Bliss

Ashoka ChangemakersEntered Women’s Digital League to the Ashoka Changemakers “Women Powering Work” competition. Today on a Twitter chat arranged by Ashoka I found out WDL had been selected as an Early Entry Prize winner

Shortest, happiest, most exciting real-life fairy tale ever.  

Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Am also selected as a “Thought Leader” for the topic. Thank you. 

 

The Digital League?

I got such a terrific surprise today.

Over the past few weeks, I decided that in a country like Pakistan with such a huge unemployment rate it was unfair of me not to include 50% of the population in Women’s Digital League. But then, it’s Women’s Digital League you know. How do I work around that? Spoke to my mentor and he was like, “Why do you even need to announce that? Just quietly become THE Digital League and when you have enough women in the workforce you can make WDL as an off-shoot of the main business”. Why do simple solutions like that never come to my mind?

So, Ladies & (reluctantly) Gentlemen, now WDL is an equal opportunity employer. We will make the changes to the domain name and all once we have enough funds to do it. At this point, being a social enterprise, spending money bringing in more work is more important then worrying about branding.

Having said that, I am working with some wonderful guys (besides the ladies). I was gonna tell you about the surprise. So Mr Usama Shahid Khan, the first male service provider at WDL, did such a swell job for the Malaysian client he was working with that they have made him an integral part of their team and put his profile up on their website. Have a look at Mr. Khan here: http://piktochart.com/our-team/

I am so happy and so proud of him. And I am not celebrating just him. As we near the end of 2012, I would like to send out a BIG thank you to everyone associated with WDL. All the ladies who have worked with me in the last 3 years, the mentors and advisors, the loving supporters, and the clients of course. At times I haven’t been able to deliver. There have been times when I have been so embarrassed and depressed over work not done (Thank you Government for continually blocking Google and YouTube services hampering my work) that I’ve completely disappeared from cyberspace for weeks and told myself, “Hell with it all”. But through it all, I have been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people who believe in me. I say it out loud, “I am a failure”. I am in terms of the revenue I bring in and lack of management skills. I am barely a businessperson. However, I won’t give up and will keep doing what little I can do because …

To laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people

and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics

and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better,

whether by a healthy child,

a garden patch

or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life has breathed easier

because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Vote for WDL here, pretty please? https://apps.facebook.com/photosvr/contests/18/images/7171

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

In World’s Longest Hotel, In front of World’s Tallest Building, At World’s Largest Race Course – ‘Coz We Are The Best!

Am back beautiful ladies from the GIST I Dare Business Plan Competition Finale in Dubai. Am past my initial disappointment – no, WDL didn’t win. No, not even the special Woman Entrepreneur Award. For a while it sucked. I let the disappointment wash over me – I sat in my room alone and grieved – I went to the Mall alone and sat in a corner and wept unobserved. For a while I was even bitter and a complete b**** to everyone. Yeah, everyone thinks I am funny so even when I am mean they are kind and think I am just kidding around but I was a pain for a while. However, finally, I got it out of my system.

Masters in English Literature. Secondary School teacher. From South Waziristan. That’s not who you would expect to be at a competition for tech startups. The surreal bizarre truth of the moment. I was sitting with people running the coolest tech startups being mentored by people from LinkedIn and Google and invited to Silicon Valley, and I was competing with them. And yeah, the 29-yr old Asian kid sitting next to me was actually a venture capitalist whose firm Neoteny Labs had invested in companies like Insync (love child of Dropbox and Google docs!!) and Game Ventures besides many others and was most coveted by startups in Asia and Middle East!!! James Chan was a jerk – that was my first impression after the very short menotring session we had. James Chan was an incredibly honest and forthright guy to be depended on to give you a very clear idea of where you stand in the market and also ideas on how you could make it better. Above all, he was human. Something I have always doubted VCs were. He likes playing video games in stealthy corners of the hotel, loves photographing his kid, and enjoys a simple chat.

Realized I have a bias towards female entrepreneurs / mentors despite being a woman myself. Was disappointed when I found out my one-on-one mentor was going to be a woman and she wasn’t even Asian! But Dr. Christiane Scholderer of Mind Talk turned out to be a blessing after how James Chan fried me (no hard feelings James ;) ). She “got” me and WDL. Understood what I was doing and why I believe it will work.

