WDL (TDL?) Needs a Favor

Hey peeps, it’s me again. I KNOW … HOW ANNOYING, RIGHT? 3 posts in a week are just too much. Blech. But I need a favor *grin

Remember the heartbreak I suffered at GIST? Remember this and this? How it came right down to me and the super amazing Rumaisa Mohani of eAid project and she won and I went around Mall of Dubai crying bitter tears? Oh.Em.Gee … just talking about is making my eyes well up again. *sob

B****SlapSelf

So … there is a way you can make this poor, heartbroken woman happy again and it’s quite simple.

GIST has started a photo contest on Facebook. Anyone can enter a photo and the one with most votes win. I have entered too NOT merely for the chance to win an Apple product though that’s quite a good motive in itself but because I really want this somehow. It’s silly … I know. But I can’t help it. Pathetic, right? But to make me shut up once and for all won’t you pretty please go and vote for me here: https://apps.facebook.com/photosvr/contests/18/images/7171

Yeah, that “strong” woman standing up there is asking you to cast a vote for her. :D Show me some love. Take a sec. And don’t forget to share on your social media. Gimme a shout out on FB, Twitter, whachamahaveit. Leave me a comment on the photo after voting.

Erm … this is getting worse with ever word I add so … OK … I am outta here.

OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

 

Networking – Don’t be Cold and Calculating

Came across a great quote the other day.

I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak. So I’ve been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.
John Lennon

You can be “normal” and like everyone else. Merge and become one with everyone else so no ever loves you or hates your guts or talks about you or … you can do all the crazy things that your heart tells you are right and be FREAKINTASTIC. Let haters hate. Just means you are a strong enough personality to get to them. The lives you touch and the one genuine smile you bring to someone is the war more than half won.

Having said that …

My friends from GIST just completed their 2 week dream trip to the US where they went to Silicon Valley among other places. I was green like anything but at the same time am immensely proud of each and everyone of them. They worked incredibly hard and deserved to be there.

Speaking of Gist, my friends tell me the person who most benefited from GIST was me. I won’t say I benefited more than others but I did better than some. People attribute it to my “networking” skills. Not true. Networking is great but it needs to come with honesty and sincerity. A genuine interest in the other human being. While others network, I make friends.

Let me give you example from GIST …

At Abu Dhabi during the semi-finals we were asked to randomly pitch to a bunch of people around the room. While most were drawn to names from Google and Etisalat I went up to whoever was free at the mo. The young 20+ girl standing in a corner was my first choice. Not a big businesswoman … not at all. She was working on her startup. But more than giving her my pitch we just stood there and chatted about the challenges of running startups. I told her if she needed any help I was happy to assist since I had worked with several startups. After the trip, she wrote. She became my first client from the UAE.

I went around the 50+ startups in the hall (GIST + MITEF-PAN ARAB) and just spoke to them about what they were doing. Recorded short videos of everyone on GIST. In Dubai, for the finals, met co-founder of one of the Malaysian startups whom I had recorded. We had GREAT fun chatting, joking, sharing knowledge, exploring Dubai. He became my first client from Malaysia.

The shy young boy from Malaysia with a killer app for social media mapping and that I had great fun chatting with sent me another client from Malaysia. She runs one of the hottest startups in Malaysia and is coveted by Silicon Valley. (Did I say “Malaysia” enough times there?)

Yeah … none of these clients came to me coz I was looking for them. I wasn’t trying to impress and get them to give WDL business. They were just friends or people that I found interesting to chat with. It was these people that put their trust in WDL enough to not only work directly with me but also refer WDL to others.

I was sitting with Scott Gillespie, leader of the Jigsaw Group, which is a startup accelerator program. He is also a VC but above all he is just a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor. At lunch one day someone asked him, “Oh, you are a VC. You never said so”. And he replied, “Yes, ‘coz I am a human being too”. :) Those 2-3 days I met him, never once did either of us broach the subject of capital. We chatted about running a social enterprise, how he was involved with one called Yacht Aid Global, stories from his life and it was all fascinating.

Bottom line …

cold, hard, calculated networking never works. You can always tell when someone is after something. When you open up and take the other person as a human being with a life and challenges of her own (or his own) that’s when you make “relationships. And relationships are the real takeaway of life itself and not just business mixers.

OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Do you Wanna be a Transformer?

