EP 323 – Building Businesses and Breaking Barriers: A Global Entrepreneurial Odyssey – Meenah Tariq – CEO of Metric

by | May 29, 2024

In this episode of the Asia Tech Podcast, ⁠Meenah Tariq⁠, CEO of ⁠Metric⁠ and an experienced entrepreneur with deep roots in emerging markets, shared her journey and the lessons she's learned along the way. Meenah discussed her early introduction to entrepreneurship in Pakistan, beginning with childhood ventures that sparked a lifelong passion for business.

Some of the other topics Meenah covered in detail:

  • Her early experiences in selling lemonade and organizing neighborhood services laid the groundwork for her lifelong passion for entrepreneurship
  • How adaptability is required to thrive in unfamiliar environments
  • The transformative potential of technology in democratizing access to financial intelligence for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
  • Meenah's staunch advocacy for women entrepreneurs, recognizing the systemic barriers they face in securing funding and support
  • The importance of resilience, and how community and support systems are pivotal in navigating the entrepreneurial journey

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

 
  1. Democratizing Financial Intelligence: A Vision for Global Business Empowerment
  2. Cultural Shifts and Financial Insights: Reshaping Business in Emerging Economies
  3. Transformative Tales from the Entrepreneurial Frontlines
  4. Bridging the Gap: Technology as a Catalyst for Entrepreneurial Success
  5. Lemonade Stands to Global Ventures: Entrepreneurial Lessons from Across Continents
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:05
Okay, let's do this thing. Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Meenah Tariq. I got that right, didn't I?

Meenah Tariq 0:12
Yes, you did.

Michael Waitze 0:13
Yay. I remembered a co founder and the CEO of Metric is with us today. Meenah, thank you so much for coming to the show. Before we get into the main part of this conversation, can you give our listeners a little bit of your background, please?

Meenah Tariq 0:27
Sure, it's, it's always really hard for me to give only a little bit of my back, give me where you think I've given a lot. When you think I've given enough background is stopped me up? Because I can I can start from when I was born, or like even before that, No, kidding. So my name is Meenah Tariq. I've been working in emerging market ecosystems for the last decade of my life. But I've been very lucky in that I've had seats at all different sides of the table, I worked with an accelerator program for about four years worked with a few 100 startups through that in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Then I started working with the World Bank for about four years, I helped them design a program called the women entrepreneurs Financing Initiative for Pakistan, and then also for Iraq. And I also worked with the USA ID training about 700 Women SMEs in person in tier two, tier three cities. So all of my life my career has been working in and with around entrepreneurs and small businesses before I came to came to metric and you know, starting that off,

Michael Waitze 1:30
I want to get to metric in a little bit, but I want to stay on this topic, if you don't mind. And yeah, can you tell me exactly where are you from originally? If that's an easy question for me, it's a hard question. But for you maybe it's not so hard.

Meenah Tariq 1:41
Yeah, no, no, not that hard. I've I'm from Pakistan. I lived there pretty much all of my life except for the brief period of time when I went to the US I went on a Fulbright scholarship to do my MBA from Babson College. So I was living in Boston for a few years while we had the polar vortex and like all the fun sort of snowy stuff happening. So for a girl that was coming from Pakistan who had never lived in Seoul before, it was a very interesting experience overall, but yeah, I've lived in Pakistan all my life. I'm now based out of the UAE.

Michael Waitze 2:11
Okay, I love this story already. Can we talk about Boston a little bit if you don't mind? My family's originally from Boston and I remember when I was growing up, like shoveling the driveway, which was like one of my least favorite things to do. And I always wonder what it's like for someone who didn't grow up in that type of weather to then like experience like you said, these amazing snowstorm we had one storm when I was a kid, where they This was when I was in Connecticut but where they shut down the state for seven days. And it was so cold that the snow froze and you could literally ice skate on your front lawn but what was it like for you like when when the snow started coming?

