How I made an investment with as little as one dollar?
In 2009, I was hired as a reporter for a tourism magazine; it was not a well-known publication, and the staff’s behavior was indicative of a crisis that was being suppressed.
The entire editorial board had recently been hired, and I soon discovered that the previous team had all been fired. I was not used to going to the director of the places I was working on very often. As a journalist, I had the opportunity to work in the economic section of one of Iran’s most respected newspapers, and I was well-known in the journalistic community as a result of my reports.
After a while, I realized that, like the rest of Iran’s publications, this tourism magazine’s crisis was a lack of funds. Due to non-payment of employee salaries, a large number of the new editorial board members who were hired at the same time as me quit their jobs.
This compelled me to contact the CEO, which was the first step toward comprehending the magnitude of the tragedy. The CEO was drowning in debt and fleeing creditors, spending the nights at work, and his family had abandoned him. It made sense for me to consider a new job.
When I went to the CEO for a final meeting one day, I noticed a travel agency license hanging on the wall. I stood there staring at the license until the CEO came into his office. When he arrived, I realized he had had the license for many years because of his connections, but it had just sat there collecting dust.
I already had a history of raising capital for a variety of businesses, and I was well aware of the value of a travel agency license. As a result, rather than quitting my job, I found an investor for both the airline and the CEO! Because of its good name, I turned the magazine into an economic magazine based on my journalistic background, and in less than two years, the CEO had two businesses, namely, a magazine and a travel agency.
He paid off his debts and even relocated his family to Europe. However, he, like everyone else, took the investor for granted and assumed he could handle it on his own, and this was the start of a crisis for himself and all of us.
Despite the fact that I had turned the ruins into two successful businesses that I had started myself by raising funds, I quit my job. I decided to open my own travel agency, but I needed money to purchase a license and set it up. Nobody believes it, but I placed a want-ad in one of the newspapers with only one dollar at the time. The text said, “A travel agency with new ideas needs an investor.” .
My home phone started ringing at 7 a.m. to solicit investors for the travel agency, which did not even exist yet! I did not get off the phone until 9 p.m. I had about 20 options to choose from after spending one dollar on a want-ad.
I had previous experience-based ideas that drew investors when I explained them over the phone. I recall the home phone ringing for about a week. I reached an agreement with one of the investors just 24 hours after posting the want ad; however, this was only the beginning. During that time, I managed to dodge the question “where is your office?” but now I had to meet the investor somewhere. As if everything would fall into place on its own, the investor suggested we meet for the first time in a park near his house.
He even found an office on his own after the meeting, and in less than a month, with only one dollar, I had a business, an investor, and an office. During that time, I found someone through the same newspaper ads who wanted to sell a travel agency license and convinced him to partner with me instead of selling the license.
This was my first significant experience in raising business capital, and thanks to my creditworthiness, the initial investor increased his initial capital six times in less than a year. In 2015, I decided to launch my own investment firm.
I began with a 40-meter office and four employees. That office was not established with my own money, but with the assistance of an investor. In less than two years, the 40-meter office was transformed into a 500-meter office with approximately 300 employees.
Douman Investment Company made investments in a variety of publications, restaurants, and hotels, among other things. Several thousand people were involved in this company’s activities as investors and employees until 2018.
This was the story of how I made a one-dollar investment. Everyone is either an investor or an investee, and the founders of the world’s most successful startups were once investees before becoming investors.
Being an investee or an investor is the same thing; the investee invests his idea, and the financier invests his money. As a result, I refer to both of these as investors.
My Journey from Journalism to Newspaper Ownership
Between 1997 and 2000, the Iranian people voted for a political movement that prompted the then-president, based on his cultural background, to promote cultural prosperity in a variety of ways, particularly the publication of new newspapers and magazines.
During those years, a new wave of journalism was in motion in Iran, and newspapers with political affiliations were published with appealing layouts and stories and, of course, with a modern approach to news coverage and reviews.
My father bought about 10 newspapers a day, which I devoured for hours. I was fascinated with writing when I was in primary school, and I did love books, but the newspaper was something else! Since then, newspapers have gone through such a rough patch that I sometimes think of pulling the pin, but regardless of the bizarre events, the fewer the newspapers were published, the more enthralled I became. I recall standing in front of all the newsstands after school with my friends, intently staring at the newspapers. “Do you think the headlines change from this newsstand to the next that you stop again to take a look?” my friends would tease me. I had up-to-date information on a variety of publications.
I bought the most recent ones and knew their reporters well enough to guess the editorials from their covers. A different newspaper was published by a creative team led by a young man, which I found particularly appealing.
