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Featured on Dec 28, 2010

Tawheed Kader (TK)

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. - Mark Twain"


Principal and Founder at Braintrust & Co. We believe in actuating change that leaves the world better than we found it. We do this by building awesome technology products.

  • Title: Principal and Founder, Braintrust & Co
  • Age: 27
  • Location: SoHo, Upper West Side
  • Contact: @tawheed, Braintrust, blog

People love to hear stories about Wall St. / Finance types quitting their cushy, overpaid jobs to create something in this world.  As someone who used to work in finance and quit, how can we celebrate those who have made this journey and convince others to follow in your footsteps?

Ironically, I didn't start in the Finance industry. I built my first startup, back in 2005, with a few of my fraternity brothers during our senior year of College at RPI. By the time we were graduating, we got acquired by Plaxo and while most seniors were stressing over resumes and interviews, we were flying back and forth between Mountain View and Albany to seal the deal.

After a sting out in Silicon Valley as a Product Manager for Plaxo, I decided that the West Coast wasn't really for me. This was around 2007, and the startup field wasn't nearly as hot as it is today in New York, so I decided to try my hand at Finance. You see, being in Silicon Valley at that time was a little disheartening to me. I felt that everyone was just trying to build a social network like Facebook, and no one could care less about business models.

At that time, Finance was a very mystifying field to me. I figured if I wanted to learn more about building a business and about economies in general, the "small" hedge fund out in Connecticut that believed in integrating finance geeks with tech geeks to create leverage would be an awesome adventure.

Fast forward 3 years to now. I learned a tremendous amount about how to build scalable technology, how to think conceptually, and most importantly, I learned about what I personally value the most (making a difference in society vs. just making money).

I don't think Wall St. / Finance tech types have a cushy overpaid job. I think they get paid a tremendous amount and for good reason. They get paid to deal with a ridiculous number of edge cases, they get paid for incredibly long hours, and they get paid for devoting their technology skills toward a goal that doesn't exactly have far reaching impact to society in general (which inherently means you're working for money and not for the greater good). There's nothing wrong with that if you're OK with that. For putting up with the above, you get a good lifestyle, and you get tons of funds that if you choose can be put toward tons of great causes that benefit society.

Obviously, that wasn't for me. I work way more hours now but I feel more fulfilled at the end of the day because I know I'm putting my technology and business skills toward something that has a more direct and a greater impact toward everyday people, toward society.

So to all the really talented folks still in the Finance industry in New York, or to the NYU and Columbia students that are trying to choose, it all comes down to one question. Do you want your days to be going toward impacting just a small sliver of people in one industry? Or do you want your to impact and change the lives of society?  (Note: The answer that my work in finance makes the markets less imperfect and therefore provides a valuable service to society is the age old answer on Wall St., and I don't think that counts). says you’re in Flushing, says you’re in CT, your We Are NY Tech profile says you’re on the UWS... where are you?!  What can you find in CT or Queens that you can’t find in Manhattan?

I quit my job in August of 2010. Before that, I lived in Connecticut. After I quit, I wasn't really sure how things would pan out with my consulting and products business. So, I moved into a condo I parents owned (also my childhood home) out in Flushing, Queens, NY. I figured if things went really wrong, it'd just be my parents I would be screwing over on the rent.

After 6 mice, a general culture shock with how much Flushing has changed since I last lived there, along with a few solid clients for consulting and revenues from my products, my wife and I decided to move into Manhattan onto the Upper West Side. I also took some shared office space in SoHo. This all happened over the course of the past two months or so, so needless to say, I just didn't get around to updating all of the addresses yet!

Even though I grew up in New York City (Queens), I feel like I'm living through a completely different experience now that I'm in Manhattan. For those of you that haven't ventured out of the island (beyond Brooklyn that is), I really urge you to check out Astoria, Queens where they have a ton of great Mediterranean Food and Hookah. I also recommend visiting Jackson Heights, Queens, where you can get the absolute best and most authentic Indian food and shopping experience.

I hear you program in Python, Ruby, .NET and Objective-C.  Do you have a preference for statically vs. dynamically typed languages? Interpreted vs. Compiled?

I've designed and built Telecommunications platforms for Pre-Paid Calling Cards (the original family business), Trading systems, and web-based products. The big reason I've programmed in such a wide array of languages and technologies is because I believe there's always a "right tool for the right job."

When I'm working on a crazy idea that can potentially help millions of people or completely fail and not affect anyone at all such as Braintrust or Tout, I stick to dynamic and interpreted languages because all I care about is agility, access to tons of open source libraries, and reducing time to market as much as possible.

On the flip side, if I'm working on a project that I know is building a key piece of infrastructure that will be around for a while, that people will build toward, depend on, and use, I stick to compiled languages and technologies such as .NET. This ensures that I'm forced to pay attention to implementation details and there is also a ready-made workforce of people that can take over support and maintenance of the technology.

Who else is in your Braintrust?  Are you a one-man band or do you work with others to build and design your products?

In 2009 I started with a vague idea of getting out of the Finance industry and go back to building my own startup. So, through 2010, I've been doing the conceptualization, design, coding, business development, marketing and just about everything else for Braintrust, Tout, Main Street and all my client projects.

I'm lucky to have a lot of very good and close friends from all walks of life. I consider them to be my "Braintrust" because they are always there to give me the real-world-check on my ideas and my products and insight into everyday problems that "normal people" face. I think this is the single big reason why NY is so awesome. No echo chamber.

My big goal for 2011 is to get Braintrust and Tout to generate enough profits so that I can start to build out my team and address the big weakness that I have as a person. 2010 has been an incredibly transformational year for me, I'm really excited about focusing on raw execution for 2011.

I wake up every morning and tell my self "Let's make it rain."

Ruby Developer, Business Development, Technical Lead