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  • What Is Content Marketing?

    What is Content Marketing?

    Content marketing is a component of online marketing in which business or content marketers create content which can be of any form such as blogs, videos, ebooks, etc…

    Content marketing is a way to attract users and this helps establish you as an authority in your niche. We all love freebies, and would it not be better if the freebie would be a how to ebook?

    Through content marketing you can gain an audience which is highly relevant to your business and eventually turn into paying customers.

    How Can I Start Content Marketing?

    Find Your Niche & Build Reader / Customer Personas

    Before you create any content you must know who your target audience is. There are a number of ways to find your audience, but the proven way to work is to build reader or customer personas. These explain intricate details of your target audience. You think of every aspect of that person. He is your ideal customer.  The one whose life will become a while lot better when he starts to use your services and he will know of this and will reward/compensate you in return.

    Your persona will typically contain the following information:

    1. name
    2. age
    3. income
    4. education level & occupation
    5. family size & dynamics
    6. interests
    7. primary sources of information which your customer uses to get his information, news, etc…
    8. what are the challenges that your customer faces
    9. what are the motivations that drive your customer

    You can add more information about your customer in your persona. The main idea of this is to help you to understand your customer intimately and to be able to get into his head.

    Ways of Doing Content Marketing

    Once you have developed your reader’s persona, and have your niche it will be easier for you to find a topic to write on. You can write blog posts, or e-books targeting your users.

    Following are some ways which you can create new content:

    1. writing ebooks
    2. writing blogs
    3. producing video
    4. producing podcasts
    5. designing infographics
    6. sharing good quality content on social media sites and content curation sites

    The main idea of content marketing is to create unique high quality and relevant content (or share high quality and relevant content prepared by others) which is of use to your target audience and helps you cement a place of authority in your niche so that your business can be attract new traffic and  customers.

    You can also share your own articles or articles written by others on content curation sites, where you can find your target audience is most likely to attend as well. Like you there will be others who will also be sharing useful content which you further can share as well.

    How I Conduct My Content Marketing Activities

    To give you an example i will be explaining how i myself perform content marketing to build an audience.

    You can do this either as a brand, or personally. I started to do this a few years ago with my personal Twitter account where i started sharing articles on business and entrepreneurship which i found interesting and valuable to my followers. Steadily my following and engagement have grown over the years.

    I also create content in the form of blog articles. I have been writing articles related to entrepreneurship and business on this website, and also have written app reviews on Android and Web Apps on our app reviews website.

    After writing the articles i then share it on a number of social networks, especially on Twitter. I am also conducting SEO activities which will further help attract organic traffic when people search for the keywords that i am targeting.


    Content marketing is a really affordable and usually free way (in monetary terms) to get customers which are highly relevant to your business. I highly recommend this for startup owners who have a limited budget to conduct their marketing activities.


    January 26, 2015 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 2997

  • How To Get Funding For My Idea?

    How to get funding for your idea is a question which leaves many dumbfounded. In this article i try to explain what you as an entrepreneur must do before you try to raise funds for your idea.

    By idea i mean that you have either a prototype or a working product. Having just an idea will get you no where as explained later in the article.

    Think of a worthy idea

    Before you try to raise money for your idea make sure it is worthy. The idea can come from anywhere. It can be a new and unique idea, or improving an existing one.
    However there have been cases where the most useless of ideas have been funded and I believe that is just a waste of energy and money.

    Do Your Home Work

    Before starting work on your idea you must first define a user persona which explains who your ideal user or customer is, what his personality is, what his income is, what inspires him.

    Build Your User Persona

    The user persona helps you to understand your ideal user and it will make it easy for you to build your idea and target to the correct market.
    You must then use your user persona to find a problem in your market and pitch your idea to them. If your idea solves a pain point for your market and if they accept it and are willing to either use or pay for it then you are on the right track. If you find something lacking then you will have to pivot and include what is missing, and get rid of what is not important.

    Build Your Business & Marketing Plan

    Always have your numbers ready.  An investor always prefers an idea which already is already being executed and has paying customers and sales.
    A business plan also contains your current costs, expected costs, revenue, expected revenue, etc…
    A marketing plan helps you chart out how you will conduct your marketing efforts. Having a business and a marketing plan explains what you plan to do, and also helps understand your business goals.

    Execution is Extremely Important

    An idea which has not been executed has no value. Unless you have done some form of work on the idea, no one will fund your idea. Executing an idea shows to the potential investors that you are willing to work on your idea.

    Even if you have not yet executed on your idea, but have done your initial homework even then you might get funding for your idea.

    Getting funding for your idea

    Getting funding for your idea
    Source for image: http://techzulu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/vc-funding-now-what.jpg


    Where can I get funding from?

    There are a number of different sources which you can get funding from.

    Borrow from your family and friends

    This is the first place where you should go. There is a high chance they will give you the money  for being family but you have to prove them your idea’s worth. Also you might not have to give any equity since you are borrowing money.

