With a background in software development and design, Ali Ghafour, is a serial entrepreneur who recently launched his fourth business, 2020 Armor.
2020 Armor created an electronic vest and head gear with an associated software application for taekwondo. Ali is a former taekwondo athlete himself, who was on the Canadian National Team for four years, as well as the Pan Am Games Team and was a 2008 Olympic hopeful. 2020 Armor was developed because, as a sport, taekwondo is hard to understand by viewers, putting the sport at risk from being included in future Olympics. This solution provides a scoring system similar to a street fighter video game that is understood instantly by the general public. The system allows them to collect hundreds of data points and stats that aren’t available today in the sport.
Check out this video to see the product in action:
Ali was an employee for a small company prior to pursuing entrepreneurship. While working here and observing the operations of how the business was run, he realized that he was capable of doing this himself. “I figured if I had a really solid product or idea and the passion to drive it forward, anything was possible,” he explained.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the industry you want to start a business in, and for Ali, being involved with taekwondo for over 25 years; he knew that this was a sector he understood like the back of his hand. Ali also knew what the industry needed after seeing the sport progress with electronic scoring that diluted the fundamentals of the sport itself, plus the audience’s interest.
Since launching 2020 Armor, Ali has had a few hurdles and learning curves to overcome. For starters, despite being a serial entrepreneur, this is his first time running a hardware company instead of a software business. However, to mitigate his risks, he’s surrounded himself with experts, contractors/partners and mentors that have worked in this field and been successful. He also is very active within the industry by reading a lot, and participating in meetups, groups and networking events.
2020 Armor launched in February 2016 and has surpassed their initial aggressive pre-order goal, have had meetings and support from the president and staff of the World Taekwondo Federation, as well as support from several nations outside of Canada. 2020 Armor has secured $200,000 in grants in 2016 alone and are looking to close an investment in January 2017. They were also a recipient of the 2016 Spin Master Innovation Fund, a program which provides financing of up to $50,000, plus mentorship from Spin Master Ltd. and Futurpreneur Canada.
His advice for other entrepreneurs is: “Before you start your venture, ask yourself if you see yourself doing this for ten years? If you can’t instantly and honestly say yes, then you will not have the energy reserves to get through the hard times. Some people see starting a business or being an entrepreneur as a quick flip, short-term interest project, but it is not. It is a longer term play and that requires you to think and act in creative ways in nebulous situations. Given all that, pursuing your dreams and passions is really fun!”
Written By: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada