevs did not have a marketing team, we ran entirely autonomous. In last 6 months, we have built a sustainable Content & Marketing Team. I am working tirelessly with my CTO & COO to build a new culture. We have a two-way feedback evaluation process. I created a kind of unique in its way, a grading system where the company could give feedback to an employee, on exact point, and inform directly where they need to improve. It’s a kind of algorithm I have developed over the years and really helps you to make a happy and working team. In the same way, Employee also have the opportunity to give feedback to the company directly – about what makes them happy, how a company could help him grow more, or if the company is addressing every concern properly. We do this quarterly basis, and review in each quarter, so the improvement could always be tracked, graphed and addressed properly.

Bangladeshi WordPress Community!

This is another very proud thing I would like to talk about. When I first had a very detail conversation with Matt Mullenweg, back in 2011, he was very happy that I attending so many WordCamp, and be that much involved with the community, he asked me about WP community back my country, and told me if we are able to have a good group, a nice meetup and eventually a WordCamp, he will try to attend. I found a new role for myself, over the year we grew Bangladeshi WordPress community. Locally we have very growing and engaging WordPress Group, called WordPressians, we have over 21,000 Members in Facebook. We are a team of 15 Admin/Organizer who maintains everything, and it’s an open group so always evolving. Over the year, we 15 became very close to each other, and we all consider each other as best friend. We contribute in Open Source together, we hangout together, attend various WordCamps around together now, we plan day out together as well. This is another blessing happened to our life mainly because of WordPress.

 

Starting from 2013 we are official meetup chapter in Dhaka. We organized over 15 meetup, where each and every meetup of our could be considered little WordCamp, with 4-6 session, and had 150-300 attendees. We organized all of our meetup in our own platform, a WordPress plugin we created, so everything happened at – WPressians.net, not at Meetup.com, we did it with direct permission from WordPress Foundation. We have made WordCamp Application starting from 2013. And I even faced Organizer interview twice in 2014.

But the sadness!

There is one thing that hurt me a lot. Though me and our organizing team worked so hard to grow Bangladeshi WordPress community, but due to some miscommunication, we still don’t have any WordCamp yet. The foundation failed to take timely measures to proceed with our WordCamp application, we faced repeated issues in getting the proper timely response from them. Out of frustration and years of waiting back in 2015, we organized a CMS Conference in Dhaka, where we had over 10 speakers, and there were over 1500 attendees. So our team has proven their position, but things took so long from the Foundation. I wrote to foundation much time, there is one on-going conversation, still, we hope for the best, this the way Foundation handled our communication, shows the lack-of-attention clearly. I am almost devastated in this and very hurt! When I first attended and spoke in WordCamp Melbourne in 2011, I was the first Bangladeshi to ever do so. I but I kept on pushing. Now there is over 10 from even just our organizing team where they attended in various WordCamps around the World. Last year we attended WordCamp Singapore with a team of 9 people from Bangladesh. We are gaining experience, we are driven, but still lacking behind because of Foundation, sadly! I attended over 50 WordCamps worldwide, I helped to organize over 10 WordCamps in various cities, but could not organize a single one in my home country for 6 years, this keeps bugging me all the time!

My Future Plan!

Plan to retire by my next Birthday!

weDevs to keep on Growing!

I am here at weDevs to create and fine tune the process and build the vision. I already described what’s happening in there. From my start as CEO we are seeing about 15% month to month growth in revenue and about 20% in market reach, We will keep on doing so and beyond. And we will probably get more result in long term, and building team, forming up a new culture and getting result certainly take more than 6 months.

So far the plan is to me stay in Day to Day involve up until June 2018. This is not an exact day plan, could change with time. But possibly by September!

ARCom being Autonomous!

I am running ARCom without much of daily maintenance for awhile now. I have Team Lead, Editors, Managers in place, that’s running their wing successfully for awhile now. There are few new plans and things my Team working, but all team has a lead, which they ran with ownership, and mostly sustainable. There are some places where we need some work, I hope it will be done by that projected time.

Geeky Social, 3rdBell and my other venture!

