DAG Tech – “Holiday Hangover 2018”
January 4 2019, The Marlton Hotel New York City
Toast by Founder & CEO Daniel Ghazi
Thank you everyone for coming! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year
Not only did we call today’s party the 2018 Holiday Hangover, but January 4 2019 is the 20 year anniversary of DAG Tech, to the exact day.
I want to share a brief history of how we arrived here.
In late 1998, I saw an opportunity, I had an idea.
** I quit my job in Washington DC, prestigious as a teenage Senior Engineer, in charge of all accounts, and a small engineering team. That job was paying me $40k a year, which to me (and my friends) was an enormous salary at the time.
I bought a Qualcomm cell phone, which will probably outlast the universe, and paid by the minute. Only some C-level executives had a cell phone at the time, but I needed one. It was mandatory that this business be mobile.
I went to CompUSA in Rockville, Maryland and bought a new Sony Vaio laptop. The first slim-line and about the size of a modern Microsoft Surface. It was incredible at the time of 8-pound clunkers, its iridescent purple-blue shell, multimedia, and blazing fast 56k modem. It all cost as much as one year of my mortgage, $3000 for the base unit and $800 extra for the proprietary external CD-ROM.
My sister had just gotten me a black messenger bag embroidered with my initials “DAG” for my twentieth birthday.
I called my buddy Jesse and said “I think I’m going to start an IT firm and heard I should have a company”. He was the only guy I knew with any knowledge whatsoever on this stuff. He said “yep you should have an LLC, give me two days and I’ll be over Sunday at noon”.
I get a ring to my condo’s doorbell, buzz him up, and he drops a plastic briefcase on my coffee table, opens it up, and it’s a traveling type writer. He had acquired some magical forms from some magical office and loaded them into the typewriter, aligned it, and started typing extremely carefully. I couldn’t believe it…. but Jesse said this is the only way to do it. He got to the company name section and asked me what to call it. I hadn’t even thought about it and looked over at my new embroidered messenger bag and said “ummm… DAG… Technologies. DAG Technologies.” (we have shortened it to DAG Tech since, to make it easier).
I had the five things I needed. An idea, a cell phone, a laptop, a bag, and a company.
Previously, you’d have to spend 20-30 years working in a corporation and pool together millions of dollars and a business plan the size of a telephone book to fathom a new business. I had no more money and no business plan. I told some people about my concept, it was right at the dawn of the start-up, the new Age of the Internet, connecting people for the first time in history. The feedback I received was not necessarily positive, to put it kindly. But there were some glimmers of encouragement and sound advice, which I am still grateful for. I focused on what my dad told me to do, move forward.
I knew there were many companies out there which immediately, and somewhat urgently required outside expertise, of which there was a massive void, and I felt like I could build and support the new solutions. I knew I could whip together an excel invoice, print it, put it in a stamped envelope, mail it, and hopefully get a payment check. I was slightly concerned that I looked like I was 15 years old, tops.
I figured I’d learn the rest later. Trusting in our ability to learn on-the-fly became a core concept of our survival, flexibility, and evolution.
Despite the plethora of warnings, I believed it would work. I could connect the points between the demand, ways to win clients, and to execute and fulfill transformative requirements. That might not have been a substantive or traditional business plan, but it was a viable enough business model.
Our first client was the BASF Corporation, a Fortune 500 company located in the Homer Building in Washington DC. It put us on the map immediately as a rookie contender. Proof of Concept. Proof of concept is almost never an anomaly, and therefore scalable.
I never said thank you to Bonnie from BASF, whom I recently learned passed away, for being an endless initial reference. Thank you Bonnie.
Monday January 4 1999, a cold blustery morning, I waited on the Rockville Red Line Metro platform for a train to DC. It was my first on-site service call. I felt a little nervous and really excited, yet also relaxed and confident. I couldn’t stop the thoughts from sneaking in, “Wow.. this is a business! We’re in business!” then “Dan, get the job done”.
The next day, Tuesday, we added a world renowned anti-trust law firm. Thank you Todd for over 20 years of support, advice and friendship.
By Friday we had four clients.
** I instinctively always thought “we”, and wasn’t sure why, thought it sounded funny, even ridiculous when it was just a one man show. In retrospect, you become what you imagine – or as the Buddha profoundly states “your mind creates this world”.
I liked solving complex problems, building difficult solutions.. the more challenging the better. I liked being called in when the other experts or companies couldn’t deliver, had become disoriented, or had given up. I liked the clients satisfaction in having better, more efficient ways to do things.
I liked seeing the clients prosper because of their new technology.
