How I Got Here: Episode #4

Ali Qureshi
Equities Trader at Goldman Sachs

Ali Qureshi, Equities Trader at Goldman Sachs. Before moving to the United States from Pakistan for college, Ali Qureshi watched the TV show Silicon Valley and immediately knew he wanted to be involved with startup culture in the states. During his time as a student, he co-founded Party in a Box, an on-demand party supply company. While the company didn’t ultimately succeed, Party in a Box was the most discussed bullet on his resume during internship and job interviews, ultimately landing him a role at Goldman Sachs. Ali’s experience highlights how an entrepreneurial venture can be a differentiating factor when applying for competitive opportunities. This conversation is brought to you by The Garage at Northwestern University.

The summer before Ali Quereshi came to Northwestern he binge-watched Silicon Valley and loved the startup culture he saw play out on the screen. Upon his arrival, he immediately jumped in with an on-campus entrepreneurship club, EPIC as well as The Garage. During his time he created Party in a Box, a startup that put together pre-made themed decoration kits for parties. While Party in a Box ultimately shutdown, Ali attributes it to being a key learning experience for him. Instead of being upset about the shutdown the Party in a Box team actually threw a shutdown party to honor their work on the concept. His mindset of celebrating failure and being willing to fail is one of the skills that Ali says helps him every day in his job at Goldman Sachs.

Ali’s LinkedIn:

Mike Raab (00:05):

Welcome to How I Got Here, a podcast from The Garage at Northwestern exploring interesting journeys of young professionals working at exciting companies, and the role that entrepreneurship played in getting them there. My name is Mike Raab, and I love dissecting nonlinear and non-traditional career paths and the lessons that we can all take away from those who forged them.

In this episode, I’m joined by Ali Qureshi, an equities trader at Goldman Sachs. Ali’s originally from Pakistan. And before coming to school in the US saw the television show Silicon Valley, which excited and inspired him to take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities as a student. While the company he founded in college, Party in a Box, ultimately didn’t succeed, it ended up being a differentiating factor and most discussed point on his resume when interviewing for internships and jobs. I think Ali has some very important and powerful perspectives on entrepreneurship, differentiation, and failure. And I hope you enjoy this conversation with Ali Qureshi.

So Ali, thank you so much for being here with us today.

Ali Qureshi (01:12):

Mike, my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Raab (01:14):

Of course. I thought a good place for us to start might be if you could take us back in time and tell us when you were entering college, what you were studying and what you thought you wanted to do after graduation.

Ali Qureshi (01:26):

Sure. So I came to Northwestern in 2015, class of 19. And I came from Pakistan, a pretty small town over there. So I came as a generic econ major, like everybody else. Trying to get a nice job in finance or consulting right after. And I think for me, it was kind of a very multidimensional experience, because obviously was the academics, but it was also the social experience of being in a school like Northwestern.

And I think that I would also kind of take the segue into how my introduction with The Garage and the entrepreneurial scene at Northwestern kind of grew was I think the year that I was a freshman was when The Garage actually came to existence. And I think one of the first one of those freshman events they had was in The Garage called the ice cream networking. And I was like, “That just sounds very fascinating. So I went there, spoke with a bunch of people, got to know about a bunch of entrepreneurial clubs on campus.

So I think when I started off, it was more about I just want to get a job after graduation. I want to socialize, have friends, but that’s the extent of it. But I think kind of coming across these things in the very beginning, whether that be The Garage or different entrepreneurship clubs on campus, gave me the idea that there’s much more to college than a job, or socializing, or academics. And I think that’s something we can explore more in this podcast, but I think that’s kind of where I got my first taste of innovation, ideas, collaboration, speaking with like-minded people, and that’s kind of how it went from there.

Mike Raab (03:06):

Yeah. Very interesting. I’m curious, because you mentioned that you entered as an econ major and thought you wanted to work in finance and consulting. Obviously you end up working in finance after school. When you started to discover all these entrepreneurial resources and people, did you view that as a potential alternative path? Did you view it as a hobby? Did you view it as a way to learn, or what was kind of your mindset as far as how you were going to engage with these resources?

Ali Qureshi (03:36):

I think it was a combination of all three of those, to be honest. I think first of all, so the summer before I came to college, I binge watched the first two seasons of Silicon Valley. And so I knew that America had this thing called the startup culture that was exploding. And if you just come as a young student, especially from a different country, it’s something which is very eye-catching, very fascinating. And when I would interact with a bunch of my classmates, or seniors, or guest speakers at The Garage, I would think of it as definitely a potential career. Because just the idea of building something, getting your hands dirty, failing and then building up again, it’s kind of an adrenaline rush.

So I would always view it as an alternative career path, but I think at the same time it was something which to me was a resource to learn. Because I would just hear people talk about ideas. It was always about what’s the problem, what’s the solution? Why do I want to make a company? Why do I want to go and capture certain market? So for me it was learning, and I’m a big believer of learning from people. Conversations, dialogue, exchange of ideas, all these things are perhaps the best sort of school one can find. So for me the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Northwestern was basically this phenomenal resource where I could engage with people, have discussions, have conversations, and just learn so much. It was a place to learn, and it was a place specifically to learn from people.

Mike Raab (05:16):

Yeah. It sounds like having a lot of people that were open to discussing ideas and passionate about similar topics was a valuable resource to you. When you began engaging with these resources, was it helping other students with their startup? Did you start your own company, or what was kind of your journey throughout school?

Ali Qureshi (05:37):

Sure. So basically when I started, there was an entrepreneurship club called Epic, full form is Entrepreneurs in Action. And they had this program called the launch program. And the launch program was basically you have 50 odd students and you randomly make groups. So, people in groups of four and five would go together. They’d be trained by certain mentors. They’d be given a path, a bit of a guideline on what to do. It was mainly kind of engage with others. Go do surveys. Try to explore market gaps and then come up with a startup idea by the end of the first quarter.

So my freshman year, between October and December in two months, the four of us who had never met before, basically went on a hunt to create a company from scratch and pitched that idea in December to a bunch of panelists, take their advice and then spend the next few months working on that idea. And that’s where the idea [inaudible 00:06:40] Party in a Box, which was my first startup at Northwestern, came into existence. It was a product of the launch program. And then eventually we had a Garage residency my sophomore year, and it went from there. And as a very proud Garage resident, as I speak to you, I have my Garage hoodie on right now. So that was kind of how my first year unraveled.

Mike Raab (07:01):

I appreciate you repping with the merch. Party in a Box sounds like a lot of fun. Can you describe what that idea was and how you went about beginning to build it?

Ali Qureshi (07:11):

It was a lot of fun. People would call us that, “Oh, this is the Party Crew coming into The Garage” or something. But the way it kind of came into existence was again, I think the biggest thing The Garage taught me was any idea or any company that you want to build has to be solving a problem. It’s always about solutionism. You might build an Airbnb and call it Airbnc. Whatever. But as long as you’re doing something better that the existing companies not, it’s all about solutionism.

So my biggest takeaway was, what’s a problem out there that can be solved? And my freshman year there was a friend, it was her birthday. And I was like “We should do like a party for her and get some balloons, get some cake, whatever we possibly can and throw a surprise birthday party.” The problem was that, and this is like pre-Uber Eats and Postmates becoming big ,and Instacart coming into existence. I was like, ‘All right, it’s 11:00 PM. We’re in Evanston. Let’s try and get some party supplies.” There was nothing that was available online that could have been delivered to us in the next one and a half hour. The closest Party City was like 20 miles away. And I was like, “So what do we do here?” We had no option. So that’s when I came to the group of people that I met through Epic that, “Hey, I have an idea. What if we did like party at a touch of a button. That a box was delivered to you. You don’t need any exertion, leave your house, nothing. Press a button and a box is going to be delivered.”

So that was the initial idea, that we just want to make push for party as convenient as possible. So then we kind of went out and started interviewing people in Evanston. College students, working professionals, even professors in some cases. And we said, “So how often do you have friends over? What are the necessities? Are you a college student? Are you a working professional? What do you want? Okay. Beer pong balls? Awesome. Do you want plates? Do you have kids? Are they having birthday parties?” And the biggest thing was how much time do you spend buying these supplies, and how much money do you spend buying these supplies? And try to identify some patterns in these conversations. Like what is something that a college student, a young professional, and a mom, all of them would buy? So it was a long process.

And I still recall Aaron Alexander, who was a mentor for me in The Garage. He had a company called Audio Word back in the day. He would make speakers. He was the OG Garage kind of cohort. So he was like, “I want to see you go interview people.” So we spent a month interviewing a total of 523 people. And we had this massive Excel module which said, “What’s the need? What’s the requirement? How can we execute?”

So initially it was all about pack a very basic box, get the supplies in, and deliver. So Superbowl 2016 was when we kind of had our soft launch. So we had these Super Bowl-themed boxes. And we were like, “We’re not going to make any money. We’re just going to breakeven and see what the response is going to be like.” And we essentially made these like 50-odd Super Bowl based boxes. Very simple. Had streamers, some decoration items, tablecloth, plates, cups. That was it. Sub-20 bucks. And we basically advertised in The Garage on campus to Evanston locals, and we’re like ‘You cannot find a cheaper box than this.” We basically went around on Amazon and to see if somebody was to buy those items in Amazon individually, how much would that cost them versus how much would it cost from Party in a Box?

And that was a huge hit. We made a bunch of sales. And that’s when we were like, “We could probably expand beyond just one theme.” So we saw what are the biggest movie trends right now? What are kids below four looking at? What are kids above eight looking at? What are couples looking at? So we kind of made more boxes. Avengers movie comes out, make a box for that.

But eventually what was settled in was, if you really want to compete and make an impact at a bigger level, and kind of include more themes and more ideas, it’s going to be a process, it’s going to require a lot of scalability. And as college students, even though if we use a lot of data and surveys and talk to people, we cannot just predict 25, 30 themes at any point in time and have inventory for that. So then Billy Banks, who was a mentor for us at The Garage back in the day, was like, “Make it simple. Pivot.”

So then came in Push for Party. You’re like a 28 year old, corporate employee in Chicago city. You come back from work. A bunch of buddies around the area. You guys just want to have some pizza, play some beer pong, what do you need? So the idea was we have a subscription model, or we have a simple box. You go to the app. Push the button. You’re going to get the box with minimum supplies. You’re ordering pizza, great. Cups, plates, beer pong balls, and some sort of board game or some kind of a card game. That was it.

So that was kind of our journey for the first year and a half. And then eventually the realization that if we really want to make an impact through this idea and grow beyond our existing level, we have to scale. And I think as a sophomore in college, the word scaling is pretty frightening and it seems quite impossible to achieve. I think that’s kind of what caused Party in a Box to fizzle out eventually.

Mike Raab (12:41):

Right. And you mentioned that this was over a year and a half or so. I’m curious what you did in the summers. Did you take kind of more traditional internships during the summer, since you knew you wanted to work in finance, or did you also work on Party in a Box on the side? Or how did you make decisions around utilizing your time?

Ali Qureshi (13:01):

Sure. So freshmen summer I was back home, and I was interning at a couple of traditional consulting firms. But at the same time, every night 10:00 PM Pakistan time I would call Chris Guo, who was my co-founder, who was living up in Wisconsin. And we’d just talk about, okay, what next? And that entire summer, we just kind of talked about rebranding Party in a Box. Because we were still very attached to the idea. But I think it’s, as you said, kind of taking a more multidimensional approach. I wanted to go and discover different fields where I could see myself working full time. And as much as it is, you want to have something up on your resume end up your first year in your freshman summer. So I found a couple of gigs back home that were basically being a lower level analyst, and kind of observe how things done at a big corporate firm. I was in a couple of consulting firms. But while I also kept Party in a Box a regular thing that I brainstormed upon and researched for, and talk to my teammates up in the US.

Mike Raab (14:05):

I like that, continuing to work on it on the side and think about it. So when you got back to school, you could improve. And it sounds like eventually you came to the realization that it would be difficult to scale this beyond your initial users. Did that result in the decision to shut down the company, and if so, how did you approach that decision?

Ali Qureshi (14:27):

I think it was gradual. I think startup founders are very much like athletes that you just do not want to give up. You know that the idea is crumbling, but you do know that there’s this tiny bit of faith inside you. It wants you to keep fighting. So it was pretty gradual. We said, “Okay let’s cut down the traditional themes. Let’s just focus on Push for Party. Let’s try to make it subscription only. Let’s kind of have board games delivered every month.” Because we try to make a big hype. Because I think a company like this, which provides a party supplies, needs to be good in their marketing game.

So the idea that, you know what, what we’ve marketed a lot and everybody on campus is aware. How do we go and break the news that, you know what, it didn’t work out, and we shut it down? That was tough. But I think it was very gradual. It was slow. And then eventually it was… We had a shutdown party. We all went to have all-you-can-eat sushi to celebrate that it was a good run, but it didn’t work out. But I think once that hits that you’re just not as passionate anymore, it’s really hard to get going. I think if you’re young in college or just in your twenties, you truly have to be passionate about an idea, to be truly in love with it. Otherwise you’re not giving your best, and then you’re like, “There are different things to do in the world. Why should I be married to this which I have interest to?”

Mike Raab (15:53):

I really like the idea of a shutdown party, and specifically because I feel like a lot of college students who are ambitious hesitate to dip their toes into entrepreneurship because they’re afraid of failure or probably more precisely like other people thinking they failed. And I’m curious, did you have any anxiety around that, or were you kind of fearless in if it works, it works? If it doesn’t, it doesn’t?

Ali Qureshi (16:22):

Oh, a lot of anxiety. I’m a people’s person. I just want to be out there and try to pitch my ideas and just win everybody over. So it was hard. It was definitely hard. But I think once you take a decision and you get it off your heart and off your shoulders, it’s a very relieving feeling. Because you’re like, “Okay, you know what? That chapter’s closed. We’re off to the next chapter. Clean slate. Fresh page. And I’m going to start afresh. Something new, something more exciting.”

So I think once that eventually realization hits that, hey, this wasn’t… Because here’s the thing. What I think, Mike, at least talking to people my age, when somebody comes [inaudible 00:17:04] with an idea, their initial reaction is “This is going to be Fortune 500.” They don’t admit it, but deep inside, everybody thinks that way. The reality is, and I might be wrong, but your first three to four ideas or couple of ventures are never going to be Fortune 500, but they are going to be building blocks for an eventual Fortune 500 or whatever you want to call it.

So I think it’s understanding that this is just a part of the process. This is the journey. I might not make a party supply company 20 years from now, but that party supply company was so pivotal in giving me certain skills and ideas and certain character traits that are going to carry with me for the next decades. And I think once that realization really strikes, then you become fearless. Because then you’re like, “Yeah, it didn’t work, but maybe the next one will, or if the next one doesn’t, the 10th or the 15th will.” So I think it’s kind of really, it’s taken with a grain of salt, but kind of really believing that, it’s part of the journey. It’s a learning process.

Mike Raab (18:14):

I think that’s a really healthy perspective, shifting the focus from being outcome-driven. Like I’m going to build a fortune 500 company to more intrinsic and process driven where it’s, I am learning these skills. I’m gaining this knowledge. I’m getting the reps in so that I’ll be better next time, I think is really wise.

