The Brothers Mokhtarzada: Magnet Entrepreneurs
by Xinyi Zhou '10
While attending college at the University of Maryland College Park, brothers Haroon Mokhtarzada '97 and Zeki Mokhtarzada '96 thought about starting a web design business. They had experience making their own websites, but they realized that not everyone wanting a website would be able to hire a web developer. So what was their idea? “A website that makes websites.” Today, Webs (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.
Update: In late 2011, webs.com was acquired by Vistaprint for $117.5 million. (inc.com)