My roots allow me to connect with 2 entrepreneurial ecosystems, US and Pakistan. This has allowed me to connect with both successful and aspiring entrepreneurs in Pakistan, do workshops when I visit, and also interview the ones that are helping accelerate the growth of startups over there.
Today, I’m bringing you one of those facilitators, Nabeel Qadeer. Well, calling him a facilitator would be an understatement. Nabeel is
- Director of Entrepreneurship at PITB, which is the equivalent of a state ministry. The chairman of that board, Umar Saif, is also a remarkable technologist and visionary, and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him on my previous podcast
- Head of Plan9, an incubator in Lahore, my hometown. Plan9 sends startups to the US twice a year as part of a partnership with the US State Department and City of Austin. In fact, this episode was recorded a few days after a cohort of those startups visited their business
- Anchor / Content producer of Pakistan’s first business-reality show, Idea Croron Ka “A Million Dollar Idea”, a show watched by 5-7M people. The focus of our episode is the creation and execution of this show.
This episode was recorded in Capital Factory, to which I just won a 6-month membership in a pitch competition at the University of Texas.
In the middle of the show, we move rooms to avoid the heat pouring down and the creaking of the chairs… so, yeah just letting you know ha.
As always, let me know you’re listening in by tweeting @fireshowpodcast or @notthatmoby. You can continue this conversation with Nabeel by tweeting him @nabeelaq
Ladies, gents, lizard people running the world, enjoy.
Nabeel Qadeer Interview (1)
Moby: Hi, Nabeel?
Nabeel: Hi, how are you?
Moby: [Non-English]. How is Austin going for you?
Nabeel: Lovely place, not my first time so Austin’s now kind of become a second home to all of us in Pakistan, considering the recent relationship between Lahore and Austin. [Non-English]. Oh, it’s creeping results, and I can clearly see how Austin is so nicely welcomed us as a community and as an ecosystem.
Moby: I love Austin. I’ve here seven years. And we were talking about this before, there’s so many places … California used to be … is still the head of entrepreneurship, especially funding. But Austin is creating this space in the ecosystem in the US and around the world with culture like South by, like the Mix festival you’re doing. And even entrepreneurship because right now we’re in Capital Factory. So you’re about … a lot about entrepreneurship. You start a company you said in 2000 and …
Nabeel: Back in 2007, 8.
Moby: When you were 24.
Nabeel: Well, I was 25.
Moby: You’re 25.
Moby: Okay, and what was that company about?
Nabeel: It was selling ERP’s then. I mean this is the medieval ages. So the company was about selling ERP solutions to local entrepreneurs, local sates as we say in Pakistan, small business owners, SME sector owners. So I had some connections in the business community, so all I did was I first started approaching people who sell candy, who sell cement, who sell all of these small medium enterprise stuff in Pakistan.
Moby: At a large scale.
Nabeel: At a large scale. So while I call them SMEs, they run the economy of the country, these businesses. Pakistan is primarily a SME run economy. So lots of SME based businesses. So I approached all of them, one after the other and I tried to understand their needs of automation. Because this is that era when businesses in the world had automated and people were going to a smart reporting and decision making.
Pakistan was 10 years behind, how may be? You were trying to get all act together in terms of having systems and procedures, having departmentalization, and a functional structure. We were there in terms of organization growth.
But technology plays a major role as a catalyst in businesses. And that’s what I wanted to promote in a community that was entirely non-tech.
So my first half of my life was about selling the concept of technology to businesses to automate them, so then you asked about that company, that’s what we used to do. Initially and for the first few years that’s all we did until I moved to the UK.
I was based out of Glasgow. I would hop into Manchester very often. And there we felt this need of something [unclear 02:55] an Indian friend who became a co-founder. We were doing …
Moby: We’re good.
Nabeel: Yeah, we’re doing management. And doing so one day I remember that, and this is very interesting incident. And I don’t want to really tell the young people to do this, but sometimes this works for entrepreneurs.
So I was selling ERP solutions. I had nothing to do with car parks. I repeat car parks, and you must be wondering why car parks. So the head of Barclays bank, I think the CTO, I don’t remember now. I guess I said it’s long time back or some CMO came to talk to our business school grads, students. And that was Strathclyde Business School the top school in Scotland.
