by Xinyi Zhou '10
webs.com), the service they created over a decade ago, boasts over 50 million sites and $12 million in venture capital funding, along with a myriad of awards.
Webs is available for casual personal sites as well as for larger businesses, with features useful for any savvy webmaster. But the brothers emphasize making Webs better for “solo-preneurs” – which Haroon explains are the people who “want to make money doing what they love and what they’re passionate about.”
Buzz words like “web applications” and “solo-preneurs” can sound generic when thrown around by startups, but Webs products are genuinely innovative. Their apps allow visitors to “join” sites and to chat, schedule appointments, or buy from online stores right within the site, creating a mini social network. Webs thus fills a critical niche for small businesses who need the web presence but may not have the technical skills or money to have a website built and maintained.
But, before they became successful entrepreneurs, the Mokhtarzada brothers were Blair Magnet students discovering the internet in the computer labs in the mid-'90s. As always, Magnet students and staff jumped on this new technology quickly. Zeki remembers, “we all had e-mail accounts… we actually had dial-up.” He used Mosaic, one of the first graphical web browsers, in Earth Science to view weather patterns, and by senior year Haroon was required to make a website in Marine Biology class.
“I still remember the first time I clicked on a hyperlink,” Haroon said. “I still remember thinking that day, oh my god, this is going to be huge.”
Regardless, both brothers credit the Magnet with giving them a “can-do attitude”. Zeki recalls how Mr. Johnson, who taught Research and Experimentation his freshman year, insisted that students use laser printers for their reports, even though “back then, there were only one or two laser printers in the whole school.” Haroon likens the spirit of Magnet group projects to start-ups because both require a completed product, requiring a proposal and formal presentation in addition to the device or program.
With that mindset, the Mokhtarzada brothers are brimming with ideas for growing Webs, from a recent app to automatically “mobilize” websites for cell phones, to acquiring Pagemodo to extend easy site design to Facebook pages. Encouraging entrepreneurship is also a core principle of their mission. Haroon thinks teaching web design and cloud software development in the Magnet would be a “fantastic idea." "It’s an enabling thing. It can become an empowering thing, and you’re going to generate a bunch of entrepreneurs as a result.” At their core, creating enablers is what they’re about, and Webs embodies that: making quality website design and business networking tools accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Update: In late 2011, webs.com was acquired by Vistaprint for $117.5 million. (inc.com)