Build formal professional and personal support networks. You’re going to go through a lot of challenges as you grow into your career, and you need a team of people that are dedicated to helping you become better. I have a founder support group that meets every two weeks and a friend support group that meets every week, and I have no secrets with either group. I’ve become a better person and executer because of these groups, and they’ve become some of my best friends in the whole world.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry,I had the pleasure of interviewing Nima Gardideh, co-founder of Pearmill a tech-powered growth studio that combines the power of artful creative with precision targeting on major digital platforms. He works with leading technology brands to help them acquire customers. Nima would be a good person to connect with as he has experience with both successful and previously a failed startup and now shares his expertise in startups, engineering, iOS, Android and Web, agile software engineering, funnel optimization and user experience.
Thank you so much for joining us. What is your “backstory”?
For most of my childhood, I grew up in Tehran, Iran. My family moved to Toronto, Canada, right as I was entering the last few years of high-school. It was a pretty big move for all of us since we barely spoke English and were entering a brand new culture. We would barely see my father since he was still running his company in Tehran, so I certainly grew up knowing how hard Entrepreneurship can be. Later on, I became a college drop-out from the University of Toronto studying Computer Science because I felt like I wasn’t learning anything, and started my first company. Over the years, I’ve gotten more and more confident that I made the right decision for myself.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I think my life had become funnier when HBO’s Silicon Valley started. They’ve got so many things right in that show. Probably the most interesting part was that when I started my second company (which became Pearmill, where I work now) — I got a ton of messages and congratulations from my network because I was working on something that was “on-trend’.
We were doing some machine learning (which is still one of the hot topics of tech), and it was hilarious how much attention we were getting just because we had the right phrases in our company description.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well, my day job is Pearmill, where we get to work with amazing companies to get customers and users through different marketing channels, which is extremely rewarding as we all get to learn so much about how different parts of the world work.
Besides that, I spend my time designing light installation art and recently started working on a project with a few of my friends to create a work+play space in Brooklyn for people striving for excellence.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I’ve been fortunate to have had different mentors and friends along the way as I’ve grown in my career. I think I’ve probably learned the most from my immediate bosses in the early days of my career, some of whom have become very well known in tech. I interned for Farhan Thawar, Amar Varma, and Sunny Madra right before I started my first company, and seeing how well they were executing on growing their company and building a culture of excellence has kept me inspired. You may have never heard of those names, but they’ve helped build some fundamentally market shifting companies in the tech world like Tinder, Autonomic, and Shopify.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been more and more inspired by my generation, and those that have a vision for a better future. I’m so glad to be able to work with the people in my company and be part of a larger community of people that are working to help solve people’s problems and do more for our planet as a whole.
Specifically, I’m inspired by a handful of my friends that are very focused on providing excellence in everything they do: be it spending time with their families or friends, or the culture they’re building in their companies or communities they’re involved in.
I distinctly remember helping a friend put together a playlist for a dinner they were hosting and realizing how much they care about providing a great experience for everyone.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The answer is probably not enough. I spend a small portion of my time helping invest in companies founded by minority or female founders as a way to give back. It’s certainly been very rewarding, and I’d like to do more of it. I hope to do more soon.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Wake Up! Not in the literal sense, but rather focus on being as self-aware as possible. You’re going to be a manager one day, or a parent, or a company founder, and you’ll be responsible for other people. None of us are qualified for that, but we can do our best to be. The best way is to be listening to yourself just as well as you try to listen to others. I recommend reading a bit of philosophy and taking up meditation. Those two things changed my outlook on leadership.
- Build formal professional and personal support networks. You’re going to go through a lot of challenges as you grow into your career, and you need a team of people that are dedicated to helping you become better. I have a founder support group that meets every two weeks and a friend support group that meets every week, and I have no secrets with either group. I’ve become a better person and executer because of these groups, and they’ve become some of my best friends in the whole world.
- Be gritty. There’s a lot of research that suggests talent is only a small part of the equation for being successful. Much of it is around deliberate practice: work hard, and figure out how to work smarter from the learnings, and repeat. I used to think if I put in 100 hours a week, I would be successful. It would probably help, but I would have gotten stuck somewhere and likely at the expense of my health. It’s about working hard, and then learning how to work smarter as a result.
- Stay healthy! Learn about how your body functions, figure out how to eat well to keep your body healthy and work on your mental health on a daily basis. I’m probably 30–40% more performant at work because I work out five times a week and meditate every day.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.
I’ve been going through a phase where many of my friends are sending me tweets or articles from Naval Ravikant, the founder of AngelList. It’s mostly because I keep talking about meditation, Buddhism, and that I’ve been running an investor list similar to the early days of AngelList. I certainly would love to meet him someday and learn more about how he thinks. I’m sure we’d have some good conversation, but I’m sure I’d be the only one learning from him.
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.