Meenah Tariq 2:45
I think that's the exact so the two years that I was there we got the most for that. For that time. We got the like the biggest snowstorms and the most intense weather and all of that fun stuff. Right. And I was living I wasn't living inside main Boston. So I was living in Wellesley, which is this a really white really rich town right outside of Boston, if you know good description, there's like beautiful mansions all around us and Babson College in the middle in Babson Park. It is it is gorgeous. So in the start, it was like I landed in I mean, university starts in August, right? So I landed in August, and right after we started getting cold weather, I could not have imagined whether it weather so cold that your your lungs would feel like they were freezing. Like I could not imagine that if every time you took a breath. Like it would be like you were taking like ice inside, right. But there's a funny story. So during during winter break, we decided I had nowhere to go because again, I didn't know I was living in the dorms. And I didn't know that the dorms shut down during winter. So if you're an international student who doesn't have the money to pay for a ticket back home, you're left with nowhere to go. So I was really lucky. I found amazing people who hosted me and let me live in their houses. So I had to take a flight in because you know the dorm was closing down so I had to take a flight. And now again, because I was in Wellesley getting to Boston Logan is like a really long drive. And it's expensive, right? And if you're if you're a student that's on a stipend, and on scholarship, you don't want to cough up that kind of money. So I had my I had my dorm ra message and saying Mina, I'm gonna get a ride with one of the other students too. And I'm also taking a flight at this time. So if your flight is you know, close to mine, maybe you can also ride with us and this other student will drive us and there was a snowstorm so I said yeah, you know, that makes so much more sense. I feel safer going with people I know. So I'll go with you. Now I didn't know who the driver of the car was. It was it was a it was a snow storm and the driver of the car was an Indian student who was also living in snow for the very first time in his life. I love it. So he was driving in a snowstorm for the very first time in his life. I was sitting in the back and we had this the the the American Ra was sitting in the front trying to guide the Indian driver like you know this This is how you make sure you don't drift into the banks like Turn, turn, turn a little left this way, and we kept drifting off the side of the road into the snow banks, then they would get off and like pull the car over. And I was sitting in the back and I'm like, okay, Mina, you're gonna die. Like, this is the end of your life. And it is extremely scary. So go to sleep. I put myself to sleep. I literally just lay down in the back of the car, and I put myself to sleep. And I'm like, if I'm sleeping, I will not know when I die. Right? Or even if I'm in a snowbank somewhere, I will not know it. So you know, this is the best I can do. It was it was 3am in the morning in a snowstorm outside of Boston. Right. So that is the most insane snow story that I have. But then I just, I really didn't know what to expect during spring break. I thought it would be spring. So I went to Canada and it was all gray and sleet. North, but I went there thinking this is spring break. You know, I'm going to Canada on spring break. So yeah, I made a lot of not fun decisions when it comes to the weather. But it was It wasn't insane. I mean, Michael, I think those two years changed me, they made me a completely different person. Yeah. Before that I was somebody I was I grew up in Pakistan, I grew up in a in Islamabad, which is the capital of Pakistan. But Islam as a very small city, and everybody knows each other. Okay, so I grew up in a city where, you know, the Taylor knew me and the the shop owners all knew me and my parents and everybody was connected, and everybody kind of supported each other. And I was this outspoken, loud, fun person in Istanbul. And I get thrown from that into this massive world where nobody knows me. And they don't genuinely give a you know, beep about me. So they just want me to get my stuff done and move on. And like I had to figure out every single thing from scratch. And I think that broke me down. And it put me back together into a completely different person. And I'm so grateful that I got to have that experience. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 6:57
I mean, I think I had a similar experience. But traveling in a reverse direction. I mean, I was a pretty sheltered kid. And when I actually got on a plane and went to Japan, for the first time for my study abroad, it wasn't to get a master's degree, but just to study abroad for a year, it changed my whole life. If you think about it, I then went back to went back to school, I graduated, I worked in New York for two years, and then got sent to Tokyo, and live there for 22 years. And I've never worked back in the United States. Again, I've been in Asia for 34 years. So yeah, I get it. And I was I'm a completely different person, for sure. And definitely different than I would have been if I just stayed in United States my whole life. I think it's a watershed, I think for sure, yeah.

Meenah Tariq 7:33
I think the humility that you learn when you're standing in line to pay for, you know, something as inane as like bread and milk, yep. But you can't figure out the coins. So you have the you have the currency in your hands, and you're trying to count it and the the person at the desk is like not very happy with you. And they're kind of trying to get you to move along. And there's people behind grumbling. And you're just standing there thinking like I was top dog where I was coming from, but I was, everybody knew me like I was doing so great. And then I won this thing, and I'm here. But here, I'm just standing in line trying to figure out like what these coins mean. And it really humbles you. And it it makes you learn so much about your own self. And I think that's what happened for me for sure.

Michael Waitze 8:11
I could not agree with you more. Can you talk to me a little bit? I'm so curious about this invest to innovate. I've been wanting to talk to somebody about this. For the longest time, I didn't realize until I started doing research that you were involved in this. Can you talk a little bit about eye to eye to eye for me? And maybe a little bit about the startup ecosystem in Pakistan, if you don't mind? For

Meenah Tariq 8:30
sure. So I was one of Pakistan's first accelerator programs, frankly, when Nicholson Lakhani, who is the who's the CEO, who she's not now the CEO of eye to eye but like she she is the founder, when she started it, I think in keeping incubators started that same year, so there was really no Ecosystm that existed back then for startup. For like tech startups, specifically, right. Pakistan has great tech talent, but it is all very much focused on software services. So we've been a services ecosystem services country for the longest time. And building product is only something that I think come into play over the last 10 years or so. And before that, that simply didn't exist. So when consumed started, the Ecosystm didn't exist. She was one of the first ever people to start to build it up from scratch. And it was incredibly hard. So even when I joined in 2000, and I think I joined I joined 2015 I met Kulsoom while I was still in the US because she lives partly she's cheese bucks an American, she lives widely in DC. So I met her in the US and then she hired me and I came back to Fox and I started working with them. There was there was barely anything there were no VCs. We had no idea how investing even happened right? There were no VCs. There were few angels that were trying to call themselves angels, but actually they were very Sharky everything that they did. Everybody got together and killed a few good companies or companies. We all got together and killed a few companies that could have had a lot of potential because nobody really know what anybody was doing. It was a very steep learning curve. But Pakistan gets a lot of things. Right, right. Especially in terms of demographic. And I joke about this a lot, Michael, because when I was growing up, we would they would ask us to write essays about how big an issue population is right? Like, write an essay about the problems that come with a massive population and how it's so important for us to curtail and like, reduce our birthrate a little bit, because we're getting, there's just too many of us. And now when I go anywhere, I'm like, oh, yeah, one of the biggest pluses for Pakistan is how big the market size is, and how it's a young population. So it's 60%, under the age of 30, which is phenomenal. And now Internet penetration is growing. So we check off all of those macros. Of course, there's a lot of things that are still that are still missing, right? So follow on funding, even if early stage funding is available, follow on funding is still very hard. Ease of Doing business is still extremely low, there are so many rails that do not exist. But it is precisely because of all of this, that this is such an asymmetric investment opportunity. Because yes, you know, there's risks that are high, but there's styling that you that can help you reduce those risks. So as an ecosystem, now I think we have, we have like five VC funds that are local, I would say, and they're all still first time VC funds. So there's, it's a lot of fun for everybody. There's a few angels that are actively investing. But there's a lot of talent, people are now getting focused on product more and more. There's a lot of just phenomenal founders. Because if you're a backstabbing, founder, you have to be resilient. There's no other way. Right? You grew up during the war on terror. You, you saw all of those things firsthand. You you live through some insane stories, you saw political upheaval, then you saw COVID. So there's so many things that we've already gone through that, like resilience is the saddest part of the program. It's the status quo for us. There's no other way you have to survive.

Michael Waitze 11:56
Yeah, I want to make it clear to people that don't know enough about Pakistan, when you say a large population, it's almost 240 million people maybe a little bit more now. That's as of 2022. It's a big country. And also relative, you know, you said before, focused on software and software services least in the past, which must mean it has a really good technical education to No one wakes up and knows how to program. Right. It's a lot of hard work a lot of hard education. And that's a good thing as well. Yes.

Meenah Tariq 12:21
Yeah, absolutely. I think we've been very, and that's because we were services company, one of the biggest, one of our biggest exports is actually Tech Tech Services. Right. So the tech sector exports a lot of the services. So there was a lot of focus from the government, also from universities also. And again, because money did not really exist for startups, nobody was focusing on startups. When when when this kind of boom, that was that happened in you know, in the last few years, 20 maybe up to all the way up to 2022. Or at least 2021. When that happened and money started to flow in and international capital started to realize what a great market Pakistan was. We saw that shift happened from from services to products, and we're still seeing more of that developed. So yeah, just just a phenomenal market when it comes to market size. And again, Tech Tech penetration is growing internet penetration is really fast growing. smartphone usage is growing really fast. So all of things, all of those things then just add up. I

Michael Waitze 13:22
love watching these. I love watching a country like Pakistan develop so quickly. Right? Like you said the end of the internet penetration is there the software knowledge is there. There now local VCs there people are starting to understand the funding. And with programs like Ida AI now, what did you say? Like almost 10 years old? If not more? Yeah, more than 10 years more than 10 years old? Yeah. So the impact there is going to be huge. I also want to talk to you about the woman entrepreneurs financing initiative because I think this is like indicative of like the maybe the main mission of your life you tell me if I'm wrong with that. And I love the shortened name for it, we find it almost sounds like Wi Fi. So it sounds kind of techie. I don't know if that's on purpose or not. But tell me more about this and, and why the World Bank and you thought this was important to do.

