Community strikes gold at Nestio Startup Weekend by Jawwad Ahmed Farid

The community wins at the Nest i/o Startup Weekend, Karachi

If you need to feel the buzz in Karachi, the Nestio is a good bet to get an instant triple shot of positive vibe, optimism and hope. On any given evening the community tends to be overrun by young entrepreneurs, ideas, visitors and activities.  From standup comedy, improv and hackathons to guest speakers doing work on the cutting edge; from FIFA 2016 on the console to investors in for a sneak peek on the future.  I know because I have been a regular visitor; right from the day when we came to first see the 6,500 square feet empty loft that would ultimately house the Nest.

So this Sunday afternoon as the door opened and I stepped inside, I was surprised enough to take a step back and catch my breath.  Something was different. Not off, just very very different.

I have been there on pitch days, I have skipped passed before graduations. I was there when we surprised Jehan on her birthday and celebrated the big APICTA haul of medals last year. But this Sunday a few minutes before noon on March 26, 2017 as the glass door slid open I stopped as the change in the environment was so physical and in your face. All this despite being exposed to two years and five batches of high intensity young men and women doing unbelievable work at the Nest.

There were people sitting and reclining in places where I had never seen anyone even stand before. There was colored paper and post it notes plastered everywhere. The Nest was packed with individuals decked in dark grey t-shirts in two states – intense focused discussion with lots of hand waving and emotions – or rushing about trying to get things done as if the building was on fire. Not stress or tension but purpose and drive. Like mission control on Cape Canaveral on the day of a big launch.

A swarm of vibrant talent – teeming, buzzing, over flowing with vitality, vigor and life. Talent is possibly not the right word because these were no longer just ordinary men and women. You couldn’t see the energy but you could feel it physically move and push you around – like a wall of high pressure reverberating sound from those giant concert speakers or ice cold water on the deep end of the ocean in winters.

I had come in to run a short 15 minute session on 3 minute pitching for teams participating at the Startup Weekend at the Nest i/o. The Startup Weekend is a 54 hour power packed program managed by Techstars and supported by Google for Entrepreneurs. The concept is simple. The most difficult thing within the startup space is starting up.  The Startup Weekend template allows you to get instant validation, find co-founders, build up a prototype, get feedback from industry mentors and have your idea ranked and judged by fellow entrepreneurs.

While I had seen a number of such weekend and day long initiatives and hackathons in the past, the scene at the Nest i/o was much different from what I had been expecting. Generally by day three of the format half the teams tend to fall off the band wagon.  Most participants begin to lag and slow down as sleep deprivation over the past 48 hour catches up. Mentors, facilitators and volunteers start to fade and the original excitement of starting and building a new company tends to ebb as we get closer to the deadline for the submission of the final pitch.

There was no sign of a slowdown 50 hours into the format. It was as if they had just started. Rather than zombies having a bad hair day and sleeping through my session I had fresh faced forty year olds sitting in the front row paying attention and asking questions. I was the second last speaker for the day and this was just before lunch. The desire to stay, to contribute, to help was so strong that my 15 minute slot turned into 45. My short supposedly 30 minute visit crossed two hours before I realized that I had missed lunch with my family at home.

The source of this unending supply of energy was the community of founders, organizers, mentors and volunteers that had shown up to support the event. Nestio alumni or Nestlings for short were out in large numbers, mentoring, contributing, acting as sounding boards and helping out with coverage on social sites for all three evenings. The volunteers for the event had been infected just as heavily as the participating teams and were busy getting things done. The organizers in the control room were abuzz and high on the rush of the impact they had created over two days. It didn’t matter which room you went to, you couldn’t escape it.

It wasn’t just the participants or the speakers or the mentors or the coaches. It was seeing the community at work on building something much much bigger than we could ever do as individuals.  That was the real pay off. Yes founders won, even when they didn’t make it to the final list of winners – they won because in three days they received a higher dose of active, high quality mentoring and coaching than typical Nestlings get in a month. Teams and ideas won because they ran through an intense test, validate, improve cycle. Mentors, teachers, trainers and judges won because we live off the vibe, off the rush of guiding young team build a better stronger future for all of us.

But the biggest winner of all, the one winner that in the ends leaves everything else behind was the community. The real winner at the Startup Weekend Karachi was our community of builders, makers, doers, helpers, facilitators, mentors, volunteers and well wishers. The broader community too, because in the end these high powered ideas are only going to make this city and this country a better place to live.

Guys and gals you really hit pay dirt this weekend.