    Look for Angel investors

    Before you can apply to venture capitals and have already exhausted your family and friends for funding, try to find an angel investor. They will either give a convertible loan or ask for equity. Angel investors invest their own money into these startups and as a safeguard also want a high return on investment as there are very chances that the startup will fail.

    Try To Get Venture Capitalists on Board

    Venture capitalists like the Angel investor invest money for equity. Before investing into a company a venture capitalist will have due diligence done and may not invest in your idea if they do not seem it to be a viable investment.

    Bootstrap your way

    If you can afford it it is better to pay from your own savings, then you do not have to share ownership with anyone. You can either spend from your savings or from your monthly paycheck if you have day job. You can also take on consulting work while you work on your idea. The money that you earn through the work can also be used to pay for your idea.

    Crowd Funding

    A new phenomenon which has taken the world by storm is the crowd funding platform such as kickstarter, and indigogo, where you can post the details of your project and your pitch and have others fund your project for no equity. If your project reaches the target then you will get the target. However, since there is no equity involved you have to provide the backers with something in return.

    Conclusion & Disclaimer

    There is no guarantee that your product will be funded even if you have done all of your home work and have a product. If the investor finds the investment to be a good one then he will do so, and also how you pitch to the investor will also matter. Even if you have the world’s best product but you get your pitch wrong no one will invest in your idea.

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    January 12, 2015 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3993

  • How Do I Build A Company Culture?

    Your Mission Statement

    In small companies, culture are the values and beliefs that you as an organization hold dear and close.

    Your mission statement and future plans for the company dictate what your company believes in and what kind of a team that you want to build around you.

    For example my startup’s mission statement is to solve the world’s problems that matter and to provide solutions to them. We believe in this and we want to help make the lives of our target market much easier and better.

    I believe in this mission, and i want a team around me which also believes in this mission. I want passionate team members who will bring to the table their passion for solving problems and want to be part of this experience of building the company. I do not want people who only work for money as they will not be able to understand why and what we do.

    When your company is in the startup stage it is you who will have to be the first one to initiate the culture, but do bring on your team members on board because without their support it will become if not impossible extremely difficult for you to maintain. You have to be the example which your team will follow.

    If you try your best, but your team is not willing to accept the culture then it will not be possible for you to carry this on for the long term. It is essential that you bring your team especially your senior management on board.

    It takes a team to grow a culture.

    It takes a team to grow a culture. [1]

    Some Examples

    Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. believed in great design. He did not allow products of poor quality and design to leave the design table. If he found something to be lacking and the deadline was approaching fast, he would scrap the whole thing and redo everything. This is what I mean that you as the leader have to act on what you say. There is a reason why during his time Apple products were so well designed of top quality. He himself took part in the design and development process.

    He turned Apple into a company which believed in building well designed products, and not some boring duplicates.

    I believe that if you work on the products which align with your mission statement and values as a company your team will also embrace that.

    Be Responsible & Accountable

    You as the founder of your startup will be the one who will be managing the culture. You have to ensure that you and your team follow the culture.

    Suppose you want to endorse a culture where late sitting does not take place and that your resources come on time every day and leave on time every day.

    You yourself will have to come on time and leave on time. You have to lead by example. When your resources will see this they will get a sense of responsibility. Talk to them about this as well so that they know why you are trying to enforce this. Show them the benefits of this and soon they will understand.

    If you like reading and learning new skills, then encourage that. Purchase online courses for your team so that they study them. Dedicate a part of your team’s working hours to be spent on learning new skills.

    If you want to build a product in your company, then you may not have to be the only one who works on it. Apply the 80/20 rule in your company and let your team work on their own ideas during the 20% of their time and they work on other tasks during the 80% of the time.

    When you see an idea worth working on, build a team to work on it. Hold hackathons to find new ideas. The point is that you as the founder have to be the one who enforces these rules. You have to practice what you preach as well. Be open with your team, and bring them on board, and explain to them why you want to do this.

    I myself love to learn new skills, and to apply them, and so does my team. I have purchased courses on udemy.com for my team to study. In fact when ever they ask me to purchase a course for them i purchase that course. I believe that letting my team have what they want makes them even more motivated to work with me.

    They feel well taken care off that i care about them, and i do because i want them to do well in life. If they do well in life they will do well in my company as well.

    When you hire a resource for your company, make sure that he fits in your culture. As mentioned earlier your company culture is being passionate about solving problems.

    In large companies or organizations cultures do not matter as their aim is to hire the resource for the least amount of salary and their actions will not have much of an impact in the running of the company. Since your company in a small startup which needs input from everyone in order to survive, and grow hiring a wrong person for the job even if he has the skills may mean disaster for your company.

    Suppose you hire a hot shot programmer who writes the most beautiful code, and is really good at his work, but he is not passionate about your mission. He only comes day in and day out just to work and make some money. He does not care what problem gets fixed.