GIST I Dare

Excited Finalists with Judges and the GIST Team

Remember GIST? The wonderful organization that was responsible for my annoying whining for longer than I am proud to admit? Yeah, the peeps who ran the “I Dare” business plan competition(BPC), the one where I had absolutely no hope of ever making it into the semi-finals never mind the finals, have announced a new competition called the “Tech-I“. It’s sorta like a BPC … actually its exactly what it is, but unlike “I Dare” where we had to submit full biz plans this one is asking only for an executive summary and a 2 min video pitch. Interesting, eh?

The flyer below will give you a good summary of the event:

CRDF GIST Tech-I

If you click on the image above it will take you to the official competition page.

I am telling you, if you have a business idea and its tech-related, you don’t want to miss this. I had absolutely no hope of getting into “I Dare” but I did. What if I hadn’t applied? What if I had let my doubts and lack of confidence get the better of me? Well, for one I wouldn’t have had 2 free trips to the UAE … mwahahahahahahaha ….. and secondly, I would have missed out on a huge opportunity to connect with other startup owners, hear all about their plans and their challenges and realize how despite the geographical and cultural and religious changes all of us had almost identical problems.

With the GIST, MITEF Asia, and MITEF Pakistan Team
5 of 20 semifinalist teams were from Pakistan and 3 of them were led by women!

Then of course there were all those mock pitching sessions with people from Google and Seed Startup and Etisalat. There were people with titles longer than their names; first, middle and last combined. Hell I even got some business from there; some real, other not. But Etisalat’s top honcho saying he wanted to do business (and then never replying to phone calls or emails) or Google UAE’s Mr. Big Shot telling me the same was enough to give me an adrenaline rush. I mean where else would I meet those people?

GIST I Dare Business Plan Competition Semifinalists

Look! You have nothing to loose. Just apply. Either you get through or you don’t. It will be one of the 2. If you don’t, eh … who cares. If you do … PARTAYYYYYYYYYY … TAKE THAT SUCKERZZZZ. Ahem!

And remember, when you get selected to go to Dubai, don’t forget to bring me candies from the Candylicious store in Dubai Mall. Also, I have developed a weird weakness for souvenir pencils and mugs. *hint,hint

OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Solitude’s Desert

I try not to let the ‘other’ side of me take over this blog. No – my doppelganger shall remain away from here. But I have to share this. Apologies in advance.

Last night, I and hubbie were mocking how a pop-singer had been given the ridiculous task of singing a real song. Then this came on the radio and we both thought it was a version by Iqbal Bano we hadn’t heard before. Meesha has done a terrific job. The way every word has a ‘melody’ to it that needs no accompaniment by instruments gives me shivers. *Gushing. Of course the fact this poem is written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz who is my favorite poet and sung by Tina Sani, my absolutely fav singer, this was a make-or-break test for Meesha and boy did she ace it or what! Love it!

Now this brings me to another reason why this caption is not as corny as I am being ↑. Sighhhh … told you about the GIST Competition in Dubai, right? NO DON’T STOP READING JUST YET! I am NOT going to tell you about the whole thing again and be wimpy. Am over it and as annoyingly giggly and optimistic as ever. The reason why I refer to it is because you see Dubai is a desert, right? Yeah despite (horrifying) buildings like this:

Tacktastic

and this:

Tallest building … yeah they couldn’t figure it out so stuck a steel pillar on top … yippppeeee … its like a woman wearing stilettos and saying I am 5′ 11″. LOL MOST RIDICULOUS THING EVER

and this:

Kill me someone

GOSH they were ugly! I was saying??

Erm …

…….. yeah ..

So there I was in the desert with goth-meets-Disney-meets-StarTrek structures all around and sheikhs with beautiful manicures and gorgeous sheikhas that made me want to go get a nose-job. Bored with Malls and grieving for the enchanting perfume-bottle-shaped trophy … OK I AM GONNA SHUT UP ABOUT THAT. So for whatever reason I wanted to go see something other than malls and fancy buildings. Someone suggested seeing Old Dubai so me headed out with Khoo (James) Chan Shiang. Khoo is from Malaysia and is founder of SecQ.me which is an app for smartphones as well as certain wrist watches that uses GPS and in-built security alert in case you are in danger. You can learn about it here. But to cut it short he is super geeky and you know that means he is my new best friend. Met his friend, Shafiu Hussain. Shafiu is from Maldives, married to a Russian lady whom he met in India and he currently lives in Malaysia, and to add fuel to the fire, turns out he is founder of TaxiMonger. TM is again an app and acts as a virtual call center for taxis (cabs, yo Yankees!). And we were in a place with bazaars called Gold Souk and Spice Souk (souk is “market” in Arabic) with little alleyways that let us into their heart and we discovered the most amazing secrets like a Sikh shrine and a street that looked like it was out of a market somewhere in Delhi.

