Dr Ahmed Zaidi Podcast Transcript

Dr Ahmed Zaidi Podcast Transcript Listen to episode here

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: [00:00:00] I felt like a failure. Applied for med school. I got rejected from med school and then found my way in Birmingham, computer engineering. It's the level of chaos, but there's a pattern to the chaos that ultimately I thrived in. So my mom's side of the family is in apparel manufacturing. So I actually grew up pretty much in a factory and I never really connected it to the other side of my life, which is AI.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Once I understood that this is an unfair advantage, we realized that we were just putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. So the higher end, we're helping brands, you know, be more profitable. Have less inventory and reducing their carbon footprint in terms of inventory waste. In the early days of any startup, they're investing in the people.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ, where we inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asians. If you watch us on YouTube, make sure you hit that subscribe button. And if you're listening on Apple or Spotify, make sure you leave us a five star review. Today we have with us Ahmed Zaidi,, who's the founder and CEO of Higher End Technologies.

Amardeep Parmar: He's an executive founder of Castellist AI, [00:01:00] and he's also an advisor to fashion and tech companies. How are you doing today? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Um, it's a very early morning, but I'm doing well. Thank you. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah, my eyes are still stinging, but it's great to have you here because I know you're going to be traveling for pretty soon.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yes,  yes. I'm heading to Saudi, actually. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you're originally born and raised in Saudi, right? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: That's right. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then you've been here for a few years now and you've settled in and this is where you've been working. But how is that growing up, right? When you were growing up, did you ever believe you'd start your own companies and do what you're doing today?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: No, I don't, I don't think I ever thought I would start my own company. Didn't really, wasn't really familiar with this whole journey of entrepreneurship. Very early on, my dad was a doctor. You know, everyone I knew was a doctor. We sort of lived in those brown communities where every single person was a cardiologist.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And there was no exploration in terms of what other opportunities existed. And I think it was only when the whole Silicon Valley buzz and Google and all these sort of things started that sort of became clear to me that this was even an option. But even then, that wasn't the path that I took. Initially,

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I still took the doctor path. I applied [00:02:00] for med school. I got rejected from med school, started wondering what I'm going to do with my life, did clearing, was a disappointment to my family, and then found my way in Birmingham, which I had never been to before. Landed by myself, my parents didn't come with me, and was a complete  culture shock.

Amardeep Parmar: And it’s really interesting there, and it's obviously a very classic thing, right? For people from Asian backgrounds to be raised thinking, okay, I need to become a doctor. 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar:And you mentioned that like a disappointment to your family, but how actually extreme was that? Was it something that you really felt a lot of shame about? Because if you've been building up your entire life to become a doctor and then

Amardeep Parmar: you failed to get the grades or you didn't manage to get in. What was that period of your life like?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I joke, actually, my parents never told me to be a doctor, but it was like, it wasn't that they said it or didn't say it. And in fact, they were not, they were just upset that I didn't get what I wanted, but what they didn't ultimately realize, and maybe they did realize, is that actually this is not what I wanted.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And this, the issue was that I didn't have any other pathways. I had, I didn't like, you know, when you don't know the world out there, what exists out [00:03:00] there, what your opportunities are, you don't really know what you don't know. And as a result, the only thing you do know is medicine. And when you don't get that, you sort of feel like a failure.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And I think it was more about the fact that I tried to do something and couldn't do it or didn't get what I wanted, which was the sort of the biggest pain point. And most of my family's feelings towards that was all right, like you didn't get what you wanted. We feel sad with you, but not really like, oh, you're such a failure.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah,

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I felt like a failure. I wasn't a bad student. I was pretty good student in school. I was very distracted. I'm still am. And I think that that level of distraction, the semi ADHD made it very difficult for me to perform well on certain exams. And when it came, when push came to shove, it ended up being the right decision.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I think having that failure early on really put things into context for me. So I was a high achieving student, but having that big failure when not getting into university where I went to a school, I went to a private school where everyone went to university. And I think I was the [00:04:00] only person in my year that didn't get into university.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And as a result, it's sort of was a really humbling experience. And some of it, which was, which was a little bit toxic, to be honest, that I took into when I came to Birmingham and, you know, something that I worked through over time, but definitely a defining moment for me as sort of a young adult to experience that sort of failure.

Amardeep Parmar:  What did you end up studying? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I did computer engineering with a minor in business. 

Amardeep Parmar: So how did you  go from medicine to that? That's quite a big shift there. 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah. So sometimes, you know, things are glaringly obvious, but you don't see it. So since I was 12, I was programming and I actually set up a satellite streaming service for one of the biggest channels in Pakistan when I was 14.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Just for as an internship, I used to constantly break things and fix them. And I think it all came with this obsession of being able to play Sims at home without having the original version available. So, you know, I think it's no longer, I can no longer be sued for this, I think. But, you know, it was just being able to find games online and just the [00:05:00] process of finding those games or even TV shows or music led me down a very interesting pathway into computers where I was like, wow, like if I can figure this out, I can get access to content, you know, I can play games, I can, you know, have a conversation with my friends and, you know, I was always known as somebody who was really good with technology.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: In fact, in school, we had computers and laptops in our school and when we had, we had like virtual exams, even back then. So we would have to open up a Word document and write an essay and then we would send that essay. But the school, the teacher would turn off the internet during that time. But then what she didn't know was that there's this thing called an intranet, which is you can communicate without having internet access to the web.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And so I developed this little chat app. that people would use in my classroom. I distributed it and we would just chat with each other while taking these tests. So not necessarily promoting that you should cheat in class, but it was definitely something that was part of my DNA. And I went through a period of like, like not depression.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Maybe it was depression to be [00:06:00] honest, but like a period of darkness after not getting into university, everyone is having their graduation parties. I didn't have one. I refused to have one. I attended, but I never went to, I never had my own. And during that period, I think I maybe spoke to like one or two of my friends just because I think it was mostly the ego that had taken a huge hit where I didn't want to admit that I didn't get into university.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So I just stayed in my cave. And during that time was working on little tech projects. And my sister comes to me and she's like, You love doing this. Why don't you just apply for computer science? The thing is, I didn't have the subjects to apply for computer science, but I did have the subjects for computer engineering, which was like semi hardware, semi software.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And I found out about Clearing. And then I made a list of all the universities in the UK and I rang them up one by one and saying, Hey, do you have any spots for, you know, a student doing computer science or computer engineering? And, you know, the first few I called, I think, Cambridge, Imperial. They just literally just shut the phone.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And then I was like, okay, fine, this isn't [00:07:00] working. Eventually, I got an offer for a few places and eventually went to, went to Birmingham. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you mentioned there that you went through the list of the universities in the UK. 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi:Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar:Why the UK? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I had missed all the deadlines for US and Canada. The only option I had was clearing.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And I know gap years are really common in the UK. But in Saudi, there is nothing you can do. So what would my gap year look  like? 

Amardeep Parmar: There's many people who obviously go for that same experience, right? They don't get into university they want to, or they might fail a year at university. And then, especially if you've done well your entire life up to that point, it's that sudden shock of everybody else is going to university, everybody else is going to the following year and how you adjust to that.

Amardeep Parmar: And it's interesting, you found quite a significant pivot there, but in some cases you said it was hiding in plain sight. And after university, you went into the corporate world, first of all, right? Because I guess you didn't really have a, well, I don't think many people at 18 really have a career plan unless they're doing something like medicine.

