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  • January 2, 2013

Top-5I started this blog in April of 2011 and made it a point to post regularly, no matter how busy I got. Somehow that changed last year. Publishing new posts became sporadic and I only updated my blog for 5 months of the year. This is something I’ll be refocusing in the new year. Even with the low volume, a couple of posts really took off on Hacker News and BlogHer, with the first three receiving the bulk of the traffic. The top five blog posts of 2012 are:

  1. Marketing 101 for Developers – I spent about 8 hours in this post outlining a step-by-step approach on how to approach marketing a product or business. While I geared it towards technical people more, it can apply to anyone who wants a methodology to follow.
  2. Living the American Dream – I love this post as it came from the heart and was easiest I’ve ever written. I took some time to recount the road my family has taken since we migrated to Pennsylvania, including immigration obstacles that caused a 22-year-old wait for me to gain my citizenship.
  3. Alternatives to Codecademy – I researched free sites that focus on learning how to code interactively and compiled a list for HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Python, Ruby/Rails, Java, Git and iOS. I also added useful books, support links & resources.
  4. Finding Interns in Philadelphia – A repeat of last year, this gathered a list of internship opportunities for local universities including who to contact.
  5. 10 Years Ago - This is also a repeat of last year and I’m surprised to see it here. It’s a story of my life and how I got to where I am today.

I enjoy reading blogs much more than writing them and you can view which ones I follow on the sidebar to the right. Enjoy browsing!

P.S. You can take a look at last year’s list here.

This post was written on November 18th.

Costa Rica sunset

I’m on my first leg of my flight to Costa Rica, what I’ve determined to be my first vacation in 10 years (and first international trip since I became a U.S. citizen). I’m thinking about how it’s been a long time since I didn’t have a startup to run. I can unplug and enjoy myself without a never ending todo list running through my head. I actually set an out of office message on my work and personal email, something I’ve never imagined doing.

Coincidentally, it’s been a year since the acquisition paperwork for 123LinkIt was signed. The anniversary of my first full-time job is approaching (less than 2 weeks). I have undergone many changes, both personally and professionally. As I’m reflecting, I marvel at the roller-coaster ride that’s transpired – from the initial excitement at having a dream come true to the gut-wrenching feelings as I let the company go to the postpartum depression of coming to face with the realization its path is now determined by others.

Acquisitions appear to be rosy looking in from the outside. We read the stories, congratulate the entrepreneurs, and envy them from a distance. I know because I was one of those people.

What you don’t hear about is what occurs next, the loss of identity and control, the broken promises you make yourself believe, and the surprising and varying levels of sadness.

My Company and I were one person. I’m not a mother but sometimes I imagine the acquisition is equivalent to selling a first born. Letting go has not been easy. I went through an identity crisis, trying to determine who I was now that I was no longer consumed by my Company. It’s as if I checked myself into a prison, got released, then walked out to be blinded by the bright sun.

I learned about the processes at NetLine and RevResponse, took on my role as Product Marketing Manager, and tackled some challenging projects within the Company. I no longer work or make decisions on my own. My responsibilities for 123LinkIt dwindled. I fell into a routine that was closer to a 9 to 5 schedule. I found myself with free time, a social life even. I started making new friends and dating more. As time went on, I spent less and less of it on 123LinkIt where I would miss even the most mundane tasks.

As always, time helps, allowing you to let things go. And I’m getting there. It helps that I have coworkers I love, a fun office environment and a boss that puts up with my never-ending flow of ideas and wild antics.

What can you take away from this post? All entrepreneurs become obsessive with their startups. I definitely overdid it. If I can go back in time, I would try to make more of a distinction between my personal & professional life.

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  • April 23, 2012

me with an American flag cake

Photo Credit: Colin Lenton, Philly photographer

After 22 looooong years of living in Pennsylvania, I finally became a U.S. Citizen on April 19, 2012. This post is dedicated to my American friends to give them a glimpse of what it’s like to grow up a non-citizen and have to earn it.

I was born in Kuwait City, Kuwait.  My family was seeking refuge in a bomb shelter during the Persian Gulf War in 1990 when two U.S. Ambassadors walked in to escort us out of the Country. My little brother is American and we were to be transported to the U.S. to keep the family safe. We had an hour to pack two suitcases. We left everything else behind and were driven to the airport where we boarded a plane to Philadelphia. Years later, I discovered my parents were given a choice in where to live, with San Francisco and Orlando among them. My Dad settled on Philadelphia to be close to his younger brother who resided in New Jersey.