Despite the fact that it was only 32 pages long, the contents and analyses were so interesting that I spent many hours a day reading them. After that newspaper was published, I became more interested in journalism than ever before. Surprisingly, I wanted to work for that newspaper despite having no work experience, but I did not know how! I found the editor’s email address on the website and emailed him several times without receiving a response. It took me about an hour to walk from our house to the newspaper office, where I decided every night to drop in and possibly see the editor in the morning. I walked that one-hour path several times and stood in front of the building for hours without daring to enter. In fact, I was not sure what field I would report on as a journalist. Indeed, as time passed, I grew more interested in politics and sought to write political analysis. I stood in front of the newspaper building several times but never went inside.
Despite changes in my life, I never lost my passion for journalism. I kept going to newsstands and buying newspapers until I was twenty and became interested in economic journalism, which I preferred over others. I was unemployed and looking for a job among the “want” ads when I came across a job posting in a tourism magazine. I was invited to work after an interview. After I started working for the magazine, I realized how fortunate I was not to have to work for a professional publication.
I knew very little about the glossary of journalism, layout principles, and writing news and analysis, but I learned them from the magazine’s small editorial. After two years at that magazine, I joined a popular political newspaper with a colleague and began working in its economics department. I was content not to be paid and to work for free because I was a surplus employee there.
The deputy editor, who specialized in economics, taught me many economic journalism principles and gave me a much-needed leg up so that I could write some important reports. Despite my lack of experience in journalism, I was well acquainted with most journalists and their work as a result of several years of reading various publications, and I easily dealt with this networking and communication, which was one of the fundamentals of journalism. However, a watershed moment in my journalism career occurred when I was unexpectedly called by the editor of the very newspaper in front of whose building I had stood for hours, hoping to get a job there. I was so ecstatic that I went straight to the newspaper editorial office and met with the editor. I was so excited about it, but what a let-down! He wanted me to join the diplomacy group, which I had no interest in or experience with.
Nonetheless, I had an initial conversation with the international group’s secretary and received my first agenda. I was supposed to write a column about the meeting between the then-foreign minister and a foreign official.
Despite being brief, it took me hours to complete the task and hand it over to the editor. He realized the mistakes right away, but because he was generous, he edited the news and then sent it for publication. As a result, my first article in the field of diplomacy was published in my favorite paper. The editor wanted me to work in that area for a while before making a decision, but I insisted on working in economics, so I waited for the editor-in-chief to make a decision. Nevertheless, the bluebird of happiness had apparently begun to fly around; one of the economic department reporters had been fired, and the editor-in-chief had invited me to replace him. After about eight years, I was able to realize one of my dreams: working for my favorite newspaper, which happened to be the most widely circulated private newspaper in Iran at the time, and a dream shared by many prominent journalists. After a while, I began writing fictional economic reports, which was unconventional at the time, and I wrote several controversial reports that put both my name and the newspaper’s economic service on everyone’s lips. The majority of my reports focused on fake jobs and shady brokerage, which drew a lot of attention. I was threatened for some of my reports, but I persisted thanks to the support of the editor-in-chief. My work resume in that newspaper included challenging interviews with several economists.
After a while, my interest in my main job, investment, which was my source of income, forced me to temporarily abandon journalism and withdraw from that newspaper, despite opposition from its manager and editor-in-chief. One of my reports prompted a ministerial order to prevent a dirty brokerage in economics, which became the basis for a film. The report was the first economic report to be selected as the top report by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. When my dream of working for my favorite newspaper came true, I realized that journalism was not my only goal; I wanted to “own” my newspaper and make decisions about its policies. When I founded my own investment firm, I pursued this goal from the start, a dream that became a reality in 2015. I published the first Iranian magazine-styled newspaper called Asman-e Abi (The Blue Sky).
We decided to publish a daily magazine-style newspaper without any news or analysis because people had access to the news on the Internet much earlier than newspapers. It sounded like a good idea, but it would take a strong and efficient editorial team to publish a magazine in different fields every day.
However, that dream came true as well. We published Elixir, a socio-cultural magazine, which was well received due to its unique page layout, recyclable paper material, and recent content.
We also published the entrepreneurship magazine called Ayandey-e Roushan (Bright Future), which dealt with the lives of entrepreneurs, and its Luxury Life section was the most widely read section. Finally, I invested in a political newspaper owned by a well-known political and diplomatic activist.
This is the story of how I, Douman Sahand, began in journalism and progressed to become a media owner, which will, of course, be continued.