The trouble is, no matter how many times we’ve heard it in songs (by rich rock stars, to be sure), money can’t buy happiness. There’s a big difference between making a living and making a life — especially one that measures wealth, in part, by what one gives back, or staying true to one’s passion and calling.
That’s what makes Alex Moazed so special. At 24, he’s easily worth millions on paper, as his company Applico is one of the world’s leading mobile application strategy, design and development firms. Headquartered in New York City, and with offices in Santa Monica and Boston, Applico has a combined staff of more than 100 people and counting.
That’s not bad for a company that began with one just guy in 2009. Moazed started developing mobile applications at Babson College, and at age 20, used his personal credit card to fund the NYC Transit BlackBerry app, one that changed the way New Yorkers use public transportation.
With regard to financials, Applico brought in more than $7.5 million over the last year, up from $2.5 million the year before — and is set to double in the year ahead. Yet when you talk to him, Moazed sounds as idealistic and positive as the kid who tinkered with apps in a dorm to see what he could accomplish.
Here are some of the pointers he provides to young entrepreneurs hoping to follow in his footsteps.
1) Love what you do more than you love money.
Sounds obvious, right? But it’s also easy to be passionate about making money while getting mired in a career that feels empty. Moazed began his entrepreneurial career by asking himself what he loved to do — then taking a deep dive to get specific. “I loved tech, and I saw a huge opportunity in mobile,” he recalls. “At first, I didn’t know apps were my passion, but they became my passion as a result of building this company that I love and adore.” His advice? Act on your hunches rather than overthinking them: “Go try a bunch of stuff, and if you find you like something, you’ll do it a little bit more.”
2) Respond to needs that you see.
Moazed isn’t big on abstract theories of what makes for a good business. He’s producing apps to help people, based on what will improve their lives. That’s a core principle that traces itself back to his first app of the New York transit system. “If you see an area where you can effect change, why wait?” he says. “You only have more responsibilities and commitments as you get older, so find some fun stuff and get to it.”
3) Educate yourself for success.
Many young entrepreneurs dream of a business that will set them up for life, but don’t take time to learn the ins and outs of turning an idea into an entity that generates income and growth. “I really am an advocate of finishing school, and I took classes that interested me: marketing, business law, entrepreneurship classes,” Moazed says. “I found myself interested in school, because I was developing a skill set to help me build my company. There was a lot of value in me staying and getting my degree.” (He graduated with a B.S. in Business Management.)
4) Clear the decks of distractions.
If you’re living like many young adults under 30 — playing volleyball three times a week, going to lots of parties, watching every episode of “Mad Men” — you may not be ready to create a successful business just yet. Moazed is not a workaholic, but he’s big on getting laser focus to make dreams come true. Thinking back to the beginning of Applico, he notes: “In the back in my mind I knew that I had no expenses, no distractions and all this free time. I had a year and a half to work on this thing and get enough momentum, to grind at it and push it as far as I could before May 2010, when I had to go out into real world.” (And he did the grunt work while staying in school and graduating, too.)
5) Define and live by your values as you grow your business.
Moazed gets enthusiastic when he talks about how Applico embodies certain ideals he’s treasured from the beginning. “If you’re working with great people, you’re making great products,” he says. “I want to build a company that’s going to be around for a long time. I want to have amazing people, a strong value system, and a great culture. You hear so many stories about companies that have gone public, and the value system changes entirely.”
He adds: “We have no external pressures to go public in the near future. It’s an amazing thing we’ve built.”