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.