5 Questions with Shayan Hamidi

Shayan Hamidi is the CEO and co-Founder of TheRedPin.com.  He studied Computer Science, Economics and Math at the University of Toronto.  After running a few startups he teamed up with two other UofT comp-sci graduates and a real estate professional to start TheRedPin.  Back in 2008 they realized that the real estate industry in Canada depends on the agent’s MLS system which does not cater to the new home and pre-construction industry, which is a huge and growing part of the market.  So they considered building a new and improved MLS system for the new home industry that would also be open to the public.  Today they are focused on brining transparency to the market and through technology they have streamlined the real estate process, and are able to pass on significant savings to the Canadian home buyers.

  1. What motivates you to do what you do on a daily basis?

I love what I do, and I feel blessed having everything that I have today.  I have surrounded myself with really smart and motivated people that just make things a lot more exciting for me.  I also have the opportunity of working on a product that directly helps people with making the biggest investment decision in their lives, in an industry that’s very traditional and requires lots of improvements.  Therefore, everyday that we introduce a new feature, tool or information we are directly helping someone in one of the most special moments in their lives; this makes me feel privileged and also responsible to deal with something so real and so important.

  1. If you had 30 seconds to impart your wisdom on a classroom of soon-to-be graduates, what would you say?

You are lucky, there has never been a better time to graduate and start working.  Don’t just take care of school and graduate.  You can do lots to get yourself ready.  The means of production and the tools to make or produce anything is now pretty much available to anyone and at a really low cost.  Traditionally, you had to come out of a great university with great grades in order to prove you are worth getting a job at a decent firm.  You don’t need anyone’s help anymore.  You can do it all by yourself.  The key is to be pro-active and make a move.  Don’t wait till you graduate, start TODAY.  Start reading about what you like and follow the players in your industry.  Start a blog and show you care, leave comments on other people’s blogs and become active on Twitter and other social networks.  You don’t need big names on your resume to show you are worth it, you can simply display your portfolio online with the initiatives you have taken till now.  Read Linchpin by Seth Godin.

  1. In your opinion, what has been one of the most important technological developments over the past 12 months?

Most of last decade was about the rise of social networks, and for the last few years we saw Facebook growing to pass 500 million users and pretty much finish building the framework for the social graph.  This is a huge accomplishment, and with the social graph in place the fight over social networks came to an end.  Every industry has its own trends, but overall for the last 12 months or so, the most interesting technologies were the ones that tapped into the existing social graph and introduced gaming into their platform to make the process more engaging.  As a result we saw Groupon, the social buying application, becoming the fastest growing online company, and a game like Farmville growing to have more active users than Twitter!
Mobile is also huge, and we saw companies like Foursquare grabbing a lot of attention in the past year or so which has all the elements I mentioned and tries to bring the offline and online world closer together.  But if I had to choose only one, it would be gaming.  Games are the best engagement engines and I still find it hard to believe how big Farmville has become and how much attention it demands from its users.

  1. If you had a crystal ball, what would you say will be the most important technological development over the next 12 months?

There is a lot happening, and today Quora is probably the company with the most hype.  But I think the trends that I mentioned with new applications leveraging off of the social graph, games and mobile would be here for years to come.  And companies that are able to successfully apply a mix of these three, to address different needs would be the big hits for 2011.  This is just a beginning.  Gaming will continue growing this year, so will mobile and I believe 3D technologies (both display and print) will also become mainstream.

  1. Who is one of Canada’s tech stars and why?

I have worked with a lot of talented techies.  My vote would go to TheRed-Hacker, Mr. Ali Ajellu who is also my partner and our CTO at TheRedPin.com.  To be a tech star you obviously need to have a great deal of technical background and be comfortable with a variety of technologies and be able to keep yourself up-to-date with the new trends.  But there are other factors involved that would differentiate a great developer from a tech star.  A tech star needs to have vision, and ultimately understand that technology is just a means to an end, not an end in itself.  So being able to see trends and consumer needs and then figuring out how to apply the tech to address the needs is the key.
Beyond that, I have to vouch for the folks over @freshbooks for their platform as well as the guys over @gridcentric. They’ve done a great job. In addition, let me give a shout out to @jpuopolo who walks like a tech guy, talks like a tech guy, and not surprisingly, is a star tech guy.