After the results spoke to some judges and they, along with all my fellow finalists, were of the opinion that I need to talk more about the

eAid Team led by Rumaisa Mohani receiving the Woman Entrepreneur Award

women whose lives WDL will impact or has already affected in some way or the other. Here is my stance on the thing. I work in a country where “honor” is more important than anything else and its always associated with women. A man who allows his women to work is looked down upon as being unable to provide for his family. Its a stigma. Now if I go out and start talking about these women, even if I change their names and all, still, WDl becomes associated with helping “poor women who can’t make ends meet” and that can lead to a LOT of trouble.

Also, the idea is to work through organizations already active on the ground who have a trusting relationship with the communities because otherwise being a woman-owned business leads locals to believe we are NGOs here to radicalize their women and corrupt them. Being from the same kind of background I am more culturally sensitive to the way they think and act then most others. So, whether it gets me the dough or not, I can not risk showing “stories” unless the entire community’s elders permit it.

Wow – I sound so sane! *grin – WDL does that to me.

Almost All of Us (Sans me ;) )

For the fun stuff, if you own an iPhone or an Android, ladies, download SecQme. Its a wonderful app that “secures” you. Here is a simple video that shows you how it works:

Will blog about it in more detail separately but this app is developed by a new friend, Khoo Chen Shiang from Malayisa who was a finalist.

James Khoo giving a demo of SecQMe on his Watch!!

Now Kai Feng Chew has a startup called CloudStat. CloudStat is a God-send for people doing social media. Its a way to manage all your social media in one place, collect retardedly simple to read analytics, and just figure out which social media channel is best for marketing your product or service. I strongly advise you go check it out.

Being a tech-geek these companies make my heart beat like crazy. On the other hand, being a social enterprise buff, am absolutely in love with GreenovationTechs and Pak Energy Solution. They also received first and second prizes respectively. The first makes buildings with a special kind of material that has “airconditioning” properties. Just what we need in Pakistan these days with the horrible power crisis. Pak Energy makes gold out of cow droppings!! As the founder said in his presentation, “If I told you you could make big cash from cow dung you would think, “Bull Shit!” ” LOL! But they convert cow droppings into biogas energy for producing energy.

I read on Women 2.0 that men get funded and women get mentors. I say, go right ahead my pretties. Get the mentoring. Absorb it all. Men do get funding but they also waste a lot of it ‘coz they get cocky. On the other hand, funding will come and when it does we will be ready to make the most of it. Duh!

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Was late for my flight. Stranded at the airport. Emirates has the SUCKIEST customer service ever. Being a pushtun obvi I didn’t let them get away with comments like, “next time you are shopping remember this is an airport not a bus stop”. Gave them a telling-off they will never forget along with a complaint to the manager directly. Took a flight to Lahore and came to Islamabad on a Daewoo.

P.P.S Some Facts:

Longest Hotel = Meydan Hotel
Tallest Building = Burj AlKhalifa (That shoudl also be given the World’s Ugliest Building Award)
Largest Race Course = Meydan Race Course
Best Startups = Women’s Digital League etc :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

Helping women in Pakistan

Helping women in Pakistan.

Women’s Digital League made headlines on She Says, a global network for women providing free mentorship and networking event to women in business. Click on the link to read more.

Happy reading.

OK BYEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

All Things Free – You Only Have To Ask

Good news first – Women’s Digital League‘s website is up. I made it myself so please be kind on the comments. If you can do anything to help make it look better please know I need your help and would really appreciate it too. Must thank Amara Javed of Pink 2.55 and her fiance Irfan Lala for all their help. And a “Ghost Friend” who insists I never mention to anyone I know her – thank you “Shadow Boxer” *hugs. People wonder why I am such a believer … tell me how I can be anything but -

Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.

:)

Just when they tell you nothing comes without a fee and nothing in this world is free and for everything else there is a MasterCard (cheesyyyyy) … here comes 3 courses I am DYING to get started on. Without further ado:

  1. Technology Entrepreneurship: Stanford University has a host of free online courses for engineering, Artificial Intelligence, SaaS but of course the one I am excited about is this: Technology Entrepreneurship. This course focuses on how to launch a successful startup.
  2. The Lean Launchpad: Again by Stanford University … the course focuses on how to turn “a great idea into a great company“. You can learn more here.
  3. Code Year: This is a year long free online program that teaches you to code. It’s a New Year’s Resolution challenge to get people to learn to code and make their own websites by the end of 2012. So far 333,789 people have signed up for the program backed by Y-Combinator and the O’Reilly Media. You can sign up here or learn more here.

So if you are interested in launching a startup, are already working on one you may want to sign up for these free courses. I know I have.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee