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Between airports, airplanes and transit lounges

Asia Pacific ICT Awards 2010 – After thoughts at 10,000 meters in the air…

At the CIP Lounge on Sunday night, just before boarding my Emirates flight to Kula Lumpur, Malaysia, I had a single thought in my mind. It would be nice to get some sleep for a change. The week leading up to the departure of our delegation to the APICTA 2010 awards scheduled at KLCC had been exciting as well as tiring. We had some great companies representing PASHA and Pakistan again this year. Preparing companies for the event and their participation has a direct correlation with our success at these awards and the PASHA team had been hard at work in the two weeks leading to the APICTA 2010 event. I knew the next week would be tougher but at least I would get a few nights of decent shut eye.

This Saturday afternoon, six days later, as I boarded the flight back home from Kula Lumpur, there was single thought in my mind. It would be nice to catch a few winks on the flight. Sleep had been as elusive in the week leading up to APICTA as it had been during the Asia Pacific ICT Awards competition. Between judging, mentoring and training our companies, Zafar and my early morning walks at KLCC Park before sunrise and APICTA EXCO meetings we had managed an average of 4 hours a night for 5 days. A bone deep weariness defined my walk, my mindset, my eyes and my two day old stubble. But having had Pakistan’s name called out 7 times as a Merit award winner in front of a list of who’s who in Malaysia and more than 2,000 guests from 22 economies across the Asia Pacific region had made the weariness worthwhile.

It was now time to think about the 2011 awards scheduled for Pattaya, Thailand.

Flashback to February 2006 and the announcement of the APICTA 2006 ICT Awards results for the Financial Application category, location Chiang Mai, Thailand. Seven Alchemists who had flown specially to Thailand held our breath as the winner and the runners up for the Financial Application category were announced. Our name was not on the list.

It was difficult to stay back for the after event dinner but we stayed since Pakistan had won an award in the New Media category. Our sole winner had reasons to celebrate while we figured out a way to sidestep the disappointment and heartbreak of going home empty handed.

Later that year when Jehan asked if I would be interested in representing Pakistan as a judge in Macau as part of the Pakistan APICTA delegation, I volunteered. The week long commitment would help me come to terms with my failure earlier to win an award but more importantly it would help us better understand the criteria and the benchmark that Pakistani companies had to beat to win at the APICTA Awards. The Macau trip gave me the opportunity to judge two of the most exciting categories at APICTA – Tertiary Student Projects and Startups. It also helped me find peace with myself. When I looked at the winners that we had picked in Macau that year, there was no comparison with what we had pitched and the level at which the winners played. We were kindergarten kids at a tennis camp. The winners were playing Wimbledon finals tennis with all the intensity of a grand slam tournament.

Macau was followed by Singapore and then Jakarta. At PASHA we worked hard to increase the number of eligible entities as well as the number of sponsored judges that we could take with us to the event. More judges meant more mentors and a better understanding of the criteria used to gauge winners and merit awards. More entries and preparation improved our chances. Singapore was the first event where we managed to find the time to prepare Pixsense, Kolachi, Si3 and a handful of other participants in Jehan’s room the day before the event. By the time we got to Jakarta we were reserving conference rooms for the entire delegation where we could fine tune our presentations, do repeat dry runs and share insights and mistakes that had been made during the day. For the mentees, mentors, Judges and Jehan it became tradition to work till early morning the first two nights of our stay working with companies in groups to help them get to the next stage. One member of the delegation would book a room at the executive floor and the conference room that came with it. The rest would join for blunt, at times abrupt and painful sessions of non-stop aggressive feedback.

 

The process changes all of us. It changes the participants first of all because they are now able to look beyond their sales presentation and look upon themselves as ambassadors to the region. It changes us as Judges as we see the quality of work and the commitment of our delegation to not just winning but putting our best foot forward as a group. But most importantly it changes everyone who sees the results from APICTA EXCO members to delegates from twenty two countries in the region, who look at how far we have come in the last few years, despite all our challenges and handicaps. More importantly it allows us to reset the benchmark for everyone; for what qualifies as the best of the best in the Asia Pacific region when it comes to technology and the impact it must create on every life that it touches.

At the Jakarta APICTA Awards in 2008 all our hard work was validated with three wins. TPS, Pixsense and Kraysis came back home with the winners trophies. The 7 merit awards across 6 diverse categories at APICTA 2010, Kula Lumpur, Malaysia, this Friday, proved that our wins in Singapore, Jakarta and Australia were not flukes. Great software gets written in Pakistan by great engineers who with a little bit of brow beating and abuse from their mentors (onsite and offsite) are able to stand on their own and make great pitches in front of international judges. Even nominees that don’t pick up the first two wins no longer come home empty handed. They come back with the respect of their fellow delegates, of the panel of judges who reviewed and judged them and of the mentors who worked with them. For in the end the difference between success and failure is but a few decisions and that has never been more truer than at APICTA.

Jawwad Farid is a serial entrepreneur, an MITEF business acceleration plan (MIT BAP) runner up, an Asia Pacific ICT Award finalist and a PASHA ICT Award Winner. He has also served as a judge at the Asia Pacific ICT Awards in Macau, Singapore, Jakarta and Malaysia as well as at PASHA ICT Award in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and as a mentor to startup teams at the MITEF BAP competitions in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Jawwad is the founder and CEO of Alchemy Technologies, an enterprise risk practice that builds and deploys risk, treasury, market and credit risk platforms. He is the author of Reboot, Understanding Commodities Risk, and Risk Application and Frameworks, an actuary by profession, a computer scientist by training, and a Columbia Business School MBA. Jawwad blogs about boot strapping, failure and starting up at
Startup Insights and teach week long crash courses on entrepreneurship and risk management at the SP Jain campuses in Dubai and Singapore and on the online education platform of Learning Corporate Finance.
Jawwad has worked directly as a founder, mentor or advisor at multiple startups including two green field life insurance companies, multiple technology product businesses, financial services consulting operations, product focused distribution as well as micro insurance, micro pensions and micro finance startups.