And everybody was there, I mean, the cream of the faculty was there because he was some big deal. Before the coffee break, he goes, “Car parking is a major issue in London and Manchester and other parts of UK, very best. And just so you guys know we’re just looking at different solutions to find smart car park management.”
I heard it, my co-founder [unclear 04:07], smarter guy, definitely smarter than I am, looked at me and I looked at him. I said, “Why are you looking at me?” He said, “Let the coffee break happen. I have something in mind.” And I said, “Okay.” So we went off for coffee break. And he and I and Matt had talked and he said, “We’re going to go tell this guy we sell car park systems.” I said, “Dude, we don’t even know the ABC of car park systems. Are you sure you want to go down that road? I know where you’re going.”
The standard the in the Indian-Pakistani approach just make things happen. So it was a great accommodation both of us. So he’s like, “You’ve been selling software, right? You sell software.” I said, “Yes, but that’s ERPs. That’s inventory management, that’s point-of-sale, that’s production management system. That’s not car park management systems.”
Moby: Car parks, yeah. We don’t have the software yet.
Nabeel: We don’t a software yes. He said, “We just go and say in Pakistan you have car parks automated through a software.” And guess what? We went to him, we pitched this to him, we said we have this very small company with very small people.
So the story was 95% true. We did have a company, we did have people. What we were selling though is different. But we sold this to him, and guess what? And this is what I tell entrepreneurs, sometimes luck lays on your favor. He goes, “Well I’m giving you three weeks. Come back and do it to Manchester. I’ll set up a demo with my tech team. Give us a demo. And if we like it this is a very huge Barclays bank on Oxford Street in Manchester.
And he said, “We’ll set up a pilot there. We won’t pay you any money though.” We said, “Fantastic, not a problem, whatever you say.” Two days down the road I took a flight, went back to Pakistan, forget about my master’s, that will happen anyway. I got my team together, looked at parallel software and we built a little prototype.
We came back, took a train from Glasgow early in the morning, reached Manchester in five hours, went and waited there, presented. Guess what? We got our first break. They told us to put the software there.
Back then to two years counting and we had deployed our car park management system that we made out of our own mind in about 1600 different position. So we were about … we had 1600 plus deployments across Europe in two years. So it was 1600 deployments in two years, and hence the companies are doing well.
So my journey with entrepreneurship has been funny, but never did I thought that what I’m doing now I’d be doing this. See in an ecosystem, in Austin or in the Valley or in Pakistan there are two types of people, and I say this to entrepreneurs and people I meet that there’s one set of people who are doing things, right? They are entrepreneurs.
But there’s another set of people who are extremely important, who facilitate the doing bit, who become enablers, catalysts, who become people who will ensure that there is a play field for these entrepreneurs to play on. Pakistan had entrepreneurs. What Pakistan did not have was facilitators of entrepreneurs, what Pakistan did not have was incubators, Pakistan don’t have a school working spaces.
And the concept of coming up with an idea even if you have money or not, resources or not and you can create something great. This belief system did not exist. Hence, a lot of great engineers that Pakistan produces they ended up going to big companies to work for them, why? Because they knew – we don’t have much resources, we can never make a Dell, we can never have an IBM, we can never have these huge giant companies of our own. And that was the reason why we weren’t progressing as an ecosystem.
If you talked about Austin. Austin realized this I think about 10 to 15 years ago, and right now Austin if not better is as close or at par with the Valley in terms of the activity that exists …
Nabeel: … in the space of entrepreneurship in Austin. I have never seen a more active, more inviting incubator or a co-working space in the world. And by the way I’ve traveled. I’m telling you this with a lot of authority – Capital Factory in Austin is a unique example of success. Clearly it has become the heart of the ecosystem that exists for entrepreneurs in Austin.
I will not talk about Plan 9. That is what Umar Saif did. What he was able to do was he came up with … he took the brunt, he convinced the government, parked some money for it, and well, then the best thing he did after parking that money and creating that space he hired me. So the two good things.
So he asked me to come join him, and we built Plan 9 together. Plan 9 is the parallel of Capital Factory …
Moby: In Pakistan, yes, absolutely.
Nabeel: In Pakistan. It started stuff. I’m not saying we’re the best. I don’t like using such words best and largest and all these things. We may be, may not be, that’s questionable. What we have done though is we have kick-started the culture of indicators, co-working spaces, and let me go back to the same word – facilitators. The importance of facilitators in an ecosystem began because of Plan 9.
