‘Sup, Doc?

Loads of cool stuff happening.

1. My First Event: I suck at organizing events no matter how tiny. But 2014 saw to it that I cross that bridge too. With the help of my very sweet student volunteer, Arooj Perzada, I gathered a group of about 35-45 people at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) in Lahore, Pakistan for GIST’s live webinar “Crowdfund Your Startup Venture” showing from the State Department in Washington DC, US. You can see the album here courtesy of the amazing The AppJuice team which was our official social media partner. You can also read about the event here and here. You can also watch a recording of the live event here (they took a q towards the end from your’s truly 😉 )

GIST TechConnect

2. Bringing Technovation to Pakistan: How many times have you heard that technology is just not for girls? That’s exactly what Technovation is trying to change. Its a Not-for-Profit based in Silicon Valley. It encourages school girls to make smartphone apps using a simple software that works like LEGO-blocks. Girls decide on a social problem, find a way to solve the problem via a smartphone app, and then build a business plan around it. Winning entries get to pitch to real investors in Silicon Valley. How cool is that? NO! That wasn’t a question. It was … kind of … if the answer is YES ITS AWESOME COOL!! *glare. OK so I have been in touch with the team for a while and this year I got some schools in dear ol’ Pk involved. We have the Liberal Arts High School from Islamabad, Alaudin Academy Lahore and Sedna School Hunza. I have high hopes for these girls. Also, if you or someone you know is a phone app developer and would like to volunteer their time (2 hours a week) please contact me. Let’s see how this goes.

Technovation Challenge Pakistan

3. The Portkey: I am suffering from a Harry Potter hangover. I miss it. *sob. Have finally found someone I think I can trust my baby with Yeah am talking about WDL. This company is making my web portal. Am super excited. This is something I have wanted since I started the company but just could never muster up the courage to actually work on it. Also, the fact I am perpetually broke didn’t help things much. I realize that now is as good a time as any. Gotta make it happen. So wish me luck peeps.

4. Elance Trainings: Am starting the first batch of Elance training in Alaudin Academy with a batch of 25 women. Amna Zafar, an Elance user and a very successful freelancer from Pakistan, will conduct the training. If you have any small data entry / data scraping projects you can send our way, please contact me.

Alauddin Academy

5. Guest from the US: Took a one day hurricane trip to Islo-land to attend a luncheon in honor of Catherine Russell, United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues. Had met her predecessor, Melanne Verveer, during the famous Project Artemis/GS 10k Women. Found out Saba Nazneen Ghori, one of our hosts at the US State Department, is temporarily working at the US Embassy Islamabad. It was so exciting to see her – like those 3 weeks weren’t just a dream. 🙂 Met some exceptional Pakistani women including Dr Sania Nishtar, Sabeen Haque, and Saddafe Abidi.

6. Hunza on Elance: Great news coming out of Hunza. Just so haters won’t call me names, I am not taking credit for this. The IT Centers are run independently by KADO. I merely advise on best practices, chalking out course work, help with marketing and whenever possible, connect them to work. Trainess at the centers are finding online work. They are involved with writing projects with AllVoices, formatting eBook on Elance. I am soooo psyched for them. Can’t wait to meet them in the summers. Here are some of their stories that they shared independently. WDL NEVER shares personal stories of its service providers.

freelancers in Hunza Gilgit-Baltistan

Didar Ali Hunza KADO

7. Celebrity: 2013 was super awesome. WDL has finally started getting the recognition it deserves if I may say so myself. Was featured on Mashable, Virgin, Ashoka, ForbesElan, Express Tribune, International Business Times, WAMDA, Muftah, TechPresident, The AppJuice. It’s just been CRAZY! I am happy, proud, humbled, nervous.


OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

*The Elance Training at Alauddin Academy is not an official certification workshop. It’s conducted independently by users of Elance to help trainees use the platform.*


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! 😀

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

Power of Networking

Networking is very important. Don’t let ’em tell you otherwise. At times, knowing the right people and connecting with them can make a huge difference in making your startup take off. I didn’t have a clue what networking meant until this spring during Project Artemis and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Program. The professors and management team kept telling us to perfect our 30-seconds commercials or what is also called an Elevator Pitch. The idea is to summarize what you do, why you do it and how you do it in such a way that it acts as a hook – something so exciting and interesting that the person gets hooked onto it and wants to hear more. For example, my elevator pitch went like this:

Hi! My name is Maria Umar. I am the Founder and President of Women’s Digital league which is a virtual shop providing digital services such as data entry, content writing, transcribing and email plus calendar management etc to clients. The entire team comprises of educated, skilled Pakistani women working from home.

So in just 30-seconds or the amount of time it takes for an elevator to cover two landings (unless it’s the elevator at the US State Department in which case it’d be 10 floors in 30 seconds) I told the person what I did, how I did it, and gave them an interesting concept for a startup … women from a country like Pakistan working from home on their computers earning a living.

So you swap business cards and if you’ve done a good job of it, you can be sure of getting an appointment to talk in detail about your venture.

People have been asking me why I went to a fashion event I attended recently. A friend sent me the passes and I was intrigued. But more than that, I saw it as a networking opportunity. I am helping manage the Hunza project now and we have big plans for it. I thought what would be a better opportunity to spread word then attending an event crawling with the media? So I went. And I am glad I did. For one, it was a new experience and was very entertaining. Secondly, I met a lot of interesting people, told them about my work and got some very positive response.

Another good way, besides attending networking events, is Facebook. You have no idea how many random people I have added to my friend’s list over the last 3 years … I only have a handful left now but it was worth it. These few people have been immensely helpful despite the fact they don’t know me at all. But they took the time to listen, to follow my activities, to answer my questions, and much more.

So ladies, keep your business cards on you at all times, don’t hesitate reaching out to a person you think might be a good connection, be genuine, take interest in the other person’s ‘story’ as well, offer help when you can, give people a chance …

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee