The Worlds Biggest Startups & The Men who run the largest Accelerator @ Scale

I bet you are thinking to your self you already know the answer to this question. If I was a betting man, I would wager that you didn’t, or at the very least it would not be your first guess any way.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t come off as easily as MTV(Mountain View) or SFO(San Francisco) or Bay Area, but you cant be blamed for it just yet. What you are seeing in the news are select choice public placements in the news.

Allowing women drivers to drive, the re opening of theatres . These items have been in the making since MbS took an active role in things. (MbS you ask ? or as lovingly referred to as HRH.Mohammad Bin Salman the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia). None of these news items are accidental; there is a massive transition about to happen, the jury is out on the what and how and when. It has been in the works for quite some time. These are not reactionary moves to say the very least. This is the time of MbS and in line with Vision 2030  which was formally ratified  by the Saudi cabinet as the National Transformation Program, it provides a blueprint for a kingdom that offers less charity and more austerity. It calls for Saudi Arabia to reduce its dependence on the energy sector, privatize state-owned enterprises, and cut state largesse. A lot of players in Saudi Arabia, want to do the following

1) Create Quick Jobs for Locals but meaningful jobs
2) Create diversification away from oil
3) Encourage locals to get involved and out of their comfort zones
4) Create Education and vocational opportunities
5) Divert subsidies to building long term human capital as opposed to a young population reliant on the state

No one in Saudi Arabia it self wants to talk about this stuff, internet crack downs and mis-understand on both ends of the aisle. The trust deficit and wholesale non police state image will be a tough sell, albeit it has to start.

Red sea resorts  and corniche investments and re development programs are part of a longer strategy it seems but that stuff is not going to happen over night.

Here comes the other force in this game, not lesser known by any stretch of the imagination but clearly not as famous as MbS but an equalizer in the dynastic politics when it comes to social/economic reform. Mr Adel Fakeih the honorable minster of Economy and Planning.

He clearly does not have an easy task. The kingdom is on an Uber ride to modernization and diversification and we all know whats going on with Uber.

Under the belly of the beast are some phenomenal items, that you can be forgiven to have missed but the sheer importance of those is a definite sign in the changing of the guard. It is good for the Muslim world and for the world at large. Imagine your rich cousin all of a sudden had a change of heart and opposed to sponsoring or funding its brand of politics its funding startups. Three cheers.

So did you know Saudi Arabia just had its first-ever YouTube FanFest in March 2017, Pakistan it is my estimate has roughly between 30-32M Monthly Active Viewers yet we dont get that kind of love from YT. Pakistan is considered a “security risk” yet Saudia isnt, let me not get into the politics of it all. But Google understands the value of having a friendly government in place as these restrictions ease of and is putting in bucket loads of concessions and resources to make YT work in Saudi Arabia.

Based on public information peppered in press releases by the best PR Machines on the planet, Google. This is what the YT data looks like :

The number of YouTubers in the MENA region have tripled in the region in the last three years. In Saudi Arabia, watch-time has grown by 50 percent and by 65 percent on mobile in 2016. More than 50 channels in MENA have more than one million subscribers, more than 20 of those in Saudi Arabia. Last year, the kingdom witnessed a 100 percent growth in total uploads coming from Saudi Arabia. The kingdom contributed a third to the total watch-time of the MENA region in 2016. 

The key stat buried in this presser is essentially this. 1/3 total watch time in the entire mena region comes from Saudia. Any surprises, there are literally no activities in the kingdom pertaining to entertainment,  culture, theatre etc. With the vast majority of population being young and no access to open television either, YT is filling the void.

A nation whose young are diabetic, Saudi Arabia has the second highest rate of diabetes in the Middle East and is seventh highest in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).The prevalence of diabetes is in Kingdom is at an alarming level Over 25 percent of the adult population is suffering and that figure is expected to more than double by 2030. Half of the people over 30 years of age are prone to diabetes.

You cant brush all this stuff under the carpet, these are life style diseases and the lifestyle must change.

So what about the worlds biggest startup and incubator and what not have you?

Look around you, Saudi Arabia is doing startup building, funding, large scale growth at state level funding with 2$T to back its ambitions. The country is both incubator and accelerator and its own largest market as a burgeoning young population emerges. In a society like Saudi Arabia, there is no real middle class, when these startups disrupt the status quo, create jobs, it will create new wealth, which will create a self sustaining ecosystem outside of the compounds of Aramco.

They have started without you and me really knowing. They are launching  a massive scale global PR effort to fix their global image. As time has told us, with enough time and money you can fix any ones reputation, look at how people were mourning Hue Hefner, living and dying on his own terms. *Go back click the reputation link and see what a reputational fix means.

So where is this opportunity for Saudi Arabia and others who want to get in on the ground floor of this soon to explode startup ecosystem? But their startups may be bigger than your startups, may even be bigger than the GDP of some countries. It will be interesting no less. Here are some things that come to mind as an outsider looking in.

  1. Al Jazeera is done in Saudi Arabia, content and news aren’t.  Saudi Arabia needs its brand of news dissemination services. It is already late to that party.
  2. With such prevalence of diabetes, if the population is too sick to do shit, thats all they will do in the end, so the stage is wide and clear for innovation in life style products that capitalize on the geographic terrain of Saudi Arabia.
  3. People are watching YouTube because its content created by their own, so a huge content play is missing in Saudia, the first person to build and dominate a Saudi brand of teen /adolescent engagement via video will rule the airwaves in any format. Digital, OTT, Linear, what ever. People are dying for content.
  4. Tech, will win big, here is why. Have you ever been to a mall in Saudi Arabia? go to a GAP, select an item, go try it in on. Oh you just realized there are no changing rooms. So what you must do is you go to the malls bathroom and try it on. So how does tech fix this, e-commerce and last mile brings products to home. TV,  home shopping, ecommerce they creates massive back end employment.
  5. An other one that baffles my mind is a huge huge play on street numbering and maps + a SaudiEx like FedEx , there is no street naming to enable parcel deliveries(At large) most of it is PBOX driven and even on google maps and other data is sparse.  The national address system a good effort in the right direction only has 3M customers and 4.5 Million registered addresses for a population of 33M people. So the journey has only started. Again there is no innovation there, its state run and bland.

Heres what wont work and why

  1. Just importing talent (many years of that already evident) since the average person cant even get to Saudi Arabia without a hassle free visa process and further immigration nightmares its not the default location for the best talent to show up. America for all its quirks works because for most of the world it is still easy to get in and stay in.
  2. Launching actual incubators and accelerators for tech alone, because who will run them? who will be part of them? where is the ecosystem, will you import your muslim brothers startups from say Pakistan or Indonesia? Then what happens? There wont be any shape shifting till Saudi Investors and investment funds go out and invest in the startups of these great nations and build investor confidence. Much like the American who then repatriate their best talent using L1 Visas. Saudis need the same, also No ITS NOT cool to hold on to my passport when I come to your country. So a lot of that has to change too.
  3. Move away from Branch Plant mentality. Look around you, every thing Saudia has is a branch plant of some big company, Toyota, Honda, GE and many more and then you add the franchises and the whole country is the SUM of other people innovations. Every entity is just a surrogate. That has to change, dollars can help change that, but it cant fix it over night. A lot of systemic change has to happen for this to really become effective. No amount of money can fix generational items over night the right strategy can fix it, no less in time.
  4. They need to be able to have outsiders operate out side of fear. Hence perception must change, people must be free and able to discuss things. That will be the first step towards building a startup culture. Saudi Aarabia doesnt need any more yes men or consultants, its already spend 1.5bn$ in 2015 on consultants.

Mckinsey already does that job really well there. According to the Financial Times, Saudi businessmen have sarcastically dubbed the Ministry of Planning as the “McKinsey Ministry.” If the pattern seems familiar, it is. The company teams up with young heirs to the throne, who are eager to make their countries’ economies conform to their vision of the future. A less palatable similarity for someone like Prince Salman is how many of the countries who drank the McKinsey Kool-Aid became epicenters of the Arab Spring. Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Yemen — each was convulsed by demonstrations, often animated by economic grievances.

 McKinsey’s approach to reforming foreign governments is dangerously flawed. The company’s school-lunch approach to economic reform — one size fits all, regardless of appetite and culture — makes no effort to consider each country’s unique history or social background. It also fails to consider whether the recipient’s political structures are robust enough to withstand the unrest that often emanates from job losses, privatization of state-owned enterprises and social services, subsidy cuts, and increases in the cost of living.

Coming back to point 2 above. Ecosystem and Startups, you can be forgiven for missing the news of a 100bn$ fund that the Saudis have setup up along with SoftBank out of Japan. So there will seemingly be a best buy moment for Saudi Arabia and Softbank they can go to the tech candy store and make more investments like the 3BN$ one the Saudis did earlier in UBER. This is the new reality and they are the new investors in town, they will need to look beyond their shores to fuel long term growth within their shores.  The initiative they have kick started to amounts to future shock for a conservative society. Specific targets include tripling non-oil revenue by 2020, to roughly $141 billion, and the creation of 450,000 jobs outside the government sector.

So my question to  Pakistani entrepreneurs is, are you ready because a funding revolution is coming to a city near you.