Then great people like Jahanara who’s built a nest in Karachi and [unclear 09:58] who did National Incubation Center in Islamabad that use of lots of great people. Who could have done other things with their lives, they went on to take the role of facilitators. And hence, now they’re doing great things for entrepreneurs and Pakistani entrepreneurs as you as you can see are more enabled, they’re more empowered, they have a voice. And that’s … I feel that’s a great achievement of the ecosystem.
Today Austin takes her seriously. That’s a big honor, because we had things to show. And let me be very open because people listen to you here in your show.
Moby: Hopefully. I hope you’re listening, yeah.
Nabeel: I’m of the belief that … I’ve talked to my best friends in the Capital Factory and other incubators here in Austin, and it gives me all of pride in saying this. They say that the cohort that comes from Pakistan every six months, the entrepreneurs who come from Pakistan every six months, they’re either better or at par with most entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs in Austin.
Nabeel: That’s quite an achievement for an ecosystem that literally kicked off five years ago. You were saying something.
Moby: We were at that pitch competition, the pitch thing like three days ago, right?
Nabeel: I love the questions you asked though. You’re focused on sales and customers that is painfully …. excruciatingly painfully too much.
Moby: Yeah, well, you’re a salesman too so you …
Nabeel: But I understand where you’re going with those questions, and it’s essential you ask those questions. But we’ll go on. You were saying something.
Moby: Thank you very much. Yeah, so so many pitch competitions that I’ve seen, that wasn’t I feel a pitch competition. That was a full-on business plan competition, which they’ve been doing that for two years. Because they’re not just showing a product, they’re showing a company.
Nabeel: And they have sales to back to them.
Moby: In multiple countries.
Moby: That I found was amazing.
Nabeel: So see this is … Why do I bring these people every six months? I want to show you, I want to show Austin, I want to show America that look from a country that has so many problems, that has really bad PR on media, that supposedly isn’t doing very well. But there is a small group of people, young people who are dreaming and who were achieving those dreams.
And those dreams they’re converting into numbers. And that’s what matters. That’s when the economy starts to get affected positively. And our young entrepreneurs see … They say and Mark Cuban says this – sales is cure for all.
Moby: Yeah, where did I hear that? Someone else said that recently. Interesting.
Nabeel: Yeah, so and it is. All of those problems … So if Pakistan has problems, our entrepreneurs need to go out there and do sales. They need to sell what they know and what they love. When they’ll sell it it’ll convert into money. Money would come directly into the economy. The country would prosper. Hence, it’s a very patriotic … Well, initiative to promote entrepreneurs in our country.
We feel we have no other way to come back and compete with the world, the best way to compete with the world and have our own standards is to promote our entrepreneurs. And that’s what we’re doing this past for so many years.
Moby: It’s had a huge impact and I’m glad you actually gave context to pretty much the whole of the interview. I love that story you talked about with your co-founder, how you just switched on a dime and started a company. And so after that you’ve done that a lot more, you have a TV show, you started that Plan 9, Plan X, there’s so many wonderful programs. But back to that moment when your co-founder looked at you and said, “Hey, we’re going to do this.” And you said, “Okay,” before that even going like in high school and college, when did you start showing that kind of behavior which was like being impulsive and jumping in?
Moby: Boom, we’ve talked about your past experiences, entrepreneurship, starting Plan 9, and we talked about stepping up the ladder. When you had the idea for a show, when the first came to you how did it feel? Because it’s crazy going from, “Okay, I’m helping entrepreneurs support themselves,” being the facilitator as you said. But now you’re going to be in front of a million people and you’re going to star in it. What’s the process of just executing on that starting to?
Nabeel: So as I was telling you offline …
Moby: Yeah, we weren’t recording.
Nabeel: Yeah, I was always within that, living in that delusion that I am a star and people know me, which wasn’t true of course. But what television does is it tends to give you that two-minute of mileage immediately, whether you’re good or not. So that’s happened to me. Luckily the show did well.
But let me tell you the background to this. What I was doing was facilitation, right? So I was working on an incubator, I was trying to set up an accelerator, I was setting up co-working spaces, I was trying to promote entrepreneurship in schools. I was teaching, by the way one of my first love, and most probably is going to be my last love when I’m old and haggard I would be teaching. And that’s something that I love doing. And I’ve been teaching since 2012.