You can’t really hide a good thing in Karachi. By early evening the seven judges for the format had already arrived, the power point presentations were done, the mind gym – the venue for the final round of pitches at the Nest i/o was packed.  The hashtags for the event were already trending on twitter for an hour before someone actually noticed.  Because once the pitches started the intensity went through the roof.

Traditionally in an event of this sort the recommendation is to limit the final round to about ten to twelve finalists.  At the Startup Weekend in Karachi 83 participants registered. 30 of these were women. Take a second to grasp what that means for empowerment and community outreach.

55 – 60 teams pitched as part of the initial vote on Friday evening. 16 won the vote to move forward. 25 teams pitched in the final round on Sunday night. Even after scoring for judges was completed it took them another hour to finalize the winner, the two runners up and the two special mentions. That is how tough and close the competition was.

In truth, we were all winners this weekend. Even those who didn’t know about the event or didn’t make it to the selected list. Those who pitched as well as those who didn’t. Because we showed over a hundred individuals what is possible when a community comes together to build things together.  We showed young men and women as well as older men and women that if they decide to change and mold the future all they need to do is get started.  The startup community has their back and will always be willing to lend a hand. We won because we took the first few steps and got started. And that has always been the hardest part.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

This blog post was written by Jawwad Farid for Finance Training Course

Jawwad Farid has been building and implementing risk models and back office systems since August 1998. Working with clients on four continents he helps bankers, board members and regulators take a market relevant approach to risk management. He is the author of Models at Work and Option Greeks Primer, both published by Palgrave Macmillan.Jawwad is a Fellow Society of Actuaries, (FSA, Schaumburg, IL), he holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and is a computer science graduate from (NUCES FAST). He is an adjunct faculty member at the SP Jain Global School of Management in Dubai and Singapore where he teaches Risk Management, Derivative Pricing and Entrepreneurship.








Startup Weekend Kicks Off at The Nest I/O in Karachi

It has been a long day, but every moment was worth it!

We kicked off at 6 pm sharp on Friday. More than 80 participants of all ages and backgrounds turned up at The Nest I/O to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. The organizing team had been working tirelessly for two weeks, making sure all details were taken care of.

We started off Day 1 with a little orientation session with tech legend Jehan Ara and The Nest I/O Program Manager Akash Shaikh. We also had a guest speaker to pump the audience up, Imran Moinudddin, a Stanford graduate and CEO of NexDegree. The most fun was had during the ‘Half-Baked’ ice-breaking session, where all participants came up with ideas ranging from the practical to the ridiculous. It worked, however, in teaching attendees basics of pitching and helped ‘break the ice’.

When it came to ideas pitching, we were expecting maybe 20 or so pitches, but were pleasantly surprised when nearly the entire room raised their hand, indicating they wanted to pitch. Very soon one entire wall of our Mind Gym was covered with sheets scribbled with ideas, and then voting began.

We’d given each participant three stars to vote for their top three ideas, and it was great fun to see participants walking around selling their ideas and soliciting votes from fellow attendees. Very soon we had a list of the top 16 ideas, which were announced around 10 pm.

This was when we were scheduled to end, but the participants surprised us by insisting on staying another hour, forming teams, sharing ideas, basically preparing for the next day. We finally closed the venue around 11:30 pm at night, exhausted but elated. It had been a great day, and we couldn’t wait to welcome this bunch again the next morning.

Lo and behold, nearly all the participants were at the door at 9 am sharp the next morning. On a Saturday morning! Full of energy and excitement and ready to get to work! To say we were amazed, would be an understatement. We’re almost through Saturday now and can’t wait to see what these superstars present tomorrow.








[Interview] How Storyo is Using AI to Create Instant Life Stories

All hail our obsession of smartphones and clicking pictures. We click pictures all the time, every time to upload them on Facebook, twitter and Instagram or may be they just stay idle in our camera rolls leaving so many memories behind.

A startup named as Storyo has a solution to this problem with an app that takes content sharing to a whole new level. Storyo selects the photos that best sum up the fun, and fleshes them out with time, places, pertinent posts, and friends’ photos of the same event.  After having a quick experience of how this app works, I’ve had a chance to interview Filipe Vasconcellos, CEO of Storyo to have a quick discussion about his app. Watch this space to know more about Storyo.

Hira: What is the idea behind Storyo app?

Filipe Vasconcellos: The belief that data play an important role in personal content creation and storytelling. We’re leading the way in data-driven storytelling with our mobile app, Storyo 2.0.

Hira: Is it somewhat a mix of Snapchat stories and Instagram’s collage?