Geeky Social has a solid team, and they are running amazingly. I am very proud of our team. I am part of the board and now serving as Chairman, and probably will continue to do so. I hope by next 6-9 months we will be even stronger financially, our month to month growth is already steady and growing, we are clear it will grow a lot from there. One of our core success is to grow beyond a cash-hungry business, which is incredibly hard if you are involved in Digital Media, and buying. But we got past that and now everything taking shape. I am very confident in the team and looking forward.

3rdBell faced so much issues over the year, but now we have a solid platform, the founders are incredibly motivated. Me and other investors are looking forward. I am still involved as Technical Director, this role could extend for the time being when we go through some changes, but we have solid plan to move forward, and by mid-next year, it should be i a  different height.

 

Me & WordPress – going forward!

I will have people to maintain my plugin, and provide even better support, and few of them are even joining next month, so it will be well taken care of. I will shift the community role mostly to new people and others. Next 9 months I will dedicate to have more Contributor from my community and circle. I will literally incubate contributor,  from Core contribution to Docs and Community team. I will drive more into sharing my experience and finding over the decade. Besides writing, which I think is my superpower(!), but still under used, I will drive more into Speaking. Those are my next upcoming  Session, if you are happened to any of those WordCamp, please say Hi!

  1. WordCamp Colombo, Sri Lanka – 23rd September

Topic – Making Million in WordPress Plugin But Not Being Evil!

     2)  WordCamp Ahmedabad, India – 7th October

Topic – You heard content is the king, but are you paying attention to Content Distribution?

If you read so far, you should understand how relevant both topic to my life!

 

How could I financially sustain this?

I am thinking, planning and working on this retirement plan for awhile now. The main question I got asked how could I financially sustain. I don’t know what kind of impression you have got so far by reading about my life. Yes, I own several successful ventures, running a very growing and profitable business, I also invested in the 20+ venture and was extremely lucky to enjoy some exit from the investment. But not in very big scale. Some of my investment looks promising, but that does not make me very rich in cash. So this plan further is not about having tons of cash in hand laying around, it’s more about having sustainable and ongoing earning. I do certainly have some exit I am looking forward to but my plan will not depend on it. I am confident now I could easily go beyond this month-to-month type calculation! 

The Hardest Part!

When you grow business for over a decade, the main challenges are people. Like some successful venture, I also have businesses that are not cash-positive but has people involved with it for years. When you run a business, you become responsible for those people, their family depends on your decision, that type of responsibilities will limit you sometimes taking logical business decision. And really relying so much into people, and the fear of let going control could be hard dilemma any Entrepreneur could feel.

But over the year I learned, sometimes you have to let go to get things done for future, sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. So, I practiced that for some time now. I am positive that things will work out, and won’t break apart.

Reason: Why I am doing this?

In some ways I feel I am doing this for very long time. I have built team, product, faced hard time, and also enjoyed when things work out, I have gone through this circle so many times. There is always hard time and I have seen how it all ultimately always worked out. I kind of want to get out of this circle. Sometimes I feel tired. Though for a person like me who single handily started everything, broke so many barriers, it’s hard to get me tensed. I know how to deal with pressure, hard time, shitty situation. In some ways I am resistant to those. But when I reflect everything in my life I am very proud what I have done, what I have Achieved.

Monetary wealth did not make me rich! But the experience and relation that I cultivated did. I feel rich because of this.

When I was still a teenager, dreaming to be a physicist, I had a very thorough vision of my future, I wanted to finish my PhD by age 25. Later in the course of life I became Entrepreneur. Then my goal was to become a millionaire  by age 25 and have a stable family. I was successful in that. I have the vision to built amazing WordPress team and product, I am doing that right now.

I want to move on, I would like to see greater meaning of life. That does not mean what I am doing is great, it’s just going beyond. I always thought life has a bigger meaning for me, I always felt privileged, the kind of life I had, most people from my demography could not have, so I have bigger responsibilities!

How ‘Big’ is WordPress?

WordPress is biggest CMS and No.1 solution to make Website, but how many businesses do you see worth over a $100M in WordPress Ecosystem? Or over $50M? Not much. And because of so much recent #WPDrama, one thing is very clear, we have a long way to grow. I kind of feel to make it too big, we even limited ourself as well. I do see the power struggle inside the community as well. The most respected person in the community, now have very large number of haters, and for few semi-valid reasons. That is sad, maybe we all need to rethink!

