After the MBA I joined Kearney as a strategy consultant which truly reinforced the learning of the MBA programme with real life application. The exposure as a strategy consultant was incredible, both in terms of industry verticals and geographies, but also in terms of having the opportunity to work with incredibly bright people, globally. Alas, after four years the glamour wore off and the way I measured my life drastically changed - I was less interested in corporate success and more interested in creating a positive impact. Always leave the show on a high-note, and I believe this is what I was able to do. I did not have the opportunity to have headspace in over five years and for me, this was time to reflect and give myself perspective on what truly mattered.
I had several less successful entrepreneurial ventures in the past (albeit at a relatively smaller scale) but I enjoyed every moment being an entrepreneur, solving problems, venturing in complete freedom of thought and creativity. As an entrepreneur in the early stages, every second one invests will have a direct impact on the success of one’s venture.
Starting a business through a Search Fund
During my exchange at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, I came across an investment vehicle called a Search Fund. In a nutshell - it was designed as a vehicle for graduates to search for, and acquire companies. The fund acts as an accelerator for MBA grads to become CEOs and showcase their skills by taking these companies to new levels. The target is to raise around $500,000, to identify a company within 24 months. Search fund investors receive first right to invest once a target has been identified (and generally have follow-up investment) and the Searcher (the MBA grad) receives between 15-25% of the company as sweat equity. The value of the companies is generally $15-30 million with specific characteristics including: strong cash flows and typically succession issues - hence the opportunity to acquire them. The acquisition is generally heavily leveraged which unlocks the transactional value.
Fund raising: 90% hard work, 10% luck
Fundraising is totally different to strategy or operational roles. I had no experience in fundraising and initially it was really tough swimming against the current. My day was spent looking for potential investors across every existing platform and reaching out to them. In the end it seemed to be a numbers game, the more I reached out, the more likely it became that someone would entertain me for an initial conversation - but of course many would say no, or even worse, just simply ignore me. It was tough. Over time, I started to connect and build rapport with investors - some conversations were less focused on what I was pursuing and more around other global trends. One specific investor suggested I look into the Buy Now Pay Later model as it was doing so well at the time in Australia, and he had a hunch (he was absolutely right) that it was bound to spread globally. This was just after Afterpay listed on the ASX.
Launching Postpay: complete confidence in the vision
Captivated by the idea of unlocking true value in the industry and empowering customers, I performed a comprehensive market analysis for the model and pivoted to building the first BNPL company in the Middle East, which clearly showcased the largest opportunity.
So I returned to Dubai, spent the last few dollars of my savings on setting up a company and registering all things necessary - including our domain, postpay.io. The stars aligned and through my network I was introduced to my co-founder, Dani, who was a founding CTO of the first BNPL in Spain and had just exited. I somehow convinced Dani and in less than a week he was on a plane to Dubai, and then there were two.
With completely maxed out credit cards and using my last SPG and Skywards points I flew to New York and closed our pre-seed funding round. I met some of my fellow MBAs in New York and I could tell that they thought I'd lost my mind - but I was determined to make this work. With the money in the bag I returned to Dubai and kicked off the first real phase of Postpay.
Postpay is now a leading BNPL company in the Middle East with plans to expand to Turkey and Egypt. It is used by all major global and regional brands in the region and is trusted by over a million customers. Postpay has a team of over 70 people with 32 nationalities mainly based from their HQ in Dubai, UAE. To date, Postpay has raised over USD 100 million to power its growth. Postpay has saved customers millions of dollars in interest and fees from providing a free alternative to traditional credit.
Postpay is hiring! Tariq would love to hear from you if you live in the region or would be keen to move to Dubai please contact email@example.com with UCT GSB in the subject line.
Last thoughts: find something you're passionate about and chase passion not money
When considering what you are going to do, ask yourself what truly matters in your life. How do you measure your life? What does success actually mean to you? It is really important to pursue something about which one is passionate. Success means something totally different to most of us. For those who have the privilege of being at the UCT GSB, appreciate that you are one of a few and there is a responsibility to lead change in this world - however big or small. Look for your Ikigai - take the time to reflect and then work tirelessly to achieve everything for which you set out.