    Eventually he will spoil your environment and your other team members will start to get influenced by him.

    Even if you hire a mediocre programmer, who is willing to learn and improve and believes in solving problems, i say hire him instantly. As time passes he will improve in his skills, and he will show more passion than the other hot shot programmer.

    It is of utmost importance of who gets to be in your team. As your team will increase in size it will become even more difficult to manage your culture and to enforce it. Then you will have to hire people who will do this for you, but do make sure that your culture is not lost in the growth machine and day to day life. Culture is what gives your startup character a meaning to work for.

    Image Sources:

    [1] The plant image has been taken from Enterprise Startegies

    [2] Udemy My Courses List

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    January 5, 2015 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3673

  • How Do I Find A Co-founder For My Startup

    Who Is A Co-founder?

    A co-founder is a person who shares the same or similar passion, zeal and commitment to work with you on a project. You can think of the contract between you and your co-founder as an intellectual marriage to build and nurture a project and see it grow into a company.

    Why Do I Need a Co-founder?

    Bringing a co-founder on board is a good idea as you can use his skills and also have another source of feedback for your idea.

    Working on your own can take you so far. You will need a co-founder to work with you take take your product to the next level. If you are a technical founder, then i recommend that you take on a non-technical co-founder who is primarily a marketing and a sales person, as marketing is one of the most important parts of building a product. Developing a product will be easy for your, but unless you do not have the marketing and sales guy your product will not be of any use, if it no one knows about it.

    Physically there is also a limit to what you can achieve individually, and if you team up with someone it will allow you to divide your work among your selves.

    Your work will increase in quality by that much because you will get regular feed back from another set of eyes which is a breath of fresh of fresh air for a founder who has been working alone on a project.

    You two can also conduct brain storming sessions among each other and come up with new ideas to work on.

    One of the most important ways in which a co-founder can help you is be there with you during the roller coaster of building a startup. No matter what any one says, the only person or group of people who go through this roller coaster and understand this are those who who have at some point in their life tried to build a company from scratch. There are times when you are on cloud 9 and you will think and have hope that your business is doing really well, but then the next minute you will coming crashing down and loose all hope and plan to exit the company which you have so lovingly built. Believe me, trying to build a startup is not for the faint of heart. You can not predict when you will have such feelings.

    The media shows us the glamour and not the grit, and hard work which is required to build something of value. You will need someone by your side who will also experience the same or similar experiences with you so that you to can comfort and console each other.

    You and your co-founder depend on each other to survive. If you build a healthy relationship, you will be able to build a successful team which will be able to overcome all obstacles.

    You and your co-founder depend on each other to survive. If you build a healthy relationship, you will be able to build a successful team which will be able to overcome all obstacles.


    Finding A Co-founder

    Finding a co-founder is like finding your life partner. There are many ways a partnership in a startup is quite similar to the partnership which a married couple have.

    Trust is a very huge part of this relationship just like in any relationship. If you feel you can not trust the person you are going to partner with, then i believe your relationship will not last long.

    You will also have to kill your ego. Ego is one of the most important factors which causes relationships and partnerships to fall apart. It is belief held by people that they should not start businesses with their friends as eventually both the business and friendship will be ruined. I have analyzed why this occurs and the conclusion that i have come to is that one of the partners in the relationship fails to kill or reduce his ego and fails to see the bug picture, that they are building something of value.

    I believe that the partners should sit down and discuss all of their concerns and also legalize their partnership so that it becomes difficult to break up the partnership. I am recommending this is because the partners will prefer to sit out and resolve the issues first than to go through to legalize the break up. It is not like you just stop working together one fine day. Furthermore, legalizing the partnership and your startup ensures that your and your partner’s rights have been determined and that no matter what happens even if the partnership fails the other partner can demand for his rights in the legal system.

    I believe that it was important to address the dark side of finding a co-founder and partnering up with one, as this is something which is quite possible to happen if you do not be careful.

    Your potential co-founder can come from anywhere. He can be your best friend, a co-worker with whom you like working with, or someone you met with on a networking event.

    There are also online communities where you can join and find a co-founder. However, you have to be careful in who you decide to team up with because you have to make sure that you and your co-founder are comfortable with each other.

    How Do I Know That They Will Suit Me?

    When you want someone to become your co-founder, it is obvious you will not immediately offer a place. You have to build a relationship first. Follow the person on social media sites such as FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    Find out about their skills and their personalities. Remember do not stalk them and do not overburden them with yourself.

    Suppose you are a blogger and write articles about a certain niche, and want to team up with him, build a relationship first. Bring something of value to him and his readers. Share his blog posts and comment on them. The more you will do it, the more they will start to recognize you and be familiarized with you.

    Also share your own content, but be sure that it is of value to them and their readers. Do not share something which is not related to your potential partner and his readers.

    Furthermore, try to team up with people who are in your or a related industry then it becomes easier to find a common ground with them and you can build a relationship based on that.