Filipe Vasconcellos: While the output is a video story, it is nothing like Snapchat’s stories or Instagram collages. Our technology helps our users create personal and collaborative stories by simply selecting a timeframe of photos from their camera roll. Storyo then organizes photos in a visual narrative because it understands the story behind the selection of photos thanks to our proprietary technology and leveraging computer vision and machine learning selects the best photos, adds maps, social media trending posts, weather information, professional footage and creates a memorable piece of content that is ready to be shared.

Hira: What is the target market? Just millennials or everyone else out there?

Filipe Vasconcellos: It’s for all those who enjoy sharing their best times but don’t have the time or skills to create something they like so they need a tool that does it for them automatically, quickly and smartly.

Hira: How do you position Storyo as an app? What problem is it solving?

Filipe Vasconcellos: Storyo is like personal-storyteller-meets-production-crew. Great memories require real stories, that are unique, provide context and ultimately connect with people. These stories take time and effort. And no one was doing a good job at making stories for the user from start to finish at their request, much less enrich them with interesting context. So we went for it. We’re playing stories from data.

Hira: How big is your team? Are you attracting any fundings at this stage?

Filipe Vasconcellos: We are currently 10 in our office in Lisbon. We are preparing our next round of investment.

Hira: Every other app is jumping to add “stories” as a side feature on their app. First Instagram, then Whatsapp and Messenger too. How do you see it?

Filipe Vasconcellos: I believe that this is the evolution of social media and the announcement of a new era. We went from a “mass” social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) to smaller networks. Users are looking for more personal networks and that need was the impulse to the rise of Snapchat, Instagram, and Whatsapp, which of course are now huge. Stories are the natural next step. We are tired of feeds and algorithms that decide what we see and we would rather decide what we see on social media by checking in on the people that are meaningful to us. This way we are able to see what they have been up to instead of checking what everyone has been up too. But we’re continuing to see lots lots of one-to-few vs. one-to-many sharing of Storyos, and everywhere else, and that’s an interesting dynamic we’re looking to continue exploring.

Hira: What’s with these Shutterstock videos feature? This sounds very interesting!

Filipe Vasconcellos: Shutterstock is a strategic partnership for Storyo, offering our users a way to add a professional touch to their stories. Users can now access a gallery of +100,000 professional stock footage right from the app. A story of a romantic trip to Paris created with pictures from both of the partners on the adventure is always memorable. Now it can also include professional drone footage of the Eiffel Tower, for example.

Hira: I read in one of the press releases that Storyo uses artificial intelligence to weave stories. How does it work?

Filipe Vasconcellos: To create stories users select the first and the last photo of an event and press play; Storyo’s AI engine then takes care of the rest. Our proprietary patent-pending technology clusters photos in time and space, divides the story into chapters, within an alloted amount of representation time (15”, 30” or 60”) by understanding your photos metadata and the main highlights of that sequence of photos, and then our Computer Vision engine selects the best photos, deletes duplicates and ranks up or down photos with certain characteristics. We also suggest a theme and music and in seconds you have a video ready to share as is or to edit and make it even better.

Hira: How are you planning to add more AI based features in it? Any hints?

Filipe Vasconcellos: We will definitely be expanding our AI engine. We’re all about leveraging technology to create smarter and more relevant stories. But it’s too soon to talk about our roadmap as we’re focused on scaling 2.0.

Hira: How do we see Storyo in the years to come?

Filipe Vasconcellos: Stories are universal. Our digital footprint will expand and we will reflect even more what we do offline in our online lives. Storyo will be people’s ally to transform all the data they generate (which includes, amongst other things, photos) into meaningful, living memories to look back at and celebrate.

Hira: That is a bit off topic but I also need your views on Snap IPO that held a week back? Any comments?

Filipe Vasconcellos: I have a lot of admiration for Snapchat and what they’ve built. They introduced a terrific, game-changing product which helps connect millions of people and have an interesting vision of the future as a “camera company” (i.e. introduction of Spectacles and features that are increasingly relevant as it seeks to monetize). The IPO has raised some concerns from a valuation and company sustainability standpoint and there is a lot of skepticism around the company at this point but ultimately there is such a strong product-market fit that I’m looking forward to seeing the company continue to maintain its relevancy and grow.








Startup Weekend Karachi 2017 – FAQs

Do I need to have a team to participate? Or can I participate on my own?

No, you do not need to have a team to participate. All participants will be selected individually through registrations. All teams will be formed during the weekend.

How do I register for the event?

You can either go our Facebook page and click on sign up or you can directly go to this link and fill out the application.

Is there a registration fee?

Registration is free. If you get shortlisted, you’ll have to pay a participation fee (PKR 1,500 for students; 2,000 for professionals), which will cover the cost of all meals and workshop materials you’ll use during the three-day event.

How will I know if I get selected as a participant for the event?

