“Job Earns A Future, Startup Earns A Fortune”- Umar Saif

by Noc Team on August 4, 2010

Interviewed by Iftikhar Hussain

Umar Saif belongs to the second batch of graduates at LUMS. He went off to Cambridge in 2001 in order to earn a PhD in Computer networks, operating system and distributed system. MIT provided him with a solid professional career where he started with teaching and spent 4 years there.

While conversing with him we came to know the secret behind initiating a startup. In his words he highlighted the fact how a startup is far better than a job. A job helps you earn money but a startup enables you to earn a fortune. In order to make your way towards the top, you have to know yourself and believe in your potential abilities.

But the question here is, where do remarkable ideas come from?

Where does the funding initiate from?

Where does a continuous faith and belief emerge from?

Umer Saif in an interview with CodeWeek explains how and why a startup is far better than a job.

Umar: I am fortunate to have had an opportunity to work with so many brilliant young minds. People often walk through my door brimming with ideas and enthusiasm. My goal is to help them refine their ideas; motivate them to stay on their path of success. But most importantly, make them believe that they can be the next Steve Jobs – that they can start and build the next Google from here in Pakistan. My advice is not to focus only on MONEY, but be passionate about building technology that solves a real problem.

Most of the individuals who work with me are either from FAST or LUMS, but I am not biased to these institutions. It’s the commitment, hard work and passionof these young minds that drives success.

I spend months trying to find the right people for a startup. I am typically on the board of most startups I help incubate. This is because people get tired of working hard without a lot of money in the early days of a startup. Thus, they always need someone who can keep on motivating them and help them make the right business decisions.

Codeweek: Funds have always been a problem in Pakistan.What is your take on this?

Umar: If you take my opinion, funding has never been the problem. The real problem with our local setup is lack of exposure. Lack of experience and dwindling enthusiasm in the dark of a startup are typically the biggest hurdle in making a startup successful. Experience teaches, that for a startup, money is not the most essential component. But it does require motivation, self-belief and honest hard work.

Codeweek: There is a survey that in America almost 97% of startups fail; can you highlight the situation in Pakistan?

Umar: It is my firm belief that startups do not fail, until and unless founders stop working or loose faith. When people get tired of hardworking without any money they lose passion completely. I stand behind every startup and push it forward whether there is money to be earned or not.

My teams have gone through sleepless nights working extremely hard. And I have always been there with them. None of us has failed ever. We have moved on, changed our plans, and developed ideas in accordance with our needs and requirements.

Codeweek: How can you motivate your stakeholders or employees during the lean times of startups?

Umar: The one problem that we face here in our country is that we do not have any inspirational examples here like Larry Page and Sergey Bin started GOOGLE. There is no real role model to follow. Thus, people here are of the idea that they cannot be successful the way these people have been. But if you meet them, talk to them or just observe their way of living you will come to know that they are no different than us.

And this is what I do on a regular basis. Motivate. I hire people and re-hire them every day and keep reminding them that yes, we have the ability to be the next Google. With young and intellectual minds all around we are building up teams who can succeed and inspire others not only through their work but through their ideas as well.

CodeWeek: Saif Center of Innovation, SCI. How BumpIn, SeeNreport.com, Chopaal.pk emerge?

Umar: At Saif Center of Innovation, SCI (which started off two years back from a small room in my home) there are three companies.

bumpIn is a web 2.0 social networking company. Providing widgets for websites along with contextual chatting services. It started off from my house two years ago.

Chopaal.pk is the second one. It is a group SMS and social networking service for cell phone users. So far, we have sent over 1 Billion SMS on ChOpaal!

SeenNreport, is a citizen journalism service which enables cell-phone users to report news by sending pictures and SMS of unfolding news events.

All three are different from each other and have extremely talented teams working on them. We found each other and this is how we have moved forward since the beginning. All three are driven by innovation. The next step which is in the pipeline is to start a series of events and workshops to guide people in order to help them formulate and implement innovative ideas. And help in setting up a startup for them.

Codeweek : Tell us about major personal achievements in your life? Awards and Recognitions.

Umar: It is hard for me to point at any award and say that this is my achievement in life, because I believe I have a lot to achieve. My biggest achievement would be when I would have incubated a Google-scale company in Pakistan.

CodeWeek: What are your personal and professional plans for the next ten years?

Umar: My only and primary goal is to setup a world class University in Pakistan. This university will bring forth remarkable and successful people with great knowledge. This is where I am willing to put in my 100 per cent services, no matter what, and Saif Center of Innovation is my first step towards that goal.

CodeWeek: Any parting words

Umar: Everyone in Pakistan is a competent enough for a startup. My suggestion is to go for a startup instead of a job. This is the only way you can change your life and change the lives of people around you. For young entrepreneurs I advise them to believe in themselves. If you start thinking that by living in Pakistan you cannot possibly do anything then you are wrong. Pakistan is brimming with opportunities, jam-packed with potential and over-flowing with hope. We just have to make it happen!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Waqas Tariq Dar August 4, 2010 at 2:02 AM

very well done Mr. Umar Saif.
and well done Codeweek for such a useful discussion with Mr. Umar Saif.

Asad Chohan August 4, 2010 at 2:44 AM

nice

Qasim August 4, 2010 at 2:46 AM

Loved it. I have heard about Sir Umer Saif but never saw him. Thanks for sharing his thoughts.

Irfan Suleman August 4, 2010 at 4:58 AM

worth reading, very nice

Nadir August 4, 2010 at 9:39 AM

great interview

Aamir Mushtaq August 4, 2010 at 10:51 AM

Awesome …

Haseeb August 4, 2010 at 11:14 AM

Hi, actually there is no introduction of Mr Umar saif, and what i want to meet him. Where is his office, which organization is he running?

Sara Waqar Khan August 4, 2010 at 11:27 AM

Haseeb,

Sir Saif is the owner of SCI, Saif Center of Innovation.
Visit the link below for further details
http://www.saifcenter.com/

Thanks

Faisal Khan August 28, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Impressive academic background. A novel venture.

Shamshad September 1, 2010 at 1:33 AM

Inspiring interview and we really need such folks to incubate local talent in the right direction.

bilal rashid September 6, 2010 at 8:40 AM

This guy Rocks,
I am one of his all time fans, Very innovative and motivating person

Bilal

Ahmed December 11, 2010 at 3:01 PM

Great Interview

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