    Do not partner too quickly, get to know your potential co-founder first. What are his likes and dislikes. What is that makes him go and what is his motivation. Talk to those close to you who know you and can give you advice. Remember this is a major decision that you will be making.

    You also have to take into account what is it that you can offer him. Building a relationship is a two way street and both of you have to offer something in return. If you can offer him equity in your business that is great. A personal connection and the bond that two business partners share is extremely invaluable. You become one and are in tune with each other.

    What Skills Should The Co-founder Have?

    Essentially your co-founder should complement you and your skills and should make up for what you are lacking. so if you are a technical founder, then try to get a marketing guru as your co-founder, and vice versa. It also depends on what kind of a startup you are building. If you are building a product then the above is a good formula.

    However if you are building a startup which is primarily an out sourcing company where you develop software for other people, then you can bring on more than one co-founders who can both help you in marketing your company, and also help your build the software for your clients, but do note your equity will get reduced further.

    Do note that you as a founder will also have to learn many skills such as business development.  I myself am a technical founder, but all of my business partners are technical as well, and now we have too many technical founders and no partner who can handle the business, marketing and sales side, and brining anymore partners will dilute the shares, but since i have an interest in these areas, i am self learning and trying to build the business though it would have been really good if i had an experienced partner with me in this field.

    How Much Equity Should I Give?

    This depends on what level of commitment and skills your co-founder brings to the table. Is he willing to come full time with you? Will he be there with you all the way. I believe and have experienced this that giving equity to your partner builds a sens of ownership in them and they tend to work even more hard and passionately with you, and become more responsible for their work than they would be other wise. This is something interesting that i have discovered in my experience so far.

    There is no fixed formula, but do note that there will be time where you will be tempted to break up your partnership because you want the whole pie for yourself, and at that moment you have to look at the big picture. As mentioned earlier you have to kill your ego. You can not let your ego spoil something beautiful. You have to constantly tell your self that what you are working on is something larger than you.

    When i brought in my first partner, i gave him half of my company. I was putting in more time, and effort than he was, but i knew that i could not do it alone. I had tried it for 2 years and i could not take my ideas to the next level without his help. I was at a constant battle with myself, to look at the big picture and mind you this takes a lot of mental energy and leaves you exhausted.


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    December 27, 2014 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3323

  • Fire Side Chat with Badar Khusnood of Google Pakistan

    On Wednesday 19th November 2014 I attended a fire side chat with Badar Khusnood Pakistan Country Consultant Google, organized by Startup Grind Lahore which is powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. The host for the evening was Zohaib Khan Director of Startup Grind.

    Many things were discussed, where questions were answered from various topics such as incubators, accelerators, how a non-techie can play his role in a startup.

    Following is the round up of the things discussed:

    What Badar’s role is at Google Pakistan, and how he started his careers. He explained he graduated in Economics form Lahore School of Economics, and joined Nishat Textile. Then he moved to work for Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority. He then further told us what he does at Google. He is involved in conducting market research and also helping Google understand the Pakistani market. He was also instrumental in the role of Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt visiting Pakistan in 2012, and also the visit of Nelson Mattos, VP Emerging Markets Google.  Badar is also part of a Google Scouts program in which was started in 2005 by Google to scout for emerging markets in the world.

    The issue of youtube being banned in Pakistan and what it would take it to be un-banned. The main reason that he gave was that in countries such the offensive video which caused a hue cry has been banned in many countries, but the problem in Pakistan is that in order to do so youtube would have to be established in Pakistan with a domain of youtube.com.pk or youtube.pk and in order to do that legislations and laws are required to be in place for such a thing, but unfortunately in Pakistan we lack this. Google can not implement the ban just for Pakistan on youtube.com website as it comes under US laws, ad jurisdiction, while the .com.pk or the .pk version will come under Pakistan’s laws and jurisdictions.

    Differences between incubators, and accelerators were also discussed where the audience also posed their questions which were answered by Badar. Basically incubators are supposed to build a proof of concept of an idea, and the idea is validated at this stage. Accelerators come at the stage when the startups are to further grow and build their products and ideas.

    The models to generate funds for the company which companies follow, and he listed the following as the ones which a startup can adopt:

    • bootstrap your startup, that is spend your savings on your startup
    • ask your family and friends to give you the money
    • find an angel investor to invest in your startup
    • offer your time for money become a services based company doing freelance work for clients and then use the money earned to support your products
    • find venture capitals to invest in your company

    Google’s interests in Pakistan and also how Google has helped Pakistan in times of need were also discussed. We were told that USD $1 million were distributed to non-profit companies who were working to help ease the effects of the 2010 floods in Pakistan.

    Furthermore, it was emphasized that an entrepreneur should be a jack of all trades, and that he should acquire skills in the fields which require building, running and growing a business. Such fields include, technical (IT), marketing, accounting, sales, and administration. It is good to hire some one for that particular post, but if you are starting out, you should learn as much as you can.