You will receive a confirmation email by March 19, 2017 asking for an address where the ticket can be delivered. We encourage you to respond to that email ASAP!

How will I pay for the ticket if I get selected to participate in the event?

The ticket will be delivered to the address provided by you. All payments will be made on delivery.

What are the timings for each day?

Friday 24th March: 5.30pm to 10pm

Saturday 25th March: 9am to 10pm

Sunday 26th March:  9am to 10pm

Is this only open to participants from Karachi?

You can apply from anywhere in Pakistan as long as you’re in Karachi during the weekend to attend all events.

Where will the event be held?

The event will be held at The Nest I/O’s incubator space in Karachi (3rd Floor, CitiView Building, above Naheed Supermarket, Main Shaheed-e-Millat Road, Karachi).

Do I need to attend all three days?

Yes, everyone who attends the event is expected to participate all three days.

Do I have to pitch an idea to attend?

No, but we encourage you to! You can pitch an idea you’ve been thinking about for years, or something last minute you think of during the event. It’s a great experience and invaluable practice for public speaking.

What should I bring?

Laptop

Power cord

Business cards

Lots of creative energy!

Can I just participate as an observer?

Unfortunately, due to space restrictions, the event will be open to participants only.








Why Project Management is Still the Best Job

Project management

Ah, the question of starting salaries. It’s the elephant in the room for most job applicants and hiring managers, something often tiptoed and danced around from the beginning of the application/hiring process. According to Herzberg’s theory of motivation, salary is one of those strange features of the workplace that may not directly impact job satisfaction or employee motivation. But if you are earning a salary you are unhappy with, you can be pretty certain it will have a negative impact in those areas.

Many companies are now adopting numerous ways to manage employee absence, procrastination and as well as their overall performance, because they know that managing these things is the key factor in determining the success of the work they deliver.

For project managers currently mired with an unsatisfactory salary, or for those looking for an upgrade, there’s good news. The demand for project managers is growing across numerous industries and fields, with companies in all sectors looking for experienced and certified project managers to deal with projects big and small. Whether it’s a marketing agency, a high-tech web application development company or an FMCG manufacturing corporation, experience in project management is invaluable to all leading companies and many are willing to pay a hefty sum for the right candidate.

The Project Manager handles the timing and budget and is responsible for communicating goals and deadlines with team members and clients. PMP certified project managers are especially sought after as employers look for seasoned leaders with verifiable skills.

Master of Project Academy, a leading online certification site, looked at some top job sites and company data to scope out the 10 companies with highest project manager salaries and compensation packages.

  1. Cisco

Average Salary for Project Managers: $114,956 / year

The top paying company for Project Managers, Cisco, is headquartered in sunny California and develops, manufactures, and sells networking hardware, telecommunications equipment, and other high-technology services and products.

When we reviewed the comments of their employees, three words caught our attention: “work-life balance”. Cisco values a balance between productive work life and satisfying private life – pretty critical to consider in any job move.

  1. Jacobs

Average Salary for Project Managers: $109,106 / year

Jacobs operates in a wide variety of industries including construction, aerospace and defense, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and transportation. It is one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of technical, professional, and construction services, so if working for a multinational conglomerate is your thing, this is the place to go.

  1. Southern California Edison

Average Salary for Project Managers: $104,206 / year

One of the US’ largest investor-owned utilities companies, Edison boasts over 5 million customers. The company plans to invest up to $20.4 billion in expanding and strengthening its electric system infrastructure over the next four years, so this is a company with huge growth potential for the driven project manager.

  1. Ericsson

Average Salary for Project Managers: $100,711 / year

Ericsson is one of the world’s leading providers of technology and services to telecom operators. This long established Swedish company has customers in 180 countries, with 40 percent of all mobile calls made through their systems. Employees find the company a fast paced and challenging environment, where hard work is expected and also well rewarded.

  1. SAIC

Average Salary for Project Managers: $96,324 / year

SAIC’s specialties include IT solutions, logistics & supply chain, and systems engineering. Deep customer and domain knowledge enables the company to deliver systems engineering and integration offerings for large, complex projects, so any prospective project managers should have experience in the same.

  1. Accenture

Average Salary for Project Managers: $95,715 / year

The renowned strategy and consulting firm offers a broad range of services and solutions to across over 40 industries. The company is known for helping clients improve performance, and project managers are integral to that process. The company’s HQ is located in Dublin, though satellites offices can be found in many countries around the world.Culture is strong here, so expect lots of company parties and team building events.

  1. Microsoft

Average Salary for Project Managers: $93,721 / year

Established in 1975, Microsoft has always been a pioneer in developing computing technologies. Now, its range of products varies from video games to digital services and smartphones. Multicultural and friendly, the atmosphere here is nonetheless highly competitive.

