Super Entrepreneur: Omar Ismail

June 22, 2007

Omar Ismail, ProductWiki, CTO

While Omar Ismail had already gotten his feet wet in the TorCamp community, DemoCamp 13 was his big introduction to the crowd. He was demoing ProductWiki, which for many there was an altogether novel concept. ProductWiki joins the very thin ranks of the commercial, public, open content wikis on the Internet, like WikiTravel and WikiHow. In Omar’s own words, ProductWiki is “what would happen if you took Wikipedia and Consumer Reports and they had a baby.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given a rowdy, half-drunken room of TorCampers, ProductWiki received a lukewarm reception. Well, a surly reception. And that’s unfortunate because ProductWiki harbours a small secret that makes all the difference in the world.

ProductWiki is profitable. Not just break-even profitable, but enough that three engineers could justify leaving their Silicon Valley jobs to move back to Canada and work full time on what they consider first and foremost a labour of love. As Omar says, “it is nice being able to pay ourselves without having to work for any other boss.”

So, how did they get from an idea to having control over their own lives? They believe in what they are doing, and that gives them the energy to work all day long through good times and bad. All Omar wants is to have “an impact on the world, that’s really all I care about. How that comes about right now is ProductWiki, which I am pouring my heart and soul to.”

And second, they are a family business. Omar works with his sister and brother-in-law out of their house. When the riskiest move starting a business is picking the right partners, working with family is a huge leg up. As Omar says, you have “more bonds that keep people honest.” Then again, I can sympathize as a younger brother myself, that there is a huge downside to working out of his older sister’s house. “I’m an expert now on marriage, because I watch them. They’re a married couple, and I see them 10 hours a day, day in and day out. So maybe it can be too much information.”

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