Startup Guide Issue 5

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Editor Shehab Farrukh Niazi Finance Ahad Wazir Art Directors Aleeza Javed Mahnoor Haroon Niazi Operations & Outreach Abbas Khan

EDITOR’S NOTE The business landscape is changing and more and more business owners are focusing towards sustainability and solving social problems. In the midst of this, the debate that comes up often is related to social enterprise and that of the impact it creates – how social impact can be measure and whether it is necessary to be a social enterprise in order to work on social innovation and social impact? For the cover story of our fifth issue, we get the answers to these pressing questions from three social entrepreneurs – Imran Azhar (Azcorp), Amneh Shaikh Farooqui (Polly & Other Stories) and Hassan bin Rizwan (Sabaq). Creating content is an art – in today’s age where content marketing is essential, many people are looking to build businesses out of creating content. Mangobaaz has worked on a unique selling proposition and carved a niche for entertaining content. We talk to Ali Ahsan, the co-founder of Mangobaaz about what it takes to build and run a content publishing ta platform. Health tech is an emerging market and is being used in multiple ways to enhance lifestyle and optimize performance – find out all about the new possibilities health tech opens up in our interview with Dr. Sohaib Imtiaz. Using digital marketing effectively can enable businesses to gain tremendous en competitive advantage. Rob Thurner, digital transformation specialist, highlights the important aspects for taking an organization digital. All this and more about the latest happenings from this month – happy reading!






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FEATURING “If upcoming social enterprises deliver value to their beneficiaries, reach scale through sustainable business model and earn goodwill from the community they serve, then more people would get attracted toward social enterprises”

3 Social Entrepreneurs on Impact Cover Story

“Build a team of people smarter than you. This is probably one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your startup not only survives, but also thrives.”

Ali Ahsan The Art of Creating Content

“With time, we will be so connected that we will be able to continuously track all aspects of our lives”

Dr. Sohaib Imtiaz On Enhancing Lifestyle with Health Tech

“In today’s day and age, businesses that are able to appeal to their target audience’s heads, hearts and feet better than the competitors emerge the winners”

Rob Thurner Competitive Advantage through Digital Marketing

Tell us about yourself and your background I was born in Cork, Ireland and have lived in the UK, but have very close ties to Islamabad. I graduated from medical school in 2017, having spent 5 years doing medicine and taking a medicin year out to do a Masters in public health and a further year out to study at Imperial College Business School. I have also been fortunate to take part in Harvard Business School’s first live MBA classroom experience. Having a passion for health I chose to apply for medicine instead of computer science. I went against the grain and declined my offer to study medicine at the University of Cambridge and chose to study in Manchester where I live, as the course was more flexible. I am very interested in technology and healthcare and I am currently part of the first cohort of UK doctors to be selected as an NHS Clinical Entrepreneur fellow, where I am being trained in Innovation, future tr technologies and digital health. I am also obsessed with health and wellness and recently became part of the first cohort of doctors in the UK to be board certified in Lifestyle Medicine. I am working for a start-up called Owaves in San Diego as the VP of Innovation. Owaves is an app, which

helps you optimize your health and focuses on circadian biology. Your area of work is quite unique, what made you decide to opt for it? I have always considered myself health obsessed and a biohacker as well as someone who loves

statistics, tech and self-quantification. Therefore, it was a natural fit for me to be a part of the two new movements in healthcare of digital health and lifestyle medicine. My interests are medicin quite broad in neuroscience, behavioural economics, exercise/nutrition/ sleep, ex data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality etc. My passion made me opt for this. I’m always reading about the latest wellness trends coupled with strengths in statistical st and technological subjects allowed me to envision this. I hoped the convergence of technology and health would occur, as I am someone who is very data centric. I have always been centric quite innovative and a bit of a risk taker. I wanted to learn a broad range of subjects to be a multi hyphenate and I guess it’s paying off. I think Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen is someone who inspires me and his work motivated me to become a mot ‘disruptor’. You are an avid enthusiast of using health tech for fitness and performance enhancement. Tell us more. I am fascinated and intrigued by human physiology and elite performers in sport, academia, business etc. academia This is a very niche field and has most traction in Silicon Valley. With the advancement in technology,

Mangobaaz’s Ali Ahsan The Art of Creating Content How did the idea of Mangobaaz come about? The idea came about during a conversation between my co-founder Ali Gul and myself. I was still in San Francisco at the time, while Ali Gul had moved back to Lahore to explore what he wanted to do next in his career. During the course of our conversation, we started discussing the nature of online media in Pakistan and how we felt like it hadn’t evolved like that of other countries in the world. At the time, there weren’t really many digital media companies that existed, especially ones we could identify with. It was almost entirely about news and politics, which doesn’t always provide the everyday narrative of Pakistan’s younger audience, an audience that is not uniform in its personality and far more diverse than one would think. From there, we figured why not try building an online media company that would produce fun, enjoyable content, but with a little kick of mischief and centered on the younger generation from Pakistan. That’s still something we’re working on today.