For the first nine months, we lived in South Philly on 22nd and Jackson. None of us knew how to speak English except for my father. I was eight at that time and I remember my 4th grade teachers would have me sit in the back of the room coloring during my classes. I’m not sure how I passed. My parents purchased a 7-11 franchise in the suburbs and that’s where we ended up settling roots. The store became a family business. It was open 24 hours and my parents alternated shifts. My siblings and I were put to work right away. We kept the store clean and we helped stock the inventory. Eventually, we worked the register as well.

It wasn’t until my older sister and I started applying for colleges that our immigration status began to present problems. We asked my parents for the information the applications needed and they could not supply us with the answers. They contacted an immigration lawyer and we found out that we had a year from the day we arrived in Philly to apply for citizenship under a refugee status. My parents had not done so and that meant we had to restart the process. By the time the appropriate paperwork was discovered and submitted, it was March of 2001 (or 11 years after we first moved to the U.S.).  First, we had to apply to become U.S. legal residents which is when we would receive our green cards. We are then required to wait five years before applying to become U.S. citizens. The expected turnaround was supposed to be 7 years in all. However, 9/11 happened and all applications were slowed and subsequently halted. It was an unfortunate time, particularly defending ourselves from being called “terrorists” and hearing things such as “go back to your country.”

Nevertheless, we didn’t have social security numbers and had to figure out how we were going to support ourselves. Especially when my Father sold the store in 2001 and eventually left us, taking all the family’s savings with him. We all took under-the-table jobs – my sisters and I became hostesses and waitresses and my Mom worked at a deli. As hostesses, we made five dollars an hour and we collected tips as waitresses. Some days we made more than my Mom who earned seven dollars an hour.

Working under-the-table blue collar jobs gives you immense motivation to be your own boss. Being treated fairly is out the question. These type of business owners knows they have bargaining power. I jumped from place to place when it became too much or when warding off sexual advances from employers led to unaccommodating schedules or preferential treatment that wasn’t the fortunate kind. I did a few projects on the side like redesigning menus and conceived ways I would escape from my trapped position.

Going to school was a no-brainer and to save money, I attended Montgomery County Community College to get my Associates Degree. Life was a balancing act of work and school and it was all I knew for the next seven and half years that it took me to graduate college. Unfortunately, not being a citizen meant not being eligible for many of the scholarships available despite my 3.8 GPA. I paid for my tuition with my meager earnings the first five years and eventually took out loans to help supplement my income.

It wasn’t until March 2003, two years after applying for my residency, that I received a notification about my application and only then it was to notify me that it was being forwarded to another department. Three more years would go by before I got another letter from the Immigration Office congratulating me on becoming a U.S. Permanent Resident with my Green Card enclosed. Sixteen years after being in this Country and five years after starting the process, I had five more years to go before I was allowed to submit my Naturalization application.

It was during that time that I found myself at the Entrepreneurship Program at Temple University. I met experienced, successful business owners and I desperately wanted to be one of them. I had the privilege of being mentored by Chris Pavlides, the Program Director at the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at that time, who unfortunately left us too soon. It was where I learned to share my ideas, develop a business plan and test the viability of an idea. I entered numerous Idea and Business Plan competitions to win the cash prizes. After a few failed attempts, I had the honor of walking away with three Idea Competition Wins, one Finalist Business Plan placement and in 2010, the great achievement of winning First Place for 123LinkIt, which became my first Company.

Some of my favorite experiences at Temple were interning at various businesses. First, I interned for my friend Gunter Pfau, of Stuzo, an online marketplace for textbooks at the time. Then, for a woman who was running a financial literacy program for kids. Lastly, my friend and I took on an additional internship on the side without credit because another friend raved about the company. It was for Team and a Dream and it helped early-stage entrepreneurs find funding, write business plans and assisted them in going to market.

