For this article we have selected the top 5 replies from our interview 9 of the Bangladeshi Perspective with Sheikh Mohammed Irfan. The full interview is available on our Facebook page.
A bit about Sheikh Mohammed Irfan:
Sheikh Mohammad Irfan is a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, life science enthusiast and an author. He was an early individual investor in blockchain-based tokens and projects such as Bitcoin, Blockstack, Circle, Ethereum, and Lykke, among others. He currently manages a blockchain-focused global venture fund Bloccelerate VC, based in Seattle. In addition, he is the Managing Director of Irfan Holdings through which he manages additional investment funds that includes Spacefund for investments in space and rocket industries, EBG Capital; a debt fund for the country of Greece and Quantamental; an automated Al-Quants Fund for High Frequency Trading (HFT), angel investments in early and idea stage technology startups, and technology-focused development services.
He co-authored two books titled “Leadership in Development” and “Rethinking Asia” from the center for Asia, a Harvard based Asian think-tank. He has a background in Systems Architecture and Business Management and pursued his education at Multimedia University, MIT and Oxford Said Business School.
Our pick of Irfan’s top 5 replies (paraphrased) are provided below:
Seeam: If you had to point out any part of your resume, which part played the most important role in bringing you where you are today?
Irfan: It’s a very tough question because there are a lot of variables. It’s quite impossible to tell all the aspects. I do believe that Bangladesh taught me a lot of things like patience, high tolerance around a lot of things beyond my individual control, family values and happiness despite everything going downhill, all these together acted as a powerful precursor to the fact that a lot of problems generated ideas and problem solving skills in me. Just to be able to survive it, and to do things, and to be able to charter through different things is maybe what I do in my life right now. And it all started from my early days in Bangladesh
Seeam: Did any movies or books influence your life greatly?
Irfan: I am glad that people are still reading because it’s a dying art these days and people tend to have short attention spans nowadays. I have read many books my entire life and some of the recent books I’d suggest are – ‘21 Lessons for the 21st century’ and ‘Designing Reality’. I enjoy watching movies too like ‘Star Trek’, ‘The Trinity’ etc. and many more.
Books like ‘The Mathematics of Life by British mathematician Ian Stewart’, ‘New Perspective of Thinking in the World of Life Science’ and ‘Medicine Through the Eyes of Mathematics’ are some of my favorites too. I think the next generation of revolutions are heading towards major discoveries and advances in life science and that’s why we must educate ourselves in those topics.
Seeam: What is an unusual habit that you have which helped you a lot?
Irfan: Inherently question the logic and essence of things. Whatever that appears or comes across is just a version of reality. Always try to dig deeper to understand cause and effects. That is my daily practice. My habit is so ingrained that sometimes I drink coffee and think why am I doing this. It’s an habit for questioning assumptions, rituals and practices we take for granted.
Seeam: What are some time and monetary investments that you are happy you did?
Irfan: Balancing it is very important. I think taking the time to reflect on your decisions is very important. One needs to slow things down to analyze, understand, to use things around his/her internal and external environment better. Sometimes you need to know that you need to slow things down before jumping into a ship, without understanding why and what you are signing up for. Take time to think about any big decision that you come across.
Reserving a time in a day to recap the activities of the entire day is very important for me especially when you are involved in so many things. During your recap moment try to analyze how you did the activities today, and how they add up to where you want to be. This is a regular habit for me. I try to write things down in a notebook or phone notes while recapping my whole day and I try to connect all of my evaluations for better understanding.Sheikh Mohammed Irfan
In terms of monetary investment, there is nothing which can be considered the best one.
However, investments towards my self-development e.g education, professional development, travel to seek knowledge etc. was and will always be my best investment. Because at the end of the day, it won’t perish.Sheikh Mohammed Irfan
Seeam: What are some advice for aspiring students looking to enter your field?
Irfan: When you feel overwhelmed or burnt out tell yourself that you are not the most important thing in your life. I think there are plenty of things to do in life where we need to see beyond ourselves. Such a way of thinking will drive you to continue functioning. You can’t be selfish if you’re hoping to hold onto this spirit of overcoming the odds and advancing forward.
If I talk about bad advice, I think this is a very deep question. No advice can be bad inherently, as it is driven from perspective analysis and consideration towards others. Generally, someone cares and so he/she genuinely gives advice. I personally dislike the notion when society, peers guide and tells you that you have to do, be or be a certain kind of thing such as a doctor, an engineer or whatever to be successful and it’s the only way. I think that is not true. That is why we should respect and take advice, but use that to formulate our own pathway according to our preferences. In other words, we necessarily don’t need to follow the exact advice. Rather we should try to get insights from advice and tailor our own plan with the help of collected insights. This is more like crowd sourcing.
If someone wants to enter venture capital or tech investing, they need to know what they’re getting into. Investment world is a behemoth, especially technology investment. It doesn’t end at making an investment because it’s like a specialized banking and risk assessment. So one has to understand technology and the particular technology that is directly related to his/her work very well. One needs to be able to analyze the companies from one company to another. In order to do so, one needs to acquire holistic knowledge around technology, economics, finance which will be important tools for success in this field. “Why do I want to enter this field?”, “What are you trying to achieve?” – students or anyone who wants to enter this field should ask themselves these important questions and try to be more objective before entering this field. In my case my decision to enter the field was a chance encounter. But at the same time, it was driven by my own quintessential questions. As an entrepreneur from heart I have so many ideas in his mind that I can’t sleep but can do only one thing at a time. Being in the investment side of things, I am exposed to many companies and am working with many companies at the same time which allows me to bring many ideas to life. The ultimate attainment for me is that because of tech investing I am able to be at the heart of the global technology development and executions at the same time.
At the end of the day if you’re good at something, you’re good at something. You don’t need to do something that you are not good at because everyone is designed for a specific purpose. Only do what you are needed to do in this world.Sheikh Mohammed Irfan
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This interview was summarized by: Fateen Tahseen Alam
Fateen Tahseen Alam is a 1st year student at the University of Dhaka studying Mass Communication and Journalism, and is passionate about promoting “Empowerment through ideas and skills, Sustainability through empowerment”. He is an ardent supporter of professional development in communities around him. Email him at email@example.com to express opinions, requests and compliments.
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