You entered the industry at just the right time to take advantage of the rise of content marketing that we see today. What do you believe has been the secret to your success? Prob Probably persistence, patience and willingness to take risks. When we first started out, native advertising itself wasn’t a phrase that a lot of people were familiar with in Pakistan, so we had to be persistent in trying to educate different stakeholders around its value proposition. While understanding that marketers have a lot on their plate, we had to (and continue to) remain patient plat for this type of marketing to become something that was a priority for marketers. On top of that, we also had to experiment to see how we would execute marketing campaigns in a way that provided the most value to our partners. I think we’ve done a decent job so far, but still think we’re not successful, at least by our definition, we which in itself is exciting because it reminds us that there’s a lot more work to be done.

What were some of the challenges you had to face? For starters, finding the right people to build a team with. I think we’ve been lucky with that because we have a really unique group of individuals, but it has taken time to find them. As we continue to grow, finding more people who help our team grow remains a constant challenge and takes a considerable amount of time, but one that reaps tremendous benefits. Moreover, while I think the work we do is pretty straightforward, it was challenging to explain it to a lot of people. Initially, people we thought would be supportive ended up being the ones who were most doubtful. In addition to being a personal challenge, it can be both daunting and demotivating.

During the early stages, what did you want Mangobaaz to be and how has it evolved if at all? From the early stages, we wanted MangoBaaz to be an alternative take on what matters to millenials in Pakistan. In the early, nascent days we wanted to show a lighter side of Pakistan that would promote as many call, ‘a positive image of Pakistan.’ As we grew, we realized that doing so just furthered our obsession with what outsiders think about us, rather than what we as a population think about ourselves and the people around us. And so, over time MangoBaaz has evolved into a digital platform that serves as a commentary on what’s relevant to the online generation of Pakistan this means talking about light hearted things that make you laugh, but also about some difficult topics that we’re not accustomed to talking about openly and can make people uncomfortable.

We’ve also had challenges around the role Facebook plays in our content distribution. Whether it’s a ban on Facebook for a few days or a change in newsfeed algorithm, we’ve had to adapt quickly and work on reducing our reliance on one platform and re-exploring the nature of what many call ‘social content.’ It well known that funding remains a challenging topic for startups in It’s Pakistan. Like many other startups, we toot found it challenging to find investors initially because the pool of investors was shallow, but also because most investors we met were looking for something transactional while my co-founder and I were looking for a partner. We were very fortunate to have found that partner in Ali Mukhtar from Fatima Ventures who continues to play a supporting role in the growth of MangoBaaz.

What kind of content did you discover resonated most with the audience? We’ve found that content, which is conversational and that has a personality of its own resonates the most with our audience. More importantly, topics that generally aren’t the focus of news channels tend to resonate a lot with our audience. It’s hard to say what specific topics work because we try to focus on creating content specific for certain audiences rather than generalizing to reach a larger audience.

What kind of an approach do you use when creating content for your website and social media? When looking to create our content, we try to always asks ourselves who the intended audience of the content is and why would they want to consume it? We take a look at previous content that we’ve done and use it to build assumptions around who our audience is, what their interests are, what topics they consume through our channels. We also work hard on making sure that the content we publish falls within the guidelines of the MangoBaaz brand and what our audience perceives it to be.

Given your experience with creating content, what do you think is the key to creating viral content? I’m not really sure because our goal is never to create a viral piece of content. Our number one focus remains understanding audiences so that we can build a media brand around them - it’s about the quality of views, not the quantity for us. And because different people have different interests, our focus is on finding out how to cater to specific interests in an engaging manner vs. trying to create a viral story that might help you get some clicks on your website or views on a video, but how do you know people will come back to your brand to consume more content?

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Lessons you’ve learned about the Pakistani entrepreneurial landscape and how to survive as a startup?