It was there that I fell in love with the tech industry. I expanded my network and cultivated my business and marketing skills. Eventually, I made Partner and we shifted course a few times. I got the idea for 123LinkIt while blogging for the Company. I left to start working on it on April 1, 2009. In a previous post titled “10 Years Ago”, I recounted the ten years from when my Father left to when I sold my Company (Looking back, it’s a great pre-sequel to this entry). A small, relevant excerpt:

“That wasn’t an easy road either. I had a lot going against me. For one, I was a non-techie trying to build a tech Company. I started without a CTO. I found one halfway around the world. I bootstrapped the Company with money I’d put away from the consulting business. I lived at my Mom’s house to save money. My CTO departed in December and I contemplated throwing in the towel right around my birthday. My advisers and I thought long and hard about it and decided the opportunity was too big. I had trouble recruiting another CTO candidate because of the state of the software so I raised a small friends & family round and hired contractors to fix it. I eventually brought someone on board. I hired a team of four interns during the summer to help me recruit bloggers to our platform. The new CTO didn’t work out and it was getting really hard to keep pushing. Thanks to some smart preparation, my advisers at PhilaDev and I were able to turn a potential partnership into an acquisition.”

signing my citizenship certificateDuring the ten days I took off before starting my new position at NetLine in November, I submitted my naturalization application. I took my Citizenship test this past month and I swore in last Thursday and became an American at exactly 10:39am (Yes, I looked!).  My favorite part of the ceremony was when the judge read off the names of all the different countries the attendees represented. She asked them to stand up when their country was called. I wish I would have taken a video of that moment. It was truly awe-inspiring. I looked around the room at everyone’s smiling faces. Some were teary-eyed. The feeling of affinity I felt was overpowering. We knew this was a tremendous occasion. If you have an opportunity to witness one first-hand, make sure to attend. It will impact you in a meaningful way. Overall, 88 people from 44 countries became citizens that day.

HAVE lived the American Dream and it’s astonishing when I think about it. I came here as an immigrant, learned to speak English, worked hard to get a good education, started a company and reached a certain level of success by selling it.  It doesn’t get more clear than that.

What I really mull over is how different my life would be if I never stepped foot on American soil and instead grew up in Kuwait. My mom and all her siblings had arranged marriages. Odds are, I would have as well (how crazy is that?!). She didn’t go to school and neither did most of her sisters. Maybe I would not have either. She had her first child at nineteen and cranked all six of us out by the time she was thirty (which is my current age!).

These “what-if” daydreams usually run through my mind on the 4th of July, when my family celebrates the holiday and think about where we would be if we had not come here.  We’re grateful we’re not directly in the midst of the unrest in the Middle East. When my sisters and I look at how women are treated in middle-eastern countries, we know how lucky we are to be here and we’re thankful with every fiber of our being.

We don’t get to choose what country we’re born in or what socio-economic status… being fortunate enough to be born a U.S. citizen provides more opportunities than any other nation in the world. While we decide how to react to the hand we’re dealt, that one stroke of luck makes a tremendous difference on our lives. I wish less people took it for granted.

A few friends asked me what this event truly meant for me and what I would get out of it now. It’s true that the status would have benefited me more when I was younger. Mostly, I’ve felt like an American for years but I couldn’t call myself one so I didn’t really feel like I belonged. Now it’s official. I can vote and I have a voice in our political system. I can forgo further immigrations woes. I can leave the U.S. without being afraid I won’t be able to return. I can worship who or what I want without repercussions. I can speak out against the government, if need be, without fear of being prosecuted, imprisoned, or killed. I can continue to dream big and I’m presented with many more opportunities to make them a reality. I can eventually buy a home, settle down and feel safe knowing I live in the wealthiest Country in the world.

As always, having to earn something makes you appreciate it that much more. I hope this blog post reminds those who didn’t have to achieve their citizenship what a gift it is and how lucky we are to be in the U.S.A.

Update: Sept 21, 2015 marked our 25th annivesary of coming to America. Admist the refugee crisis, I wrote about it here: myasmine.com/25-years.

Edit: Other comments and related stories can be found in this Hacker News thread. Thanks for getting it to #2!

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  • February 10, 2012

I went to a friend’s birthday get-together tonight and a couple of people asked about my occupation. I vary my description depending on whom I’m speaking with. This particular person didn’t seem like a techie so after a brief pause, I quickly explained that I’m the Product Marketing Manager at an ad network. He nodded, then proceeded to switch the subject. I was initially put off by it and it wasn’t until I walked home that I realized why which led to this blog post.

When I was running 123LinkIt, I had my pitch down cold. I would almost always receive follow-on questions that would lead to discussions about advertising, technology, entrepreneurship, or another subject in the space. I loved being self-employed and describing what I did. I felt like I had a purpose and it showed.

