Arman Eshraghi’s story is one of entrepreneurial wit, determination and plain luck. After winning a green card lottery, Eshraghi left behind his native Iran — where he had started his first software company at the age of 18 — and came to the United States with big dreams and ambitions. “When I came to the U.S. I said, ‘There are 300 million people here — how many of them actually know software? Maybe a few million people. Then I said how many of them are willing to work very, very hard and dedicate more than 12 hours a day everyday for the next 10 years to this job? I said, ‘Probably not many,’” recalls Eshraghi. Along the way, Eshraghi’s tenacity and hard work paid off. In 2000, he established LogiXML, a business intelligence software provider. In the following Q&A, Eshraghi tells us how his company managed to bring in $5 million in sales last year and the steps that are ensuring it reaches $8 million in sales this year.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Arman Eshraghi: First of all, I have lived in many different cities in Iran. So for example I was born in a very small city, 10,000 people. I moved from there to another city for elementary school , another city for middle school, then another for high school, another for the first part of university and then another for a company and finally Washington, D.C. Each city that I have moved to is a little bigger than the previous one. I have been here for 12 years, longer than anywhere else.
When did you develop your entrepreneurial spirit?
Arman Eshraghi: I started a company, DPK, at the age of 18 — 23 years ago. I would say my passion for software more than business drove the success of that business. Within six years the company grew to 50 to 60 people and I sold my shares. I knew I could do it so I started a second company, Aryasoft; it focused on document image processing.
You won a green card lottery to get to America — pretty amazing. Tell us the story.
Arman Eshraghi: Sure, Kathy, my better half, and I always dreamed about working and living in the U.S., so definitely we were thankful for winning the green card. As a related story: We got married in 1992 and honeymooned in Greece. The U.S. Embassy does not exist in Iran because of the political climate and everything. In Greece we said to each other, “Now we are in Greece, why not just go to the U.S. Embassy and ask them if it’s possible for us to go to the United States.” We didn’t have any preparation or anything and the officer in the U.S. Embassy kindly explained that it may not be that simple.
A lot of software start-ups rise and fall — you’ve soared. What’s your secret?
Arman Eshraghi: When I came to the U.S., I said, “There are 300 million people here — how many of them actually know software? Maybe a few million people.” Then I said, “How many of them are willing to work very, very hard and dedicate more than 12 hours a day everyday for the next 10 years to this job. I said, ‘Probably not many.'” Then I said, “How many of them are really going to take a big risk and just go to any extent to really get the business going?” And when I say any extent I mean any extent. I don’t think a big group of people would take risks. But Kathy and I said to ourselves, we are ready for that journey we are ready to take risks and if we fail that is fine.
Give us a snapshot of your business this past year and the revenue generated.
Arman Eshraghi: LogiXML has had a good start. We are a company of about 75 people, last year our sales were $5 million and this year it’s projected to be $8 million. When Kathy and I started the company we didn’t take any money as salary for years. I think we started the business in March 2000 and the very first time we have received salary from the company was 2005. Having said that we never postponed or delayed any salary of any employee during the last seven years even for one day.
What accounts for your company’s growth?
Arman Eshraghi: I would say the biggest obstacle for any young software company like ours is the fact that people didn’t initially know you. Well, at LogiXML every year the company is growing, our products are getting better, and the market is getting to know us better.
Name some goals for the future — Who would you like to reach out to?
Arman Eshraghi: The number one segment is software companies. We have a good number of software companies who embed our technology in their own software.
Our last question is more personal; have you gone back to Iran since you left — any impressions you can share with readers?
Arman Eshraghi: The first year that I came here I had to go back a few times to wrap up everything with the previous company. My wife had to return when her mother passed away some years ago for a few days, then last year, my son wanted to know what was going on there. He said, “I don’t remember anything because when I came here I was two or three years old … I want to see the country I was born in.” Kathy and my son went there for two weeks and when Kathy returned she told me that this country in one aspect is very different, in another it isn’t different. So as you can imagine there are some aspects to it that can change such as highways and buildings, but overall not many fundamental changes.