What will I do in future?

Maybe I will drive deep into science, I will be still 34, even enough time to study something new! Maybe I will just enjoy the break for awhile. Maybe I will try to find the better meaning of life. Or maybe will write a book, I don’t know, I want to keep the option open, have an open heart. I do certainly earn this freedom myself, I am very grateful to the list of endless great people that helped me throughout the decade of my career.

Your kids to reflect You!

We all want our kids to be like us, we want them to reflect us in a good way, and go beyond. But If we are not involved in every process of their life how could this happen? If you let your family, mainly wife to entirely take care of your kid how they are going to learn from you? Do you really believe just giving 1-2 hours a day will do the trick? It’s way more than that. I want to be an integral part of my kids’ life. I want to be fully involved in their process of growing up. In this whole thing, there is nothing related of deciding fate of their life. I have no expectation of making my kids something, I am fully open, they will decide their destiny, their own venture. I just want to help them understand this World, be their Dad, be the friend they could play with, be the teacher they need, as long as they need.

I will spend more time with my family, my 2 young daughters really need more of me, they will be 4 & 2 by next year. They will go into school, perfect time for me to jump in.

Conclusion: For You!

If you came this far reading this, you could probably tell I enjoyed writing! My routine hardly gives me more option to do it regularly. I was meant to write this HeroPress article last year but was too busy, and the timing was too near of the 2nd baby’s birth!

I don’t expect others to try to retire early, but having a choice in life is important. Try to look back. Why do you work? Is it because of earning money? Just to survive, just to sustain your family? This should not be the purpose of human life. I believe our Creator created us for a reason, we are not meant to live and die selfishly like an animal. There should be more meaning of life other than trying to buy luxury!

There is a Ted talk describing Humans, how evaluated to be Human, one of the core reason was we cooked, and gathered and stored food, so we spent less time like other Gorillas to try to find food and spend most of the days for that purpose. We cooked, it was easy to chew, and it gave us more free time, so we were able to innovate! Interesting theory, but surely intriguing.

Life is not always about achieving it all. It’s sometimes about the journey. You can’t always win. You have to learn from the journey and move on.

When I look back I do see, my decision to invest worked out many ways. As I diversified my venture it was a good move. I made many mistakes and described in details here as well, but I tried to learn and reflect that in my further life. I am who I am, because of the journey. I don’t regret any part of it. If I had the chance would I have done it differently? I don’t know, maybe that could be a different journey. My life is wrapped up entirely with WordPress, I am and will always be proud of that. But maybe I need to give myself a fair chance to see the world clearly. For past 13-14 years, I have worked every day on an average 14 hours of more, I still stay at the office for over 12 hours. But I don’t do it because I have to, I do it because I enjoy it. But this is taking too much of my life, I am too swamped up. This break is necessary.

 

Note: I really like to thank Topher & HeroPress for giving me this opportunity and pushing me on writing this. I was very confused as it turns out this BIG. I thought it was just 2500-3000 words, I wrote almost on the fly, so was not looking at word count. Probably this is kind of my thing, if an idea is clear in my head, I don’t have issues putting it into letters.

Topher told me this is twice the size of the previous longest essay in HeroPress. I am glad if you read it completely! That’s also an achievement! Then why not spent few second more to say Hi in the comments, so I could know who read this far!

38 comments

  1. Michael says:

    Hi Asif, many thanks for sharing your story. I think you’re making the right decision. In the end life is so much more than doing only one particular thing. I recently feel very much the same, though I’m not as long involved in WordPress like you.

    • M Asif Rahman says:

      Thanks, Michael. I am not saying this is for everybody, but sometimes we need to go far to see closely, otherwise, maybe we will never notice!

    • M Asif Rahman says:

      You are welcome! I know, and you can’t blame anybody. Its over 9000+ now probably! I am glad if you read entirely!

    • M Asif Rahman says:

      I do agree. But probably without pushing me this much I would not be this frank so easily! Maybe with time, I would give into writing more about my personal stuff!

