Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Paysavvy co-founder Wisam Abdulla, whose business is the future’s answer to people & culture. We caught up with him to find out about his direct approach to business success and where he sees himself in 5, 10 and 20 years…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m a co-founder at Paysavvy, a payroll and HR tech startup with offices in Vancouver and Toronto. We’re one of the fastest growing companies in Canada.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
I had an ecommerce business before this and a constant pain in my ass was doing payroll for my staff. I dreaded it.
Around that time (2011), tech startups really came on my radar; Hootsuite had started to make some noise in Vancouver (I think they hit their first 100 employees) and my brother was working at an early Pinterest competitor in Toronto. SaaS (Software as a Service) sounded way more glamorous than ecommerce.
We did research on the space, found that there was an amazing opportunity, sold the ecommerce business and rolled it into what’s now Paysavvy.
The best businesses seem to start with a personal founder pain. Find your itch and scratch it.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Our first office was your classic #ramenlife startup space – 1,200 sq/ft in a shit building. We were there for three long years.
In October 2014, we moved into a new incredible 4,000 sq/ft office with floor-to-ceiling views of the Vancouver Harbour and the North Shore.
One of my most memorable milestones was walking into our new office the day before we moved in. It was still completely empty. We had just refreshed our branding and our new shiny logo was posted up on the wall. I took a couple of walks around our new sprawling empty office and just took it all in. It was a remarkable feeling of accomplishment.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
5 years: Paysavvy is 500 employees strong and going public at a $1B market cap.
10 years: I’m a VC focusing on B2B SaaS, living in the valley, and speaking in front of large audiences on my number one passion – people and culture.
20 years: On a beach in Europe somewhere tending to my banana stand (there’s always money in the banana stand).
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Decide what it is you want.
Write that shit down.
Make a f*cking plan.
Work on it.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
Paysavvy sponsors a room at the Ronald McDonald House. We’ve also raised money for some really great local charities – Embers and Intersections Media.
There are so many areas of need in our world. I think it’s important to figure out what’s important to you and focus on that. For me, I would love to do more related to underprivileged children or new immigrant families.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
A couple of years in, we hit a really tough patch. Things felt like they were falling apart and my stress was through the roof. It was a shitty time.
I went for lunch with a mentor of mine and he told me a story that I’ve now retold dozens of times.
He told me that when he was in university, he played varsity basketball and the practices they had were absolute grinders. They would do this one drill where you would run up and down the gym touching the lines on the floor enough times that he literally threw up once.
He told me there were many times after practice that he would sit and reflect and ask himself why he was bothering to put himself through such tough times. At the end, it always came down to the same answer: “There is nothing in the world I would rather be doing.”
There’s nothing in the world I’d rather be doing than this. You either have it or you don’t.
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Someone notable is someone who is memorable; someone who leaves you with a feeling that you will never forget.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Espana and Bao Bei are the two places I always have to take friends who are visiting from out of town.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Hacker News. I’m not that technical but I troll it often. As of late, my most-played song is Cheerleader by OMI (don’t tell anyone).
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
My girlfriend @designloveco. She’s great. Buy her stuff.
4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Adventure is one of my core values. I’ve been fortunate enough to explore a lot of really cool places. If I had to pick one, I would have to say Japan (Tokyo, specifically). Incredible.
Next on my list is a big tour of Portugal. My Mom was born and raised there. I want to do a big trip with her 🙂
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Ugh. Everything. I’m so easily swayed to go out and do anything that sounds remotely fun, even when I know I should be doing better things.
I was in SF last month and wanted to get a new pair of dressy shoes. I found a great pair at the first store I went to but had to go to six other nearby stores to make sure there wasn’t anything better.
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
McDonald’s hot fudge sundae. Extra fudge, extra peanuts.
7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I wish I spent less money at restaurants. More specifically, I wish I spent less money on wine at restaurants.
I wish I spent more money (read: had more money to spend) on art. There’s an incredible piece by local artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Google him) that I’ve been eyeing. First splurge, when I can.
8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Sailing in the middle of the bright blue ocean, wine flowing on deck, the song Pursuit of Happiness by Kid Cudi blasting on repeat.
*Since this article was first written, Paysavvy has outgrown their Gastown office and has moved into its new 12,000 sq/ft home on Burrard Street.