  1. JPMorgan Chase

Average Salary for Project Managers: $93,349 / year

The financial giant in commercial and corporate banking, JP Morgan Chase has almost 200 years of history. For its size and age, things are certainly moving fast, as the company is in the midst of reinvigorating itself and its services providing financial solutions for consumers, small businesses, corporations, governments and institutions around the world.

  1. Bank of America

Average Salary for Project Managers: $89,950 / year

One rank below is another of the world’s leading financial institutions. Serving everyone from small and middle sized business to large corporations, Bank of America is a global leader in investment, corporate banking, and trading, so project managers should have strong experience in the financial field. As expected of a company of this size, compensation and benefits are highly competitive.

  1. AECOM

Average Salary for Project Managers: $89,069 per year

Rounding out our top 10 list is Fortune 500 firm AECOM, a civil engineering company operating in more than 150 countries. It designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructure assets for governments, businesses, and organizations around the world. Some employees complain of management issues at the top level, but satisfaction with coworkers and a diversity of projects provide good growth and experience.

 








5 Ways To Think Like An Entrepreneur

What makes someone an entrepreneur? Do they carry a special token which differentiates them from others? Or is it the way they think? Well entrepreneurs are individuals who create something new and unique, an initiative, a business or a company. Moreover in order to become an entrepreneur one must think like one. A little bit of their knowledge can give you an advantage in your professional life.

  1. Entrepreneurs are experts at gambling. The main feature that makes entrepreneurs different from the average professionals is their rich appetite for risk. Entrepreneurs learn to weigh and assess risk and become comfortable with the idea that they must invest time and resources in new ideas. An entrepreneur should not be affected by the losses made from an unsuccessful startup. Instead they gain an unforgettable learning experience which enhances their skills and sets there base in becoming successful entrepreneurs.
  2.  Entrepreneurs tend to show signs of deep passion for their work. Mark Zuckerburg has said, “If you just work on stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” This is a major tool which helps in achieving success in field. If you think how your life would be if you chose a different field, try to think how you can change your life with your field. Try to look for signs to make your field better. Could you translate your position to another industry? If you’re not passionate about your work try not to feel stuck. Instead try to think how you can make the best use of your skills.
  3. In order to survive business must come up with innovative ideas, so entrepreneurs have to use their time to come up with new ideas by constantly brainstorming. Lacking this ability makes one unable to become an entrepreneur. Steve Jobs had quoted that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. In order to brainstorm, try to schedule sometime in a week to come up with ideas. Eventually you will come up with an idea which differentiates you from others.
  4. Have you ever found yourself stuck waiting for responses in order to proceed forward? Entrepreneurs don’t and should not have a high tolerance for inefficiency. Making inefficient decisions makes entrepreneurs fail to realize their full potential. In order to overcome inefficiencies in organizations, entrepreneurs come up with ideas and try to implement them. Due to their continuous attempts they are able to minimize inefficiencies or in some cases they are able to eliminate it completely.
  5. The most important attribute of entrepreneur’s is their resilient nature. Even though they are realistic, entrepreneurs don’t take giving up as an option. In fact they use their failures as stepping stones in achieving what they could not. They tend to aim far beyond the sky because they know even if they can’t achieve their dream they will certainly achieve something when they try.

The main reason why entrepreneurs are different from others is because of their ability to think differently. For this reason they achieve more than an average individual could ever dream of.

By Hussain Jamshed








[Interview] How Thryve is creating an impact on Healthcare, One Stomach at a Time

“Machine learning is changing everything — except maybe healthcare,” said MIT professor, John Guttag at the Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum on Oct. 24, 2016.

While Artificial Intelligence or machine learning is already transforming many industries, healthcare providers have done much less with these technologies. I have written up to a hundred stories covering these technologies and the impact I’ve observed so far is enough to prove the hypothesis that machine learning can truly provide convenience to human lives. How? This story will answer that.

Machine learning in healthcare has started changing a lot of things and the revolution we’ve promised through this technology is here. During my recent trip to S.F Bay Area, I’ve had a chance to meet an entrepreneur who is already challenging the statement of Prof. John Guttag.

Richard Lin is an entrepreneur in the Bay Area who is working on a healthcare startup, Thryve. It provides a gut testing kit paired with personalized probiotics to provide knowledge about the microbes inside a human body. His venture aims to improve the health of people by utilizing machine learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) on 35
00+ microbiome studies to provide tips, recommendations, and actions for improvement. What Richard plans to do ahead is in the following interview. Have a read!

