Alumnus, trustee and former Snapchat exec: “Double up on problem-solving skills”
The irony is plentiful and palpable. A Daniels College of Business alumnus who eventually helped lead one of the world’s biggest social media companies talked about not having internet access when he became interested in the College.
“That’s a funny story. In 1995 I was living in Bangladesh when I learned about DU in U.S. News and World Report magazine rankings,” said Imran Khan (BSBA 2000), who spoke to about 90 Daniels students for an hour via Zoom in October. “I didn’t even have internet access but I was sent a beautiful brochure on the school and how Denver had 300 sunny days a year.”
It sold him on coming. And here’s more irony. He admitted, “I didn’t know what Wall Street was when I got here.” Yet within a few years of graduating, the finance and economics major became a world-class investment banker.
Once he arrived in Denver, he said he knew he made the right choice.
“Everyone was so nice, especially the international admissions reps. And one of my professors learned I’d never been to the mountains so he drove me up and gave me a great tour. That was amazing.”
Khan’s career after Daniels was also amazing. Starting out in financial analysis and tech banking, he eventually advised on more than $45 billion worth of internet mergers and acquisitions and financing transactions for JP Morgan and Credit Suisse.
In 2015, he joined social media giant Snapchat (Snap, Inc.), overseeing revenue generation, business operations and partnerships and boosting the annual revenue run rate from zero to $1.6 billion in under four years.
In 2019, he and his wife co-founded Verishop, an e-commerce and online shopping company that’s taking on the likes of Amazon and winning praise from customers, the media and industry insiders.
Khan, who was voted in to become a new University of Denver trustee in September, said it was a list of DU alumni he found at Daniels in 1998 that helped launch his career. “I found this big binder with alumni names. I looked at who was in New York and I wrote to them and told them I was interested in finance.”
After that, he said much of what he’d achieved came from “pure hard work, luck and incredible mentors—because you can’t do everything by yourself.”
Daniels Dean Vivek Choudhury, who facilitated the Oct. 28 virtual event with Khan, said Daniels is prepping students for jobs that don’t yet exist—just like Khan’s life demonstrates.
“Majors aren’t that relevant today—maybe they help you get your first job, but beyond that, it doesn’t matter as much,” Khan said. “I would suggest students double up on problem-solving skills. It’s about solving problems, it’s about being passionate, caring about what you plan to do.”
He added, “Be sincere, honest and open-minded. People with an open mind move toward new ideas and they’re willing to take risks. And now is a good time to take risks.”
Khan said some people choose entrepreneurism “because it’s cool.” “That’s never a good reason,” he continued. “Be excited about your work or the problem you’re trying to solve. Expect ups and downs. There will be tough days and great days. Don’t be too sad on the bad days or too excited on the good days.”
Khan’s speech was part of the Entrepreneurship @DU Speaker Series hosted by Project X-ITE (Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship) and Daniels’ Office of Entrepreneurship. The series features 10 weeks of talks from entrepreneurial leaders.