And entrepreneurship being my favorite area, that’s what I like to talk about, so in my teaching and in my incubator, to talking to entrepreneurs, what I figured was a social problem in Pakistan was acceptability of entrepreneurs in households. People would not take pride; parents would not take pride in a son who was trying to do a little company, like to build a small ecommerce portal.
But they would take a lot of pride in telling he works in this big bank or he works in this multinational company. So my son’s really successful. So the definition is successful to me frankly was quite flawed, because I have not seen a single country prosper if it was not for its entrepreneurs. United States of America, you know it’s structured on two or three economies like steel, I talked about Rockefeller, talked about JP Morgan Chase, talked about these two or three giants who moved the American economy at a time when America needed it the most. It’s entrepreneurs.
Look at Japan, the World War II finished the country entirely. Automobile industry, Toyota became a revamping modeling tool for the Japanese. Look at the Germans, they’re all entrepreneurs, so all the great countries in the world are very entrepreneurial. So I was very sure it has to be entrepreneurship, that’s the way forward.
Moby: That was your mission.
Nabeel: That was a mission, yeah. So now I figured what is it? And I think a lot about this, and I’ve talked about my past about thinking through things very differently. I think what is it that I would do that my mom and my dad would look at somebody and say, “Wow, I’m impressed with this 24-year old, what does he do?” They’ve only be impressed by a sportsman and actors and singers, right? Because they hadn’t seen better.
So I figured if people can come on television and share their stories, share their struggle, show that they’re making money, show that they’re denting the economy positively, they may become the new heroes of Pakistan. So that was the only way to them to TV was through a show. Therefore I had to create a platform. I had to be yet again a facilitator.
So I went with my business proposal of a show to the top channels in the country, and as you asked what I did in two years. All I did in two years was getting lots and lots of rejections, lots of insults, lots of waiting, lots of no answers, lots of advice, I had a few advice, free advice. I’ve come up with this line you might want to save it for your own life, because you’re younger than me – there’s no such thing as free advice, because free advice and free food are usually very bad, right? So I never take free advice.
And I got all free advice. Son we like your motivation, you should focus this energy on something more productive. You want to be on TV? Yeah, we like how you look, we like how you talk, will bring you on TV. Why don’t you do a business … Sorry, why don’t you do a political show? I will make you be the most …
Moby: It has to be entertainment.
Nabeel: It had to be entertainment. It had to be something spicy. Why don’t you do a game show or a sports show? It sells. I would not want … I did not go to them to sell what already sells. I wanted to go to them to sell what does not sell in the country, and that was business shows.
So four channels rejected me. The fifth channel, the founder of that channel met me at a little event and come sees me himself. And supposedly he was very impressed by my work at Plan 9. So he goes to me. “I have heard that you’ve banged your head against the wall with the idea of a show. It’s out there. No one’s taking it. Why don’t you come speak to me?” I said, “Who are you?” You hardly see these people, the owner of the channels.
And so I don’t know who he was. He said, “Well, I own this little channel called XYZ.” I said, “That’s not little, that’s a big channel.” He said, “Well, then that’s my channel. And I’m offering you to come, do what you want to do on the channel on prime time.”
Moby: So he just kind of you were banging your head against the wall, in the end something … the combination of you putting it out there and just luck came …
Nabeel: Luck, of course luck. Luck favors the brave. It only favors those who try. So I think it was luck. It was a lot of hard work too. And because I started designing the show in August of 2016 and we went on air on 1st of March 2017.
Moby: So less than a year?
Nabeel: Less than a year.
Moby: From approval.
Nabeel: Yeah, it’s only six months, because I worked my butt off. I mean, work day and night to build that show. And then I must mention my friends who came and joined me, who supported me. I want to mention my … Of course I want to mention Umar Saif who’s a star in our country. And having him on your side it’s always, always useful. And he was a major supporter, he became an advisor. Then Abbasi Suzi, your UT guy, you’re a UT guy, your Austenite.
Nabeel: Abbasi Suzi became this person who said do it. Then another Austenite, a UT Austin guy, he’s name is [unclear 34:11] who also …
Moby: All in Pakistan.
