January 22, 2001 Jacksonville Business Journal
A poster promoting the company’s Web site design division, Draven Web-Crafting, hangs on the wall. The shelves are lined with books about computer programming and Web design.
President and CEO Shaleen Shah, clad in business attire, projects a serious image.
Shah, who started the company in his bedroom a year ago, says the company has had age-related challenges earning the respect of the business world.
“Whenever we’d talk to some people, there were always doubts and questions about our capabilities. But, if they decided to give us the project, they usually see we can do the work,” Shah said. “The age issue is not a concern anymore since we have a sizable portfolio. People seemed to have more doubts when we were working out of the house.”
Shah, who immigrated from India with his parents when he was 10, started using computers when he was 15. Within a few months, he built a personal Web site.
“It was just plain HTML and was cut and paste from other Web pages,” Shah said. “It was horrible.”
Shah quickly realized he could make money creating Web sites for area companies. Since he founded the company, he has taken on the non-techie role of business development.
In December 1999, he ran the idea of starting a company by Michael Fierro one day in English class at Orange Park High School. “I decided I wanted to make it larger than just a home business, so I put out the word that I was hiring Web developers,” Shah said. He hired seven high school students by the end of January 2000.
Last June, when high school graduation rolled around, Draven lost most of its developers to college.
“We lost a lot of people, but we use a network of about 20 subcontractors in the U.S. and about 15 in India,” Shah said. “No one is older than 18. It kind of just happened that way, but we’re not confined to that.”
Shah and Fierro enrolled at the University of North Florida. Shah, a part-time student, plans to major in international business. Fierro, a full-time student, majors in computer science to upgrade his self-taught skills.
Fierro, 18, got hooked on computers at age 15 when he read a book about computer programming. But, like Shah, he tinkered on the Web and built Web sites for free.
“I built them for myself and for my friends,” Fierro said. “I never charged or anything.”
Fierro and Shah look at Draven Enterprises as their full-time jobs after college. Until then, they will continue to juggle their studies with the business. “I’m in it for the long haul,” Fierro said. “I’m looking at this as a career.”
When they incorporated in April, they chose to form Draven Enterprises as a holding company to harness all of the business ideas Shah kept producing.
“I knew that in the future,” Shah said, “I wanted to branch into other things.”
– Eric Cravey
Jacksonville Business Journal