    Networking is also very important, as entrepreneurship can not be done alone. Meet new people and find a common connection with that person whom you want to meet. The only way to do that is to get out of the building and to talk to people, attend events.

    After the talk I met with entrepreneurs from different companies, and shared ideas and discussed strategies with them.

    Overall the talk and the networking activity that followed was quite engaging and inspirational and i recommend that entrepreneurs who are starting out attend such events so that they too can learn and network with other entrepreneurs.

    The pictures below have been shared with permission from Startup Grind Lahore.

    The pictures were taken by ShutterWorks Photography.

    Updates: The date of the event was corrected. The actual date was Wednesday 20th November 2014.

    The source for the pictures was added.

    • Fire side chat with badar khushnood
      Fire side chat with badar khushnood

    November 25, 2014 • Entrepreneurship, Pakistan, Technology • Views: 3327

  • Networking for Entrepreneurs

    Entrepreneurship according to me is an act of taking risk in order to solve a problem.
    Entrepreneurship is inherently a community based activity. If you take out the community then for whom will you be solving the problem?
    However, in order to know what the community wants you will need to get out of the building. According to Steve Blank, an experienced entrepreneur, he says that we should get out of the building. We should talk to the people, we should meet our customers. We will need to do networking.
    Networking is an act in which you meet new people, and make connections. Then you can use these connections to further help build an environment for entrepreneurship.
    In countries like Pakistan, there are communities, but there are no extensive entrepreneurial communities where groups of entrepreneurs come and work together as they do in the silicon valley, however do not be despair small groups of entrepreneurs have sprouted up in the city of Lahore.
    I will give example of Lahore, Pakistan as i live here. The government run Plan 9, is doing its part to encourage and support entrepreneurship, through a number of different programs such as the Plan 9 Incubator, Plan 9 Accelerator, and the recently launched Plan 9 Tech Hub where freelancers can come, work and network.
    LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) Center of Entrepreneurship is also doing its part through its accelerator program.
    There are other initiatives as well such as the invest to innovate, a privately run accelerator program.
    Entrepreneurs can also find events going on in their neighborhood, or locality by searching on facebook, twitter, or any other events management software/website.
    I also suggest that entrepreneurs seek out events which they can attend and showcase their work so that they can introduce them selves to experienced entrepreneurs, investors and then get their guidance or help. This is extremely important in order to grow the entrepreneurship scene in your locality/area.
    As more and more entrepreneurs will help each other out, entrepreneurship won’t be that scary any more since there will be some help for first time entrepreneurs. I also encourage experienced entrepreneurs to guide and mentor new mentors and to help develop the ecosystem in which we all live and survive.
    I am happy to say that in Lahore, that this trend has started to happen as experienced entrepreneurs are coming out and helping young entrepreneurs like me and offering guidance. This is truly the start of something wonderful.


    October 26, 2014 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3677

  • My Experience In Google for Entrepreneurs Speed Mentoring Session

    I had applied to take part in an event called Startup BBQ Speed Mentoring organized by Google for Entrepreneurs (Google Pakistan) and PASHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association), and had entered my product Inbox My Articles as the submission idea.

    On Monday 20th October 2014 i received a congratulatory email from Badar Khushnood (Google’s Country Consultant for Pakistan), Google for Entrepreneurs that my idea had been selected for speed mentoring. I was over the moon. Finally, my directionless startup, which was barely gaining any traction was going to get some well needed direction, and that it was one of the 7 startups selected from over 100 plus which had applied from Lahore, Pakistan. I was honored, and proud for being part of this, and also glad that me and my team did not give up on my idea and we had stuck to it, and have brought it to where it is currently. I myself had worked during the nights to add the new features which i though were required, and which i also needed as a user, while during the day i work on client based projects.

    Inbox My Articles is an RSS Reader which consists of an Android app, a website, and a cloud. The Android app has the capabilities of downloading articles for offline articles. There are many use cases of this feature, such as not wanting to miss the latest news when ever you use the app, so you want to download the articles onto your device. Another useful use case is when you are in your commute and want to follow your favorite websites on the way to office, you can download the articles before hand, and then read them later.

    I myself use Inbox My Articles every day, and where i live, we don’t have internet connection everywhere. 3G has just recently come in Pakistan, but from what i heard least it was still expensive, and my network is straight going to 4G LTE, which it announced, but i am yet to receive my new sim card which i was promised to receive but still have not received it, so as a result i am usually in places where i do not have an internet connection available, so i read the articles which i have downloaded earlier onto my device.

