Raad Ahmed
December 6, 2021

On Startups, Life, and Philosophy

Key Takeaways:

  • Yes, I’ve never held a steady job...spoiler: it turned out OK.
  • The internet is possibly the best wealth creation tool, ever
  • I never grew up craving appreciation from others
  • Our time here is insanely limited- waste it wisely
  • I’m at peak creativity when I’m alone

Key Books and Authors Mentioned:



Host: Kamrul Khan, founder, BoNY

Kamrul hosted me on his weekly podcast, Bengalis of New York, where I talk about growing up in a conservative Bangladeshi-American household and the resistance I faced trying to launch an internet company after I promised my parents I’d be a lawyer.

Getting Fired From CVS

0:08- 2:14

  • I was fired from my job at CVS after not vacuuming the aisle

“I knew it was because I pushed back on doing something I genuinely didn’t want to do”

  • Freethinking has seeded the plants on not ever being able to held a steady job

I was not good at showing up at one place at a specific time and doing the same thing over and over again

  • I’m a curious person, I want to know the why behind what I’m doing

I’d rather be poor than do something I am not genuinely interested in”

Hiring Freethinkers

2:14- 3:36

  • I am not the best manager- so I think that the people we hire have to be self-starters and managers

“I am good with setting the stage and setting the vision- after that it’s up to them on how they perform”

  • Money is a decent motivator- but it only goes so far
  • Motivation has to come from the heart

It’s the only way you are going to succeed doing something really early stage

  • There’s been institutions that have been around for hundreds of years

We’re this less than 10 year old startup trying to disrupt it- and we need people to go to the extreme

The Flywheel Concept as Applied to My Life

3:36- 4:55

  • A flywheel is essentially a set of actions you take where one thing leads to another thing, which leads to another, and more on

Then you’re able to repeat the process

  • My personal flywheel is along the lines of creating something, publishing it out into the world, gaining visitors and traction from it, which then makes me want to create and publish more
  • If you’re someone like Uber, more drivers on the road equals faster pickups, which brings in more drivers, which then brings in more passengers, which brings in revenue, which drives down the cost more
  • In life and any business you do, it’s helpful to look at it from the perspective there’s going to be some sort of compounding effect

Starting a Startup as a First-Generation American

4:55- 13:55

  • I was born in the U.S. and only have been back to Bangladesh 2 or 3 times
  1. I never had this big Bengali experience growing up
  2. I’ve had a profound enough experience where I want to go back more often, and cultivate those relationships more
  • My parents came to the U.S. with no choice but to start a business

They wished they had degrees and white-collar jobs

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

I never listened to my parents that much

“There’s a multitude of reasons to not do the better path”

  • I wanted freedom where I didn't have to be at a certain place, or be told what to do

All of the jobs I had validated that I like creating, and not just doing

  • I never grew up craving appreciation from others
  1. All the famous founders like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, or Larry Ellison were misfits growing up
  2. I want to push it to the limit, and be a misfit within the startup world

Why I Went to Law School


  • In undergrad, I studied philosophy of law

I liked reading and writing, and wasn't good at the hard sciences

“Abstractly, I got law- it felt like a piece of code that society wrote”

  • I liked the very zoomed out analysis of how society operates through laws
  • There was a part of me that went into law for my parents

Deep down I knew they would be proud if I had the title as a lawyer

  • After my first year of law school I knew I could never work as a lawyer
  1. It wasn’t the job at CVS, but it was still a job
  2. I knew I could build something better than the institution of a law firm
  • Getting a law degree helps you become a better reader and writer

It’s the foundation of anything and everything you do

“There’s nothing that beats reading something complex, being able to understand it, and then communicating that to others”

What I’m Reading Now

17:31- 19:27

  • I’m reading a lot more on philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, spirituality- things within the realm of ego, and consciousness

Most of the reading material is based around the mind, with the ultimate goal of understanding how to think for yourself

“My ultimate goal is I never want to play someone else’s game. I want to create my own game. I want to create my own rules. I want to play within that”

  • A lot of the books I’m reading now reflect that
  • Out-of-body, out-of-mind thinking naturally piques my interest

I like the aspect of not knowing about something and employing a new thought process

Social Media as a Tool

19:27- 21:32

“I’ve always viewed social media as a component of work and some objective I’m trying to further”

