This Pakistani tech entrepreneur refused to accept failure
“I’ve always found comfort outside my comfort zone” – Qasim Asad Salam
Qasim Asad Salam’s company, RemoteBase recently raised $1.4 million from Silicon Valley investors. He runs a team of approximately forty talented developers and has established his presence as a tech entrepreneur not only in Pakistan but also in the United States.
But behind these back to back triumphs lies a tale of insurmountable resilience, anguish and failure.
Obsessed with tech as a child, Qasim built his first website at the age of 11. It seemed like a meaningless hobby to many observers who could never imagine how tech would come to dominate the world but the young adolescent had somewhat, figured it out.
While his peers sought the comfort of established family businesses, traditional career paths and comfortable lives, Qasim chose the road less travelled, a path of discomfort, risk and hard work which would ultimately lead to the disruption of Pakistan’s tech ecosystem.
“I think that every single failure is an opportunity to learn and if you don’t fail, you are probably in your comfort zone but I’ve always found comfort in not being in my comfort zone,” Qasim told The Pakistan Daily about his concept of failure.
Before becoming a multi-millionaire, Qasim has had his fair stints of failure. As a university student in LUMS, Qasim built an anonymous social network, Campusfeed where students from different university campuses could engage in conversations without filtration or censorship.
A huge success initially, Campusfeed spread like wildfire in LUMS, LSE and various other university campuses in Lahore. The Startup was incubated by Plan9 and was able to attract a sizeable investment, however, the idea could not work out.
This did not deter Qasim nor lower his spirits. He used his experience to grow his IT consultancy business and continued providing services to various Pakistani and international companies.
As a youngster who loved to create things, Qasim pitched creating websites for free to businesses just so he could build his portfolio. While most agreed, Qasim recalls that a CEO of a major fashion brand asked, “What’s the catch? There’s no free lunch”.
Whether the world was kind or harsh to Qasim, he kept going, one obstacle after the other, he never accepted failure.
Once he had built a team of talented engineers, Qasim along with his partner, Talha Masood invested heavily in an Artificial Intelligence tool to track engineer performance called Worky.ai.
The team invested time and money to build this project and were sure that it would significantly revolutionalise how engineer performance was tracked, however, this also, did not work out.
Undeterred by failure, Qasim and Talha founded RemoteBase only ten months ago. They had excellent links with Silicon Valley companies and had a pool of talented engineers at their doorstep.
This dynamic led to an extremely successful business model which created a win-win situation for all the elements in their businesses. Silicon Valley companies could hire remote working teams comprised primarily of Pakistani engineers at a much lower rate than the valley while Pakistani engineers got the chance to work with the most advanced tech companies in the world. The credit for creating this system goes to Qasim which might not have been possible without his earlier failure.
After trying and failing and repeating the cycle, Qasim had finally made it. His company was growing at an exponential rate every month which caught the eye of Silicon Valley investors who believed that RemoteBase was potentially a unicorn (billion-dollar company), and they wanted in on the action.
Aatif Awan, a former Vice President at the professional networking app Linkedin expressed an interest in RemoteBase. He had founded a Venture Capital fund called Indus Valley Capital which itself had raised $17.5 million.
Commenting on his latest investment, Aatif said: “Remotebase is a crucial piece of the puzzle for the Pakistani tech ecosystem to earn its well-deserved place in the world. As tech companies go remote, Remotebase can help Pakistani talent fulfil this demand and gain experience with the best startups around the world.
“Over time this will also materially increase the supply of experienced tech professionals in the country, benefiting all local companies. We’re thrilled about our mission alignment with RemoteBase and are excited to back them,” he added.
US billionaire Tim Draper, who has invested in Skype, Hotmail, Twitter and Tesla was also part of the round led by Aatif. In a short period, RemoteBase rose from an obscure startup to getting one of the biggest seed round investments ($1.4 million), for any Pakistani company.
Tim Draper said: “Knowing Qasim and having seen him work right outside my office, I can say that he and his team are going to take Remotebase to the moon. We are so proud of what they have achieved so far, and are looking forward to helping him and his team on this incredible journey”.
Umar Saif, who has made magnanimous contributions to the tech ecosystem of Pakistan said: “As companies go remote, they are looking to hire software engineers from all over the world and Pakistan can benefit from this immensely. Pakistani engineers are some of the most talented engineers I have worked with in the past. All they require is good training and direction, and I can see Remotebase doing that,”
Talha Masood, the Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder of RemoteBase said: “No individual should be discriminated against in terms of race, colour, nationality or gender and the world should be made more inclusive as a whole.”
Talha Masood is considered to be one of the top software engineers in Pakistan. Commenting on his partner’s role in RemoteBase Qasim said: “None of this would’ve been possible without my co-founder Talha who is mostly seen working behind the scenes, and takes care of training the engineers, mentoring them, advising them and making sure they deliver their best. He’s the backbone of RemoteBase.”
Qasim says that this investment is only the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey and he would use this money to grow RemoteBase’s operations by 400% by the end of 2021.
Advising young entrepreneurs who struggle with their business ideas, Qasim Salam advised: “Statistically speaking entrepreneurship does not make a lot of sense, especially a tech startup because the chances of failure are so high but if you don’t take failure as failure but take it as a learning opportunity, then you are bound to succeed.”