“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the Strong but time and chance happen to them all”

How SMART is your Pipe? Are you building Smart Services yet?

No I am not talking about the latest fad in smoking accessories , i.e the e-cigarettes or e-pipes. I am talking about data/telecom pipes. I am talking about Jazz, Telenor, Zong and Ufone. I guess to differentiate every player has to have its own strategy on consumer engagement and retention. Frankly I see much of the same every where.

You can choose to be in the dumb pipe business or you can be in the smart pipe business, but what I am seeing is mere confusion in this space. Carriers are loosing their ground it on what their public facing strategy is or should be. Pipe or no pipe, the years of un-federated growth with out really trying are seemingly coming to an end and every body is re inventing their story. Or coming up with illusions of really glitzy digital ones.

In no particular order, Jazz is bringing Veon. A content + We chat style play, a cursory look on Veons site has the standard market data numbers to make a case for why they are the latest and greatest and how growth numbers support their vision :

The evolution of new platforms, like mobile financial services in Pakistan, is both generating additional sources of revenue whilst accelerating financial growth. The expansion of mono-brand shops in Algeria and the introduction of branded smartphones will accelerate data adoption. The rapid take-up of social network usage in Bangladesh shows the potential for self-serve, e-commerce and new content partnerships.”

The only news worthy item in this whole statement is the part around content partnerships. Which could be promising. But my fear in this space is that, most if not all Telco’s cant even get their basic consumer facing items right in this country yet. So a content play and getting that strategy right is a big question mark when their current app launch pitches are calling 20 agencies and requests are going as off center as “digital amplification plans for the new year”.

Its one thing to control and grow what you have vs. what you don’t. They haven’t done any advancements yet on the part of the value chain they own, to go down the path of importing “made as Dutch**” technology and implanting it in Pakistan. Which really has a limited use case besides some new injection of capital inter company and hiring of new folks in this space. The amount of time and energy needed to just build partnerships is cringe worthy.

**If you are old enough to remember the accessories of the Suzuki Motor company that were locally made via self professed OEMs in the 80s, used to say Made as Japan an ode to the quality of its Japanese counterpart.

This Veon thing is what Mobilink did with mobicash-to Jazzcash transition to now it seems a full blown marketing effort to potentially even re brand the whole carrier as Veon. It seems the writing is on the wall for an other execution strategy to rival the blunders of yesteryears. But its not because of Jazz its because of Veons global ambitions(formerly Vimpelcom) on building a unified brand.

It is but absurd why some one would co-opt content to any Telco, unless they also make money on the traffic or the data it self? To enable a Telco to eat away from the pie of digital content already being produced and consumed is not a long term strategy that makes the size of the pie bigger its at best a land grab for eye balls by borrowing some one else’s content, till you can produce native content or buy the content companies (if that happens it could be interesting). It is strange what is happening in this space vs. what should logically be happening. There is a lot of talk and little to no action. The avg linear content producers and their sales drones get excited when the Telcos approach them because they don’t understand the value of their own data/content. In its infancy it is a parasitic relation ship at best.

Whilst we are on Jazz and I continue to call them Mobilink in my mind, the following statement all but made me laugh. Jazz could be buying out startups, completely or maybe partially, during days to come, said the CEO of Jazz in an exclusive interview” . I don’t know how exclusive the interview was, but if this is what the CEO of a major Telco is angling it, this has to be by far the saddest news for the tech ecosystem at large.

I mean which CEO is this un sure and if you did want to release some market making news, don’t say “partially or completely” till you have a way forward and a strategy. It almost sounded like hmm I may buy a 6inch Sub, no wait, lets make it a foot long, I’m not sure how hungry I am.

Its all about appetite and the wiring to make these decisions, buying companies is not just like acqu-hiring ppl and giving them new badges and having them show up to work at your offices. Mergers & acquisitions, how ever small need planning, post acquisition integration and teams to lead the charge in making sure the acquisition executes as desired. From the looks of this comment alone, it seemed like a really half baked response which shows the over all attitude of this industry unfortunately. Too big to fail is what comes to mind and a mandatory watch for all these strategy doling pundits at Telcos.

Most of them must thank their lucky stars they got where they are by persistence, perseverance and political agility, but most of all by being at the right place at the right time(as not enough expats had the desire to operate in these markets) and they should not mistake their years spent to be directly proportional to their future relevance and contribution.

It takes one Real MVNO to come to this market that is aptly funded to take these guys to task.

Like banking, car manufacturing and other oligopolistic competition in this country and an extremely wishy-washy regulatory structure these guys have protection that in a free un regulated market would lead to an end to their lack of innovation and “khalifa” mind set. I say most if not all of this as a current of past consumer across all the brands.

Then we have Telenor, I think they should get past the easy paisa story(we all get it, thank you) please innovate so we can get past a one trick pony and all. From what industry insiders’ claim, that these guys are building their own ad-exchange. It gives me goose bumps when I hear stories like this and I hope they aren’t true. But if they are, we need to get in on some consulting action here. Clearly people are making some bucket loads of money with an idea that’s circa 2005.

With the astronomical potential of smartening up their pipes and doing attribution studies and segmentation analysis and focus on the core of leveraging that info, all these forays in to B2C type tech where already the likes of Google/FB others play is not a good use of time, unless your CPM rates are like 4x the current monetization available.

The cost of changing how business is done and to not have a demand pipe in a new ad-x will be a killer blow to the content providers who become early adopters and a net new revenue gain for the established players(FB/Google) when this happens. It takes open source code and 3 developers 20 days to build an ad exchange, so there is no pat on the back required for those teams any where. You can fork the code(CEO Alert, Search “Open Source Ad Exchanges to understand what your teams have failed two deliver in the last year or so with this pipe dream of building an exchange) it’s the demand side pipes and the balance of supply side economics that is not a laughing matter.

In a similar vein to Veon, Telenor has Wowbox again I fail to see the purpose. An other play at content when the larger data play is not yet explored. I will come back to it in a second as to what this whole hue and cry is on the smart pipe. Because we must understand what a dumb pipe is first by demonstrating where every one is in their journey.

Lets look at Ufone, I don’t even know whats going on there. They are rarely in the news besides with the Etisalat /pk deal side of things. Some times I see job adverts for digital roles at Ufone, let me share a glimpse.

  • Develop strategy and roadmap for increasing traffic on Ufone corporate website. Ensure the roadmap is implemented in a timely manner.

(My take is, if as a Telco this is your priority and you want traffic to your Corp site and cant do it still, wow, it sucks to be you)

  • Develop strategy and roadmap for increasing downloads and usage of Ufone mobile app. Move customers from standard(USSD, SMS & other featured transactions) to smart transactions on the Ufone mobile application.

(This is promising, but can one manager in-act this social change? What is the corporate strategy and the market data that supports this move to data centric items, you are the Telco. Know who your smart phone users are already, what you need is a Corp strategy and not a digital manager to blame)

  • Increase traffic on Ufone’s Social Media Platforms. Identify new areas of acquisition on the social media front, ensure Ufone’s presence and acquisition of followers on Social Media. Monitor consumer sentiment on social media and take necessary actions based on the dynamic nature of the “overall” sentiment.

(This has to be the shittiest reason in the year 2017 to hire some one, social media likes, plus the statement in itself is not coherent, even the hiring manager has no clue)

  • Increase Sales and usability of the overall digital footprint for Ufone while driving high quality traffic on digital media.

(This is mind blowing, if you are a Telco, you cant drive high quality traffic on to digital media, you need fire whom ever is responsible for your strategy- period. Plus have a serious sit down with your CEO(I mean your board should, if this is the kind of published recruitment ads that our there)

 At least they tried with their new TVC marketing Internet packages to a female entrepreneur audience. If I were the CEO Id ask the head of marketing and sales what the conversion for that is. Also wouldn’t the target segment of that be better served with Google or FB ads? Given the market sizing data, that segment shouldn’t warrant a TVC but that goes to show that its gimmicks and not innovation that drives the fabric of growth at all of these players. Some times just trying some thing new where every one in a circle sits around and claps for you, is good enough. Almost like pre-school circle time.

At least Telenor and Jazz have larger aspirations even though they are going about it in a fairly dis organized way. At least they are keeping up with the buzz words and the social norms of pretending to being “cool digital stuff” like may or may not be buying companies and talking about block chain etc publicly.

Oh and who can forget the new craze of accelerators etc. I mean Telenor and Jazz both should take some cash and fund the incubators to form accelerators, folks who have experience in doing this sort of stuff. All these are major detractors from the real good work that can be done.

So you ask, what is this smart pipe dream?

Let me share some basic examples missing from our telecom ecosystem when it comes to smart pipes/services.

