Raad Ahmed
December 27, 2021

What Starting a Startup as a First-Gen American is like

A conversation with Kamrul Khan for the Bengalis of New York podcast

Kamrul: Obviously you're Bangladeshi, but do you find yourself to be in touch with

your "Bengali-ness" for lack of a better word. Are you close with your family in


Raad: Yes and no. I was born here in the U.S. I went back when I was really young for

a year when I was one or two years old.

I've only gone back like two or three times since then. One time when I was 16. Then

another time recently after my mom passed away. I went back for that. It's interesting,

all of my relatives are pretty much in Bangladesh. In the the U.S., it was just my dad,

my mom, and some of their college friends.

I have cousins that are in Australia and some that are in Florida, but nowhere near me.

I never had this big, Bengali family-type experience growing up. When I went back for

the funeral I saw my uncles, my aunts, and my cousins, it was like, we didn't even skip

a beat. I felt like I knew them my entire life. Family's family, and I think it's been

different for me just because I haven't had a lot of that growing up.

When I did experience it, it's had a profound enough experience for me to want to go

back more often and cultivate those relationships a little bit more.

Kamrul: Where in New York did you grow up?

Raad: I grew up in Queens.

Kamrul: What part of Queens?

Raad: I was born in Elmhurst hospital. We lived in Richmond Hill for quite some time.

Kamrul: Did you not have a Bengali enclave where, you made people that are not your

family into to your family. Not you, but your parents?

Raad: They had friends that they went to college with or high school with that ended

up immigrating around the same time as them.

I was lucky enough to have a couple of core friends around my age plus or minus one

year that I grew up with at family parties. Actually, I'm going to see one of those

friends—he's getting married in two weeks. We've been able to stay in touch.

They were basically family, right. Even to this day, I consider my friends like family

members that I can pick. I think about this the same way as my college friends and

some of the people that I grew up with. They were there and that was cool. I wasn't

as lonely growing up. I still keep in touch with most of them actually.

Kamrul: That's what happens. I grew up in a building, all Bengali, pretty much 40

Bengali families.They just ended up becoming like family.

Raad: I ended up moving to Long Island when I was in the sixth grade. I stayed there

for middle school, high school, and part of elementary school, and they visited. I feel at

that time in Long Island, it was just not a lot of Bengali people, not a lot of brown

people really. That was just kind of who I felt most comfortable with, plus we moved

around a lot. It was just weird. I really didn't enjoy school that much.

I was a bit of a loner, I was into music, I was interested in creating things. I was into

things that were very different than varsity sports. I actually wasn't even that great

of a student, to be honest with you, I'd just work on other projects and other ideas.

Kamrul: I was asking about how connected you are to your Bengali side, because I

really enjoy talking to people like you that are entrepreneurs. There's not a lot of

Bengali entrepreneurs. I feel like there's a mindset that Bengalis that fall into,

including me, we go for the safe career. Doing the nine to five, which is ironic because

our parents came here and risked a lot for us to have a better life and would take more

risks for them. A lot of people like me and my friends end up taking these safer roads.

I'm trying to figure out what happened that was different with you.

Raad: It's an interesting topic because I've definitely talked about this before with

some of my Bengali friends or older family members. The bottom line is that, at least

for me, when my parents immigrated here, they had no choice but to start a business.

They came with nothing. They didn't have advanced degrees. A bunch of my friend’s

parents went to college, they were pharmacists. They came here and opened up their

own pharmacies. My dad didn't and it was almost like starting a business and

entrepreneurship was a last resort.

The thing that they wish they had were degrees, were white collar jobs. Going in and

having a boss, having a paycheck, making $100,000 a year. Whatever thing that they

dreamt up as the American dream was what they wanted their kids to have.

I was never interested in money like that, even though we've had our ups and downs

and we grew up pretty poor. At some point my dad made a decent amount of money

and bought a house in Long Island, but then lost it all. It was always very fluctuating

and up and down. It led to a lot of fights.

Bengali parents really value status and prestige in the realm of society and degrees like

being a lawyer, or being a doctor- which is the obvious thing. You get people that

either listened to them and people that don't. I didn't really listen to my parents that


It was mainly my dad. I listened to my mom more than my dad. You have to go through

a lot of shit, anytime you do something against what the norm is. You're going to get a

lot of uncomfortable pushback. Most people don't want to deal with that pushback.

There's a multitude of reasons to not do the thing that probably is the "better path”,

which for me was freedom.

I wanted to build something where I didn't have to be at a certain place at a certain

time. I didn't have anybody telling me what to do. Money was never something I had

to think twice about. I had that vision for myself when I was 15 or 16 years old. All of

the jobs that I had just further validated that this just isn't me. I'm not built this way.

I like creating, I don't like doing something over and over again.

Within the Bengali community, it comes a little bit to that society around parents, and

what your view of wealth and money is. I said that I don't care about money, but I

meant like I don't really care about the salary. I care about creating wealth in

the form of equity and enriching lots of people in that process. You need that leverage

to make a difference in the world and in society. I would be just as happy if I made the

bare minimum to eat, but I got to create and do my own thing.

I got to make websites, I got to touch millions of people's lives on the internet, and I

got to improve it in some way. That is something money can't buy. That's an

experience that has to be created and cultivated. I couldn't see any other way. My

parents obviously came around and my dad was just like, this makes a lot of sense.

It took them a really long time to A, accept that, and B not be mad at me for not being

a lawyer and not taking the bar. I signed up for the bar and then the day before I didn't

take it and launched the startup instead.

I guess I never really grew up craving appreciation from others. In high school I was

a super quiet kid. I was a little bit of a loner. I never looked for social approval. I guess

that always stuck with me.