Hira: What does Thryve do? How would you explain the idea behind it?

Richard: Thryve helps people learn about the microbes inside their body in order to improve health. We offer a gut wellness test kit and based on the results deliver high-quality pro/prebiotics to their door. Results are sent to customers with information on the various health impacts of the bacteria levels found in their stomach and diet and lifestyle recommendations. Each report also features an overall “Gut Wellness Score” which allows subscribers to track their progress over time.

thryveinside.com

Hira: What made you choose probiotics for the well-being of humans?

Richard: Using antibiotics allows us to effectively control microbial infections by killing them. However, we have actually been co-evolving with microbes and with recent advancements in biology and DNA sequencing new discoveries are made about their essential role on our health. Probiotics have been known to be beneficial for our health, but we believe what we know is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more potential for them to help people. Although the science is still in its infancy we’ve seen probiotics exert positive effects on mood, muscle growth, inflammation, lincreasing pain thresholds, prenatal growth, and many others.

Hira: Do you only test for microbiome or do you provide nutritional recommendations too?

Richard: Currently, we test the bacterial microbiome in the human body. We also provide dietary and lifestyle recommendations via our reports.

Hira: Coming to the main point, how are you incorporating Machine Learning into it?

Richard: We use machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing to summarize contextual information from 3500+ microbiome studies and our customer’s profile data. We then use our dashboards and chatbots to deliver relevant and personalized wellness recommendations to our customers in a user-friendly way. Think of it as your very own personal robot scientist and nutritionist working in conjunction to improve your wellness.

Hira: How far has Machine Learning advanced over recent years and what impact it had on healthcare industry?

Richard: We’ve seen some huge leaps in machine learning across consumer Internet companies. For example, Google photos with deep learning to auto-tag and categorize your photos and Facebook’s computer vision for facial recognition. However, we’ve yet to see a huge leap forward with the healthcare industry. Intrinsically, healthcare is a very difficult problem to tackle considering the stakes are much higher. For instance, tagging a photo incorrectly at scale isn’t quite that large of a problem. However, if errors happen with prediction models for healthcare, serious issues arise and the repercussions can be detrimental to a person’s well-being.

Hira: What other technologies are you planning to incorporate in the near future?

Richard: Chatbot interface, Bioinformatics, Machine Learning.

Hira: Many companies are incorporating Chatbots into the healthcare system. Are you planning the same?

Richard: Absolutely. Starting from last year (Q4’15) chat has surpassed social networks in terms of engagement with users. Thus, we are seeing a huge trend in how users interact with applications and the internet. Chatbots will be a key component in how Thryve will extract meaningful customer insights in an intuitive and natural way about diseases, symptoms, supplements, diet, sleep, etc. We can remove the barrier of cumbersome questionnaires and surveys and build an interactive way for users to provide their data to help advance science.

Hira: How are you planning to incorporate big data into the business?

Richard: We are in the business of making sense of microbial genomics. Intrinsically, removing the noise and making sense of these bacterial genes requires large amounts of data flowing through our proprietary bioinformatics pipeline and our algorithms match and summarize research studies to provide relevant information to our customers.  

Hira: What feedback have you received so far on Thryve?

Richard: We were able to build up initial traction with customers in closed Facebook groups dealing with chronic illnesses. The reception has been tremendous and our early adopters are super excited about our product. That said, those who are already healthy have not been as keen to understand the importance of how the microbiome affects their wellness (better sleep, clearer skin, less fatigue, improved mood) and I believe there is an educational process needed to help everyone understand the relevancy.

Hira: Is Google DeepMind your competitor?

Richard: No, I see them as our partners.

Hira:  How are you planning to position Thryve in the coming years?

Richard: Thryve’s mission has always been to solve disease associated with the microbiome. However, it’s naive to think that the microbiome is the only area that affects disease states. That said, we envision our platform will target many areas of wellness across humans, animals, agriculture, food. We hope to bring wellness to all areas of life.

 

P.S. Any questions you want to ask Richard? Drop them to me at hello@hirasaeed.com and I’ll make sure to have them answered!

 








Data Acquisition Strategies for Startups

Data Acquisition Strategies

Starting anything from scratch means putting a lot of sweat and effort to make it running. Startups always go through this phase, be it getting their first investment or launching their Beta test. Every step needs their wholesome attention.

Data acquisition strategy usually goes hand-in-hand with the choice of business model that you are opting. For example, startups with a chatbot can assign a human “AI trainers” who manually create or verify the utterances their chatbots make. This gets tougher when you have multiple data centers and information that is coming is very sensitive. If you plan to build a Big data enterprise, you go for application integration and business intelligence firms for data mining, aggregation, and validation. But did I tell you that it will cost much higher than what you earn at your early stages?