Ali Qureshi (18:36):

I agree. And I think this is kind of a Millennial problem. Millennial problem might be that everybody’s is very goal-driven, goal-oriented, that this is my finish line. I’m going to get there and that’s going to be it. The point is that, why do you want to have finish line? Because if the finish line is very, very far and there are a bunch of hurdles until that finish line, are you just going to give up, or not going to be excited about it? Because I think this is what I learned in my job, that when you’re in college, there’s always a goal in front of you, that pitch competition, or that club event, or that sports game, or that exam, whatever, or that internship. When you enter professional life, there is no goal. There is no imminent finish line. There might be some somewhere, but not in the near future. So I think once you take out the goal and the finish line away from your plans, you definitely become a much more self-aware person, and a much more, I think, a realistic person.

Mike Raab (19:48):

Yeah. I agree with you there.

So fast forwarding a little bit, and not to create a spoiler, but after school you start working for Goldman Sachs. Can you rewind just through the process? I know recruiting for an investment banking role at a company like Goldman is a rigorous process. Can you walk me through what that process was like for you? And if any of your experience or skills working with The Garage and entrepreneurship and Party in a Box you think had any effect on the outcome there?

Ali Qureshi (20:23):

Sure. So it was a grueling process. So this was my junior summer internship with them, became full-time offer, but I tried looking for a sophomore internship first at a firm in Chicago, whatever firm would have given me an opportunity, but nothing worked out. I had written 250 cold emails, about 50-odd networking phone calls and coffee chats, whatever, and nothing worked out.

Eventually one private equity firm in Chicago gave me a sophomore summer internship. But what happened was that my sophomore spring, Goldman Sachs came to campus for an info session. And I just walked in. I was probably the least well-dressed person in that event. I walked in, tried to speak with a bunch of people, understand what the job really is, what they do on a day-to-day basis, what they think about the markets, what they think I should be doing. And the conversation went really well.

Next day, I woke up in the morning and I see an email in my inbox from Goldman Sachs HR saying that, “Congratulations, we’re inviting you for a super day to New York for a junior summer internship.” And I was like, this has to be a spam because junior summer is exactly a year and a half away from now. I’m struggling to find a sophomore internship. How can they be giving me an interview for a junior internship? But then I spoke to a person and he said that he put my name forward. He was an MD in the New York office. And he was like, “I put your name forward because the conversations you had with everybody at that event left a great impression, very impactful, and we think you’re ready to bypass the first stages of the interview and come straight to the final round.”

So for the next 10, 12 days, I was absolutely jammed prepping for it, doing whatever I could to best of my abilities, flew to New York, gave my interview. The way a super day at an investment bank works is that you do three interviews, 30 minutes each. And then they call you back in a week saying if you got it or not.

Now to answer your question about Party in a Box at The Garage, Party in a Box and The Garage was on my resume. And that was the one piece of my resume that I was asked the most about in that interview. So the first interview was like, “Oh, what is this? Okay. Pitch me your company.” And I was like, “Yeah, but the company shut a few months ago.” And I was like, all right, this is going to be [inaudible 00:22:39]. This person won’t have any interest in my company. Sure, they asked about it, but the next one wouldn’t. I walk into the next one, they walk through my resume, and they were like, “All right, what about this? Talk more about this entrepreneurship you’ve been doing.” And I’m like, “I think I’m in trouble. Why would everybody be punching upon this one point?”

And interviews happen, and I think I did a terrible job. A week goes by and I wake up in the morning and I get a phone call from HR and they say, “Congratulations, we’re offering you an internship.” And I was over the moon. That was very emotional because as an international student coming to the US it’s always a big deal to dream about getting a job on Wall Street one day and to actually be a step closer to the job with via the internship was a great feeling.