    I went with my team which consisted of the following:

    • Mustafa Neguib (Entrepreneur, Founder, CEO of MN Tech Solutions (Private) Limited)
    • Muhammad Adil Saeed (Development Partner & CTO of MN Tech Solutions (Private) Limited)
    • Muhammad Basim Majeed (Development Partner & Software Engineer  of MN Tech Solutions (Private) Limited)
    • Saad Siddique (Development Partner & Software Engineer  of MN Tech Solutions (Private) Limited)

    We arrived the venue, LUMS (Lahore University of Management & Sciences ) Smart Lab, Lahore, Pakistan at about 8 am on the fine morning of Tuesday 21st October 2014. I had insisted my team mates to wear formal attire, as i had assumed that since the top industry experts were coming to mentor us, we should be dressed accordingly, but the reality was to be other wise. Everyone was more or less in their casual attire.

    We were one of the first ones to reach the venue, so we had some time to take pictures with the banners, and set up our equipment (laptop with the pitch deck and presentation which i had prepared and my smartphone, and my business cards).

    As everyone else started to pour into the venue, i saw some familiar faces, and some new faces. I was awestruck. I was in the company of the people who were at the place where i believe i am destined to be. To see local heroes and entrepreneurs who made it on their own, i too strive to attain success and build a successful company one day, while in the mean time i am trying to survive with my team, hoping for that one big break.

    I believe that this event was our big break, and will be using it to the fullest to further grow the company.

    We were mentored by the following industry experts:

    Each of the mentors brought their view point, experience and expertise, which all was extremely valuable for us inexperienced entrepreneurs miserably trying to survive. As a crux we were guided on how we are to build our business and marketing plan, how to calculate our costs, how to find new users and how to get feedback from existing users. We also learned what issues our product contains, and how we can further improve it. One of the common themes was that we should target the local audience, and to localize the product. This surely is a point to ponder, and one direction which we should definitely think about. We also learned about marketing plans, and how much users are required for making money from ads.

    I would like to say, that we were grilled and prepared for barbecue as the organizers had claimed to do so. I myself learned alot, pitching became better and we modified our pitch when the next mentor came.

    Apart from the mentors mentioned above, founder of TechJuice, one of Pakistan’s top technology media companies also guided and advised us. TechJuice was also one of the seven startups selected, and i thank her for her advice and guidance.

    This was not the first time when i was part of an event like this. I was also part of the Game Jam 2014 Lahore, but this event was at another level as this time, my and my team’s hard work for the past 6 months was recognized and accepted as an idea which i am even more determined to work on, and to further improve it and use the knowledge gained in building this into a business.

    This event was the perfect time for making connections and increase our networking circle. I am glad that we were given the chance and met some extraordinary people. We really thank Google Pakistan, Google for Entrepreneurs and PASHA for selecting us, and giving us a chance to learn and experience, and to be mentored by the industry experts.

    I would also like to thanks the mentors who took out time from their busy schedules in order to mentor us, and to help us learn from our mistakes, and most importantly to guide us. I will never forget what i have learned here, and i will do my best to implement what i have learned on Inbox My Articles, and also on any future product that i work on.

    Update @ 24th October 2014 3:03 AM : Added link to blog post to the article about my experience in Game Jam 2014  Hackathon Lahore

    • Google for Entrepreneurs Week Startup BBQ
      Google for Entrepreneurs Week Startup BBQ

    October 24, 2014 • Entrepreneurship, Pakistan, Technology • Views: 3727

  • My Experience At A Game Development Hackathon

    I took part in the Global Game Jam 2014 Lahore a game development hackathon which took place in early 2014 and was organized by two game development studios in Lahore, Pakistan Mindstorm Studios and Tintash.

    This was not my first ever competition, i had taken part in a coding competition when i was in my university, and also in the Softec 2012 Software Competition held at National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences where i displayed my final year project (a 3D fighter jet game built in OpenGL ES on Android), but this was my first ever hackathon.

    I am technically sound, and i love programming, and since my final year project was a game and i also had developed an advanced text based version of ludo in my computer programming class, and also having about 2 years of experience in the software industry(1 year in the manufacturing + 1 year working for a software startup) i thought that i was ready.

    I registered myself for the event after finding out about it when the registration was about to end. Another reason why i had decided to register for this was to make up for the time when i had not registered for the startup weekend held at Lahore, which i regret not doing so, mainly due to the hectic schedule at my former company, but this time i was determined, that if i was selected i would go and attend, at least i will meet new people and learn something about the industry.

    I have always wanted to make games, i know the maths, the programming, the logic. The only place where i lack is in the art. I have always told myself that i will learn the advanced form of 3d modelling, and then i will start to make games.

    I as a developer believe that i should have the understanding of the basics, so that i can build onto that. If i want to learn a new programming language, i will study what the language offers, me and then i will make what i want to. I have had a nack at drawing from an early age but i did not keep at it, and like all grew out of practice. There were spurts of energy where i would spend days drawing, and then just like that drop it all, and move onto the next thing.

    Receiving the call of being selected for the competition was really wonderful. The event duration was of 52 hours. Knowing that i had to reach by 6pm to the venue to register, i arrived early at my office at 8 am (my usual  time was 10 am and i would leave between 6pm -12 am, i have even spent longer hours, but that is another story) so i could leave by 5pm.