  • Wifi + Data integration to offload calls.
  • Using your back haul to build out the nations most affordable security and home and business monitoring business.
  • Horizontal M2M Platforms, Voice, Messaging and Data APIs for 3rd
  • Telco enabled Identity and Authorization, Advertising and Marketing, Payments. APIs to non-core services and assets.
  • Service provisioning APIs for cross network payments and 3rd party add on services for uses cases the Teclos cant even think of today
  • For all this useless talk on IoT, focus on solving local problems around agricultural yields, enabling farmers, not building market places just yet, micro loans based on credit scoring models around payment histories, providing micro insurance to segments which do not qualify traditional requirements.
  • Setting up an industry forum to anonymize data for the betterment of the Pakistan data/market story. Pool your data and build an organization that is impartial and reports growth and user stats + service stats as an industry number. Use your pipes for greater good and build shared services between your pipes and truly enable entrepreneurship.
  • Make it easy to cross connect/co locate and get shared identity /authentication services across providers (build industry collaborative standards for such info exchanges)

These are some basic ideas I am sure there are many more that much smarter people can come up with. Also please stay away from block chain and bit coin and other stuff you profess at conferences, its not one size fits all model. You are a Telco, focus on your core.

Zong , don’t think I forgot you. You are focusing on Reach and QoS from within the shadows an interesting play. Given you are good at the game of Chinese whispers, it seems to be working in your favor while your peers are so distracted in strategies that may make it a safe tenure for their CEOs as they do not want to do any thing out of their comfort zone. These are nice cushy job and only push hard enough that your career aspirations don’t get messed by any sudden un safe moves.

To Zong, none of this shit matters, its long term strategy comes in an import friendly package, when it arrives in Pakistan it goes to the right offices, its unpacked, defrosted and then re-heated to achieve the same results that the home office has either achieved some where, or wants to accomplish here; in line with their greater strategy for the region. Cant blame them they are truly focused on what ever their puppet masters are deciding from the mother ship.

But both Telnor and Zong aflush with FB cash/time/resources to work on open cellular and open BTS initiatives still give me some hope of the future to come. I just see a mishmash of strategies and no real on ground advancement in the last so many years. I hope for once these resources are put to good use and we get some real innovation coming our way.

Alibaba and its Chaalis (40) choices in Pakistan | 阿里巴巴及其在巴基斯坦的40個選擇

These days its seems like not a day goes by and some one or the other publishes a picture, a leaked story, an input a whisper about Alibaba talking to some one in the country. That in it self is fantastic and super exciting. The choices for Ali Baba are literally unlimited in what they do and I have no magic ball to foretell the future. But the implications for Pakistan will either be really good or really bad.

Lets list the public rumors in place over the past week or so.

  1. Alibabas Ant Financial services to acquire stake in Telenor Bank in Pakistan.
  2. TCS putting out pictures of Alibabas visits to Pakistan
  3. Daraz not being far behind saying again some one is buying them, this has been on going since a few months after they came in to being

 

Lets evaluate the Telenor news first, minus the percentage stakes being discussed at this stage that’s immaterial to any one unless you are a shareholder, given you are not, lets focus away from the noise.

 

So if Alibaba does buy out the stake say at 40%, what happens? Look at the shareholding structure above. Whilst the news it self will be great for Pakistan(consumer confidence etc). Just my sense is, the monies wont land here post acquisition the B.V/Dutch Hold Co will probably partake in that transaction. The company is setup for tax optimization and there is nothing wrong with that either, all businesses are setup to maximize shareholder value, there should be no apology expected from Telenor for watching out for their shareholder interest.

So all this celebration of Ant Financial coming to town, could be misguided, as it may not really have any short term benefit unless the government mandates domestic injection, then it’s a different story, given our Chinese friendship that should be a baseline ask. I neither know any info nor do I want to speculate, I am analyzing the data and facts available in the public domain.

What no one is talking about what Alibaba’s entry to Pakistan will mean for digital marketing and advertising and the potential blow it will deal to OLX, Daraz,  Classifieds online and offline and Ad-Networks like FB Audience Network and Google ADX.

You are probably wondering what the sale of shares in a Microfinance Bank has to do with advertising? You cant be blamed for wondering, its simple, some thing you have never heard of, but it is a rising tiger in the world of advertising to rival Google and FB, Its called Alimama .

Launched in November 2007, Alimama (www.alimama.com) is an online marketing technology platform that offers sellers on Alibaba Group’s marketplaces online marketing services. Now that is the real Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that will come to town when/if Alibaba comes here.

Coming back to our friends at Google and FB, they don’t have an office here, they don’t have a presence, the bulk of their advertising revenue are generated through product advertising, FMCGS, CPGS, Brands, Product Pushers. The success of FB viz a vi the advertising agencies they work with, is lukewarm at best, both companies have struggled to keep the conversations ongoing with counterparts in the country. Google has been more serious with boots on the ground, FB is still enjoying the consumer play of people using credit cards to buy ads.

But where is the real commitment to operate in Pakistan a market of over 200M consumers? Perhaps we shouldn’t blame them, has any one from Government really gone to FB beyond data requests and to Google beyond resetting passwords for accounts and offered them a real stake on the ground in the country from location to access to talent to tax breaks to legal protection? If not then we will continue to wait for them to show up at our door step where as other markets that welcome them will prosper.

Look at this example from Amazon,  shopping for a city to bid for amazon to come to it to build a second head quarter. That’s what government commitment is and should be if you want to attract the best.

Given what Google has done in healthcare alone, for a country like Pakistan where Chikungunya and others abound our government should be bending over backwards to invite Verily to de-bug our cities and towns if  it is not interested in the digital play, the human life play should matter.

Lets look at what will happen, when Alibaba in any form comes to Pakistan, they aren’t going to just sit idle and away from the Marketplace business which is their core. When that comes, so will Alimama, that will wipe off the entire value from product listings and classifieds businesses and thus wipe major value of AD Exchanges but wait, there is more, none of this will happen tomorrow. Some specialized verticals may continue to operate but it will be only a matter of time till they also become irrelevant or be bought out in the process.

Google and FB have to  take notice(More FB than Google). That is a fairly tough ask when Google is rightfully busy in the region with India, their interests aligned with launching payment tech (Tez) and their Next Billion obsession. FB on the other hand lacks even the commitment to operate out of market, they roll up from SG to UAE, where the hummus isn’t playing the unifier role it should between the German-Venezuelan + Pakistani mix . The UAE based leadership team responsible for PK has probably come here less than a dozen times. Credit where its due, Google guys are practically here every other week.

If FB , had they not put partnership folks and not just hired entry level talent from this country, would eat away at least 30% of other Ad Networks existing business and probably increase their pie by an other 80%, all they had to do was pay attention, there is still time if the interest level changes. Data is great, but context is the killer, it feels strange to be preaching context to Facebook.

Even beyond FB , WhatsApp related growth could potentially outpace all other business related growth in the months and years to come, no less for that you need to come to Pakistan beyond conferences and meet real businesses and hire customer advocates that have some real experience beyond trips to incubators, it has no real material output for Pakistanis beyond photo ops. Its time for the industry to grow up. Besides pretend to be grown up and promoting  self recognition.

Google is in a far better position, but I fear all their market education that had the best of intent will be ridden out by Alibaba in weeks, months and years to come. Their(Google’s) teams have really done a stellar job to educate the market. Fb is trying hard, they had a better value proposition, its easier to market on FB. Every one uses FB no new account is needed to market, any kid can do it all you need is a credit card ( what happens when the central bank decides that it is no longer cool to loose out 45m$ in FX via card or third party transaction. Invoicing becomes key.) Hence the conversation is much easier from FBs perspective with marketers; the results on the other hand are debatable as are the conversions.

The market is missing a unified sales platform and payments, when both of those arrive, any guesses as to what will happen?

This brings me to TCS/YAYVO, from a Pakistani standpoint that deal makes the most sense for the exchequer, but from a value perspective Alibaba gets more out of buying TCS for logistics and fulfillment than it does to buy Yayvo for e-commerce. (Even if it paid 3/4x Revenues it would be a sweetheart deal)

Neither the TCS Ecommerce brand nor the way the operations are structured offer any thing that 2M$ cant replicate in 6 months. That is all it takes. TCS should be courting Alibaba to offload equity in the overall entity, e-commerce is some thing they should throw in for free. Make no mistake, Alibaba is already Pakistan’s largest e-commerce player by volume, you ask how? AliExpress.

Once FTA between China and Pakistan is sorted out, none of these brands will matter every one already knows Aliexpress, at least they get their products on time. The logistics game is a serious deal, check this out Amazon building an airline/Distro hub.

In the mean while if Alibaba wants to buy some thing to just try out and experiment, its not a bad deal to get Yayvo too. But by way of technology and talent, there is no real value to be driven from Alibaba’s perspective in buying Yayvo. Every other week, some Investment banker, market broker or some one is pitching the Yayvo deal, that is an indicator that they have run out of growth capital. Any plans of grandeur they may have had are actually on hold from the looks of things. Their SKU base is stagnant. Their systems are a mis mash, the sites performance are basic at best. So this is not going to be a tech buy for Alibaba an accu-hire for mid level talent yes for sure.

Which brings us to Daraz, perhaps Alibaba should do real due diligence there. Its simple, buy 5 products a day for a month and deliver to 5 cities a day, figure out the fulfillment ratios vs order placement and go from there. In developing markets that a better test than looking at a PowerPoint deck prepared by some one else.

Daraz will be a multi country Rocket Internet deal involving Alibaba so where-in other markets Rocket may have inherent business or operations value, in Pakistan : besides burning cash on brand building, iffy customer experiences, multiple management team exits and struggling market place/drop shipper experiments they have been consistently underwhelming consumers.

