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It Passes the Mom Test

A former law student develops an online business that lets anyone -- even his tech-challenged mother -- create a website.

When Haroon Mokhtarzada turned down a prestigious law firm's offer to be a summer intern a year before he graduated from Harvard Law School in 2005, his professors no doubt regarded it as career suicide. They probably reconsidered when he raised $12 million in funding for a business venture only a year later.

As an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Mokhtarzada and his two brothers, Zeki and Idris, were experimenting with a rudimentary web design business. But the first effort, he realized, was not scalable. The solution? Create something that would allow anyone (including his non-technical mother) to build a website. So Mokhtarzada turned a closet into an improvised web-hosting facility and $2,000 later, he (and family) launched what more than 50 million registered users now know as Webs. Webs enables a person or business to create a website within a matter of minutes. Simply sign up, select a name, click publish and then choose elements to drag and drop into the site. The basic website is free but adding additional features, such as a custom domain name, premium templates and e-commerce tools, costs money.

The answer for Mokhtarzada seemed simple: "Start a new company."

"Why not make this that company?" the board member asked.

What followed was a crash course in capitalism. By the summer of 2006, Webs had raised $12 million in Series A funding. And the company's advisory board had grown, too, as did its ranks of investors, who now all had skin in the game. "That's one of the reasons you raise money," Mokhtarzada says, "because the people who give you the money will want you to be successful."

Webs is still a family affair: Mokhtarzada, 31, is CEO; Zeki, 32, is CTO; and Idris, 24, is senior engineer. The brothers continue to make sure that the complex technological web functions remain "mother compatible." Their bedroom-closet server is now a data center supported by 45 employees.. And it's a fair bet Mokhtarzada has never regretted passing up that internship.ญญ

Original Article URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217767