The following list of strategies will give you an idea of how to start acquiring data for your startup at the teething stage.

Run a Beta Campaign

Launching a beta before your actual product is another approach. Design a campaign in which the customer can give an input on a web based environment with his information. This is a little challenging though as people hesitate from giving personal data online but if they like the campaign, they will. Many startups create a beta community who will get the product before the world. Making your potential customer feel privileged is the formula here but For this, you need to fascinate your potential user regarding the actual product.

Setup a Local Wifi for Free

Free-Wifi is a perk no one denies! Every person carries a mobile device and the need to stay connected with the internet would urge them to use your Free WiFi connection. WiFi network can give the information of people around the area, a number of people inside and outside the specific area, the concentration of users at a particular website, their browsing history and what not. For example, SocialSign.in has created a system where customers catch the wifi, and to use it, they have to log-in via their social media profiles. After signing in, customers can be asked to like a page, subscribe to a mailing list or just land to your website directly. Even when customers don’t bother with that optional step, you can have insights about their customers through their social sign-ins alone

Use social media websites

Engage with your potential customers on these websites and run a campaign to have them onboard. LinkedIn having more than 450 million users is a great source of data on professionals, a suitable amount of information can be collected with their professional profiles. Twitter having over 300 million users with the huge number of images and data they put in every day. Facebook, crossing above 1.75 billion users (and no restriction of 140 characters) has manifolds of data, with the people sharing almost everything from the places they eat to the car they drive. The best part of this approach? You don’t ask for it! 🙂

Use GPS and other Sensors

GPS and many other sensors are embedded in every application we use. Different sensors can be used to analyze different trends of the people. What places they commonly visit, what websites they surf, what stores are the center of attention, all this information can be extracted by using this data provided by the embedded sensor on your application, device or website. For example, with over 100,000 sensor-equipped vehicles on the road, Tesla is currently building the largest training datasets for self-driving cars gathering more autopilot miles every day than Google.

Manual Data Approach

The use of survey tools is the most primary and direct (Read: hassle) way of data acquisition and collection. The survey forms, questionnaires, etc and interviews with the customer targeted on the requisite data with generic and specific questions as per the need. However, this method is not a very attractive approach because filling up these forms can be a hassle for the users at times, or you may need to put in some goodies for the customers in order to motivate them to give you the information you need.








Startup Weekend Lahore FAQs

The following are the frequently asked questions regarding Startup Weekend Lahore:

Q. What is the registration deadline for Startup Weekend Lahore?

       A. The registration deadline for Startup Weekend Lahore is 14th February 2017.

Q. What are the timings for the event?   

       A. The event will start on Friday at 4 pm and will end on Sunday at 10 pm.

Q. What is the mode of payment?

      A. Mode of payment will be through bank draft, details will be communicated to the shortlisted applicants.

Q. What is the payment deadline for Startup Weekend Lahore event?

      A. Payment deadline will be disclosed to the shortlisted candidates. Participants will have ample of time to   process and submit their payments.

Q. Is there any refund policy for the payment in case I cannot attend the event?

     A. No, there is no refund policy. If you get shortlisted, please be sure before making the payment.

Q. What is the schedule of the event?

    A. You can view the schedule of the event from this link.

Q. Can I still apply if I don’t have an idea?

    A. Yes, you can apply even if you don’t have an idea. In that case, you can extend your expertise to people    who have an idea by joining their team.

Q. Can I pitch more than one idea?

    A. Yes. Prioritize your ideas, pitch your best idea and the one you have most prepared for first.

Q. Can I pitch my existing business idea?

    A. No. You can only pitch your existing idea if MVP (minimal viable product) has not been developed yet.

Q. Can all university students or professionals apply?

    A. Anybody with an idea which would help bring innovation and creativity  is more than welcome to apply.

Q. Will you be provided accomodation?

    A. No, but you will be able to stay over the 54 hours on venue.

Q. Do we need a team before applying to Startup Weekend Lahore?

    A. You may have a team but it is not a condition. If you have a team, each team member will have to register individually.

For further queries contact you can email or you can inbox us at our Facebook Page








5 Ways an IPO Can Hurt Your Startup

ipo

For small businesses, an initial public offering (IPO) is sometimes a key milestone that many strive for. It is the first time that the stock of the company is offered to the public, and represents a new wave of capital and expansion. Small businesses often use IPOs to further their company’s growth and see the IPO as a necessary and crucial step forward. However, sometimes the IPO turns out to be more hindrance than help imposing limitations and headache son the very company that sought to use the IPO as a source of expansion. “Data published by Renaissance Capital indicate that as of June 2, 2016, there were only 34 IPO pricings, compared to the same point in 2015 when there were 70 IPO pricings. These 34 IPOs raised only $5.5 billion as of June 2, 2016. This amount is 55.8% below the $12.5 billion raised by IPOs between Jan. 1, 2015, and June 2, 2015.”