A cursory glance at  FB posts or comments on paid adverts in local publications will tell part of the story. Its not easy being the first here. Just cant blame them alone, they have done more for market making than any one locally has. User sentiment abound. I am sure some one as sophisticated as Alibaba would try to get a discount on the offer given the customer toxicity. No one does “one day sales” better than Alibaba and its singles day, just apply that metric to compute GMV and if all holds true, perhaps Daraz really has value beyond what meets the eye.

Daraz is a foreign owned venture, if Alibaba does acquire Daraz / or its parent co, that money wont see the light of day in Pakistan. Again not a great deal for Pakistan or Pakistanis, the value of the transaction will unlock offshore most likely. Long term e-commerce will come, but short term No cigar.

All these factors to one side, a real funded player in any one of these 3 domains comes to town, it will be good news long term. So heres to hoping that we at least get a true payments play first, every thing else will find its way on its own once that happens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nuts and Bolts of Digital Innovation & Transformation | Part Science, Part Art & Part Fiction.

This article has been updated with the PPT used at the 021Disrupt Conference on Sat Nov4th 2017.Disrupt-Faizan Siddiqi

Digital Innovation is not easy, actually its more difficult than transformation. Because Innovation is real touchy feely stuff, transformation at its core is the vernacular of the C suite chaps who like LBOs of the 80 and CDOs of 90s invented stuff that the average person couldn’t really understand. We all fell for it, but how many of us really understand at its core what it means?

Lets try to deconstruct why Innovation is so hard “Being active in youth may change the inner workings of brain cells much later in life and sharpen some types of thinking, according to a remarkable new neurological study involving rats.​” So for the new experiment, which was published this month in eNeuro, researchers at the University of Toronto and other institutions basically distilled it down to the following premise: Moving When Young May Strengthen the Adult Brain.

If you look at it rationally organizations are looking for younger folks(generally) to run and head Digital Innovation and Transformation initiatives because at some cellular level being in their 40-50s/60s they realize that as they cope with their cognitive issues at large its best to farm this work out to some one from the right generation. They are not very wrong in this assumption but they arrived at it because they them selves cant do it and its easier to appoint a person, a function a role to take the fall when their organizations falter at the seams as they fight off the startups eating away at their margins. I understand this is a very large scale generalization but it is backed up by what we see at corporations large and small. Find me a Chief Innovation Officer in their 50s.

Until you understand the principles behind innovation, you’re going to fall short. There is no innovation “formula” that magically works for every company. Don’t settle for fad management tactics or blanket solutions that lack nuance. There is no innovation “formula” that magically works for every situation. As a baseline your need to gain a deep understanding of principles, frameworks and skills that help you see the world differently. When you learn to see the world differently, you begin to think creatively.

Given the information overload and information paralysis we go through every day, we are victims to filter bubbles.

WTF are Filter Bubbles, let me demonstrate. Imagine your average day. What do you do?You read the headlines, tap, scroll, tap, tap, scroll.It is a typical day and you are browsing your usual news site. The New Yorker, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, take your pick. As you skim through articles, you share the best ones with like-minded friends and followers. Perhaps you add a comment. Few of us sit down and decide to inform ourselves on a particular topic.For the most part, we pick up our smartphones or open a new tab, scroll through a favored site and click on whatever looks interesting.Or we look at Facebook or Twitter feeds to see what people are sharing.Chances are high that we are not doing this intending to become educated on a certain topic.

No, we are probably waiting in line, reading on the bus or at the gym, procrastinating, or grappling with insomnia, looking for some form of entertainment.

We all do this skimming and sharing and clicking, and it seems so innocent.But many of us are uninformed about or uninterested in the forces affecting what we see online and how content affects us in return.That ignorance has consequences.

The term “filter bubble” refers to the results of the algorithms that dictate what we encounter online. So how can you innovate when all you are doing is consuming stuff and re hashing it. There is no net new creativity. Most days.

Much of the content we consume, the cord cutting shows we watch, the papers we read offer personalized content selections, based on our browsing history, age, gender, location, and other data.We become the subject as opposed to becoming the subject matter expert and we fully understand that we cant innovate till we at least have some grounding as an expert in a discipline, that grounding doesn’t come only via having a Phd or classical training in a field it comes with interactions and the ability to think within the constructs of the issue at hand with a view to find a solution.

In the absence of which and by being digital consumers alone, the result is a flood of articles and posts that support our current opinions and perspectives to ensure that we enjoy what we see. We program our selves to enjoy the mundane. Even when a site is not offering specifically targeted content, we all tend to follow people whose views align with ours.When those people share a piece of content, we can be sure it will be something we are also interested in. Take this blog post for example.

That might not sound so bad, but filter bubbles create echo chambers. We assume that everyone thinks like us, and we forget that other perspectives exist, which is a cardinal sin when you are tasked with innovating.

Filter bubbles transcend web surfing. In important ways, your social circle is a filter bubble; so is your neighborhood. If you’re living in a gated community, for example, you might think that reality is only BMWs, Teslas, and Mercedes and kids going to private prep schools because that will make them scions of industry and get other perks in life.

Your work circle acts as a filter bubble too, depending on whom you know and at what level you operate at.

One of the great problems with filters is our human tendency to think that what we see is all there is, without realizing that what we see is being filtered. There in lies the core issue around why most of us suck at innovating and why we are whole heartedly engaged in hero worship or having our ideas and thoughts being shaped by the bias in every thing around us. Let me demonstrate, watch the following:

If you watched this you have a very real sense of why filter bubbles are the crux of the problem of innovation.

Filter bubbles can cause cognitive biases and shortcuts to manifest, amplifying their negative impact on our ability to think in a logical and critical manner. A combination of social proof, availability bias, confirmation bias, and bias from disliking/liking is prevalent.

We have an inherent desire to be around those who are like us and reinforce our worldview.  People form tribes based on interests, location, employment, affiliation, and other details.  Within groups (even if members never meet each other), beliefs intensify. Anyone who disagrees may be ousted from the community. Sociologists frame this as “communal reinforcement” and stress that the ideas perpetuated can have no relation to reality or empirical evidence.

Thats why when you join an organization that wants you to lead their innovation function and or digital transformation, the organizational bias that exists actually sets you up for failure. Only when the Leadership allows you to be free spirited can this be counteracted but in most cases and on most days that is not the case, hence the best of intentions to hire a hipster to innovate fails. The sum of the organizations attitudes make sure that 9/10 times that is the case.

Organizational Systems — be they people, cultures, or work groups, to name a few examples — naturally have to filter information and thus they reduce options. Sometimes people make decisions, sometimes corporate cultures make them, and increasingly algorithms make them. As the speed of information flowing through these systems increases, filters will play an even more important role.

You have to be able to see past them to really innovate. If you innovate at a steady state your transformation journey becomes easier, so my take is, without innovation digital transformation is just a fad that will have no new results when you try to solve old problems without innovating first.

Making time for deep reflection in your daily life in incredibly valuable. Do not miss an opportunity /any opportunity to simplify, clarify and get back to the essence of what it means to innovate.

I firmly believe that understanding without experience is worthless. Unless you are immersed in activities that allow you to discuss, execute workshops and practice newfound skills, rather than regurgitate them. You wont be able to innovate.

There is a  truckload of bullshit in organizational truths,  When I say [BS], I mean arguments, data, publications, or even the official policies of  organizations that give every impression of being perfectly reasonable of being well-supported by the highest quality of evidence, and so forth but which don’t hold up if you look beyond the surface.

Bullshit  has the veneer of truth-like plausibility. It looks good. It sounds right. But when you get right down to it, it stinks. So you gotta watch out for organizational BS. Before you can think at scale you cant innovate, till you can innovate you cant transform and till you cant transform you will be at the same place you started besides the fact that you’d have put on a fresh coat of lipstick on the pig.

As the programmer Alberto Brandolini is reputed to have said: “The amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.” So even if your heart is in the right place at your organization and you are having to refute the old way of doing some thing before you can really innovate, most of your energy will be spent on refuting past truths. But there in lies the art part of my title, you must know the art of making sure you are not refuting all the time but that you have a balancing act. The fiction part is the story you must tell of a future, that by virtue of transformation will yield better results, so you have to have a truth well told. The science part is that once you get it right every one will start to believe that you have a method to the madness, hence it becomes as irrefutable as science , data and facts, because growing up we were all led to believe that most scientific truths hold true till proven other wise.

Understanding that what we see is not all there is will help us realize that we’re living in a distorted world and remind us to take off the glasses. Trust me, you need those glasses off to innovate and to transform, be it digital or other wise.

 

Disclosure: This article and every thing else on this site draws heavily from my daily filter bubbles and is a social experiment to see how many people have the same bias.

Wireless Carrier – Spammer or Innovator ? Leading from the front.

Oh Telenor I have now relied on you for 5 years why must you ruin my experience by literally spamming me daily? On an ill fated day, 27th Aug, I decided to trade in my 3g sim for a 4g sim and some how Telenor decided it had a right to offer me 100mb daily with a youtube link and then tell me my free quota had expired.