Nabeel: All in Pakistan, yeah. So they came in as investors on the show. And the show got on air. We did a lot of marketing. It was nice seeing myself on billboards, it was like, “Wow.”
Moby: When you view it the first time.
Nabeel: Well, I just stopped there, there was … Those were emotional moments in the initial beginning seeing myself. But the best part was when my daughter would come back from school and tell me, “Dad, I saw you on the streets, on billboards.” And that was very emotional.
And today she’s my biggest fan. She saw all the episodes live and also repeats. So she even knows which company … by the way she’s only eight years old. And she knows the companies, she knows what they do, so see the impact.
And there’s a reason why I’m mentioning my daughter, an eight-year old is watching a business show and knows what startups do in Pakistan. Knows what culture it does, know what Puteri does, knows what Mango Buzz does. An eight-year old.
Moby: That’s you giving them access to stuff and ideas.
Nabeel: See, this is the power of television. If you are able to get into people’s lives through television, and mashallah with this show called Idea Croron Ka, which is the Urdu name for a million-dollar idea. We have changed things. There’s a social change. I get [unclear 35:35] and sweets and [unclear] from mothers of young boys from Multan and Sialkot and Jhelum in other small cities.
I could never imagine this that this will reach so far. And there’s a social impact. Parents are now … It’s just one season down, we’re coming over the second season in two weeks. One season down and there’s a general trend of mothers and fathers allowing their kids and promoting their kids to go out there and be entrepreneurs. I think that’s the biggest achievement of the show.
Moby: Building that culture.
Nabeel: The new, the cultures that was already there has now again catalyzed. It’s getting better, it’s getting refiner, and there’s more acceptability for startups and entrepreneurs in Pakistan.
Moby: That’s extremely useful, that’s … I think we’ve talked about your past experiences, right? And that importance of seeing someone else succeed in that way. For example … Well, actually let’s not take it by race. I’m going to cut that part out, yeah. So what’s the biggest change in your life that’s happened since you went on TV in terms of how people interact with you?
Nabeel: Well, very good question.
Moby: Do people act differently?
Nabeel: Oh, yeah. Very, very good question. The first change and laugh all you want at this, I all of a sudden become extremely gorgeous and handsome. The same Nabeel is now … Same people who known me since I was in my pampers and my diapers, they’ll say, “You’re very handsome. You’re good-looking.” So it just shows how sad it is. Everybody who comes on TV can be handsome. So this is how mindsets work, see.
Moby: They see someone and it becomes established … so yeah.
Nabeel: Yeah, it’s the saddest thing, it’s the saddest thing. People start looking at you from a different frame. The lens changes, see. So I mean, I’m the same guy. I’m as beautiful as I was before.
Moby: Same jokes, same person.
Nabeel: Same jokes, yeah. So that’s a change. Second a lot of people are looking up to you, it’s a big responsibility being on TV. I see and I’m not overstretching this, kids, young 21, 22-year olds travel all the way from KPK, from Quetta. And that’s a seven-hour, eight-hour drive. They drive all the way just to meet me for 15 to 20 minutes. Just to take advice, just to take that mentorship.
Do you realize how big a responsibility this is? These kids, they look up to you, they’re finding new heroes. See I am going to come and go. I will go away very soon. I mean, my show may not last after second season. But what I’m happy about is somebody else will do it better than me, and then there’ll be a new hero, and this new culture in our country.
I mean, you know what I love about Americans? You talk to a regular American on the street, and you say, “Who do you look up to?” They would never name an actor. They would never name a single … I love it. I love American actors. I am a big fan of Robert De Niro. I’d die for him. I mean, amazing actors.
But when you say, “Who’s your inspiration?” Generally an American who is relatively educated would say Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg. They take inspiration in people who’ve made things, people who have changed things. In Pakistan if you go ask aunty in a house – who’s your inspiration? She’ll talk about this very, very, very popular actor, maybe Shah Rukh Khan.
Moby: Of course.
Nabeel: Yeah, of course, Shah Rukh Khan, yeah. So that speaks volumes about our mindsets. This had to change. And I think with this show this will change. Now they will talk about the founder of Patari as their hero, the founder of Mango Buzz Ali as their hero or [unclear 39:30] as their hero or some other guy who is doing some great thing, Campus Feed or XYZ, anybody who comes with a start up who’s making money.
As we said in the beginning of this interview you’ve met the six companies, the average age of those founders is 25. And 24 and 25. And look at the money they’re making not just in Pakistan, outside of Pakistan, at such a tender young age. Aren’t they better off than a 30-year old working in a multinational company, as a corporate slave and getting a salary? You won’t smile at me.
Moby: No, no, no. I like it. I just have my own reasons for not smiling.
Nabeel: Yeah, so long story short, yes, people look at you differently. There’s a big responsibility. And I’m happy that God gave me the opportunity to be able to do this. It humbles me. And I do hope and pray that because of me if I can change things for the better in Pakistan that would be job done.
Moby: Okay, so let’s do some rapid fire questions because I want to talk to you for like hours, but so you get a lot of information requests, people coming your way, especially now with TV and exposure. How would someone cut through the noise and be able to contact you? Because how many emails and requests for this or that you get?
Nabeel: I receive about 200 plus email a days, so I can’t look at all of them. But here’s how I decide it. I see resilience, I see how painfully stubborn you are just to see me or talk to me. I’ve seen kids who would follow me in car parks, really. I’m going towards my car and there’s this young kid, Asian kid, and you fear this, what is this guy doing, why is he coming towards me. And then he’s waiting for you there for two hours just to speak to you for 10 minutes. And he deserves those 10 minutes, he deserves 20 minutes.
So how can people get through to me, they can get through to me by telling me what they’re doing. If they’re doing something different, whether it’s good or bad or successful or not is unimportant. If they’re doing something different, if they’re trying really hard, and they’d have all my time and all my attention.
Moby: Great answers. So we talked about I think Tim Ferriss a little while ago, right?
Nabeel: Yes. He’s moved to Austin.
Moby: He’s moved to Austin, yes.
Nabeel: Big successful for Austin.
Moby: I don’t think you’re listening to him, but if you are I want to meet you, man. Anyway so I interviewed the director of South by like two weeks ago.
Nabeel: Was it Hugh?
Moby: Hugh, exactly.
Nabeel: Wow, lovely guy.
Moby: Great guy. And he talked about just Tim Ferriss constantly annoying the fuck out of him. I can curse on my show, if you want you can do that. Annoy him and eventually he was like, “Okay, I’ll give you a slot at South by. You can read your book.” I don’t know what it is, something like that, I’m paraphrasing. And now huge success, right? Because he persisted …
Nabeel: See, Hugh is a kingmaker. He’s a kingmaker, why? I met with him last year, October. And I made him wait, imagine, I made him wait. And he was kind enough to still meet me. I reached late. And by the way in his nice little sports car he took me to a ride and he took me to my next meeting. He said, “I’ll drop you to your next meeting.” So such a nice guy.
People like Hugh, what he said to you was the same thing that I’m saying to you – resilience. You just have to get that opportunity. I mean, somebody wants to speak at South by knowing exactly what he wanted to see, he knew if he could speak at South by the audience he’d capture would be so huge he’ll put a mark. And he figured that Hugh is the doorway to that. So he ensured he gets that slot. So it’s resilience, it’s knowing exactly what you want, and then leaving the rest to God.
Moby: Yeah, absolutely. I watch your show recently and I had met the guy too, Shahzad, we’re going on a complete segue now. Shahzad from Eye Automate. And I watched him pitch in Pakistan, Lahore at Ignite. I think that’s when we first met. And I remember his story, he walked up on stage … and this is … well, I remember a few stories, pitches, but he talked about his dad …
Nabeel: Which is the reason, the motivation for him to do what he’s doing.
Moby: Absolutely, and we there’s a lot of pop culture around entrepreneurship everywhere, right? Like you said we do look up to them, we look … we have images, even … you have those, I have those, we have really good images and quotes on them. And it’s great. But it’s so fascinating how when you build something and a guy like that actually goes out from his own pain goes out and solves a problem for other people. And can you talk … So where is he now? Like contacts with the audience, at that time I think he got into Plan 9, Shahzad. Can you tell the story?
Nabeel: He’s a guy who’s building smart wheelchairs, because his father went through this serious attack of paralysis. And he couldn’t move, he couldn’t do anything and he basically passed away primarily because the depression. So his son, a young boy, a 22-year old felt that pain and decided to fix that problem by creating a startup that would make smart wheelchairs and would help people become and feel more empowered independent. That’s his story.