Meenah Tariq 14:06
So we fi was created by World Bank as a global initiative. So it's taking place in many different countries. They got me on board and of 2018 when I just left I try and I remember I was being I was interviewing for like places like Uber and my boss who ended up being my boss at that time who was at work the World Bank sarma just an amazing person. He said to me, Listen, you know, the Ubers of the words are going to are going to wait, I need to come and design this first. Like you you just need to do this. This is this is and I ended up doing it for the next four years. And it was just absolutely phenomenal. So again, when it comes to women, I think globally. I mean, if you look at the overall percentage of money that goes goes to women entrepreneurs, I think it's what 2% in the UAE it's extremely, extremely low and for Pakistan as well. You see similar issues. You also see massive pipeline issues because of the way women have been brought up right is what we were taught when we were kids, because of what we saw grow up growing up models that existed for us. I think, you know, before I went to the US back in back when I was an undergrad, all I was thinking about was like, Okay, getting married. And having kids like that. That was, that was the next milestone for me, there was really nothing else that I was looking forward to. So those pieces have been missing for women, for so long that we see that reflected in the pipeline of women entrepreneurs as well. And that's something that needs to be worked on. And it is not the job of VCs to go maybe that upstream and try to work on the development side of the pipeline. But it is definitely the job for donor organizations like the USA Id like the World Bank. And that is what they're doing in Pakistan. And of course, also the government. And that's also a lot of the government initiatives that take place to help develop and strengthen the pipeline for women entrepreneurs, so that when they come downstream where VCs exist, they're investable companies to put money into, I'm

Michael Waitze 16:00
so happy you brought this up. But this is something that I've kind of been intimated as a man, it's hard for me to talk about. But this idea of creating the pipeline has always been has always been a difficult conversation to have, right? Because you want things to change in this generation. But to do that, you kind of have to change what how this generation is brought up, how they're guided, how they're kind of pushed into one thing, as opposed to another thing. And think about it even for you. And you just said this woman who's well educated, you know, ambitious, the thing you had in your mind before you got your degree was, how can I have kids and get married? Right? And if you think about how, yeah, but if your life has changed? Yeah, that's a question you were being you're being told to kind of go down. That was the path you knew about. And even you kind of fought against that. Look where you are now, for God sakes.

Meenah Tariq 16:49
Yeah. And it's so Michael, your work has to happen simultaneously and in a lot of in a lot of different places. Right. So yes, there's a pipeline issue for sure. Right. Like I say this as somebody who was a VC because I was a partner in a VC fund, right before I moved to metric. Yep. And I saw that pipeline issue. But even then, we did end up doing 40% of our total portfolio investments into women led businesses, right? Because it was a it was a KPI for us, right? For me personally, for my partners, it was something that was in the forefront for us not something that was in the background. When investors come and say, Oh, we're gender agnostic, or we don't see gender, that's BS, because when you look at your portfolio, their their portfolio, you can see what gender is there. Right. So nobody, nobody can claim that they couldn't even find a single woman founder that was investable. That's not true. Right. So the there is enough of a pipeline for people to be investing into, they need to look at into what their subconscious biases are, or what is it that they need to be doing more to attract more women founders towards their fund. Having said that, yes, for governments, for donor organizations, for ecosystem builders, there is still a need to make sure that we are nurturing the right, the right kind of pipeline, and that there is enough diversity within that pipeline. So I think, you know, I think it's sometimes and I don't want it to sound like you know, that's what I'm saying, I don't want this to be a cop out for anybody, right? Because it is not there. There are women founders that you're not investing in. So even for us, I remember having this conversation with one of my partners, where we were looking at a woman founder, and after, after our meetings with her, I said to them in our ice, actually I said to them, I think we're asking her different questions. And you know, I read a report about this recently, also admission, which made me realize, really, investors ask women different questions. And they asked men, so they asked men questions about growth, about visions, and about you know, where they're going to go. And they ask women questions about risks, what are the bigger issues that they think are going to fall? What if this happens, what if Google decides to make this? What if this sort of flips? And then this happens? What will you do when XYZ changes? So there's a big study that came out about this, also, that investors tend to ask different questions when they're faced with women, founders versus men? So I had that conversation with my own partners. And I said, I think we're asking her things that we have not expected from any of the men that we have invested in. We never asked them to jump through these hoops, but we want her to jump through these hoops. And none of us are aren't misogynistic, in general, what what is it that we're doing that is making us behave this way? And we have to go back and reflect on it and change what we were asking her to do.