For all the things Telenor has gotten right this is making me rethink my decision.

This is brutal. 5:42 AM Spam. I dont know what tech is messed up but seemingly every time I go in and out of a 4G zone I have to deal with a text message. What is a consumer to do? What the hell is wrong with these companies? Nahin daikhney mujhay apni man passand videos on youtube. Not sitting idle all day to go view on your que especially not at 5am.  Cant fathom what is wrong with these guys. But always ready to market random acts of kindness when they cant even get basic service right.  Even without underwater trouble they seem to be smoking some really good stuff.

This only added insult to injury as over the summer(June 19th) I wanted to get voice mail, a very basic service else where in the civilized world, one which I had used off an on in the past but I called the call center and after a 15 minute activation ordeal I was told we no longer offer this service. But I am not sure, your account rep will call you. He called and asked me to share what measures id taken up to that point. So I responded via text msg as below:

On que, 30 mins later I get a call “Boss, kaisay hain aap, yaar I was told apko voice mail chaye hay” I humored the gentleman as he had taken the liberty of calling back and seemingly wanted to help.

He said he will “inquire” and let me know. True to his word, he calls back and says “Boss, we discontinued the service, magar aap kareen gay kia voice mail ka?”

Fantastic customer support no less:) The guy went from being my account rep to being the average Pakistani phuppo. Why must I defend my desire to use a service.  More so https://www.telenor.com.pk/help-support/faq/voice-mail is still out there albeit void of any info. I am struggling to understand why the disconnect across channels. Perhaps I expect too much. Or perhaps these guys have gotten fat and lazy. Or they are too busy focusing on other initiatives as opposed to basic customer satisfaction.

It didn’t end there, I also realized on a recent visit to a franchise in my desire to get an other number for an IOT device, that once I ran my bio metric, I could not access any other feature/update/sim replacement prior to 8 hours because the Nadra verification had a time lock. So I am standing there dumbstruck being told I need to come back. It was a rare treat for me to be there in the first place the thought of dragging my self back still doesn’t appeal to me.

I am struggling with the back end systems lack of design and untested use case of authenticate once and keeping the session live while the customer is on premise and ensure all their transactions are complete before the authentication key is let go. Who in their right mind would come back in 8 Hours and continue to keep on doing so if you happen to be one of the lucky ones with multiple sims/numbers.

I wonder where the technical innovation is?  why is customer service so difficult? why are the systems untested? I guess like every one else Telenor is caught up in the startup frenzy.  They got lucky with easy paisa and it truly revolutionized an industry. Credit where its due.

The next guy with greater marketing muscle to come in, can and will disrupt even that space. It seems most companies here are one trick ponies, just because they did some thing right once, they have a right to consistently delivery crappy services for life.  With Google payments(supposedly launching) in India this week. It takes one market force of change to destroy the status quo. Cant wait for a real payments company to come out of the domestic talent or to show up with VC money to put all of the telcos in place.

The larger challenge is why every one puts up with shoddy service and how the CEOs of these companies parade their CSR and Best Employer regimens to un suspecting Facebook users. These guys should be made to use their own service with out preferential treatment and go stand in line at a service center to understand the plight of the consumers that fuel their growth.

If these copycat CEOs must borrow a page from a play book, I encourage them to go read this and try to emulate 5% of  what this guy is doing:

http://read.bi/2x32kfT

 

 

 

 

Pakistani banks have nothing to fear when it comes to Fintech!

You read that right, but what you missed was that they are barely mobile and or digital to really fear the paradigm shift that is essentially Fintech.  Fintech wont take down Pakistani banks, they will try to totally blame that(in time), but what will take these banks down are the 50-60 Yr old CEOs lack of understanding around what digital is or means and the industry hero worship around “aray falanay sahab to baray puranay IT kay admi hain” 🙂 .

Exactly my point, you cant teach a “Purana admi” new tricks.

This lack of understanding also extends to the board members of these banks too. You ask why? because these guy do not use their own services digitally(ever), they are not the net new consumer so they can never understand why it sucks so bad. They call their admin, who calls the bank manager…you get the picture.

The first step to solving any major problem is the recognition that a problem exists. In the case of these mis guided banks and many other tech centric businesses in Pakistan is that they compete with each other and do not get out of their own comfort zone. Or they buy technology from global vendors without knowing what it is, because every one of their peers are doing the same.

When you compete with at the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of innovation and technical innovation all you end up with is a site/app/system whose success is measured by how many times your CEO sees the AD on TV about his/her product. Mis guided benchmarks about mis guided items demonstrated by more misguided people.

The best story I ever heard as to why the chief digital officer of a bank refused to buy online ads was as follows. He told me, that they wanted to go and acquire female customers between the age of 25-45 and ran an online adwords and fb campaign across the networks in Pakistan. Their CEO called and said you have spent 50k USD on this, I have browsed every major site in the country all week yet to see a single ad online but I see ads for “unani nuskhas” all over the internet, any site that I go to. The irony of targeted marketing was lost on the CEO. Where in both Google and FB delivered on those campaigns the CEO didn’t understand why he didn’t see the AD because he always saw it when he spent 50k USD on TV. Has any one ever measured how many millions of customers have banks signed up after every major TVC?

I will stay away from acceptable service levels of the technical initiatives of the banks but what I will talk about is the thinking behind digital and what is an acceptable baseline  by way of mobile banking in the year 2017. I will further not go down the security exposures rabbit hole,  because that doesn’t warrant a public disclosure of the weakness of the systems in place (of which there are a few dozen examples if not more). We will focus on the basic nuts and bolts of their front end customer sites/ digital customer engagement and the evolution of mobile banking or the lack their off.

I am selecting these banks in no particular order. Lets start with the mind set of digital and servicing banking customers in the age of technology.

Let me demonstrate how UBL is handling customer engagement on the Google Play Store.

 

This has to be a world first, an Eid Mubarak message within play store comments responses. Before the trolls start about oh we should be proud of Eid and whats wrong with wishing people on Eid, absolutely nothing. This just demonstrates the mindset of the person replying to these messages and the mind set of the folks who run or comprise  the digital function at UBL. Perhaps its not their fault either as the strategy arms of these banks are forcing down digital as a department vs trying to instill digital across the enterprise as an activity of transformation.  The image that comes to my mind is that of a an uber sweet 50+ uncle at UBL who has been assigned the task of responding to these messages after 30 years at the bank(BCCI Era) and with a view to give him his final pre retirement role. You dont believe me? See the an other example below.

A lovely message before Sehri. I mean talk about keeping it professional. What I am trying to get at is the fact that before Fintech destroys traditional banking in Pakistan, the traditional banking IT/Digital/Strategy guys would have already helped the cause fueled by their respective CEOs desire to “be digital” without knowing what the hell it means.

In the year 2017, the least I’d like to see is a functional mobile site. Lets see Bank Al Falah’s latest and great foray into this space. First of all half the text on the site is not legible due to bad font selection and sizing. Secondly the site barely cuts as a responsive site. Let us not even get started on thematic and lay out mistakes and the color red.

 

Trust me there is no way you can read the font the arrows are pointing towards. In this day and age of responsive, this design in it self is circa 1998 at best. Who makes sites like these? let alone banking site, where consumer education is key and information clarity is the difference between engagement only and engagement + conversion. This truly sucks.

One could over look a few UI/UX items but this site is riddled with them. No call to action any where, when a consumer comes to the site they come online to BANK or to Interact with the services. The drones who are building these sites are using them as a corporate/marketing site. There in is the issue, these rock stars of digital have not figured out the difference between a corp site and a consumer site.

I think a basic pre-requisite should be spell check.

But I digress. See this:)

In the year 2017 it should be a crime to have an info scroll menu being cut off (see the arrows).The slider box contents have to slide right to be displayed on mobile. I rest my case, if you cant pass on your information on a mobile platform let alone in a single interaction, why are you even in business? Is no one asking what the cost of rolling out these sites + the cost of the digital departments is, in relation to the online conversion and reduction to 1st level call center support. They should be directly proportional, first call resolution services should see a decline of 20% if an online site is capable of doing that for consumers.

But the best is yet to come.

The award for sloppiness, and lack of imagination goes to this main page, which has not one 1 menu, but see the arrows, 2 menus. Had the bank like a billion new exciting digital features that they wanted people to discover I’d get excited about this cardinal design sign. But it even the content is the same/similar in both menus.

Head of digital much? This is a question for basic common sense.

This stuff didn’t happen over night, nor can it be fixed over night. Banks give rise to  the most un imaginative breed in this country. To look at mobile evolution, you have to look at web evolution. I couldn’t resist going back to way back machine and look at HBL. I will let you decide, how far they have come in their evolutionary journey.

 

From 2008-2013 literally nothing changed online for HBL.

Lets look at 2017

Not much has changed either visually or operationally, same center image construct, with a menu on the right/in this case its kept with technical advancements:), same/similar top menu. So since 2013 what is the innovation that happened here? How can the largest bank in Pakistan innovate if the custodians of digital cant even get the basics right.

They arent doing any better on the Mobile banking side either.