And the reason for bringing him on the show primarily was the strength of his story. The product did not make money. I knew it won’t make money. I knew he may not even raise money on my show. But the reason to … I pick and choose companies to come on my show with particular angles, (a) I have to create good television content, right? It’s a media thing, man, you need ratings, right?
Moby: Yeah, I just have a lot of people for reviews for this one.
Nabeel: Yeah, okay. So one thing is that what sort of emotions are you bringing on television that would kind of make people want to talk about it, see, you met a guy, you heard the story, with warm and fuzzy, you were mentioning it to me even a year after. And you’re asking where he is. The company’s doing well. What this show did for them, they never raised money, but guess what? They got they got eyeball, they got millions of people, our show’s watched by about two, three, four, five, sometimes seven million people. And that’s a big following for a startup show in Pakistan.
People saw their show, they contacted them, they’re now putting up pilot chairs in different organizations. They’re doing well. They’re not closing down. They will end up doing well primarily because the guy knows what he wants to achieve. And he’s just at it, he doesn’t want to give up.
Moby: It’s the power of distribution, I think you mentioned this before which is just getting in front of people. I’m going to mention this publicly on the podcast, but before I used to think the size of the audience matter. Sure, of course, trying to be famous, and famous, rich is great. Trying to be rich. But just trying to famous for the sake of it is crazy but distribution matters. Some startups like Hugh, right? Tim got in front of Hugh and look at where he is. We have to either be … I’m going to say this on the podcast, we have to become the people who have that distribution or get …
Nabeel: Or get to them.
Moby: And otherwise …
Nabeel: See, if you have to reach to your customer you have to be able to have a clout. See, your personal branding matters a lot, your personal story matters a lot. And I remember once you saying this to somebody. And I was very impressed by you that day when you were advising some startups, and you were telling about the power of storytelling. It’s so essential. See, had I not told you the story of my cricket matches, had I not told you the story of how I got kicked out of my college. Those are things that bring emotions and sentiments to a personality.
You could be all metallic, all great, all good, but people won’t be able relate to you. People relate to your weaknesses, because we’re all weak. We’ve all made our mistakes. We all have our dark sides.
Moby: Yes. I’m a little bit hungry right now, but that’s my weakness. Go ahead.
Nabeel: That’s your weakness. So I think distribution and being able to reach out to people is essential for any entrepreneur. You’re may be the best engineer, you may produce the best product, you don’t know how to sell it you will just be wasting your life my friend, you will end up leaving it, because there’s no distribution.
You need to be able to tell a story, you need to be able to make channels, you need to be able to hustle and you need to be able to make people use your product. That’s the quick way to success.
Moby: Like asking, asking, asking.
Nabeel: Asking – what do you think? What do you think? Feedback. Okay, changing it, pivoting, going back in. Now what do you think? And that’s how … Those are the kind of people who ultimately make it.
Moby: Absolutely, just the importance of asking, I’m not as good at it as I think I should be just asking over stuff. For example two weeks ago I was at a conference and I talked to about the podcast with a guy, and he said, “Hey, can I be in the show?” And it had been 20 seconds since I was talking, I was like, “Umm, cool, what do you want to talk about?” And they told me a story about entrepreneurship and being a digital nomad, and he said he’s writing a book about it. I was like, “Hell, yeah.” You’d be on the show. And he asked and I was like, “Oh, wow. I would never have had the conversation otherwise.”
Nabeel: See, that’s the thing. So and you chose to have him on your show, why? Because there was content.
Moby: Valuable content.
Nabeel: There was real valuable content that people will hear and they would be inspired. They would get questions, they may have … It’ll hurt their brain cells, as long as that’s happened it’s worth a shot.
Moby: Absolutely. Nabeel, thank you so much for this, sorry for making you sweat in the other room we moved. But thank you for this, absolutely.
Nabeel: Such a pleasure. You’re doing a great, great job, and when you’re in Pakistan next come to your little show with a few very interesting people. I already lined them up for you and I want your podcast to be listened and to be heard out in Pakistan a lot. And I’m sure people would love it. So you’re doing great thing, you’re doing great service to the country by doing this, and keep doing it.
Nabeel: Thank you.
Nabeel: Take care. Bye-bye.