Hindu Idols

Sikh Shrine in Middle of Nowhere

Looking at Gold Souk from Spice Souk across the river

As we sat down to eat biryani and chicken karahi at a place called Karachi Darbar we talked about what geeks talk about. Happens SecQ.me and TaxiMonger are collaborating and calling the mash-up TaxiMonger Bodyguard. What was Women’s Digital League doing there? Why of course providing social media assistance! But more than that, brainstorming ways the app could be launched in Paki-land. NOT talking more about it. Maybe nothing comes off it. Maybe something does. You will be the first ones to hear whatever happens, my lovelies … hope you know that.

But for now, go check out both apps. They are free to download and you can find out how form their websites at www.SecQ.me and www.TaxiMonger.com.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Ummm … so am I the only one who thinks the title is awesome? At the end of the day it is just my opinion that matters here anyway. *hairflip :P

Flashing Lights Finally and GIST “I Dare”

Firstly and most importantly my life long dream has come true. I SAW THE FLASHING LIGHTS! Yes, I did. No, not in my sleep. I actually really truly saw them. Legend has it … one fine day my boss decided to show me the place and I saw it. End of story! Woo hoo. How awesome is that! I took pics but was told it was super secret and so deleted them though extremely reluctantly. Sorry my peeps – can’t share. For those of you who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about I have always had this crazy obsession with seeing the room inside a tech company that has all the tech stuff in it – like the machinery and all … that goes blink blink, flash flash. Still don’t know what its called but I finally saw it and life is GREAT! :D

There is LOADS to share about Women’s Digital League but am waiting for the right time to do that so you will just have to put up with it for a bit.

Going to Dubai for a few days for the finale of GIST’s BPC. Am extremely nervous. Have zero preparation and am panicking. Sure will be happy when its over. GIST made a “banner” of all teams that are participating. Here is how mine looks:

Yes, there is more of Amara here then me but then I am not surprised – she is such a diva. Also, perhaps the only pic of me without a burqa. :D

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Of Flashing Lights, MIT Professors, Scobleizer, and Anne Frank

For those of you wondering – yes I made it into the finals of the GIST I Dare Business Plan Competition along with 4 of the other 5 teams from Pakistan. Going to Beirut, Lebanon end of June if the visa comes.

Attended a workshop on “Global Strategies for Ambitious Pakistani Entrepreneurs” with Ken and Laura Morse. Met a lot of my “Flashing Lights” peeps.

Check out what Ken is holding in his hand – ready to dig in! :D

Just have to include this. This gentleman was feeding on some rather queer mints the entire two days … he was hilarious.

Did I tell you about the workshop I gave on Business Basics at the IWCCI (Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry)? Yeah – used the course content developed by 10,000 Women Program and Project Artemis. Was supported by the wonderful Bryce Barrows, CoFounder of The Recruiting Experts. Again, proof below …

Their kids don’t have time to teach them how to email.WDL’s solution? I am bringing them Google in July. No honestly, I am!

The wonderful Bryce Barrows.

Plus, plus, Robert Scoble sent me a friend request on Facebook! Story goes … I was at the workshop with Ken Morse right … and Ken asked us to pick one person we want to pitch to … any person at all … but make sure we knew his/her’s mother-inlaw’s name, fav color etc etc. So of course I sent a msg to Scoble asking him for that info. As luck would have it, he didn’t let me in on all that but he did add me. Am planning on trying this tactic on other random people on Facebook … let’s see what happens. Will keep you posted, my lovelies.

See – he is my kinda guy.

Was interviewed by Voice of America Pushtu service.Ummm … what a pity … I didn’t realize up until that time I had no vocabulary for describing my business in pushtu. Plus, the dialect issue is always tough.

