Faisal Shah, one of the luminaries of the Boise tech world, didn’t need more money or accolades when he started his third company, AppDetex.
Management teams sold his first two companies, First to File and MarkMonitor, for hundreds of millions of dollars split between Shah, his cofounders and investors.
Shah resists the public spotlight, an effort already strained when he married freshly elected Boise Greater Auditorium District (GBAD) Director Kristin Muchow this summer, making him half of one of the Treasure Valley’s most influential households.
Shah, 57, started and now pours long hours into another company because that’s what Shah does. He’s addicted to the hustle, just like when he rose to partner at a Los Angeles law firm at age 35. Just like when he and two founders built MarkMonitor into a tech behemoth that sold for approximately $400 million. He’s addicted to the chess game, the next Rubik’s Cube.
“I love the strategic part,” Shah said. “I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t starting a company. I’d really struggle with it.”
Muchow, who was elected to her first term in May, splits time between GBAD and Boise company Meeting Systems, Inc., where she is general manager, sometimes getting home at 10 or 11 p.m. She said they are compatible in part because of their shared ambition.
“Most would call us workaholics,” Muchow said. “Any other partner might get irritated, but since we both do it, we’re both ok with it. Having somebody that is driven, that has ambition, is part of the package.”
Shah is from everywhere. Born in Trinidad and Tobago to a father from India and a mother from Dubai, Shah moved to Venezuala at 8 and Peurto Rico at 10, where he attended American schools. He still speaks Spanish fluently.
Life became leaner for Shah, his mother, and two sisters when his father died after battling cancer. Shah was 14.
Shah felt like an outsider among the other students in Puerto Rico, most of whom were children of American expatriates. He played different sports. He had to learn the etiquette of the culture. He said he suffered two years of bullying so intense that, years later, the principal of the school apologized. It was a miserable stretch. Shah bottled up his frustrations and self doubts and never truly let them go. He said his rough teen years keep him hungry today.
“Even after all of the things I’ve done—been a partner in a major firm, started successful companies—I wake up in the morning and think, ‘Maybe I’m not good enough.’” Shah said.
The Shah children were always good students. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a law degree at the University of Colorado and the University of San Francisco School of Law, respectively. His sisters attended schools in the U.S. and became doctors.
Shah climbed the ranks practicing corporate law before becoming partner at a large Los Angeles law firm. After a few years, Shah realized that he enjoyed building his law practice more than actually practicing law. So he left the big money and perks of the career he’d spent his adult life building and moved to Boise after taking a job working for Richardson Labs, a nutritional supplement company.
After that company sold in 1998, Shah started working on MarkMonitor with two cofounders. The Internet was starting to pervade the business world. MarkMonitor combed the Internet in search of copyright violations, including product knock-offs, for the company’s clients, which included most of the largest corporations in the world.
While MarkMonitor grew, Shah and his cofounders spun out a second company called First to File, which managed and protected clients’ patent portfolios.
In 2012, Shah launched AppDetex, which scours application marketplaces to make sure customer apps and app technology aren’t being ripped off. The company has grown to 42 employees, most of whom work in two Downtown Boise offices. Shah said AppDetex revenue has doubled in each of the past three years.
AppDetex cofounder Chris Bura was CEO of a Silicon Valley company that MarkMonitor purchased in 2003. Bura, who still lives in California, said Shah struck him then as “kind, non-pretentious, and easy to interact with.” He welcomed the chance to partner on a new company.
“My impression hasn’t really changed,” Bura said. “He’s a typical entrepreneur who’s driven, focused and passionate. But unlike some ruthless types out there, Faisal is very loyal and has a big heart for people around him.”
Shah said he works the same long hours he did in the MarkMonitor days, but he does a better job of carving out time for yoga, bicycling and working out.
“It takes over my life, but in a good way, because I really enjoy it,” he said. “MarkMonitor was all work. I’ve learned to keep a balanced life, and those things are actually really healthy for you and your brain. It invigorates you to come back to work every day and to handle it all.”
Muchow said Shah sometimes tells her that AppDetex will be his last company. Her response: “Yeah, right.”
“I wouldn’t’ be surprised if there’s another company after this, or consulting. It’s never going to end, and I’m 100 percent cool with that. That’s who he is. It’s how he can give back. I would never encourage him otherwise.”