    Excited and feeling nervous, as i did not know what i would do. I believed in myself and got my self registered. When i reached there i found out that most of the contestants already had formed groups, and the group size was to be of 2 to 5 persons, which were to include,  an artist, a developer, a team lead, audio guy, and some other of whom i do not remember now.

    The orientation went well, where the CEO of Mind Storm Studios Babar Ahmed and the CEO of Tintash Murad Akhtar and explained to us what we were to do. I had once applied and given an interview at Tintash but was rejected due to poor performance ( i don’t like to give interviews, but i don’t mind taking them 🙂 ).

    I had heard of the wonderful work that Mind Storm Studios and Tintash was doing, and i was in the presence of legends, and i was dumb struck. Being an aspiring entrepreneur my self then(then i was working part time on my own projects) i was in heaven.

    At the end of the orientation i was to join a team and that is where a problem occurred. Since most of the teams had already been in formation before the competition, i had to talk to people to ask if they needed a team mate. I found one another developer who needed a team mate and i then contacted the organizers of our team. So now were two developer, but we needed a designer someone who knew art.

    The organizers paired me up with one individual (Faisal Shareef) who was not to keen on being teamed up. Another problem hit, the tools that we used were not compatible. He developed games using unity 3d, while i used opengl desktop and opengl es on android and had no experience with unity 3d. However, i was determined to team up with him, as i needed a team mate to compete in the competition, and also having seen that most of the devs used fast paced development tools such as game development frameworks, or game engines i needed to team up. I would have come up with something, but i knew the art would have been real bad if i would have been on my own.

    The organizers also tried to convince him to team up.  One of the organizers even said that “some times 1 and 1 make 11”. I having experienced that working alone is extremely difficult and not easy at all, i also encouraged him to team up, and we ended up teaming. We ended up naming the team “Two Men Army”, and our game’s name was “Saviour”.

    After the teams were formed we had the theme around which we were to build the game around. The theme was “Shadow”. We had to use the element of shadow some how.

    The clock was ticking and we started to brainstorm for ideas. We came up with a few ideas and narrowed down to two ideas. We ended up selecting the following idea, which further improved and matured as we worked on it and built a story around it.

    “Our game started around a guy who is dying as he has had a heart failure. The guy’s shadow rises and has to go through a maze of sorts and solve puzzles, and has to bring back the heart for his master in order to save him. The twist that we had added was that the shadow has to get the heart and come back with it before his master dies. If he dies then the game is over.”

    As we mentored by experienced professionals in their fields our story grew, and matured. I learned about game design, art, music. In a game the graphics and art are not the most important thing. They are important, but not as much as i thought they were. The game’s story, how it captivates the player, audio music, game play all have a major role.

    My team mate handled the art, while my role in all of this was in game design, helping design the obstacles, searching for the awesome music sequence, and also driving back and forth as we did most of the development at my home and used to go back to the venue at the appointed times.

    There were times when i was at a war with myself, as to what my role is, what is it that i am bringing to the table as i was not doing any development. Being a developer, and being part of a project where i let the others do the work is a bit difficult to handle, but since i am now an entrepreneur this is what i will have to do. Let others do what they do best, while i handle the business and production side of the things.

    The only way i kept my self sane was to realize that what i am doing is also very important. In the short time that we had, it was best to let my team mate do what he does best, and to support him in other tasks which were also very important, such as making sure that our game documents were submitted on time, preparing the video of the game, looking for audio (background music and sound effects),  because without them our game would not even be considered and be worthy enough. I understand that a team contains many different individuals who bring together different skills and talents to build a team.

    I like to think that my contributions and along with my team mate’s(Faisal Shareef is the ultimate combination that every computer programmer wants to be, he is also really good with art and also programming. I am glad that i met him. He is such a passionate fellow.)  and our understanding of the constraints that we were under, allowed us to gell well as a team, and not to break under the pressure. The end goal was to complete a game under 52 hours, and i think we did well. We found out that there was a team which broke up, and they could not develop a game.

    The time came for our presentation. Looking at what the other teams had come up with, caused some chills in my team. We did not know whether we were good enough, but we knew one thing, that our story was good. It was going to captivate the audience. We knew that we as a team had given our all and that what ever happens will happen.

    The presentation went well, and we gave the demo of our game. We even got a shout out from Babar Ahmed that we were the only team who actually met during the competition and had not known each other before. This was really nice to hear, and we were applauded.

    The demo went perfect, the que of the music was perfect, people were clapping when the the shadow got the heart and the music started bringing in an aura of fast paced urgent need to survive.

    In the end it all went well, me and my team mate came in third and we also won the award for “Visual Production”.  When we were told that we had won the award for “Visual Production”, i thought that was it. We were not going to win any position since we had won an award. What i did not know was that we were still eligible for a position, and when we were announced as the 3rd place winners, me and my team mate were stunned. We could not believe that we actually got a position.