My cousin passed away yesterday. She was the same age as me.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Phases in the life of a startup, dodos! You will have success. Things will accelerate. The adrenaline will start working overtime. Bush fires will erupt. But remember, when setbacks come along, grief strikes, for a good few hours you can’t breathe from the pain exploding inside your heart … be kind to yourself. You are human after all. As a startup you may not have the luxury of a big team – never forget your clients are also human. Tell them. It’s highly unlikely they’ll kill you for taking time out to attend a funeral.

Am ending the note with a few lines from Anne Frank who has been a source of inspiration for a long, long time. I’ve never been good at meeting new people. I am awkward and it shows. It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just how I am. At such times I take great solace in Anne’s words – hope you also find comfort in them.

“A voice within me is sobbing, “You see that’s what’s become of you. You’re surrounded by negative opinions, dismayed looks and mocking faces, people who dislike you, and all because you don’t listen to the advice of your own better half.” Believe me, I’d like to listen, but it doesn’t work, because if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks I’m putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I’m not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be sick, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can’t keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, an finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world.

“I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn. “

“People who have a religion should be glad, for not everyone has the gift of believing in heavenly things. You don’t necessarily even have to be afraid of punishment after death; purgatory, hell, and heaven are things that a lot of people can’t accept, but still a religion, it doesn’t matter which, keeps a person on the right path. It isn’t the fear of God but the upholding of one’s own honor and conscience. How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the while day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful. Whoever doesn’t know it must learn and find by experience that: “A quiet conscience mades one strong!”

“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

“Riches, prestige, everything can be lost. But the happiness in your heart can only be dimmed; it will always be there as long as you live, to make you happy again.
Whenever you’re feeling lonely or sad, try going to the loft on a beautiful day and looking outside. Not at the houses and the rooftops, but at the sky. As long as you can look fearlessly at the sky, you’ll know that your pure within and will find happiness once more.”

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Social Versus Cultural Enterprises

I got to meet Sharmeen Chinoy – cool, eh? It was a US Embassy and HEC joint seminar about Acid Attack Victims (of course). I am sorry I almost snoozed through most of it so am not a good judge of how it went. Don’t even remember who was present. If interested, read this excellent roundup by Zainab Khawaja here. You may see me in some of the photos she has put up .. ;)

Also met the US Ambassador to Pakistan’s wife, Dr. Marilyn Wyatt.

We are BFFs now. Proof =========================================>>>>
Read an article recently in Social Edge that made me sit up and go … huh? Everyone knows know how big a supporter I am of social entrepreneurship. In a turbulent country like Pakistan business coupled with social good really is the elixir we are looking for. At the recently held Youth Entrepreneurs Conference a lot of the kids thought a social enterprise is a not-for-profit. KILL ME SOMEONE! NO, social enterprise is NOT synonymous with a not-for-profit – though a a #socent may also be a not-for-profit. Put simply a social entrepreneur is made when she (the feminism continues!) notices a problem in society like energy crisis or lack of clean drinkable water or women empowerment and comes up with a solution for it. The next step then is to find out if the solution is sell-able – if it can solve the ‘pain’ of a customer. For example, with Women’s Digital League, I am working on economic empowerment for educated Pakistani women who are discouraged from working outside their homes. At the same time WDL is providing affordable digital services to clients based around the world. At the end of the day, whatever the purpose, at the core of every business lies profitability and scalability. If I receive millions of dollars every month but can’t pay my utility bills  how long would I be able to sustain my love for helping humanity? And paying salaries is the same as profit – as you grow you pay yourself more the same way you would take home more when you start getting more profit.

The article introduced a new concept to me – cultural entrepreneurship. Here is how it defines it:

Cultural entrepreneurs … solve problems by disrupting belief systems—using television shows like Glee to initiate viewers into the disability or GLBTQ rights frameworks or the Twitter campaign #mensaythingstome, designed to expose anonymous misogyny online.

It’s hard for me to distinguish between the two. Ain’t Women’s Digital League changing mindsets by giving women the opportunity to work from home? That’s a shift from the conventional way Pakistanis are used to working. So where do I put WDL? So how is a TV show like Glee an enterprise? Or how is a Twitter hashtag campaign an enterprise? I find the whole business vs. enterprise thing very confusing.

