Zulfikar Ali, Founder & CEO, Nochallenge Technology
[Thank you EO Accelerator MN for underwriting our new HUSTLE series! Are you a hustler or do you know one? We’re in search of Minnesota tech entrepreneurs who are making it happen — with the numbers to prove it.]
Zulfikar Ali immigrated to the United States in 1997 at the age of 18 and hasn’t skipped a beat in pursuit of his American Dream.
Arriving on a student visa scholarship at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, he obtained an MIS degree in 2001 — just as the dot com bubble blew. While many of his international peers became jobless and returned to their home country, Ali landed an entry level position in customer support for a mortgage appraisal company.
A few months in, he wrote a software app that streamlined internal process, earning a quick promotion to the IT department and opportunity for US Citizenship. Fast forward three years to job offer from Wells Fargo that promised broader horizons, prompting a natural move up the ladder.
New to freelancing, his first sale was computer hardware repair for a neighbor who responded to the 8 X 11 flyer Ali posted in the community laundry room. It was a quick lesson learned for the first time entrepreneur: identify a problem and deliver a solution.
Ali would go on to source a number of freelancing projects on nights and weekends, taking whatever gigs he could get and learning how to scrap as a contractor. Meanwhile, his corporate life was thriving — within five years of starting as a junior programmer at Wells Fargo, he rose the ranks to VP of systems architecture at one of the largest banking institutions in the country.
Yet still unsatisfied, Ali continued the relentless pursuit of building something to call his own. In 2011, he formed Nochallenge Technology, a custom software/web/mobile development firm based in downtown Minneapolis. After saving over the years, he self funded a development office in Bangladesh, and scaled his consulting revenues to half a million within for the first two years of launching Nochallenge.
By 2014 it was time to take the leap and go all in.
“My family and friends thought I was crazy for leaving that job,” he reflects. “But safe money and comfortable benefits are no substitution for my kind of success.”
NoChallenge has a blended model under the direction of Ali, tapping the industry trend and growth potential of combining services with products. An early venture for Ali includes equity ownership in SaaS ProPosal, launched two months ago with 100+ paying customers. He’s also a partner/CIO of a edutech product My Behavior Assistant, deployed in several school districts.
“We’re a service company but I do like having ownership,” he says with a grin.
It’s 2014 and Nochallenge’s office in the Grain Exchange building is home to five Minneapolis employees and Bangladesh has grown to over fifteen. Ali’s hustle multiplier is his independent nature: “I just never found a co-founder or partner, something I refused to let hold me back.”
His stated goal next year is to reach $1m in top line revenues, open another international office, and roll out large scale tax accounting software for developing countries.
“Nochallenge…it means anything is possible,” extends beyond a corporate motto, it’s the nature of Zulfikar Ali’s HUSTLE.