Amardeep Parmar: Did you, when did the idea about starting your own company or doing your own thing start appearing? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: At this point, I had started getting exposed to new things, primarily getting exposed to [00:08:00] investment banking, management consulting. My sister was a management, is a management consultant. And it was during this point where I thought, Oh, maybe this is what I do.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Tried that. So I worked for a year at a management consulting firm. I worked for a few months at an investment bank and I hated it. It was miserable. I hated waking up every morning. I hated Sundays. I felt like I wasn't being utilized in the way that I wanted to. In fact, I was on a strategy project in a management consulting firm.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And then I ended up building this software to help track KPIs. And then I got told off for it because they're like, hey, this is not your job. Like your job is to tell the engineers how to build it instead of building it yourself. And I think at that point, so one thing to bear in mind is that I didn't go straight into corporate world.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I did an industrial placement year between my second, my third year, which, you know, if, if, if anyone's in university, I would highly, highly recommend that because that was a. pivotal point in my life in terms of being young enough to be impressionable, but being old enough to understand the importance of consequence and investment in time for, you know, delayed [00:09:00] gratification.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And it was during that point where I developed a level of discipline, which when I came back from my final year, I passed my final year in my sleep. And I think that was a key time where when I realized what I didn't like, I didn't know what I liked, but I realized what I didn't like. I didn't like consulting.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I didn't like doing something that wouldn't have some level of uncertainty and creativity. I didn't like something that had a lot of structure and hierarchy because whatever reason my personality was that I would question everything. So that became a thing for me. And I think at that point I started to look for other options where what does it look like for somebody who wants to be creative but is also technical.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And also likes to not have so much structure because that it's the level of chaos, but there's a pattern to the chaos that ultimately I thrived in, what does that look like? And, and really the only thing, and I'm, I'm still figuring out if I'm a good entrepreneur, to be honest, but that was the, piece that drew me to the idea of [00:10:00] entrepreneurship.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: That's when we developed our first idea, which went nowhere, by the way. It was with me. I was my final year of university and undergrad, and I had some friends who were PhD students. And I was at this point working fully on machine learning and AI researchers, which is my background. Um, and we thought, you know, what's a really good problem to solve?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Rashes on your private parts. We were literally like, yeah, nobody wants to show their dick rash to a doctor. This is just fact, but what if we could build a really cool algorithm that you could scan it. And it will tell you if it's like a problematic thing that you need to show to somebody. We thought it was genius, but the problem was you needed a data set.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So who's going to be the poor guy that has to go on the website and download all the data? So that died pretty quickly. So I was in my final year of undergrad. Sort of realized, Hey, I really like, you know, everything I mentioned, creativity, chaos, technical development, maybe a little entrepreneurship, but the brown side of me was still seeking stability and still seeking societal [00:11:00] improvement.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: You know, nobody, like nobody respects an entrepreneur say, Oh, you're on for, Oh, you're, you're jobless is what you're saying. Right. Bu everyone respects an investment banker. Everyone respects a doctor, a management consultant. So I still applied for McKinsey and for BCG. Life works in mysterious ways because I was confident I would, I had already done a year in consulting.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I was pretty confident I was going to get a job at McKinsey or BCG. And for whatever reason, I thought I completely bombed it. So then I went into my last interview, just laissez faire, not caring at all. Turns out I didn't bomb my second last interview. I just thought I did. And as a result, I self sabotaged and didn't get it.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And I had no, again, I was back in a position where I had no choices. I just needed to buy some time, so I applied for a master's at Cambridge. That came through, and I had the opportunity to do my master's there. And my first week at Cambridge, they try to convince, I did an MPhil, they don't offer regular masters at Cambridge, everything is like a research degree, they make you apply for the PhD, [00:12:00] not make you, but they encourage you to apply for the PhD program.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And my first week, I was like, okay, well, I don't know anything about anything, but. Why don't I apply for the PhD program? So I applied and completely forgot about it. Went through my master's. I did fairly well, but then I found out I got into the PhD program, but I didn't get funding and my parents weren't going to pay for my PhD program.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So I said, okay, cool. Like let's like, you know, not going to do the PhD, like life moves on. And for whatever reason, I stopped receiving in. emails in my inbox. So I was like, okay, I need to clear my inbox. So I went to my spam and started clearing my spam. Then I found this like old letter, which says, Oh, congratulations.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: You've been given a full scholarship, PhD at Cambridge and you have three days left to accept it. And I was like, what is like, I was like, Oh my God, this is crazy. And I think this is the first point in my, in my life where I had two options. So while I was, It's looking at this, you know, scholarship letter from Cambridge.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I had just received an acceptance [00:13:00] into this program called Entrepreneur First, and it was an early batch. I think it was called EF5 back then. And that seemed so enticing. I had gone to the interview there. I'd met Matt and Alice, who were the founders, and it was just super exciting. I was just like, so drawn the energy, the possibilities that, you know, I could work for myself, I could build something.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And then you hear these, you know, Very rare scenarios of people selling their companies were like, Oh my God, they made like, you know, Magic Pony sold for 175 million dollars  to Twitter in 18 months. And you just think to yourself, wow, that's insane because you know, these people and you're like, if they could do it, I could do it.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: But at the same time being brown, I was again, drawn towards stability. So I was like, you know what, EF5, like this is awesome. But I'm going to go be a good brown kid and do a PhD. 