So an enterprise is a “purposeful endeavor”. Then why isn’t a business the same too? Isn’t creating a new product, increasing profits, scaling, permeating markets an endeavor with a purpose as well?  And if by ‘purpose’ we are referring to ‘social good’ then what’s the point of separating social enterprises from just enterprises?

I am losing it. Help!

On a less thought-provoking note, am waiting for the list of finalists for GIST I-Dare Business Plan Competition which will be held in Lebanon (fingers crossed / Palms together / whatever whatever). Am holding a one-day quick session on leveraging the power of Internet for free marketing – this is in collaboration with Islamabad Women’s Chamber of Commerce and is targeting SMEs by local women. Applying for a grant from the US Embassy for Pakistani Alumni for my Hunza people … oh I how love them and wish I’d see them one day. Also, I turned 33 this month. Yippppeeee.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Meet the SemiFinalists – I Dare BPC

Some days I read the stuff I write and can understand when people are somewhat skeptical connecting with me – I wouldn’t want to know myself – sound absolutely crazy. And then I look in the mirror and say … WHATEVER!

So, am following up on the last blog I wrote. Uploaded  a bunch of videos I made during the CRDF Global GIST I Dare Business Plan Competition (I know I don’t have to say the whole thing  – that was more for SEO – and it’s MY blog – feel free to show yourself out if you don’t like it). Surprising how good the iPhone 4 camera is. If anyone wants to buy me a b’day present (it’s 4th April) plz don’t hesitate to get me Siri. If you can’t get it without the iPhone 4S, well, I guess I’ll have to put up with it.

*scratches her head*

……………………
……………………
………………………

Oh, yeah …

I am not going to do much talking – the videos tell who they are and what they do. However, one guy I promised I would tell you more about, Ali Raza Randhawa of Pak Energy Solutions, is not someone I can do justice to if I don’t add a little more about him.

So he has a degree from the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore (yeah, that’s in Pakistan). His startup is called Pak Energy Solutions (PES) and he is working on a bio gas plant that’s powered by organic waste. Started in February 2011, look at the achievements of this kid in just a year:

1. Semifinalist at the GIST I Dare Business plan Competition 2012 in Abu Dhabi and Winner of Elevator Pitch Contest (In Progress)
Jointly organized by CRDF Global’s GIST I Dare BPC and MIT Pan Arab Enterprise Forum

2. 1st Prize – Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition 2011
Jointly organized by Punjab Govt. and Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry - Endorsed by Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan
3. Finalist in Europe, Middle East and African Final of Global Social Venture Competition 2012
Organized by London Business School, United Kingdom
4. Exclusive Invitation by Prime Minister of Turkey for Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2011 in Istanbul
5. Semi-Finalist in Global Innovation through Science & Technology 2011
Organized by CRDF Global in Istanbul, Turkey
6. Semi-Finalist in Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition 2011-2012
Organized by University of Washington, U.S.
(Couldn’t attend because of lack of sponsorship)
7. Finalist and Runners Up, TiE All Asia Business Plan Competition
Qualifier into TiE New-Delhi Chapter
8. Semi-Finalist Global Sustainable Business Plan Competition 2011-2012 (In Progress)
Organized by William James Foundation, U.S.
9. Semi-Finalist in Dell Social Innovation Competition 2012 (In Progress)
Organized by University of Texas at Austin
Also, (I KNOWWWww … you never thought there’d be more, right?) he is one of the winner of the PASHA Social Innovation Fund sponsored by Google (still waiting for the fund to be released). All this guy needs is $20,000 to take his project to the next level. I really don’t understand why VCs and other investors are not throwing their money at him. It would be such a pity if this talent goes unnoticed … and NO, winning a bunch of competitions is NOT called noticing – it’s just a means to an end, in this case, funding.

 

Am going to just upload the rest of the videos. Watch the amazing semifinalists introduce themselves. My apologies to those I didn’t get a chance to speak to. If you are reading this and are interested please send me your short videos and I’ll be happy to add them here.

 

“I Dare” Summary

Last week was hectic. Last week was tiring. Last week was awesome.

Women’s Digital League was selected as a semifinalist for CRDF Global’s GIST I Dare Business Plan competition. The competition was open to startup businesses from in various stages of development. From a total of 550 applications received from 43 countries only 20 were selected for the semifinals. Pakistan had the second highest number of applicants after Turkey, and out of these 5 selected businesses 3 were women-owned. Talk about breaking perceptions, right?

