Haroon Mokhtarzada’s Recipe for Startup Success

Haroon Mokhtarzada wasn’t like your average college student.


When most of his peers were getting ready for parties, football games and bio exams, he was building his first website.


His is a tale all-too familiar of the journey from college dorm room to computer capitalist.



In 2001, together with his two brothers, two thousand dollars, and one server in his University of Maryland closet, freewebs.com, a build-your-own-website website, was hatched.


Haroon went on to Harvard Law School where he continued to build freewebs part-time. After graduation, however, he decided to put all his love, energy and effort into the website. It paid off. BIG TIME.


In August 2006, Haroon raised $12 million in capital for Webs.com (as it was later re-named) from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Columbia Capital. In December 2011, Vistaprint N.V, a leading online provider of professional marketing products and services, acquired Webs for a cool $117.9 million.


So, what is Haroon’s recipe for startup success? In a recent address to student at the University of Maryland, the young webpreneur millionaire shares his story and advice: Take Chances. Have Passion. Sell Timely.


Risky Business Can Pay-Off

“If you don’t launch, you’ll never have a chance at success”



Haroon believes that if you have a great idea just go with it and don’t worry about making mistakes. He uses the great example of when freeweb.com was accidently released by his 14-year-old brother before it was ready to be launched. But, as the users slowly started to come in, he realized you shouldn’t fear launching too early:


“You can always create new iterations of your company later

and mistakes matter a lot less at the beginning.”


You Have to Love Your Business

“I love what we do and I love the people we work with.”


Haroon believes that it’s your passion that will get you through the many challenges faced when dealing with the ups and downs of the startup world. You may even be able to exit successful.


Bottom line: Survival rates are low for those who do not have enough passion invested in their business.


Sell When the Time is Right

“Seriously consider an exit if it will add two additional digits to your bank account.”


After four years of bootstrapping for Haroon and his brothers to build Web’s foundation, VC’s finally started to take interest. Though, Haroon believes that angel investors are the way to go if you are not planning to create a business worth $100 million. He stresses that VC’s are driven by bigger exits with riskier and more aggressive companies; they are not concerned with modest outcomes.


So, if a sell will throw a few more zeros behind your balance, Haroon says it might be time for an exit. Take risks, have passion, exit smartly. Simple, sound advice from a young, summa cum laude college kid turned Web CEO. Another hats off to the computer nerds of the world.


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