Amardeep Parmar: So as we mentioned  at the beginning, right? You found your catalyst AI and you sold it, right? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: Which is something which a lot of people don't even realize that kind of thing is possible, right?

Amardeep Parmar: You said about magic ponies, said about how different people do things like that. But [00:14:00] I think there's a lot of people from our background who don't really think about the idea of you can build a company and then sell it, exit, and then go and do something else and take their money away. 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: Where did the idea from catalyst AI come from?

Amardeep Parmar: So it was while you were doing your PhD, right? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah. So it was just. It was literally, what can I use? We had, we had a big hammer, which was machine learning, and we're looking for nails to hit. So we started off as a consultancy. It was going around asking people, Hey, we're a bunch of AI researchers and AI is really relevant now.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And we'd love to have a conversation on how we can use AI to help your business and improve your bottom line. So we went from conversation to conversation, you know, our biggest contract was probably with the transport for London. So we worked with them. I think the pivotal point for me was working with, with a fashion brand.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So we worked with, you know, a well known fashion brand. And that was the sort of inflection point where we started to realize that we had a repeatable product. And yeah, it started off. I think the main thing was that. As someone who's only been in research, I didn't really understand what business problems were.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And can starting your business as a consultancy is a perfect way to find [00:15:00] out what problems people have to then find that repeatable problem and build a product around it, which is then, you know, something that's scalable, like consultancy isn't scalable, but using it to then find a product was the end goal.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So we found a little bit of that product market fit, but a lot of other things and, you know, were happening in my life at the time, which meant that I needed to back off the business a little bit. It was at that point that one of our clients reached out to us and said, Hey, like, we love your product.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Would you consider selling it to us? It wasn't that we sought to be bought, but it came to us. And once we had a deal, once we had an offer, we could then go shopping for other offers and see, you know, who else was interested in, in, in our business. ‘Cause at that point we had some validation and then we ended up going one of the, one of the offers.

Amardeep Parmar: And like with that fashion side of things, right? Cause as we mentioned as well, you do a lot of advising for fashion people, right? So it's that blend of fashion and tech and is it just that the opportunity came in fashion or have you always had a passion for that area too?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So my mom's side of the family is in apparel manufacturing.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So I actually grew up pretty much in a factory [00:16:00] whenever we'd go to Pakistan. And I was always had that side of me and I never really connected it to the other side of my life, which is AI. But once I had, once I understood that this is an unfair advantage, like to quote Hassan here, I had an unfair advantage here because I really understood production and supply chain for fashion and how clothes are made.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: But I also had this understanding of how, how to deploy machine learning into the real world. And I combined that and that just became a platform for me to then reach out to more brands. And then eventually brands reached out to me, say, Hey, like we're looking to come up with a new AI strategy. And that led me into that world.

Amardeep Parmar: What did it actually  do? The product, just like people who for catalyst.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah. So we primarily did two things. Pricing optimization and assortment selection. So, pricing optimization is when you're trying to discount the product to get it out of the shelves. And you're trying to figure out how much I discounted so I can get it out of the shelves.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And typically, you know, people use some rule based system, which is like, Oh, 25, then 45, and then 50. Where we're like, Hey, what if you did 22, and you know, that's enough to get it out the [00:17:00] door, you know, you can recover some of your lost margin. So very practical business problem. Uh, the other one was assortment selection.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Like, given this is what I have in my distribution center, how should I allocate that to different stores across the country? 

Amardeep Parmar: And like along that journey. So obviously you were able to sell it in the end. Was there any, you had to pivot from consulting to more of a product, but did you have any mistakes you made along the way?

Amardeep Parmar: 'cause it was your first ever company, what were some of the hard lessons you learned along that journey? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi:, I think I underestimated the length of sales cycles that I need to go through. So you think you've made a sale, but actually until someone signed the contract and paid you their advance, you haven't made that sale.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So that was one thing that was very difficult. The other thing is, you know, uh, being part of an enterprise, a large enterprise, you need champions within the business. And you actually typically need three champions within the business. Often we only had one champion and that person would move companies or

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: like, you know, resign, especially during COVID, people went on furlough. We would have no champion and suddenly the project would just die. So those are really tough scenarios that we didn't plan for. And suddenly we had engineers that were paying payroll, [00:18:00] but we didn't have enough work for them. And that became a huge problem.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So cashflow was constantly a concern. The other issue was, you know, really understanding what product market fit is and being able to prioritize feature development. Because one of the challenges was we wanted to do whatever the client wanted us to do, but sometimes you have to question and push back like, Hey, do you, is this a priority feature or is this something that you just, you know, dreamed up on the way to work and you're like, yeah, I want this to, but the reality is anytime someone comes up with something new that disrupts your entire production flow and your, and your plan and you have to account for that. 

Amardeep Parmar: Within  that process as well.

Amardeep Parmar: So obviously you started with people that you did a PhD with, right? How was that like relationship as well? Because obviously when it's with people, you know, already. There's all these different things you have to manage as well. And did you learn from that process too? And like what roles you're suited to best as well?

Amardeep Parmar: Because I think that's one of the difficult things, right? Is that if you're really excited about what you're doing, you want to do everything. I was like, how did you work out which, which you're the strongest at and you should focus on?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah, that's a, that was a real, uh, point of tension, [00:19:00] actually, because I always saw myself as a CTO because I was, between me and my co-founder, I was a technical one.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: He was more from the business side. But as we started to work together, I realized I had a natural tendency to want to be part of the sales process and I had a strength there because I could communicate technical concepts in simple terms. That was my strength. My weakness was I was very bad operationally so I could sell the project, but then actually putting the project plan together wasn't necessarily my strength.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: My co-founder was really good at that. That's more of an operational role, not a CEO role. So we had titles that really didn't suit us. And it wasn't that I needed to be CEO. He needs to be CTO. No, it was like, he needs to be CEO. And it was a lot of, uh, you know, jumble, but I think we had a lot of overlapping roles.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And I think in any organization, especially a small one where people have overlapping roles, it's a point of friction. It's a point of tension. And we had to address that. You know, the hard way. 

Amardeep Parmar: Do you have any advice for people when they're going through this process, being like in the early stages of a company and they've got their co founder or [00:20:00] co founders and they're trying to work out how do we do that?

Amardeep Parmar: What did you learn from that for like future companies?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: You know, it's, it's so challenging because you don't really know a person until you know their strengths. But I think the only advice I have is have periods of reassessment, periods of requalification for your role and the frequency of that when you're a smaller business is much more frequent because you're constantly evolving their needs.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: The business are constantly changing. So either ,whether it's quarterly or monthly, monthly, probably two too, too disruptive, but quarterly or by annually, just reassess, Hey, am I fit for this role? And delineate what responsibilities you have. Forget about titles. Like titles don't really matter. What matters is what your responsibility is and what you're accountable for.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And it's possible that you're both working on sales, but one person needs to be accountable for that account, for example. And I think being very clear about that upfront is really, really helpful. 