Most of the way things have shifted since the acquisition was expected. However, actually experiencing it first-hand is another matter. What it boils down to is I feel like an average, ordinary Jane. I get up early, go to work, make dinner or go out with friends, go to sleep and get up to do it all over again tomorrow. I’m accustomed to hearing people complain about their work woes and I would secretly pat myself on the back for not being in the same situation. I may have been broke and always hustling, but I felt special and unique as an entrepreneur. The shoe is now on the other foot and I’m not quite sure how to perceive it. It has been seven weeks since I started my new gig and I’m wondering why I haven’t fallen into a routine yet.

It’s not like I have it bad. I’m working on some exciting initiatives and I have autonomy on certain things. My boss and my coworkers are great and our office environment is extremely laid back. I go to work in jeans every day. Facing the tribulations I used to hear people complain about is what adds to the “average Jane” feeling. I have a long commute, I sit ALL DAY (this is the hardest thing for me as I tend to become restless easily), I hit a mental block in the early afternoon and so on. Before I know it the week has flown by, it’s the weekend and it goes by in a blur.

To add to it, I used to associate myself with my Company. We were essentially one “person.” I can’t help feeling lost and stripped of a part of my identity (is this what separation anxiety feels like?). I just went to register for the Women In Tech Summit that I’m helping to organize and I lingered at the “Company” portion.  Do I input 123LinkIt? NetLine?

All in all, this transition has not been as smooth as I initially imagined. I’m left uncertain of how to label myself and I don’t like it. I pause when people ask me what I do because I don’t want to sound like another employee and I miss explaining that I work for myself. I can’t help but wonder if I can still call myself an entrepreneur even though I have a 9 to 5. If it’s simply a matter of patience and getting accustomed to my new role or if it’s a mindset I need to change within myself.

How have others handled this type of career transition? If anyone has ideas or feedback, I would love to hear it.

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  • December 26, 2011

top 5 postsOne of the things I miss most since the acquisition is working from coffee shops. It’s quite fitting that I’m sitting in Starbucks right now with a chai tea latte to my right and my headphones on blaring Lana Del Rey. I’m not accustomed to not having things to work on during the Holidays. I used to spend breaks like this to catch up or “bypass” the competition as I would tell myself. I’ve decided to use the time for “self-improvement” (can you tell I’m big on that by now?).

At the end of every year, I look over the list of goals I’ve put together the year before and compile a “What Went Well” and an “Even Better If” column. This blog goes in the former category. I had invested so much time in my old one that I put off creating a new personal blog and I’m glad I finally got around to it in April. Below, you’ll find a list of the most trafficked posts. Enjoy!

  1. Notepad of Startup Ideas – I transferred my “idea book” into this blog post one weekend and it skyrocketed to the top of Hacker News, blowing all the other posts out of the water. You’ll find a variety of ideas I’ve had since I was in high school, some good ones that ended up being built and others that I probably shouldn’t have included.
  2. 10 Years Ago (Or a Brief Back Story) – I was surprised to discover this ranked second, especially since it was posted nine days ago. This entry was produced after seeing something of my past that made me reflect upon how my life has changed over the last ten years. I’m still receiving nice emails and comments on it.
  3. Being My Own Worst Enemy – This was another surprise. In this post, I highlighted my dissatisfaction from winning First Place at Temple’s Business Plan Competition to showcase my self-deprecating behavior, how it has been a self-fulfilling prophecy, and how I would like to combat it.
  4. Finding Interns in Philadelphia – I’m a huge advocate of utilizing interns and after constantly being asked where to find them, I compiled a list of local universities that offered internship programs with their contact information.
  5. 123LinkIt has been Acquired by Netline – This one doesn’t need an explanation :-).

I’m going to finish up my annual review list. You can help by leaving a comment on how you would like this blog to improve or provide ideas of topics you’d like me to write about. Thanks in advance.

red hyundai accent

I was driving to work this morning when a red sedan in the opposing intersection made a right at the same street I was about to turn on. I instantly knew the year, make and model. It was a 1998 red Hyundai Accent. I’m not a car expert by any means but that particular vehicle holds a special place in my heart. It was an exact replica of my first car.

I was nineteen years old when I acquired my driver’s license. I had purchased it with my life savings, exactly five thousand dollars. I remember handing the envelope full of cash over to the car salesmen and holding on to it just a little too long, reluctant to part with it. I thought of the hours of hosting it took for me to make its equivalent (I was earning $5/hr at the time). I cherished that car like it was my child. In fact, I had a weekly ritual where I washed and detailed it every Sunday. I used to joke with my family and friends that I wanted to be buried in it.

