Each month, we’ll be introducing you to one of iQ’s members or staff. We hope that by sharing their stories, you’ll get to know our culture and the people who make our workspaces so great. This month, we interviewed Baktash Abdollah-shamshir-saz, founder and CEO of TooMuchVoltage Software. Be sure to check the blog each month to see who we feature next!
Tell us about your company and your role within it.
My name is Baktash Abdollah-shamshir-saz and I am the founder and CEO of TooMuchVoltage Software. Originally founded as a game design studio, TooMuchVoltage Software engages in various activities from developing game engine technology to consulting for big data and machine learning projects.
How did you get to the position you’re in now?
It was two years ago and the second version of our flagship engine, HighOmega v2.0, had just been released. After a bit of outreach, we caught the attention of Toronto ACM SIGGRAPH and that lead us to present the engine at SIGGRAPH 2015 on the IRC panel. The engine would again get some limelight with its own Toronto ACM SIGGRAPH TechTalk (specifically exploring what was behind its fluid simulator.) This lead to some interest on the part of Autodesk Research to work with TooMuchVoltage Software. With the gracious help of the then-Toronto-SIGGRAPH-Chapter-chair we managed to sit down and turn that desire into a reality. Autodesk Research is our mega-client right now.
Our launch party for HighOmega v2.0 was hosted at the Dineen lounge. I could not have picked a better location. The space is a well-blended mixture of old and modern. It is hip without really losing its heritage and character. And, of course, the displays allowed me to make a grand show of five years of tough on-and-off work.
Given my positive experience and the strategic positioning of iQ’s University location – especially with respect to our mega-clients location in the very near future – picking iQ University was a no-brainer. The service is fantastic, I had the opportunity to give my office the character I desired and again I could not be happier with my choices.
What made you choose to work in the industry you’re in?
I consider TooMuchVoltage Software’s primary industry to be video games even though the services we’re currently offering to Autodesk are focused around Big Data and machine learning.
With that in mind, I’ve been playing video games since the age of 6 and I started coding tiny graphics applications at the age of 10 when I got my Commodore Amiga. I don’t think the passion ever really faded.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
It was arguably the biggest one: making games for BigFish many years ago. Not to say that making games for them is a mistake… but rather making games for their target audience when you can’t relate to them is. We didn’t fully understand them: they were in a different age bracket and of a different gender. We poured our hearts and souls into what we thought was a good game but at the end of the day, we made the game we liked… not the game our audience would have liked. Because we did not intend to serve that particular market long term, we did not hold our ground when things went awry and we, therefore, backed out.
Having said that, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to build things I fully understand and appreciate. Because at times of failure I will at least be proud of them. If I’m going to pick a hill to die on, I’ll at least pick one with lavender fields.
What’s the best business advice that you’ve ever received?
Many years ago, while lecturing a crowd of Florida University students, Warren Buffett said he never invests in recommendations made to him at dinner parties, only things he understands thoroughly. I wish I had seen that speech before trying my hand at investing the first time around.
What’s the most important leadership lesson that you’ve learned?
I’d like to say I’ve learned it… but instinctively I’ve always known it: hire underdogs, trust them and treat them like family. You will not be disappointed. Even in our darkest days, my reports did a fantastic job. That is why we never suffered technically and were able to deliver products that would take our competitors ten times the time, effort and money to produce. It baffles me that nearly all corporate managers in the wild that I’ve worked with since (apart from Autodesk) royally screw up one or all of the above pieces of advice.
Who is your business role-model?
I believe business success is a mixture of two polar opposites: shrewd realism and passionate idealism. It is in the push and pull between the two that great business success is achieved. From the shrewd realism side, I would pick Mark Cuban. From the passionate idealism side I’d pick John D. Carmack (former id Software founder.)