Don’t treat this as a line to add to your social media profile. Sometimes people get too drawn into the idea of being a startup founder rather than the obsessive desire to solve a problem that they think they can create a business around. I’ve seen this be the case with several people and they’ve all ended up winding down their business. Raising a round of funding doesn’t mean anything. Raising a funding round isn’t a sign that you’ve made it. If anything, it’s a ticking time bomb and you need to figure out how to quickly get to the next phase of your startup’s life. Too many times, people seem to believe that any round of funding is validation that their business is successful. But how many startups in Pakistan have gone on to raise multiple rounds of funding or had an exit? Few enough that you can count them all on your fingertips.


For the most part, people just want to one up each other and don’t really care about the startup ecosystem. While this doesn’t apply to all startups, I’ve found that people often talk about creating an ecosystem and helping each other out, which ideally they should because it helps everyone. Instead, unfortunately, I’ve seen startups be overly critical of other startups, devalue another person’s success and at times, be very jealous of another startup’s success.


Self-proclaimed entrepreneurs who act as startup mentors are a huge waste of time. Almost all of the advise you’re going to get from so-called startup gurus is stuff they’ve read on some blog on Medium or picked up from a business book, most likely the Lean Startup. But what you really need to ask yourself is, “Should I be taking startup advice from someone who’s never actually built or grown in a startup?” Respect your time and don’t let someone’s vanity project distract you from building a great company.


Build a team of people smarter than you. This is probably one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your startup not only survives, but also thrives. This sounds simple, but it’s something I’ve found lacking in a lot of startups because founders want to be perceived as the smartest people at their company. I’ve been very fortunate in finding team members who are more intelligent than me because they’ve helped me grow as an individual but most importantly; they’ve been instrumental in growing the company. compa



Hassan Bin Rizwan SABAQ “I believe this is what defines a social enterprise: how strong is their impact plan?”

Amneh Shaikh – Farooqui Polly & Other Stories “I think the world is becoming increasingly aware that the ways it works at the moment is not sustainable”

Imran Azhar AzCorp “We have rooted social impact and business aspect of our core business as one and are not taken as separate”

“There are no rights or wrongs, just different ways of doing things and I feel that all angles from all directions play a role in shaping our social landscape�

need is a systematic process for quickly vetting product ideas and raising our odds of success. That’s the promise of Running Lean. In this inspiring book, Ash Maurya takes you through an exacting strategy for achieving a “product/market fit” for your fledgling venture, “product/marke based on his own experience in building a wide array of products from high-tech to no-tech. Throughout, he builds on the ideas and concepts of several innovative methodologies, including the Lean Startup, Customer Development, and bootstrapping. Running Lean is an ideal tool for business managers, CEOs, small business owners, busines developers and programmers, and anyone who’s interested in starting a business project. Find a problem worth solving, then define a solution Engage your customers throughout the development cycle Continually test your product with smaller, faster iterations Build a feature, measure customer response, and verify/refute the idea Know when to “pivot” by changing your plan’s course Maximize your efforts for speed, learning, and focus Learn the ideal time to raise your “big round” of funding

is, if we change our own life, we can help others change theirs. This remarkable book will start you on your way. Not content to talk in generalities, Chris tells you exactly how many dollars his group of unexpected entrepreneurs required to get their projects up and running; what these individuals did in the first weeks and individual months to generate significant cash; some of the key mistakes they made along the way, and the crucial insights that made the business stick. Among Chris’s key principles: if you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else; never teach a man to fish – sell him the neve fish instead; and in the battle between planning and action, action wins. In preparing to write this book, Chris identified 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less), and from that group he’s chosen to focus on the 50 most intriguing case studies. In nearly all cases, people with no special skills discovered aspects of their personal passions that could be monetized, and were able to restructure their lives in ways that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment. Here, finally, distilled into one easy-to-use Here guide, are the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment. It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such -- and what other people will pay for. suc You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees. All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.

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and investors to help build the business? More than just financial rewards are at stake. Friendships and relationships can suffer. Bad decisions at the inception of a promising venture lay the foundations for its eventual ruin. The Founder’s Dilemmas is the first book to examine the early decisions by entrepreneurs that can make or break a startup and its team. Drawing on a decade of research, Noam Wasserman reveals Drawin the common pitfalls founders face and how to avoid them. He looks at whether it is a good idea to cofound with friends or relatives, how and when to split the equity within the founding team, and how to recognize when a successful founder-CEO should exit or be fired. Wasserman explains how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes that can splinter a founding team, strip founders of control, tha and leave founders without a financial payoff for their hard work and innovative ideas. He highlights the need at each step to strike a careful balance between controlling the startup and attracting the best resources to grow it, and demonstrates why the easy short-term choice is often the most perilous in the long term.