Ali Saheli’s passionate creativity has been at the core of his ability to turn innovative ideas into business opportunities since an ambitious move across the Atlantic. Ali graduated from the University of Southampton in 2010 and chose to move to Canada and later the US as he explored a string of entrepreneurial ideas.
His idea for an online student marketplace burst into an expanding business while he worked as a software engineer in Vancouver, Canada, leading him on a two-year adventure as founder of Foro Technologies. Ali is now based in San Francisco, north California, and wants other Southampton graduates to learn from his successes and mistakes as they begin their own business journeys. “I believe in sharing experiences,” he says. “We became successful because we had great advisers.”
Get in contact with Ali if you’d like help turning an idea into a real product. Despite being one of our youngest mentors, he has a wealth of experience and is well placed to advise on how to build a business, raise finance and keep track of the right growth metrics. Ali is always happy to talk on Skype and you can get in touch with him through the contact form on this page.
Ali was raised in Iran and travelled to the UK aged 16 to study at the world-leading Electronics and Computer Science department at the University of Southampton. His entrepreneurial talent began to emerge when he pitched his third-year project, which involved embedding sensors in skis, as a potential business venture. However, it wasn’t until he attended an entrepreneurial society event in his fourth year that he knew for sure that he was destined to start a business.
The Fish on Toast event inspired this ambitious student who turned down job offers after he graduated to instead move to Canada to follow his dream. He experimented with over 20 entrepreneurial ideas in a creative six months period, working from within a product incubator.
Running out of money, Ali decided to accept a role at a growing startup called Recon Instruments in Vancouver, where he built a social networking platform and was impressed by the fun and freedom of the company’s culture. While working at Recon Instruments, Ali became determined to build a classifieds website for students which would improve on the current market offering. Within three months his customers were regularly coming back to use the site and he began working even harder in his spare time to create an app and develop the platform further.
The growing success of his project let to Ali and a friend setting up Foro Technologies, and they soon employed a small team to gather momentum for the initiative. “The whole journey was unbelievable,” he says. “It was a rollercoaster.” A visit to a start-up school in San Francisco motivated the group to reach more universities and later create an anonymous messaging platform called Truth. They soon received interest from large companies and accepted an offer to acquire both Truth and Foro.
“The best way to launch a start-up is to build something that you want to use,” he says. “What are your problems? If you can solve them and make life easier for yourself, there’s a high chance a lot of people will want to use it too.”