And then when I was at the internship, I spoke to one of my interviewers and he remembered me being the kid who talked about a startup. So it definitely played a big role, because I think… So I think more fast-forward to the job itself, that I think my job is something which demands want to be entrepreneurial. Someone who has a good decision making ability, to have good judgment, to take initiative ,and not be afraid to do things on their own. And of course see failure. Because people who have been my mentors in the industry so far, they’ve told me that we’ve been wrong more times than we’d be right, and it’s all about that one time you get right. That’s all that matters.

So I think all these traits that I kind of collected or was lucky enough to learn from the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Northwestern and The Garage, I was able to apply in my job so far. And even the internship. It’s kind of Hunger Games. You have 80, 90-odd super talented, super smart college kids fighting and hunting for a handful of spots. So that was a very demanding process in itself, and still feels unreal that I made it past that. And the job itself has been a steep learning curve. You kind of realize that everything you learn in college is pretty much irrelevant but to step into the office. But I think a lot of the things which I’ve learned outside of the classroom at Northwestern have been kind of my main strengths that have helped me get by these initial challenges.

Mike Raab (25:01):

Yeah. I find it interesting. It makes sense but that Party in a Box on your resume was the differentiator for you. Because I think probably-

Ali Qureshi (25:12):

It truly was.

Mike Raab (25:12):

Yeah. A lot of your class probably had very similar internships that don’t really require anyone to ask a follow-up question, but when something sticks out that’s so different, it leaves an impression, which perhaps is good advice for students while they’re in school is to work on a startup, to be able to have it be a differentiator.

Ali Qureshi (25:35):


Mike Raab (25:36):

Could you describe a little bit what your day job is now at Goldman Sachs?

Ali Qureshi (25:41):

Sure. So I’m an equities trader. The job is demanding. So get in in the morning at 5:30. The first thing is to understand what’s happening around the world. What happened in Asia overnight? What’s been happening in Europe since the morning? What’s happening in commodities? Any big political headlines. Spend the first two and a half hours reading all that stuff, looking at different numbers, and coming up with my own kind of assumptions. What might impact what? Between 8:00 and 9:30, that’s when client ideas start coming in. Clients are thinking about creating. They’re looking for liquidity. They’re looking for what the trader thinks is going to happen during the day. So that’s kind of the idea sharing, idea generation time. And then once the market kicks off at 9:30, that’s just where kind of the battlefield begins.

So between 9:30 and 12:00 it’s hard to even get your eyes off the screen because things are just moving consistently. Trades coming in. Market-making opportunities just coming in. So that’s the most exciting time of the day, but also the most nerve-wracking time of the day. Then between 12:00 and 2:00 is things are bit more relaxed, a bit more chilled out. Lunchtime. People off their desks.

And then 2:00 to 4:00 is when the day starts to flow as you have more liquidity/volatility, high volumes coming in. And our desk is very high volume, so it’s just nonstop trading between 9:30 and 4:00.

And then after 4:00 is kind of looking back at what happened during the day. Any certain opportunities? Who was buying? Who was selling? Can we make a bigger picture out of something? Data entries. Drawing up conclusions to [inaudible 00:27:18] some data we have.

I think that’s a big thing about the industry now that it’s very heavily data-driven. Everything is recorded. How many bids. How many shares. Market volatility. What discount backed. All these things are very, very important. So I think post-market 4:00 to 7:00ish, it’s all about kind of putting data into perspective and seeing how that might help us in the future. And then 6:30, 7:00 is when things come to a close and I get come home and do absolutely nothing. Nah, kidding. I try to be productive in the evening. Read, workout. Working out is very important. So combination of those things.

Mike Raab (27:52):

Sounds like a long day, but very energizing. You’ve been there a little over a year. Is it the experience that you expected, and how do you think about kind of longterm? Is it something you want to stay with or in a few years do something else?