  2. Asif Newaz says:

    Haven’t read the full article yet. But I will. Must tell you I run a small Dev shop from mirpur dohs too. It’s a nice place to live and run a business. Thanks for the write. All the best.

    • M Asif Rahman says:

      Take you time, I am still updating this article active, please do refresh everything you come back reading it. Visit us when you are around. We have folks playing Table Tennis every evening!

  3. Sekander says:

    Dear Sir,

    I wanted to say hi and thank you for sharing this much details. I did not expect to find some life lessons from a blog post!
    Your story is definitely going to help me in my future 🙂

  4. Shamim Hasan says:

    Very nice writing.
    I am also in love of WordPress. I am a Core Contributor, Plugin Developer, Project Translation Editor and Translation Contributor from Bangladesh (Mirpur exactly) though in real life i am in Merchant Marine (Captain of ship). Next year i am going to join for my pilot training (My dream job).
    In some point we are very much alike which made me to write here. I also lost communication with one of my friends when i was in class nine. After long 11 years we meet each other again. At some point we fell in love and decided to marry. Now we are married couple for 2 years.

  5. Hey @Asif!

    BTW I just read the complete article 🙂

    I am proud to have you at Analytify and growing it together. Best of luck to your future plans. I prefer that too “Give time to your kids”.

    Cheers
    Adnan

  6. Shajjad says:

    Enjoyed the full story & learned a lot about your journey.
    We meet at startup weekend Dhaka 2012. I can still remember, we talked about WordPress products. Time flies so fast!

  7. Mirta says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, your ups and downs, the reasoning behind the moves you made, the consequences, and lessons learned! I am in WordPress since 2004., and have worked with Dokan in some projects 1-2 years before you joined weDevs, so your story was an interesting read from those aspects as well.
    Some of many gems that caught my attention were in particular
    – The way you organized your business premises, so everyone in the team could also live in the neighbourhood (thus avoiding the traffic issues completely).
    – Your love for writing, and why the article turned out to be long beyond your expectations – “if an idea is clear in my head, I don’t have issues putting it into letters” – same here, so now I feel a bit less bad when I am writing about something and in my head it looks like a short piece, but in reality it turns longer than expected 😀 (Sometimes I can just leave it at that, but sometimes some heavy cutting is under way.)
    There are other valuable insights from your story, but I’ll have to stop here, as going further would turn into retelling most of the story, a.k.a. into quite a long comment 😀

  8. Bappy says:

    May be the longest article I’ve ever read! This could be one of the very few achievements I have in my 25 year old life lol! Thanks for sharing your story. I feel like I need to get my shit together and start long term planning and work accordingly. Wish you all the best to your successful retirement.

  9. Zakir Sajib says:

    Good one. Good to see a successful journey.

    I’m a later comer in WordPress world, started its taste at 2010. Since then enjoying…
    Develop custom themes for the clients through out the world as a freelancer. Now I think its time to reboot. Now want to build a company. Looking for few devs locally.

    Had experience with international contractors and happy with them as they are professional. Unfortunately couldn’t find any reliable developers here. Perhaps I was looking in wrong places.

  10. Dear Asif vaia,
    Just completed the full story. Longest article I’ve ever read! Really Inspired as it alines with my journey as well. Your some words moved me very much.

    “I don’t expect others to try to retire early, but having a choice in life is important. Try to look back. Why do you work? Is it because of earning money? Just to survive, just to sustain your family? This should not be the purpose of human life. I believe our Creator created us for a reason, ”

    Your love for WordPress and Writing is striking. I’ve decided to love and contribute more to UX research and design as it is my passion. And will try to give back to the community as much as possible.

    Thanks for writing your story, Thanks for inspiration and thanks for giving lifelong lessons.

    Love and respect from an ExNotredamian (Group 3) & Entrepreneur
    Solehin Sagor

    • M Asif Rahman says:

      You are too kind, Sagor! We all love you, as well, and very proud of you and what your team is doing, keep up the good work. And yes, having a choice in life is very important, I am glad that I have this luxury or at least trying to create one.

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