You can view a list of semifinalists here.

I know this post is quickly becoming extremely boring and seems like it’s written by someone else as it lacks my wonderful personality but trust me – I am exhausted. A happy exhausted – but exhausted nonetheless. Till the very last moment I had no idea whether I was gonna go or not. Lots of reasons one of them being a brand new job. You say WHAT – A JOB – WHAT ABOUT WDL – NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ….

Relax! It’s not what it sounds like but am not ready to talk about it coz I am scared of jinxing everything. Yes, lately I have become slightly paranoid – just another one of the eccentricities that make up moi. But then … what’s the fun in being “normal”, right? ;) Ummmmm … I also think lately I have developed ADD.

*Blankly stares into space*

Oh yeah – so the first day was brutal. I had been up since 8 AM the previous day, my flight was leaving at 2 AM so stayed up the whole time, didn’t get a wink on the 3 hours journey coz this weird/scary/stalker guy sat next to me and I was afraid he was going to slit my throat as I slept. Got there at 6 AM, took ages getting my original visa and an eye-scan (a story for another time perhaps), reached the hotel, checked in and left immediately for the workshop which lasted till 10 PM. So, I was up for about 38 hours and it was BRUTAL I tell ya. Had to give a simulated elevator pitch to at least 20 of the 50 or so biggies that had come to attend. Managed only 8. It was heartbreaking when people who barely knew me or understood what I was doing judged my baby. Some didn’t have a clue what virtual assistance was and telling all in 55 seconds was just not doing it. When the dude from Mowgli made the time-out sign at me I wanted to sit down and cry – literally. But I am going to be an adult about it and not whine – it was definitely a good experience.

The evening ended on a good note – Pak Energy Solutions from Pakistan won second place for their elevator pitch! Was a very proud moment seeing Ali Raza Randhawa (will tell you more about him in a bit) walk up the stage and receive his award (BTW Ali, you still owe me that book???). I had no idea how patriotic I was until that moment ….. strange the things you discover about yourself when you think there are no more surprises.

Second day and I decided to take it slow and get some rest otherwise I knew my system was going to give up. Had the most scrumptious breakfast ever. They had soups and coldcuts and rice and casseroles for breakfast besides made-to-order omelettes by a chef, pancakes, waffles, a gazillion different types of breads and spreads. I was in breakfast heaven I swear.

The workshops were OK. My fav by far was Professor Ken Morse. Am absolutely infatuated with the man. Usually I don’t care for the motivational speakers types but he was something else all together. Had me hooked. He was kind and tough, encouraging but at the same time blunt, and above all I just knew he was a kindred spirit. So humble and so pleasant and so charming. Sighhh …. <3

As always I loved the networking. Meeting new people, getting to know their business ideas, their worries, their successes, their beautiful Arab and Indonesian and Turkish accents, forming stories around them in my head, adding layers to their personalities … do I sound creepy? See if I care … :P

And I did the most daring thing I have done in a long time … Chady Zein was one of the presenters on the second day and he was showing us how to give a good presentation. Right before wrap-up he asked for volunteers to do a presentation and my hand shot up! Peeps who know me know that I am a very nervous speaker. I absolute abhor having to speak formally to an audience. But something Professor Morse said the day before stayed with me … he said don’t be scared to reach out to people and give them your pitch if you need to because none of them will kill you. And I thought WTH. Gave my infamous Maya Khan presentation without any slides to back me up or sympathetic faces in the crowd. Here is to a new me! *grin

Was expected to pitch to a second round of peeps at the end of the day. I had absolutely no energy. One thing I have learned is when you are in such competitions and the biz ppl are listening to a million ideas pitched at them just keep your distance … unless of course you have an extremely thick hide … which I don’t. If you are passionate about what you do close your ears to all the negativity around you, take honest criticism from those who understand what you do, learn to tweak your idea, and carry on. Negative remarks from people who have only just met you and know only 55 seconds of what you have been doing for over 3 years can be really hard at the startup stage. You may disagree but this is my personal opinion.

Got a lot more to tell you about the people I met. Needless to say Arab women are gorgeous. Will upload videos and pics in a bit. MUST tell you more about Mr. Randhawa – what an inspirational guy.

OK BYeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee