It took Munir a while to really develop the confidence to start a company and take the big steps for it to grow properly, but he’s moved in that direction after scaling then selling his first company, Pi Labs, then moved to the US and is growing his second startup, Remote Interview.
Munir grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, the son of a businessman. In that environment, he learned early in life many lessons about business, including the need to always have cash reserves on hand – now he always tries to have at least 6 month in savings that he can use to support himself and his family.
He studied telecommunications and electrical engineering, but realized it wasn’t his thing, so he did the bare minimum to get by while spending as much time as possible around programmers. This was around the time of the “dot com” bubble bursting in 2002-03, and many among his family and friends had a lot of apprehension about programming.
His experience working for a bank showed him that he wasn’t meant for the strict corporate environment, and despite being paid well and having the opportunity to travel, he decided to move on and return to Pakistan to join a startup.
The new startup didn’t do well. A promised investment never materialized because of the 2008-09 recession. Revenues were almost non-existent. Eventually Munir resigned and advised his team members to do the same. Munir set out to work again as a freelancer, and would hire interns as he needed them. This would eventually take the form of Pi Labs.
He learned two important lessons here:
- Don’t hire people until you have stability
- Don’t depend on investors
Sony was an important client. After success on a freelance project, they offered him a full-time position, but he declined, instead convincing them to outsource to him.
At the time, he only hired interns; they produce the same quality work and there was still concern about revenue. But it would be one of those interns who eventually became his first full-time employee.
Munir got a visitor’s visa to America to attend the Microsoft Summit in 2010. He loved his month in the US, and even felt depressed when he had to return to Pakistan. He felt that his eyes were opened in a new way, despite his past travels, and hoped to be able to return to the US to work.
One struggle Munir had was learning management. He had set a goal to double the size of his company every year – both in revenue and number of employees. He was able to do so; as he says, “Your level of success will not exceed your expectations. What you plan is what you get; there’s no such thing as luck.” But he also quickly realized, as he got to around 20 employees, that he had never developed the skills for managing them; he’d always felt that hiring smart people was enough.
The year 2012 brought a major low, as they lost about 50% of their monthly revenue because a client was going through hard times. But this led Munir to double down on his efforts to expand into new areas and find new clients in the US.
Through Draper University he’d learned how time-consuming hiring processes could be, and knew he’d always done well in hiring programmer. So he set out in a new direction by creating screening software that would help companies save time and effort by doing a lot of the paperwork and determining suitable candidates.
He also, meantime, got a great buyout offer from a client in Pakistan, and despite the feelings that coming with giving up your first major project. His first startup project yielded great success, and he was moving on to a new venture.
At the time he only had a visitor visa to the USA, but set out to negotiate the difficult process of getting a new visa type that would allow him to work in the US and eventually get a green card. At the time of this interview, he had just received notification that his permanent residency was, indeed, granted. His visa class was an EB-1A. (For more information on visa possibilities for entrepreneurs, catch our interview with Jason Finkelman).
Currently Munir’s new project, Remote Interviews, has nearly 150 paying clients.
Advice for others
- Get some experience in your domain before jumping into entrepreneurship
- Challenge your traditions and beliefs. Live on your own for a while, travel and become more independent
Munir [at] remoteinterview [dot] io