Callum Laing, a partner in the private equity firm Unity-Group and co-author of a new book “Agglomerate – From Idea to IPO in 12 Months”, shares a whole new insight of five ways an IPO can hurt a small business. These are a few ways that you should avoid at all costs, or your next IPO may become one of the many that flounder.

1.     Succession

Entrepreneurs are usually integral to the business. They build the company from the ground up, know the ins and outs of the business, are familiar with its culture, and are even at times central to the image of the business. Most of the times, they are the driving force and passion behind the enterprise who are working tirelessly for years to help the company reach an IPO. However, when it is the time for an IPO there may be shifts in how much they can be involved in the day to day running of the business, and often, the original entrepreneur leaves, taking most of the drive and passion with them.

2.     Culture

With the major changes that come from an IPO, key people often leave the business, sometimes with the key customers. This is truer if the business is not well prepared for the transition. For small businesses, talent is crucial and the dynamics of the team and the unique talents of those involved are often a central selling point. Often, even the departure of a single customer or key staff member can result in serious fiscal consequences. An IPO can also result in a shift in the brand identity, forgetting that the brand is actually a valuable asset that should be retained. However, with the brand and culture now controlled by a board of investors rather than individual entrepreneurs, culture and identity may fall second to maximising profit margins, ultimately hurting both.

3.     Cost

Listing IPO’s is extremely expensive and time-consuming. Entrepreneurs used to working with a small tight knit cabinet find they will need a board to run the business and the IPO. In addition to advisors, specialist non-executives and experienced board members are often essential to attracting investors. Some companies think having strong international markets and business partners is a great way to reduce risk and improve valuation, but the added risk and expense of operating in a foreign country can mitigate any of the benefits such a strategy provides. Finally, public company investors are a generally very different from the angel investors and venture capitalists that the business would have worked with so far. Because of this, most roll-ups are either debt funded or investor funded – either way, this creates huge stress on the business.

4.     Liquidity

Raising money for smaller businesses is very hard. Small businesses may find that they are just not big enough or de-risked enough to attract adequate funding from an IPO. With the Federation of Small Businesses reporting 99% of all businesses globally as small or medium enterprises, the competition is stiff. And even when you do get investments, it is often at the price of control over the business. Publicly listed shares will often carry a premium for their liquidity, and the entrepreneurs must show a strong business case for every use of money to their new board of investors. Even with more capital, the lack of liquidity and slow movement of funds can prove more of a hindrance than a boon.

5.     Timing

Timing is critical to creating the best value and wealth from an IPO. Many good businesses that were keepers back in 2007 or 2008 do not exist anymore. The biggest question is always when to sell? Sell too early and you may miss out on all those contracts that you have slowly been building trust and market presence to acquire. The biggest issue with wealth creation in business is that only a small percentage of businesses actually create any wealth for their owners, and often nothing more than a return on capital. Not a great return if you add up all the hours, risks, and sacrifices required to start a business.

What is the Alternative to Traditional IPO?

Instead of going at an IPO alone, and potentially facing all of the pitfalls, small businesses can consider joining together with other small businesses and forming a holding company, banding together for a collective IPO. This process, known as “agglomeration”, can give all the member businesses an instant boost in scale and diversification, as well as boost the geographic reach of each member if other members are in diverse locations. This can immediately increase valuation and make the small business more attractive to investors. The public listing allows business owners more financial freedom while tackling the public listing with other small business owners helps foster cooperation to drive share value. Agglomeration allows a pooling of resources that also reduces the cost of the IPO, eliminating the need for separate advisors, boards, and non-specialist executives for each company.

Best of all, each individual entrepreneur can remain 100% in charge of their own business, retaining their own brand name, culture, and staff. This reduces the risk of shifts in company culture and staff or leadership that often mars the IPO process. Since each business is an individual unit within the group, there is limited liability – and if one entrepreneur chooses to leave, it is relatively easy with publicly listed stock to go and bring a similar business unit into the holding company and assimilate their management team. This creates easy natural succession without having to sell the entire parent company.

IPO’s can be difficult for small businesses to go at alone, with many pitfalls that can wind up hurting the business more than the increased capital can help. Agglomeration with other small businesses can allow entrepreneurs to have a better chance of making the IPO, and their business, a true success.