Ali Qureshi (28:10):

I think it certainly meets my expectations. I grew up watching movies like Wall Street and seeing how a trading floor operates. So it’s definitely, it’s met up my expectations. It’s loud. It’s noisy. It’s just digits, numbers in your screen. So it’s definitely met my expectations. It’s given me the perfect adrenaline rush that I need every morning. But as I said, I’m someone who wants to think about ideas and think about something on my own. And I actively take out two to four hours every week kind of split over different days in which I sit down, write, type, read stuff about startups, and ideas, and what I could possibly do. I’m definitely kind of in my honeymoon phase of my job where I’m just loving everything around me. So I haven’t given too much thought of longterm, but eventually I do certainly want to build something of my own and create an impact. That’s kind of my ultimate goal in life, is to create something which is impact.

Mike Raab (29:16):

I think that’s great. And I think sometimes students feel like if they haven’t scaled their startup by the time they graduate to work on it full time that they’re afraid that they’ll never get back to starting their own company. So I think it’s also a healthy perspective that you can go and work and still continue to learn and think on the side until you find the right idea, or the right people, or it’s the right time to make a change.

Ali Qureshi (29:44):

Definitely. I think you kind of nailed it, that there are people who think that unless I have a startup waiting for me to run after graduation it’s going to be game over. That’s just not true. I think we’re living in a world that requires a wide array of skills to be able to succeed and to be able to contribute. And just kind of keeping that brainstorming, and idea generation, and just actively think about these things is a big part of the journey. It doesn’t have to be tomorrow, or the day after, or in a year or two years. It can be 15 or 10 years from now. It’s just about finding the right moment. And back home in Pakistan, I see that where we’re in the middle of a tech revolution, we’re seeing a lot of startups prop up, a lot of US-based VCs just throwing money out there. And you know, that makes me think that what if the perfect opportunity awaits back home. But I think it’s important to keep that idea generation running and just just always be on the lookout for something.

Mike Raab (30:49):

I agree. What are some of the biggest lessons or takeaways from your entrepreneurial experiences?

Ali Qureshi (30:57):

I think embracing failure is the biggest one. And I think I’m being critical, but I think people at Northwestern do not do a very good job at taking failure, which is fine. You see people who are very accomplished, who’ve done phenomenal things growing up, and they’ve just been winning. And when you get that first setback, it’s really hard to kind of come to terms with it. So I think my biggest thing has been embracing failure, thinking of failure as an opportunity to reflect, to come up with solutions.

I think at the same time it’s been collaborating with people. Respecting somebody’s intelligence because they come up with a better thing than you, and trying to learn from them just by interacting with them, is a big thing. And I think that kind of opens up doors to making mentors, because when you’re down and out, when you need somebody to speak to, somebody who is much more rational than yourself, it’s really important to have mentors around you.

And I think the other thing which I learned from my entrepreneurial experiences has been the power of perception. You think you know something. You think that this is going to be how it is. But once you really kind of step in and challenge your perception that, oh, what I thought was not really what was supposed to be, but it was something else. So the fact that you can let your perception be challenged, and be vulnerable, and have your ideas be challenged is something which you learn if you’re entrepreneurial. The idea that I can pitch something which might be completely wrong, and I would be happily accepting all sorts of feedback, is the most courageous thing in the world.

Mike Raab (32:45):

I think that’s all great advice and a great place to end. So thank you so much for being with us today.

Ali Qureshi (32:51):

My pleasure, Mike. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike Raab (32:53):

If there’s one lesson I would take away from Ali, it’s his healthy perspective of embracing failure. When his startup failed, instead of hiding in shame or being embarrassed, he actually held a shutdown party to celebrate the experience. Ali believes that having failures along the journey is just part of the process, and that it ultimately leads to greater knowledge, experience, and building blocks for your next adventure. I hope like Ali, you can learn to accept and embrace failure, liberating you to do the things that excite you without worrying what others will think about the outcome.

How I Got Here is a podcast from The Garage at Northwestern, and is produced by Melissa Kaufman, Ben Williams, and Elizabeth Wright. If you enjoyed this episode, please rate and review us on your favorite podcast platform.


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