    Me and my Faisal were not professional game developers. I was in the business apps industry, and Faisal worked at a small game development company part time and was also studying for his bachelors at that time.

    We actually beat professional game developers. When we were receiving our certificates, the organizers were also amazed at how we worked together as a group. This shows, that with passion and dedication, David can definitely beat Goliath.

    • My certificates
      My certificates

    Fixed the team’s name to “Two Men Army”.  Update made on May 29th, 2014  23:31

    Fixed grammatical mistake in 2nd paragraph. Update made on May 30th, 2014 02:59

    May 29, 2014 • Entrepreneurship, Technology • Views: 4213

  • My First Lesson As An Entrepreneur

    Be like a bamboo, firm yet flexible

    Know when to stay firm on a decision and when to be flexible. That is key in maintaining relationships.: Just today I had to take a decision on a client which is bad for my short term  but good for our long term relationship with the client.

    Just yesterday I had to take a decision on a client which is bad for my short term but good for our long term relationship with the client.

    This is what as businessmen we have to do. What happened was that there was miscommunication between my business partner and the client. Apparently my client thought that we would be building the android app as well in the same cost that my business partner had quoted to him which my partner thought was just for the website.

    Another complication in this was that my client was a former colleague with whom I have had a good relationship in the past and did not want to spoil it.

    I found out only day before yesterday that we were to build an android app. My partner’s  mistake was that he misinterpreted. The client’s mistake was that he forgot to mention the app in the emails which went back and forth between the partner and client. My mistake was to not be part of the communication between my client and my partner from the beginning.

    I had two options in front of me:

    1. Demand that the client pays
    2. Bend and be flexible and facilitate the client

    I wanted to take the first option and demand money. I wanted to be paid. I deserve to be paid for the work that i am going to do. What would have happened either the client would have agreed and paid up, but that would deteriorate our relation ship with him, and there is a chance that he might not give his next project to us, or he would have taken the project else where.

    In both the scenarios we would have been at the loosing end. The client would have gotten his work done from someone else, but we would not have any work.

    The relationship was deteriorating between us and the client and I knew the problem lay at both the ends and this needed to be resolved. So I decided to take the bullet. I told the client that we will do the android work for free. I know I needed the money but I needed the project and future projects from the client as well, which i believe is better for us in the long term.

    I am a beginner at this and I am learning along the way of what I should do and what I should not do.

    Lesson learnt: Always be at all the meetings and be in the loop. I trust my partner but after this I have to know what is happening, and most important of all bend, be flexible like a bamboo.

    I would like to hear from your experiences. How would have you handled this situation? Did i do well? Only time will tell if my decision was right.

    Source of the featured image is Shutter Stock

    May 22, 2014 • Entrepreneurship • Views: 3015

  • An idea to help solve a social problem

    We all have a single life to live, and what use is the life if we can not use it to help others. In line with this i am always thinking of new ideas of how i can help solve problems that others face.

    In Pakistan there are many issues which need to be addressed urgently and are as follows:

    1. terrorism
    2. education crisis
    3. energy crisis
    4. health related crisis
    5. corruption

    There are many other problems which also need to be addressed, but the ones listed above are the core problems which need urgent solutions

    There are efforts underway by different segments of the society to solve each of those problems. I myself am already engaged in helping solve an education crisis by being part of the The Citizens Foundation’s Rahbar Program, where i mentor children of class 9.

    I am also an entrepreneur and a software engineer, and i would like to solve a social problem by using technology. Having experience in developing geo location apps, i thought i could build something which also brought in contribution of the users using the service. Solving social issues is a combined effort, and one can get all the help he can get in solving the issue. The Rahbar program is totally run by volunteers of The Citizens Foundation. I know that there are people who are passionate enough to bring a better change in Pakistan.

    Please read the text below where i describe the problem at hand, and what solution i propose. I would then like to you fill out this form

     Safai Helping Raise Awareness About Cleanliness In Your Neigborhood

    Problem Statement

    I wish there was (a) better way of showing the government officials and also other individuals the poor state our neighbor hoods are in terms of their cleanliness and how they are not being cleaned regularly. We want to pinpoint those locations where rubbish is not removed which can further cause problems such as diseases, etc…

    Solution Answer

    My idea is a mobile application and an accompanying website which will be geo location based. Any one with the application can tag locations, and show those tags on the map which will be both on the application and also on the website. Our aim is to have as little tags as possible, and to keep it that way. The user will also be able to upload pictures of the location and will be able to upload them on to the system. Other users can also comment on the tags and hopefully do something to help solve the problem. My idea is a platform which will give a voice to a social problem which needs to be solved.

    Solution Statement

    Safai (cleanliness) is a(n) product that allows you to pinpoint locations which you think need to be cleaned and inform others about it

    Source of the featured image is: http://www.dawn.com/news/495992/as-economy-grows-so-do-chinaaes-garbage-woes

    May 19, 2014 • Entrepreneurship, General, Pakistan • Views: 3163