As a consumer, when I come online to the Banks site the first thing I should be able to do is login to my account. Every single one of these so called digitally innovative or leading edge banks have failed at the first call to action(Login). I wonder how their CEOs judge the KPIs of their digital folks. How can you in this day an age build a banking website that doesn’t have a logon item front and center.

Interestingly as I browsed through various banking sites in my effort to find one decent example, I wasnt let down. Perhaps there are many others, but in terms of size scale and resources Summit bank actually had a call to action/LOGIN and an URDU button visible on mobile + their UAN and email address.

Alfalah and HBL both had it post one click meaning within an other menu. Summit also had the 2 menu problem(see next to the Urdu icon) but luckily one menu is just a CSS mistake and doesn’t do much on responsive:) But clearly there is no QA any where.

Coming back to UBL. They seem confused, their site opens up with a site selector on mobile to select region. It clearly doesn’t look responsive, it looks like a mobile ready site no less:) from 2001.

It should pick up your ip and take you to where you need to go, that stuff is free to implement and reduces one click.

When you do get to your so called mobile site, the following disappointment awaits you.

I mean look at the dead space. This has to be criminal in this day and age to have a mobile site that looks/works like this.

This stuff is followed up by the following stunts and I quote from the Banks own PR. http://bit.ly/2y0YIKt

KARACHI, PAKISTAN – 21 August 2017: IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that United Bank Limited (UBL) has selected IBM to support its digital transformation journey by establishing a Digital Design Lab, the first of its kind in Pakistan, to weave a seamless digital banking experience into customers’ daily lives. The lab will provide an environment for UBL’s interdisciplinary teams as well as its network of start-ups, fintechs, ecosystem partners, and academia to develop personalized and engaging digital customer experiences.

I dont know who should be more ashamed, the Banks CEO, IBM(for being an opportunist) or the banks Head of Digital, if they have one. For a bank that cant make decent responsive website the above sounds like hot air at the least and misguided adventure at best.

I hope the bank sees the irony in the disconnect. IBM Pakistan must be lauded for their foresight to make some money off folks who are clueless about what the digital journey means. This market and these banks are ripe for the taking.

In the same spirit. Lets talk about speed and some basic form of technical serviceability bench marks. In the mobile space to leapfrog from mobile to fintech to consumer fintech the one thing every one must get right to get the unbanked on to your platforms and services is speed and delivery of your technical site(payload)/service in the least amount of data streams as the consumer is conscious of their data spend. Lets look at how most of the banks in the country perform on the speed to performance co efficient. In no particular order.

 

 

Lets not go too far to compare. The first bank that came to my mind in India ICIC bank. I ran the same test on.

 

It has a 30 + point lead as compared to our banks on average. Its a mind set thing, you don’t have to be 100 on the scale to be great. You just have to work towards improving. What I have seen so far is a lot of mis guided non sense labelled as digital strategy.

I dont claim to know every thing, heck the intent of this blog post is from the point of a consumer who wishes to use mobile banking, I am happy to sit down with any one who has the wherewithal to recognize that a problem exists and then work on trying to find a solution so that this eco system of Fintech’s can actually benefit from the banking players(due to regulatory hurdles), who at this stage first need to get their own house in order to even remotely be competitive as banks let alone against Fintech companies.

Its a matter of time only, as the regulations ease out, the Fintech’s wont need the banks, the banks will be a dying breed looking to partner with Fintech’s to stay alive. Right now the banks have an unfair advantage viz a vi regulation, it is their hour to exploit it to their benefit. Sooner rather than later all this Digital strategy stuff will go down the drain and shareholders of these banks will be left without knowing what hit them.

If you are the head of digital at a bank, hopefully the CEO of your bank doesn’t read blogs and you can dismiss this as what ever you want to dismiss it as, if you are the CEO of any of the banks I mentioned, you need to sit down with your chieftains and figure this basic stuff out, before you are mis led in to believing numbers and indexes and kpi’s that were invented to make these digital types look good, you have a real issue on your hands. If you dont innovate fast enough its over.

 

 

 

Hello Developers….Are you building for the Onavo mindset?

So I was wondering how Facebook identifies upcoming companies, startups , products and competition. How did FB decide to acquire Whatsapp? How does it see traction? What tell tale signs is it mining for? Beyond trends there has to be hard data and user attribution that is allowing it to completely destroy the competition or rather either acquire or copy them.

The secret weapon is Onavo. They came to FB via a 2013 Acquisition.

Onavo was founded in 2010 by Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger; it raised $13 million from Sequoia Capital and others. It provides mobile data usage analytics and helps companies see how their usage stacks up against other companies.

So the stated acquisition goal was to help bolster its internet.org initiative as the underlying sorcery Onavo was doing at the time was measuring and controlling data usage etc. Simplistically speaking, plus it gave FB its first office in the Holy Land, not that they couldn’t go to and build an office in Tel Aviv.

But the added value of the data apps that they built, was what was under its belly, the analytics biz, which gives app makers the ability to gauge how their apps fare on the open market, as well as giving more insight into how people actually use the apps after they’ve downloaded them.

Imagine, Facebook can use that download and user activity data to spot trends in apps that are up and coming, potentially spotting at a very early stage the types of apps that are gaining traction with the public and what the end intent of that app or service or network is.

FB is doing a great job at it, they are approaching potential threats faster, doing more acquisitions faster and also they are not shy any more of copying features once they identify them.

From a Corp Biz Dev standpoint that’s the nirvana of information dis partiy. Facebook’s corporate development team can then check out these companies and enter partnership deals early on in the game — or perhaps just outright buy and hold them .

So my fellow developers from Pakistan, what you need to be working on is stuff that scales and build traction, FB is apparently watching. So instead of focusing our time on Meme Forwarding, we need to figure out how we commercialize a 56m+ internet audience + active daily users to satiate FBs interest. Remember it doesn’t have to make money yet, it only has to have an audience and active user base at scale. They could care less if it makes money. So stop. Pause , calibrate and think. Perhaps you have an idea that by design you can make-work.

Today when I look at Onavos, new and improved app and check out their privacy policy, I can be certain that they are enjoying the oodles of data we are all providing them.

We do not share or sell your personally identifying information to third parties except if we have received your consent or given you notice, or in limited circumstances described in this Policy. For example, we may share personally identifying information with third parties and “Affiliates” (businesses that are or become legally part of the same group of companies that Onavo is part of, including but not limited to Facebook, Inc.) to operate, maintain and enhance the Services, or for other purposes as described below. 

Pretty freaky stuff if you are paranoid about privacy. But if you use FB today you already gave up most of those rights.

Some argue the market size is not large enough and FB really isn’t interested in Pakistan. On the contrary, FB at the moment has product teams working on analyzing the data and insights its getting from FB users from Pakistan as is evident from country specific items showing up within FB. Small subtle hints like Urdu text appearing in shared FB links, the FB OG tags them selves have new undertones supporting some product localization efforts.

Rest assured they are trying to figure out all kinds of sharing habits, they have enough meta data. I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the largest (original) news/information/content source in Pakistan in months and years to come given they have exacting level details on every target demographic and their sharing and consumption habits. Keep this in perspective, every time a marketer sets up a FB campaign for a client, FB has access to that data, they can almost in real time track the full lifecycle of that activity. Similarly the single biggest nugget of information FB has is access to political sentiment data. We will leave it at that, but the Trump campaign apparently relied on FB to Swing voter sentiment. So just saying, imagine the real power FB has with this data at play.

FB like Google has no office in PK perhaps they don’t need to. Their recent VP level engagement with the government shows that they are intrigued enough to come out to protect their interests. They just don’t know with the political climate at play, what side to join. Like Google they can get most of their stuff done remotely. Or hire third party contractors to provide local context to data without actually telling the poor data analysts what the end outcome of this data collection will yield. If they were smart(which they clearly are) they would be pairing psychometric and demographic info an adding a contextual layer to it to basically understand both market trends and growth opportunities. Given at their scale the total market growth opportunity for them in Pakistan is probably worth investigating but not action up on yet.

If they were to launch their marketplace feature in Pakistan, they would wipe clean every single Craigslist variant in the market, Kaymu etc folding in to their parent are fairly good examples of times to come. It would also completely clean house on the private seller groups on FB as there would be a natural tendency for people to move to the market place model, as you add secure payment on top of it, it would essentially clean up the mid market e-commerce folks also. Don’t know what FBs grand plans are in that space but clearly a lot of hustle is happening. Facebook is getting stingy about Pakistan based content producers accounts to be verified also, in its mind as the smaller guys who own large market views will become a big challenge if they are verified. Hence there is no clear policy on verification and based on market sentiment, private small publisher who have 10-20M Page views are constantly being denied the proverbial gold standard, albeit the blue verified status.

I am sure from mom and pop sellers to folks selling scorpions on FB are clearly trends worth exploring. The moral of the story is, there are many ways to stand out especially if you have a product, service or content play that can attract X-Million active users in Pakistan. The larger the scale and larger the active user demographic, with a compelling idea or product, you will be noticed by FB. Make sure you have a Delaware corporation that your are tied to, else the legal formalities of either investing in you or acquiring you will be a larger pipe dream than actually building a product that gets acquired. Lots of good things are happening in this space, keep your eyes out, build products that scale fast build market traction and will remain locally relevant. FB will come calling.

Digital Displacement Camp | PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Experience the highs and lows of a startup and entrepreneurship in |1| Day.

 

Who is this #BC (Boot-Camp) for?

  • An entrepreneur or any serious entrepreneur.  What you should be thinking before you think about coming. I have an early-stage startup or aspire to start one. I want to get on a path to a paying customer and want to understand the mind set to build, grow and scale.
  • A corporate entrepreneur- (Intrapreneur ). I work at a growth-stage startup or established enterprise. I want to help my company innovate. At the Boot Camp I will learn new tools and will learn from ideas and innovation around me to take new learning’s and a new mindset back to my company. Hopefully they will change or I will do some thing with my time that brings change and focus on launching some thing my self.
  • A team or group of folks. You want to work with us to develop a rigorous business plan, pressure-test your processes and become a better team but don’t know where to get started? Then you must come.
  • Any one who feels he/she is underwhelmed by life and wants to do some thing about it,  a retired professional or  a wealthy individual or a retired wealthy individual , who doesn’t know what to do, but has the inkling to do some thing, also has some ideas perhaps some reserve funds, or a fantastic product that they’d like to commercialize or get involved in a cause that helps others around them by either their time, experience or money, you are welcome to register.

Here’s how you can still register

https://goo.gl/RG7n7k

 

Challenge Yourself

Entry to spend a fully day at DDC is highly selective because time is precious; we only want to bring those who have committed to building their own Displacement Capital TM. Many will apply. Only a few will make it through to the initial bootcamp. Its all about mind set, if you didn’t bother to fill out the form beyond a few lines, you need to do better next time.

 

Window into You

Learn more about your own strengths and weaknesses. Working with “randomly selected” teammates who are the same but completely different, not only helps you become a better listener but also more open-minded and trying to learn to de construct problems and get a window into seeing your self from a distance and interpret the best and worst of your self for better future outcomes.

 

Key Challenge + S

At the end of the day, attendees will identify a key challenge to solve, present their solution and receive specific, and actionable feedback not a pat on the back, in fact the idea is to make you recognize failure and success so you can either re calibrate and move on or scale and grow.

 

What can I possibly Learn in a Day? (at least one thing more than you knew coming in)

– Team Dynamics & Conflict Resolution
– How to think about innovation , Identification of problems & Ideation
– Establishing Product Market Fit
– Scaling for Exponential Growth and thinking BIG

 

What are the Stretch Goals of the session?

– Learn to solve challenges in a disciplined & systematic way.
– Experience the challenges of 2-3 years of startup life in 1 day
– Develop a can do attitude and take things head on
– Believe in your self and your idea(s)

When is this happening?

SAT 19th of August

Where is this Happening?

Karachi, confirmed participants will be given location details 6 days in advance.

How long does this last?

It runs from 9am to 6pm. Its free to attend , Lunch will be served.

Who will run the session(s)?

The primary session/day long activity will be run by Faizan Siddiqi (www.linkedin.com/in/faizansiddiqi ) http://blog.chinookstrategy.com

There will be guest appearances through the day for 30 mins each, which we will confirm to the participants once we make final selections given the sheer volume of interest we want to make sure we invite meaningful speakers to maximize the utility of every ones time. Keep an eye out for this space, I will be sharing speaker updates here.

 

Happy Learning.

 

No way Out! Zero Sum Game.

Dynastic politics is killing us, it is killing our youth it is killing every thing in its path. The only way out is to stop caring and stop following them and stop voting for them and best of all stop watching and discussing them. Period.

We have 2 varieties in the last 5 years or so, the twitter media cell type and the non national language speaking, reading off a Roman Urdu tele-prompter type. Worse than the a** that says skoority(security). These 2 types are the self professed leaders of our past present and future. Even in death they are f***i*ng zinda. Wonder why the religious zealots haven’t come out in droves giving fatwas on the “still alive” statuses of the various cult groups.

After the Panama drama nothing has happened really, besides the fact that some other scandals to either divert attention or to keep busy, its becoming a national occupation to tie up peoples mind in meaningless banter and to reduce the national IQ far below pre partition. As Ive stated in the past, As a country, three businesses have survived the test of time in Pakistan. Politics, Military and Religion (PMR).

Where as, in the grand scheme of things we should worry about running the country. We literally have nothing to show for the last 70, we are here in spite of these moronic so called leaders, not because of them. If it was up to them we’d be bankrupt, just like they are; morally and ethically bankrupt the country would be too, so we must do some thing worth while to make the next 70 count.

I have come to the conclusion that we are too lazy for revolutions because it means getting out of our comfort zone and hoping some one else comes and does it for us. The the three pillars of PMR (Politics, Military and Religion) have basically been self balancing as they out maneuver each other for their own survival thus as a consequence the country has remained, because they need the country for their cause, but their cause is not the country.

Todays post is about the genuine problems the government and so called other powers be must look to solve or for you to read and understand that irrespective your

Irrespective of your Political alignment , you are being f**d and have been consistently f**d because no government ever or any political party has done any thing to focus on the country. The country is like a private stage where warring political factions sling mud on each other and the numb “riaya” chants them on whilst the (MR) plays referee because we let them. Just like I give startups ideas and suggestions on what problems to solve or build startups around, I am compelled to direct the attention of the idiots in power to solve the following and their followers to understand the gravity of cluster f**k we are all in.

Items that are beyond race, religion or creed that need immediate attention are:

  1. Clean Drinking water
  2. Counter measures to DAMs being built by India
  3. Internal food security before allowing the Big C(hina) or others Farm Access
  4. Power independence and short fall mediation (read non Qatri LNG)
  5. Disease Management (beyond fake plastic health cards)
  6. Industrial Pollution and Long term health damage due to an inefficient EPA (beyond handing out masks to traffic wardens)
  7. Implementation of CNIC based TAX reforms across the board(unlike selective score settling)
  8. Tax on Agriculture (so that the rich from behind bullshit stops)
  9. Figuring out foreign policy by having a foreign minister who knows some thing about foreign affairs besides having lived in a foreign country and worked at a bank till the 90s, I digress we also had a PM who was a banker, seemingly cut fantastic deals for him self in the process/*Allegedly before his PR teams start taking shots at the blog.
  10. Having some one who knows some thing about technology and has built some thing of value besides their reputation using local media to be in charge of our technology policy and be a steering force for the youth as opposed to being a mythical character yearning for the love of the PMR crew. (read selfies with politicians and of prayers and brandishing guns to show relevance to all three)
  11. Access to open market to compete against the industrial complex owned by various Pillars of PMR.

This list can have dozens of additions but a baseline is to get these 11 addressed or start a meaningful discussion.

The question to ask is that are we collectively stupid? We all know that the XYZ Minister ka bhanja whose car you like, neither paid the duty on it nor has he earned an honest days wages to understand the value of buying the car from his personal equity let alone the fact that he lives rent free.

Whilst his “rich from behind ass” rents their land to the most marginalized in society to farm a piece of land yet pay no taxes on the accrued income built on the sweat, blood and tears of the most poor. Yet we continue to hero worship and idolize these bozos. It also applies to the uncle-business man down the street whose middle name is under invoicing but he is at the forefront of the construction of the muhallay ki masjid, whilst his sons Facebook wall reads like a hustler memoir.

This must stop and the youth must stop idolizing these guys, we need better role models, not necessarily rich but who have a sound ethical grounding and are not morally bankrupted. We need to call out this bullshit where we see it. Starting from the morons who beat the lines in a Bank queue to pay bills to the guy who cuts line at airport check in because he has some uniformed dude with him. Raise your voice, no one else will, try it, its not civil dis-obedience its your right. Exercise it ask questions. Don’t become the moral police though and dont have visions of grandeur.

This culture of entitlement, waasta, juggar, hawala has to stop. Some one must step up to call it out. It must be you. We must encourage our kids to admire their teachers, their mentors and offer to be role models in every thing we do as parents, colleagues, friends, neighbors and family. As opposed to opulence, wealth, television fame etc being their role models. Till we fix that, this will remain a zero sum game for all times to come.

Sadly the generation before us was too afraid to engage with these type and because nothing was said, nothing was done(because of their own sharafat), they remained silent so first these morally bankrupted moved in to our  Cities, then Muhallas and utilimately in to our lives. This culture of badmashi and speeding cars with guards brandishing guns must stop. Cant the oh so honorable establishment not take action on limiting access to guns and display of such. They do a good job of making rules for various clubs they run, like you cant wear slippers and shorts in the clubs. Clearly this stuff is more dangerous right in the neighborhoods and streets our children call home. The likelihood of getting assaulted or harmed by nicker wearing middle aged man with slippers is far less than a thug with assault rifles carried by guards high on shit.

We must also select product to market fit in government and all other elements of the state, starting from hiring people who know what they are doing and clean up the messy system we have, because its broken from top down and bottom up.

We must also rely on market forces to allow companies to compete and grow. A cursory look from a Senate hearing in July 2016 where in newspapers of the country reported that every major commercial space had some form of the welfare trust participation in it. Take a look for your self, how will the youth of this country compete against such an  industrial complex be gainfully employed in with out an “M-background” of sorts.