Why did it mean so much to me? I had worked exhaustively to get it. The year before, my siblings and I had discovered we weren’t eligible for college scholarships nor could we attain legitimate jobs. My parents had not filed the proper immigration paperwork when we migrated to the U.S. in 1991. To make a long story short, we are refugees from the Persian Gulf War. My siblings and I were born in Kuwait except for the youngest and we were living there when Saddam Hussein invaded our Country in 1990. Because my little brother is American, a couple of U.S. Ambassadors came to collect us and we were whisked away onto a plane where we ended up in Philadelphia.

Even before I bought my first car, I had picked up two jobs under the table at local restaurants and I was trying to figure out how I was going to put myself through school. My Father, a mechanical engineer, had given up on his first son following in his footsteps. Having possessed the best grades in my family, he forced me to enroll as a Mechanical Engineering student at a local Community College. When I decided to switch majors after one semester, he stopped paying my tuition.

One warm summer day the same year, he packed a suitcase and hopped on a one-way flight to Jordan with my 13-year-old sister and 10-year-old brother. He took all of the family’s savings with him, leaving my Mom and his remaining four children to fend for ourselves.

As if that wasn’t enough, 9/11 happened and our lives were further turned upside down. Citizenship applications were delayed, and then completely halted. I walked into one of my jobs the next day and the Manager exclaimed, “Yasmine, you don’t know how to fly planes, do you?” in an employee meeting where everyone laughed half-heartily. Some of the regular customers stopped speaking to me, as if I was a terrorist by association. I was let go a couple of weeks later for not following a rule everyone broke on a daily basis.

It took me a little over seven years to finally graduate college. To be fair, going back and forth from working part-time, going to school full-time and vice versa wasn’t fully to blame. I switched majors four times and more than twenty of my credits didn’t transfer when I decided to pursue my Entrepreneurship degree at Temple University. I knew I wanted to work for myself and be my own boss, I just didn’t know what I wanted to pursue. As you can see from this previous post, I had a plethora of startup ideas. I finished in late 2006 and instantly started working at Team and a Dream (now Philly Marketing Labs), where I had interned during my last semester. It’s where I became submerged in tech startups. I worked with early-stage entrepreneurs helping them get their ideas off the ground and their products/services to market.

Most of you know the rest of the story. I worked my butt off for almost 3 years, eventually climbing up to Partner. However, I had an incessant itch to be on the other side of the table and to build my own Company. When the idea for 123LinkIt arose out of a personal need I had, I gave my three months notice and embarked on my journey.

That wasn’t an easy road either. I had a lot going against me. For one, I was a non-techie trying to build a tech Company. I started without a CTO. I found one halfway around the world. I bootstrapped the Company with money I’d put away from the consulting business. I lived at my Mom’s house to save money. My CTO departed in December and I contemplated throwing in the towel right around my birthday. My advisers and I thought long and hard about it and decided the opportunity was too big. I had trouble recruiting another CTO candidate because of the state of the software so I raised a small friends & family round and hired contractors to fix it. I eventually brought someone on board. I hired a team of four interns during the summer to help me recruit bloggers to our platform. The new CTO didn’t work out and it was getting really hard to keep pushing. Thanks to some smart preparation, my advisers at PhilaDev and I were able to turn a potential partnership into an acquisition.

facebook_timeline - me signing the final acquisition paperwork

Signing the final paperwork at FedEx on November 18th

What’s my point in this story? I worked hard, scratch that, EXTREMELY hard, to get to where I’ve ended up. I’ve hustled relentlessly for years and even that is an understatement. I know what’s like to be treated like a lower-class citizen, to be told I’ll “never amount to anything”, to have to swallow my pride, to stretch every dollar, to not have enough for my first fill-up at the gas station (yes, I’m referring to the Hyundai), to forgo college parties because I was too exhausted or had to get up early for work the next day, to go out with friends and order a glass of water instead of a drink…basically, to not lead a “normal” life.

Yet I would not take it back for anything. It has been ten years and I’m now 29 years old. As cliche as it sounds, I recognize where I am because of those struggles and hardships. I didn’t covet that red 1998 Hyundai Accent because it was my first car. I appreciated and took care of it because I had attained it with my hard-earned money. [Let’s do the math for a second. At the $5 an hour I was making as a hostess, it’s one thousand hours. To put it in context, that’s over six months of working forty hours a week.] Seeing it today made me think about what has transpired since and the long, bumpy, often hilly road I’ve had to go through, around and climb since. It has not been easy, but then again, they say nothing worthwhile ever is. I’m not going to forget where I came from because I’ve been at the bottom, I’ve worked my way up, and I don’t want to go back.

People have been coming up to me and either asking how much I’ve made from the acquisition or joking about being able to live an extravagant lifestyle. Yes, I have been on a spending spree the last couple of weeks. That’s because for now, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Update: I finally became an America citizen in 2012. I expanded upon this with a new post titled “Living the American Dream.

Note: I grabbed that picture online because I couldn’t find any digital ones in my laptop. You probably don’t even care anyway.

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  • December 7, 2011

Note: This post was started on Monday, December 5th and completed on Wednesday, December 7th.

I just came back from TD Bank and I’m sitting in front of my computer at work wondering why I wasn’t reveling in what just transpired.

The day started simply enough. I woke up at 6am, caught the 7am train, and arrived at work around 8:30am. I created a to-do list for the day and made a mental note to run to the bank during lunchtime. I had received my check from the 123LinkIt acquisition on the 28th and I had yet to deposit it into my account.

Why the wait?

I told my family I would get to it when I had the time, that I had just been busy getting acclimated to my new position. After all, there are a lot of adjustments. This is my first full-time job, I’m now getting up early (My friends know this is a substantial shift. I’m a die-hard night-owl), I have a boss, I have co-workers in the same physical space, I went from a commute of a few steps from my bed to my desk to a three-hour daily commute and the list goes on.

My response was partially the truth. The actual reason is because I knew it would be the final step of the acquisition process and I wasn’t mentally ready to put the stamp on it. I didn’t realize the extent of this feeling until I stood at the bank counter. I looked at the check for a good five minutes. This was without a doubt the biggest check I had ever seen AND IT WAS MADE OUT TO ME! What the heck was I doing holding on to it?!

My fingers grazed the numbers on the check as if I was making love to it. I looked at the back and turned it around to the front. I put it down, then picked it up. I’m thankful the bank was empty or else people would have wondered what the strange woman in black was doing. A gamut of emotions went through me, everything from sadness to happiness. A carousel of thoughts going back two years slowly rolled through my mind. My Company had been a partner AND a child to me. I had consumed and nurtured it for more than two years. There had been bad times, so-so moments and fantastic highs. Here I was holding on to what was left, a standard check-size piece of paper.

This past year had been especially challenging. My CTO and I had departed in December and I had run the Company using contractors. I raised a F&F loan and maxed out my credit cards to support it. I was living like a pauper, counting every dollar as it was spent. I had a challenging summer. There were a couple of times when I contemplated folding. Yet, here I was. I pushed through with the support of my wonderful advisers, PhilaDev and family to make it to this unforgettable point.

iphone message exchangeThis was really it, I remember thinking. I was finalizing the deal and there wasn’t going to be any turning back. (In actuality, everything had already gone through). I texted a couple of friends while I stood there like an idiot. The photo on the side is from one exchange. The lock button on my iPhone isn’t working so I asked him to take a screenshot (A new iPhone will be one of the first purchases I make this week!.).

I flipped the check over and moved my pen to the Signature line. My right hand shook as I signed it. I tried to use my best penmanship but it was fruitless. I thought the tasking part was over until I turned to face the tellers. I wanted to walk over but my legs stood planted firmly on the carpeted floor. My eyes accidentally locked with the teller who was open. I took a deep breath and hesitantly walked over.  Just when I reached him, I realized I had not filled out a deposit form.

Oh jeez, here we go again!

It’s been a couple of days since I wrote the above. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m not happy with the acquisition. I’m beyond thrilled. Words can’t rightfully describe how elated I am. 123LinkIt is going to move to new heights with resources I had not possessed. It’s part of a full-time team and it is being integrated with an existing product that has a substantial user base. It’s also led by an incredible management team with 50+ employees that generated over $10M in revenue last year and growing.

123LinkIt is moving forward. It may not be my baby anymore but it’s going to flourish faster with an extended family that I am lucky and proud to be a part of.

Netline Acquires 123LinkIt
Goal: Sell first Company before turning 30.

