In just a few short years GSM Nation is a $100 Million Company
The cell phone company Ahmed Khattak started from scratch a little over four years ago now has an annual revenue rate of $100 Million. Ahmed’s story is one we have heard before. A Native of Pakistan, Ahmed came to America around 2007 to attend Yale University where he studied Electrical Engineering and History.
Along the way it seems someone forgot to tell Ahmed how difficult it is to succeed and create wealth in America. I say that completely tongue-in-cheek of course.
But the point should be well taken. In America, our school system by and large still teaches to go to school, study hard, then with your degree in hand go out and try to find a good job. Our school system in America does not really teach entrepreneurship.
While the vast majority of Americans toil for thirty years at a job, foreign born immigrants like Ahmed Khattak show up on our shores and in a very few short years, has put together a company that if not already- will soon be valued at over $100 Million. Ahmed’s story is worthy of study if you want to make a lot of money and create your own American success story.
I would suggest that even if you never succeed on a level that Ahmed has already, lessons from his success can be learned and applied to your own startup or entrepreneurial journey. Think about this for a moment; never ever compare yourself to someone else and think that you could not be as successful, or smart, or rich.
Each and every one of us has different strengths, abilities, gifts and God given talent. So what if you succeeded at just a fraction of the level that someone like Ahmed has, where would you be? Would you be running your own $5 million or $10 million Company? So let’s get into Ahmed Khattak’s story and see if we can pull out any lessons that can help you succeed and find ways to make extra money.
Ahmed Khattak before coming to America - The foundation for creating wealth and making millions
A native of Pakistan, Ahmed is a self-described military brat that moved all over the country as his Air Force father was transferred to various military bases. Ahmed’s father was the first person in his family to go to school so he put a lot of emphasis on Ahmed’s education. Throughout his childhood Ahmed was able to attend very good schools, which eventually led to him being excepted to Yale University in the U.S.
Ahmed describes himself as problem solver who loves building stuff and fixing things. At still a young age he was fixing his schoolmates’ computers and PlayStations. He has always considered himself as having a “can-do” personality. While still living in Pakistan Ahmed became a top-10 ranked junior national in the racquet sport Squash.
The seed for what would later become GSM Nation was planted in Ahmed’s mind almost on the day he landed in America in 2004 at the age of 18. Ahmed wanted to buy a cell phone to call his parents and let them know he had arrived safely. But without any credit history in the U.S. and without even a social security number, no one would sell him a cell phone. Ahmed was astonished that one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world did not make it easier for someone to purchase a cell phone. Ahmed was already familiar with the cell phone market in Europe where phones are sold unlocked and mobile plans are available contract-free. While the seed was planted, it would be a few more years before Ahmed committed to starting up his own cell phone company.
Getting the big idea- how wealth creation begins
The year was 2007 when Ahmed’s plane touched down in London where he would be attending an internship. Still in the airport Ahmed came face to face once again with the way cell phone companies conducted business in Europe. It was as easy as walking over to a vending machine right there in the airport, buying a SIM card and subsequently paying about $22 a month for your phone bill. Ahmed was determined to bring a similar system to the America and make it easier for people to not only buy their cell phone, but to give them a more affordable option that they could actually understand. Ahmed was well aware of American cell phone companies and their undecipherable pricing schemes for voice, data and text.
After his internship in the U.K. Ahmed returned to New Haven Connecticut and began to put his plan together. In early 2010 he approached one of his best friends, Junaid Shams who himself was in medical school at George Washington University. Ahmed and his friend Junaid spent the entire night talking about the idea of bringing the European model of cell phone retailing to America. They discussed financing, infrastructure, the overall concept and whether it was a solid business plan. As we know now, they obviously decided it was a risk they had to take.
Initial seed capital for the new company came from a $30,000 loan from friends and family. Later Junaid Shams was able to bring a lump sum to the table and became a co-founder of the company. Together they raised more money to the tune of $120,000 in loans, and finally Ahmed found an angel investor who came through with $200,000.
$8 Million in revenues the first year
Ahmed was not a complete stranger to starting and growing a business. Back in his native country of Pakistan he started the clean energy company Buraq. He had also previously started and sold a telecommunications firm called Infinitronics.
In 2009 Ahmed and his friend Junaid Shams started a small pilot company that would be re-launched in 2010 as GSM Nation. Ahmed began operations with the pilot company selling unlocked cell phones which could be used with any wireless carrier.
When GSM Nation was launched the business model remained essentially the same. They sold cell phones unlocked by the manufacturer so they can be used with any network. The customer also purchases a significantly cheaper voice, text and data plan through third party carriers with no multiyear contracts.
When it came time to ramp up the business and launch what is today GSM Nation, Ahmed got a helping hand from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute in the form of office space and support. This type of help for a new start up is often referred to as an incubator. In the very first year the company had sales totaling over $8 million with the following year sales around $40 million.
Today GSM Nation is a lean and mean operation with only about 12 employees, some of which are contract workers, selling about 200 different models of unlocked smartphones and tablets. All of their products are sourced directly from manufacturers or global distributors. One can now look back and say that Ahmed’s entry into the American cell phone market was nothing less than a smashing success.
Ahmed admits that GSM Nation, based in New Haven Connecticut has surpassed his wildest dreams, with over $50 million in sales in just over 2 years from launch.
Did Ahmed’s studies at Yale influence his decision to start GSM Nation? Not really, according to him. At Yale he studied for a double major in electrical engineering and History. If anything Ahmed credits History and the study of people for helping him better understand how people live their lives, which plays into starting a company that serves people.
Ways to make money - Talking Points
The biggest success learning point I take away from Ahmed’s story is that he simply did not to accept the status quo. Instead of conforming to the U.S. cell phone market as it was structured, Ahmed set out to change the face of the cell phone industry and the way it did business. To be an innovator one has to constantly question the way things are done, and almost refuse to accept the status quo.
This is very similar to the story of Drew Houston and his now $ 1 Billion company Dropbox. Drew refused to accept the status quo of the file sharing industry as it was in America even though everyone else was seemingly satisfied with it. Emailing files to himself and carrying around thumb drives still seemed like an archaic system to Drew. Today his company is valued at over a $1 Billion.
Successful entrepreneurs learn to question everything while constantly seek ways to make improvements on existing systems or products. The next time you are dissatisfied with a product or service, ask yourself if you can do it better. Other success stories here at Darryl Kimball.net prove that you can become a millionaire with a simple product or innovations. It does not have to be hi-tech.