Amardeep Parmar: And so now  you've just come out of stealth, right? For your latest company, higher end technologies.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah.[00:21:00] 

Amardeep Parmar: Where did the idea come from for that company? What, what, what does it do? Why is that a problem that you want to solve? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So when we were working on my old business, we realized that we were just putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. So pricing optimization is an offshoot or a function of the fact that, you know, merchandisers who are people buying the fashion products.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: bought the wrong products and now suddenly they have to discount them to get them out of store. So this is a waste of wasteful problem, uh, financially as well as environmentally and coming from a manufacturing background, I never understood why brands are planning their seasons one year in advance. So right now, if you're a fashion brand, you're probably trying to plan your, you know, spring, summer collection 2024 and trying to predict what people will buy then.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I just think that's, that doesn't make sense. And the mission for the hiring is to be able to allow brands to be faster and flexible. So stop ordering a year in advance, start ordering two weeks in advance or a month in advance, because you're much more aware of what people are going to do in a month than you are what they're going to do next year.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: It sounds like a simple problem, but it's very [00:22:00] complex. It requires, we're talking about global supply chain, visibility, you know stakeholder levels. So in a short, in a short way, what we're doing is we're helping brands, you know, be more profitable, have less inventory and reducing their carbon footprint in terms of inventory waste across the entire value chain.

Amardeep Parmar: So you've, you raise money while you're still in stealth, right? Yes. And that's something which I think blows many people's minds because a lot of people think you have to have like a ton of traction before you get there. How are you able to convince your investors that this is a problem that needs solving and that you're the right person for it.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I think  in the early days of any startup, it's really, they're investing in the people. They are these two individuals, people that they can back, that they can deliver. Do they have the right credibility? And we had, because I'd worked in the industry already, we already had, you know, MOUs, memorandums of understanding, letters of intent from certain factories and we had done a case study with a brand.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: It was very scrappy, but it was enough combined with the story as well as the team to convince our [00:23:00] investors to, to go into the investment round. But the other thing about investing is that it's, it's also a little bit of a game. You know, it's about FOMO. It's about, you know, feeling like, Hey, this is a deal that I might miss because investors also have KPIs, you know, they have an allocation.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: They're trying to deploy that cash and they're looking for the best deals. And if they see that someone else is investing, then that definitely helps, you know, you get up to speed. 

Amardeep Parmar: Why did you  stay in stealth for so long? And that's something which I think sometimes people always thinking about is, do I announce what I'm doing?

Amardeep Parmar: Do I keep it secret? And how long were you in stealth for again? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So we were stealth from October last year to now. 

Amardeep Parmar:So it's not a huge amount of time. 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: No. Yeah. Five months. 

Amardeep Parmar:Yeah. 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi:Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: And what was the decision? Like, what were you waiting for to come out to the world? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: We were hoping to develop an MVP before we came out of stealth and test it with brands.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And we had a short list of brands that we wanted to work with, primarily from my previous work. The biggest challenge is that, as I mentioned, you know, large enterprises, [00:24:00] they take a long time. But we couldn't wait for their feedback and for us to go all through the, through all the stakeholder processes and the bureaucracy to really be able to validate the impact of our product.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Um, we had simulated the benefits, but we wanted to put it into practice. So we needed to work with smaller brands. And the strategy that we had for stealth wasn't ideal for smaller brands because we don't know small brands and small brands don't know us. So the solution was, okay, let's come out of stealth.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Let's do some PR. Let's do some talks. Let's start to create a little bit of a buzz, create some, you know, inbound traction to address this, this problem of, of not having enough small brands to speak to.

Amardeep Parmar: And what's excited you most about what you're doing now? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I think the most exciting bit is that it's an uncharted territory.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: There it's a complete canvas, blank canvas, and I know there will be companies that say they do things in this space and they might as well, but working as upstream as we are with factories being I was in Bangladesh, for example, you know, I'm going to Portugal soon, [00:25:00] then I'll be in China to be on the ground with the factory workers and on the factory floor and 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: developing solutions in an analog state. It's scary, but also exciting.

Amardeep Parmar: So we're gonna have to move on to five questions now. Okay. But I'm excited to get going again in the future to see how the journey of hiring technologies has gotten. So first question is, who are three British Asians you'd love to shout out and that people listening right now should be following or paying  attention to?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So all three people who I respect a lot and who have at some point in my life given me guidance. So the first one is Imran Ahmed. He's the CEO and founder of the Business of Fashion. Wonderful guy, you know, went through his life as a management consultant at McKinsey, and then decided to figure it out.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: He figured out that he didn't really fit in there and then decided to take a different path. And, you know, started off as a small blog and now is a multi million dollar media group. And it's probably one of the most influential people in fashion, you know, extremely supportive. I sent him a cold email many years ago and he replied and helped me out.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So I thought that was, you know, not everyone does that. The second one [00:26:00] is Riz Ahmed, was incredibly insightful. He's a, you know, a very well known actor has won an Oscar. He's a musician. He's an activist. He's an incredible human being. And at a time when I was going through something very dark, you know, he gave me some really great advice that helped me come out of that situation with a different perspective, which, you know, I think in retrospect played a huge role in my state of mind now, which I'm, I'm, I would say I'm in a good state of mind at the moment.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And the third one is another friend of mine, uh, Ali Abdaal. Ali and I went to Cambridge together before he was a YouTuber. And, you know, he was always somebody that was hustling. You know, he had this thing called 6Med where he's trying to teach other medical students how to get into Cambridge. And, you know, he was, oh, he always had ideas, but what I loved about Ali was that he could execute on those ideas.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: You know, loads of people have ideas, right? But he had this ability to just take those ideas and make it reality. And I have so much respect for people who can execute. And you know, when I'm struggling to execute, you know, I just like, [00:27:00] look at him and I'm like, man, this guy is so consistent. And of course he has his ups and downs, but you know, to see that the only thing that doesn't change is consistency and just showing up, you're showing up, you know, every day, uh, is so key to, you know, as you know, you know, any sort of entrepreneurial journey and

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: yeah, he's been, he's been really inspirational for me there. Yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: So I love all those people as well and hopefully get them on the podcast soon too. Next question is, what can people listening right now reach out to you for about, for advice or guidance in some way? 

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: If anyone is running, is, is building a, you know, a small business,

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: and is just looking to get some mental support because it's an emotional journey. They can reach out to me for that. If anyone's looking to get some advice on how to raise investment, you know, I had so much advice for when I was raising investment and some of it was good, some of it was less good. But Uh, you know, I want to pay it forward.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So if anyone is looking for advice or contacts on who can I speak to, happy to support. And then, uh, you know, finally, if, you know, if anyone just wants to know anything about AI, you [00:28:00] know that that's something that I have a PhD in. So , so you know a little bit about it. Yeah. . So happy to, happy to support.

Amardeep Parmar: And then on the flip side, is there anything that you are trying to learn at the moment or things that the  audience can help you with?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: Yeah, I mean, if you're, if you're somebody that's interested in fashion, if you're somebody that's interested in tech, Or the combination of two, you know, I'd love to hear from you because that's, we're looking for people who have that interest.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: And honestly, just on a non entrepreneurial note, just want to understand, you know, how can we get more British Asians into entrepreneurship? And, and more specifically, how can we get them more into the startup scene from the venture, like the venture backed startup space? Because too often I walk into a room and you go, just go to a WeWork and you just look at the demographics and you kind of know we're underrepresented.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: So what can we do to help you take that leap, like leap forward? Because I think we'd all benefit from, you know, from that, from more people who look like us in a WeWork. Maybe not WeWork, but yeah. 

Amardeep Parmar: It's one of the things in the co working space [00:29:00] I'm doing at the moment. I'm trying to get on the board of diversity there and get, try and get more British Asians in.

Dr Ahmed Zaidi:Yeah.

Amardeep Parmar: Um, and then, like, pleasure to chat to you, of course. And have you got any final words for the audience?

Dr Ahmed Zaidi: I think the only thing that I would want to say is It's great to have a plan, but it should be written in pencil because it's going to change. So you should erase it and rewrite it.

Amardeep Parmar: Hello. Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It means a huge amount to us. And we don't think you realize how important you are, because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here. to inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians, if you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact.

Amardeep Parmar: And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests, we can host more events, we can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.