*checks off list*

I’m elated to announce one of my dreams has come true this past month. NetLine, the #1 B2B content syndication network, has acquired 123LinkIt. The deal officially closed on November 18, 2011.

From the announcement on the 123Linkit blog:

We have been working hard to help bloggers make money from what they are already doing since early 2010. We believe by seamlessly transforming product and brand keywords into money-making opportunities, we enable bloggers to effortlessly build passive income from their published content.

After integrating our software with tens of thousands of blogs, we believe now is the best time to expand our efforts with another team that shares our vision of enhancing the online advertising process. We’re excited to announce that we have been acquired by NetLine and will be joining their RevResponse team to continue creating an enriching and unobtrusive advertising experience on the web.

What happens now? 123LinkIt will continue to live on under its own brand. We’ll be integrating our technology with NetLine’s to enable them to provide in-text advertising to their B2B ad network, RevResponse. I have joined their East Coast team in Lansdale full-time as the Product Marketing Manager to help with the move as well as other exciting initiatives.

Before signing off I’d like to thank my team, my family, my friends (especially Jeff Brelsford), my advisers – Anthony Gold, CH Low, Skip Shuda, Dave Fortino (of NetLine), Donna McCarthy and Scott Jangro – as well as PhilaDev (which includes Phil Ives & Chris Myers), a startup accelerator in Philadelphia.

Last but not least, a huge thanks to our 123LinkIt users (with a special shout-out to Stephen Belyea) and partners who have supported us along the way. This would not have happened without you!

Update: The official press release can be found here.

Stay tuned as I post what I’ve learned during this experience in the coming weeks.

  • images
  • November 10, 2011

yasmine-mustafa-colin-lenton-photo-shootI’m in the last year of my twenties, getting more and more gray hairs every month and I’ve probably aged twice as fast in the last two years thanks to my startup.

So what’s a girl to do when faced with these realizations? Have a professional photo shoot of course! I’m suddenly reminded of a Sex and the City episode when Samantha decides to pose for nude photos because she wants to remember her body before “everything goes south.”

This wasn’t THAT kind of photo shoot by any means. Not even close. I decided to have headshots done primarily for my various social networks and websites. All of my photos have been cropped from personal pictures with friends (sound familiar?) and I felt like I needed the “grown-up” variation.

The first photographer that came to mind, Colin Lenton, is a friend who shot the TechnicallyPhilly guys and the most well-connected man in Philadelphia, Mikey Il. Colin and I have an interesting history. To make a long story short, I accused him of trying to commit a felony the first night we met (wasn’t even close). When I ran into him the next time, I asked if he had lost a lot of weight because I remembered him being much heavier. I’m blaming this on a case of reverse beer goggles. And yes, I am that blunt.

I also noticed that he appeared first when I googled “Philadelphia photographer. I reached out to him a month ago to discuss dates and we met in his studio a couple of weeks later. I have to say, being on the other side of the camera isn’t easy. I felt like an “America’s Next Top Model” reject. Well…except I’m much shorter with hips and I have no idea how to strike a pose without giggling like a little schoolgirl. Colin faced these challenges and to my surprise (Sorry Colin, underestimating you turned out to be a great thing), I’m extremely happy with the way the final pictures turned out. One of my favorites is on my About page.

Check out his work at http://colinmlenton.com. Maybe he’ll include my picture in his gallery one day (hint, hint!). Hopefully this post makes up for implying he was obese that one day (he’s not at all by the way, and ladies – he’s single!)

Updated 10/30/2011 – The video of the event has been embedded below. I start at the 1:09:05 mark.

I’m about to head out the door to speak at PANMA’s “WhyWe LovePhilly – The Awesome Philly Tech Scene” event. The idea is to showcase the diverse, tech community in Philadelphia by having various organizers come in and speak about the groups they started or participate in.

As most of you know, I’m fairly active in Philly’s tech scene and I’ve spearheaded a few projects. They include:

  1. GirlDevelopIt Philly
  2. TechGirlz
    • Goal: To encourage middle school girls to get into technology-related fields
    • Next event: Programming with Kodu on November 19th
    • Sign up link or contact info[at]techgirlz[dot]com
  3. Philly Startup Leaders Poker Club
  4. Philly Startup Leaders Book Club

I just started a LearnRuby 101 group as well and I’ll post more information on that once we get off the ground.

See you tonight!