  • In the past, I would use social media to get a bunch of likes and feel better about myself
  1. Now, I use it as a distribution channel for some of my creative stuff, and a good way to keep in touch with people I’ve met
  2. On the business side, it’s a great tool to track your customers
  • It’s a facet of life at this point
  1. I go through different phases of going more involved into it than not
  2. Twitter is the more intellectual challenge, as it develops the skill of writing

It’s a public notebook of my thoughts that would otherwise sit inside a word doc

A Startup is Your Own Personal Utopia

21:32- 25:30

  • Not working as a traditional lawyer was one of the greatest things I could have not done

All of my ideas were not tainted by any preconceived notions of the legal industry

  • I was able to think of Lawtrades in simple, baby terms

I was graduating into one of the worst job markets within legal

  • How could I get lawyers paid?

“I wanted to create a whole new work model that allowed a company to directly hire an independent lawyer by matching them with the exact location, practice area, and price point- then created an elegant experience for both sides to work together and pay each other”

  • The initial seeding idea for Lawtrades was as a market based platform

We predominantly sell to Big Tech- companies like Pinterest, DoorDash, Headspace and help them scale up their legal departments

Why I’m Building my Life’s Work on the Internet


  • Growing up, I was really fascinated by the internet.. I loved using aol messenger and seeing different websites being built
  1. More than anything I wanted to get rich, because I saw it as tied to freedom
  2. The idea of the build one, sell twice really resonated with me

“You can create something once, and if you have the right distribution you can infinitely scale at a zero cost margin”

  • I quickly realized that the “right distribution” was the internet
  • I created a Facebook web app for cover Facebook images
  1. I spent probably $300 launching it, and did a bunch of SEO- and basically had a blank website with key images on it
  2. When facebook dropped their cover photo update, the site went viral
  3. I ran Google AdSense on it, and turned it into a 6-figure business

“I knew at that point there was nothing else I would do other than build stuff on the internet”

The Truth about Going Through 500 Startups

32:05- 38:48

  • When my co-founder Ashish and I and got accepted to the incubator, 500 startups told us we could come if we found a technical third person to join
  1. Miraculously, within 48 hours we found a developer who moved to California with us
  2. We spent almost a year in Silicon Valley building the company together
  • Before the accelerator, we had a landing page where we would email introduce people
  1. We improved it from there to an appointment booking thing, then to a marketplace that didn’t accepted payments, then to one that did
  2. We had the longevity to keep improving it
  • The incubator route is cool because they are professional investors- so there’s validation there

You get to work with 15-20 companies in a similar stage to you

“You get to replace your friends with all these ambitious people”

  • There’s this historical, inspiring vibe in Silicon Valley

Sometimes you need a little bit of that delusion to kickstart your business

  • But I moved back to Long Island to get away from the sameness of it all



  • My life is not limited to just “either-or”

“You can be a startup founder and an investor, and a bookworm, and a skateboarder, and a musician”

  • Anything is possible thanks to the internet- you just have to put in a little more effort than most people

Investing in Bangladesh

41:51- 45:35

  • I put out this intention that I wanted to be more involved in a Bangladesh

I connected with Nirjhor Rahman (CEO of Bangladesh Angels) and chatted with him about getting involved

  • I want start investing in early-stage startups in Bangladesh that are involved with a B2B marketplace similar to Lawtrades

Life is Ephemeral...Waste it Wisely


“I try to do anything and everything I can do every day and not take anything for granted”

  • Losing two pivotal forces in my life, my mom and friend Fahim, recalibrated what I was doing

I realized how insanely limited our time here is

“All of your accumulation and ideas can be gone just like that...so you should take every shot that you can because no one else is going to”

A Startup is Your Own Personal Utopia


  • Part of building a company is all of those connections you make

“Your company is your ideal utopian world and you get to pick who you work with...and I get to surround myself with people I genuinely respect”

  • The upside you get from it is amazing

“It’s the long-haul process of coming in, showing up, and figuring out what society wants and doesn’t know yet how to get”

Waking Up Without an Alarm


  • I’m still not a morning person
  1. I often stay up thinking really late into the night
  2. I don’t use an alarm- as long as I am performing well then I am happy

Solitude and Creativity are Casual


  • I am unplugging for the most part before 11am

It’s my time that I am writing, doing something creative, or doing deep work

“Alone time and solitude just doesn’t get enough love”

  • I am at peak creativity when I'm alone