So from Horse breeding, to seeds, to aircraft services, to oil, gas , power, fertilizer, cereal, food, housing schemes, leasing , insurance, education, medical , foreign direct investment outside of Pakistan  the list goes on. Can you imagine the US Marines retired or other wise or the Canadians for that matter running a horse breeding business and making breakfast cereal, so instead of Kellogs wed have Marine Cereal ? Yet we grew up eating

How did all this happen? Did we get inspired by General Mills.

The popular joke from the 60s goes that when  when Golda Meir  met with President Nixon, he told her that he would trade any three American generals for General Moshe Dayan. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll take General Motors, General Electric, and General Dynamics.

Such was the lust for the American Generals of Industry. Other versions of the story claim that he said he would trade 4  Generals and she asked for “General Mills, General Dynamics, General Motors & General Electric”. What ever the case may be it makes for an interesting story.

Was there no one else available to launch commercial businesses? Thats what I some times wonder. Clearly they are being run well at least as they are profitable and typically in a monopolistic position and making acquisitions. But I rest my case. The issue always has been that a chosen few are in control of the destiny of a lot of others , but you have the opportunity to change that. By working your way via innovation and disruption in tech. Not the political disruption, the time for that is over. But since you were wondering, here’s a LIST of all those businesses.

 So nothing is perfect, far from it, we have every conceivable business advantage going to the political types who by force or by bending the rule of law evade taxes and get undue benefits and continue to exploit information disparity in their favor; where in Gwadar will XYZ be built, then proceeding to buy land around it or getting their cement brand being sanctioned for a government project , the ways and methods are many, so how can any one else get a chance in this crony system? Its tough, but we must think it has to start somewhere, by calling out shit when we see it. For example why the f**k dont I have an oil exploration concession or and LNG Pump or Pump(s) or what about a Sugar Mill?

I am not old enough to know the historical context in person but I do have the right to find out why some thing the way it is. As do you. Without accepting the status quo.

Albeit in 1953 this was all the start of a welfare corporation to support those who had served. Zero contest on that point we must take care of our own especially who those who serve and protect. Always and forever till life eternal but no one has the right to tell me what to believe and what questions to ask or not ask.

How did a welfare trust in 1953 result in 50 commercial enterprises. Most of it by an obscure yet very powerful act namely the THE CHARITABLE ENDOWMENTS ACT, 1890.

Yup you read that right 1890. Not 1980. I mean we have to modernize and move on.

Even if that was the case then, why now  can  they not be run by a public private partnership where operationally they must be expanded like a reverse nationalization project but this time for the welfare of the masses?

If this industrial complex produces a couple of billion $s then imagine if we took our brightest, infused it into it, we would build national companies that would create un surpassed employment and innovation at scale and not be monopolistic in nature but pure enterprises benefiting all and sundry.

Now that is a proposition that would truly make us a welfare state when we have enough cash in the coffers via such private enterprise funding the rest of us. The welfare of the state before any one else, so we must work on some thing that course corrects our current state for the next 70 years. Just a thought, if welfare is the premise then all citizens are created equal.

If that is a past item in history then why must I not, the average citizen of Pakistan have the first right to apply for the right to be the CEO or Board Member of these firms ? Does welfare mean patronage on both ends of spectrum? Land allocations in service and other subsidies, and corporate jobs post retirement?

Were these companies created to provide post retirement value addition services in a country where there are youth who are un employed by the hundreds of thousands. Agreed the state must provide for post retirement benefits of service men. But through commercial enterprise. A great example is to setup a pension fund perhaps one comparable to Veterans Pension or  OTTP or OMERS

88m$ of OUR  national forex sent to Morocco to start a plant? Could those funds be used on education or health care in my own country? If welfare is the crux of the system, what about welfare for all of us , domestically?

But its all out there in the public domain, I’m neither referring to some thing new or asking a new questions the thing is, our collective memory is so short, we don’t remember any thing and we get back to our national past time of watching political stupidity on television and never come to core issues long enough to ask or inquire and or to get answers.

This stuff is available in print and online and these organizations are the fiber of our national economic activity(which by the way on its own is good for the economy at large, creating jobs and supporting trade) Just that public debate beyond text messages should be undertaken on every thing in the land that affects every one in the land.

The list of questions goes on and the answers not as much, because no one really gives a damn to ask we are so tied up with our collective misery to give a rats a**. Further any items on this have their own repercussion’s because god forbid any critique or asking questions is the equivalent of loss of valor and patriotism. All that too is in the minds of the people and the stories being sown via text books from an era gone by, in 10 years with information parity and some form of education displacement I am hopeful we will focus on building unicorns as opposed to believing in them:)

But for now for us to succeed in business at home in our families and in life at large we must call out the bullshit being served to us, we are neither indebted to any one or enslaved to one political mind set or an other, I owe nothing to any one, it is as much my country as any one else’s and I hope yours too, thus I urge you to take a stand, it has to start some where. Stand does not mean a grand stand. It means to focus your energy on productive items.

Let it start by asking the right questions and by giving up hero worship and by un-following every one on FB/Twitter/Instrgram you follow because of wealth(mostly ill gotten) because its great to see their vacation pictures or their “friends” etc. That shit is short lived, fake and at best marred with inter family and inter communal jealousies and hatred to last a life time. Its not the stuff of legends lets focus away from it. There is better stuff to be done with our time.

Time to f**ing move on and do some worth while as opposed to wait for some one to hand you an opportunity or by trying to hang around these losers in hope of getting dealt some favor or some contract or some access or some material information that will let you make a buck. Scr**w all of that, in technology you have the single largest equalizer, put your mind to good use, do some thing worth while, I guarantee all these guys will line up around the block to hang out with you. So don’t get impressed easily, write off  these *nouveau riche  as the barometer of success and take a stand for your rights starting from today, mostly by asking questions and focusing your energy on building some thing at scale. There is a way out, you must want it badly enough! Also its not an iqama in Dubai or Saudia. Onwards and forwards to building Unicorns.

 

“Wherever they may have come from, and wherever they may have gone, unicorns live inside the true believer’s heart. Which means as long as we can dream, there will be unicorns.”

Bruce Coville

Bring your ‘A’ game Pakistan

The Valley is always a unique experience. But this time around it is proving to be a fairly eye opening one. There is more capital than opportunities, for VCs to put money in. LATAM to Central Europe to China to India, to South East Asia there is a VC gold rush. No one wants to miss out and be fired in the process.

The level of fake BS is also on the up and up. Every VC I’ve met so far is focused on AI, ML in emerging markets. A vast majority of these guys are lip servicing because one or more of their peers are operating in this new space.

Frankly it sucks to see this over abundance of capital in these markets whilst there is little to none in ours. Interestingly enough the reason for this capital or the ecosystem is due to the fact that the startups of yesteryears are now the VCs. Thus solidifying the belief that we need to promote startups as best as we can to grow and scale. Plus these countries are well represented in the valley and one common thread amongst the markets where these startups come from, Google pretty much has a presence every where locally i.e an office.

Pakistan not as much. There is representation, there is interest, but some how the needle is stuck as us being a sales destination or net consumer of Google tech /service as opposed to a net producer destination. Google isn’t to blame for any of this, if any thing they are the net positive contributor to Pakistan even getting a seat at the table. Not because we don’t have interesting companies but because there is a lot to be desired with the optics. Every one I’ve met this week, was surprised that I hail from Pakistan, that there are tech startups in Pakistan, that my last Company IPOd at LSE , that we have built technology featured across Google I/O and that there is a Google supported incubator in Karachi. So far so good. The thing missing is a large scale disruptive story out of Pakistan and I do not mean political, I mean a startup story of success.

The thing is, after multiple mentorship sessions and interacting with diverse startups from across the world, the one theme that is clear, startups every where want one thing , “they want to change the game” and it starts and ends with the team at play. Ideas come and go, the people who can execute them are the real game changes, so we need to promote the right teams and enable people to think big.

An other notable thing here is camaraderie, there are clusters of close relationships, people help each other and we must borrow a page from that manual. The other not so surprising thing is the age of the founders and companies. Compared to both our ecosystem and the typical businesses heroes we celebrate in Pakistan, we need a wholesale change. Tech, really is the only thing that can create Displacement Capital and empower gains larger than the cost of input. Till we start displacing old money and old capital by creating new money and new capital at scale we are doomed. We need to think big and dream big.

(To get started with this exercise I will run “DCC- Displacement Capital Camp” in Karachi in August and get the ball rolling on this).

Our startups are no less smart and no less driven, but we need to think about solving global problems as a starting point. I met some one on the sidelines who told me they wanted to build a 5b$ company. Call it crazy talk but he got my attention, you cant build billion dollar companies if you are looking to raise 50k$. The scale has to change. The thinking has to change. Most of all the mentors and role models need to change. The ecosystem needs to get more examples of actual doers rather than self promoters, don’t get me wrong plenty of those around in the valley too. No shortage any where in the world of those types.

The thing is, resources are scarce competition is tough, for our startups to scale and grow we need to bring our ‘A’ game to the table else we will be irrelevant in the business of Unicorns.