That is what I lived for and that is what I cared about. Everything else was an afterthought.
Building and supporting technology solutions on my own, and all aspects of business, and not having anyone to collaborate with, became increasingly difficult and lonely. The client load grew to having to be in multiple places at once, which I would accomplish by running back and forth between clients while things were installing – think The Flash, and working 90-100 hours a week, fielding off hours emergencies and all-nighters. Late at night and on weekends, building proposals, sending invoices, learning new technologies, practicing, and doing planning and marketing. When I slept, I was thinking about ways to win new clients or how to accomplish difficult solutions or fix problems. I did that for seven years. I loved it.
I wanted a built-out company, and more so – required one. Others working together, talking about and building things for DAG Tech clients. How amazing would that be. I wanted only the best people, the most positive and resourceful. The smartest. Fun people and a fun environment. A place that fostered individuality and self-expression, instead of deterring it. I wanted a place where we could be actual people. I was going to do it that way, no matter what anyone from the old school said. It was the ONLY way, no compromise.
Because of that foundation, we weathered:
- The 1999-2001 Dot Com Bubble and Y2K craziness which killed off a lot of 1980’s and early 1990’s rooted consultants and small firms
- The 2001-2003 Dot Com Bust where billable rates dropped 50-75% in a matter of weeks and many companies vanished overnight
- The post 9/11 halt in business activity
- The 2002-2006 tech recession
- The 2008-2009 economic collapse
- The 2013-2017 cloud migration race that brought down many of our late 90’s and 2000’s rooted, slow adapting competitors
- The 2017-current capitulation wave of IT competitors, who find the market too complex and difficult to navigate
- Too many to count other ups and downs and setbacks
As long as the original formula never changes, I believe there are only two valiant outcomes — either we succeed, or we fail trying our best and giving it our all. Not only are those the two valiant outcomes in business, but in all of life. They leave nothing to be desired and nothing to fear.
In 2008 Kristine joined (thank you Kristine for 10 years). We had a growing team of consultants by then and accelerating growth in clientele. In 2011 we added full-time engineers Jeff, Alejandro, and Bill. We started to build out our offerings and formats. Our ethos solidified into our DAG Tech Corporate Mantra. It was a real company with unlimited potential. We continued to grow the team and adding great people. We passed 10.. 20.. 30 people on payroll.
We are serving great clients in New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Miami, internationally in Toronto and London.
We are excelling at our core services, and have used our innovative and creative skills to spin-out a series of public facing technology products. On this long road, we have grown from a rookie contender into a market leader!
Of which I’m most proud, I kept the promise I made in which we would only build a company that would:
- Put clients first, empathizing and understanding their needs and motivations
- Deliver real results
- Be enjoyable to work for and a place which fostered personal and professional growth
However incremental it ever seemed, for 7305 consecutive days (365 days per year x 20 years = 7300 days, plus 5 leap year days), the company was better, bigger, stronger, smarter, more fair – than ANY day before.
Some thank yous:
- Thank you to Andy, for the endless support, friendship and helping launch us in New York.
- Thank you to Yaz for taking a chance on me when we were running on fumes, many years of friendship, and introducing us to great clients and people.
- Thank you to Jim for the steadfast advice, referrals and support, we miss you a lot.
- Thank you to my dad for the early opportunities and guidance that shaped me, never ending direction, and clear minded advice.
- Thank you to my mom, sister, brother in law, nephews, grandma and grandpa, Whitney, my family and friends for your unwavering backing.
- Thank you to Justice, my forever faithful canine companion. I would trade all the money and technology in the world to have you back.
- Thank you to my current animal family Goose, JC, Xiaomien, and Barney.
- Thank you to Jeff, Kristine, Alina, Michael, Naeem and all early employees for relentlessly pushing things forward, your patience, expertise and direction.
- Thank you to all recent employees and consultants, you are all hot shots.. rock stars.
- Thank you to all our clients, colleagues, vendors and mentors
- Thank you to the great USA and the many who sacrificed so an idea like this could become a reality.
- Thank you Daniel Johnson, we just found out you passed away only a couple weeks ago. In a short period, you gave us such great advice, and were so supportive of us. You were a brilliant creator and I wish I could’ve seen your new products come to fruition. We were looking forward to many years of partnership and projects. We promise to make you proud and to continue your legacy.
Today the company, clients, and team we have amazes me. I am truly honored to work with all of you. You all are extremely bright, hardworking, honest, and full of good ideas.
Going forward, I am 100% certain that we will continue to grow, have a good time doing it, and will accomplish great things, both together and individually.
Thank you. Cheers to 2019 and beyond!