Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Despite a childhood spent growing up in the London projects and a brief stint of homelessness as a young adult, Shakil Khan’s drive and knack for building relationships helped him launch a successful online advertising business and eventually led to roles developing some of the world’s most popular social networks.
Khan, now an adviser to music streaming service Spotify and director of special projects for the social network Path, shared stories from his rise to the top of the web world and offered his thoughts on what it takes to launch a successful online company during a keynote speech Wednesday at the PubCon convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
“I’m not an expert,” Khan, 38, joked with the crowd of a few hundred people. “I’m just slightly less ignorant than everybody else.”
Khan’s string of success began with the online marketing company buy.at, which placed advertisements next to search engine results and eventually was bought in 2008 by AOL.
“I made my money from selling Viagra on the Internet,” Khan said with a laugh.
After selling buy.at, Khan became involved with Spotify, investing in the company and helping the application grow to include 15 million users.
In March, Khan joined Path, a fast-growing social network that mimics some functions of Facebook, such as the ability to update statuses or share photos, but limits users to 150 “friends.”
“Path is a more personal social network,” Khan said. “It’s somewhere where I can share real moments with friends … who are genuinely interested where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m with.”
In a world increasingly dominated by social networks like Facebook and Twitter, Khan said personal relationships were more important than ever for businesses trying to break through.
He said entrepreneurs can’t be afraid of rejection or failure when meeting new people and promoting their business.
“Once you can handle the ‘no,’ life becomes so much easier,” he said.
Khan’s speech came on the second day of PubCon, which drew about 50 exhibitors and several thousand attendees from the online marketing and social media industries.
Conference sessions covered topics including the inner workings of search engines, promoting a business through social media and designing websites for mobile devices.
Companies exhibiting at the event offered a variety of services, from building and designing search engine-friendly websites to providing tools that allow companies to measure their engagement with customers and the success of different marketing efforts.
Having an online presence is becoming increasingly important in a business’ success, but many smaller companies lack the resources or know-how to build websites that will be seen by customers, said Jen Van Iderstyne, a sales and marketing manager with Internet Marketing Ninjas.
“People are finding that ranking well on the Internet translates into huge profits, but the market has become more competitive,” Van Iderstyne said. “We allow business owners to focus on what they’re good at.”