Michael Waitze 19:39
So why do you think that was the case? I love the sound of super self awareness where you're sitting in a meeting thinking, Well, wait a second, we're even we're doing this differently. And we're trying not to do it differently. What was the result of those internal conversations and what was the what was the understanding that you got about why you know what I mean? The insight that you had So

Meenah Tariq 20:00
the why is simple. We've all been brought up that way, all of us you meet the men, the women, all of us, right? So just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I am less, maybe I have less of a chance of asking the wrong questions. Maybe I because I grew up in the same way. So I have the same fears. I'm in Pakistan. And in boxing, because it's a nascent ecosystem. And because I guess there's less accountability, women are still being asked things like, what if, what if you decide to have a second child, then what will happen to the company without and men never get get asked for specificity that is still very much the live reality of Pakistan, right? So for US and metric, we're super on the nose about it, I have a four year old, I take her to most of my investor meetings, I call it the baby test evidence. If an investor is uncomfortable with me having a child, then they should not be on my cap table, they should not be on this journey with me. If they think that me having a having the probability of having another kid or not having another kid or whatever, it has anything to do with me being able to build this business, then they shouldn't be on this journey with me. But again, you know, there's what needs to happen in so many, so many different ways. When we ask women to work, like they don't have kids, we also need to make sure that there are structures and infrastructure that's in place for them to be able to do it right. So many offices still don't have a crash or a childcare solution. How do we expect the women to come in leaving babies at home and not not worrying about them? Right? So it's just uh, yeah, I think if we want things to change, everybody has to work together towards that one single goal. And saying that you don't see gender doesn't move the needle on it at all. I

Michael Waitze 21:41
was recording with two women at money 2020, a few weeks ago, in Bangkok, both one of them was an entrepreneur, the other one was a senior executive at at an insurance company. And they were both saying a similar thing. This idea that like, having a baby only impacts half of the people that had the baby is kind of weird when you think about it, right? And it's like, there's another person involved. And to be fair, it doesn't even matter who that other person is, right? Unless someone makes an active decision to be a single parent, that's a different story. But even then they still need a support system that does, it shouldn't change their their accessibility to funding and to being an entrepreneur at any level. But if there is a family unit, well, then the whole family is there to support that baby. And they both should be able to run to the same situation. But I'll tell you this when my daughter was born, I was back in the office on Monday, and nobody ever said a word to me, because that was just the way the system works. Do you know what I mean? And it was really deeply unfair. But anyway,

Meenah Tariq 22:44
yeah. Yeah. So at better we have paternity leave. We I still think there needs to be we need to increase it. But we have like about one and a half month right now, which is software for Buxton. Yeah, it's super rare for bucks on and we have to convince people to take, I had to sit down with one of my team members and say, Listen, you're having a baby, you are going to go on leave. And he's like, Are you sure about this, like, it felt so alien to him? And I have to, I have to have that conversation. I'm like, your wife needs you. Your baby needs you. You should be present for the baby so that those bonds develop that there has to be the emotional connection. You need to be at home, like you have to do this. So yeah, I think it is still something that is like even today, you know, something that's so so rare, but it is these are the conversations that we need to constantly have. And for us for me, Michael. I mean, I wanted to have Madonna Madonna sitting with my my daughter so beautiful. I wanted to have Madonna and I want to have my life. I want to have matric I want to have Madonna, I want to have my life. I want to have my relationship. And I want all of it. I don't want to be put in a box and be just Madonna's mom for XYZ years, while everything else because that doesn't make me happy. For some people. That's fine, right? For me, I need my life to be a cohesive unit, not pieces that I'm jumping into as required. So Mirana, like, like I'm saying, like, she goes to the investor meetings with us. Because she's a part of the journey. She is literally a part of the metric journey for us. There's a baby room in our office from day one where Madonna goes, and other people bring their kids. She has grown up in that office with those people. And that's okay for us that works. And

Michael Waitze 24:25
can I say that, to me that looks like the beginning of the pipeline as well, right? Because if your daughter is growing up in a place of business, with other children of other women who are also doing business, all she's going to know is everybody here who's doing business it's also a lady. This is what I should do too. I can't wait to have my own baby in a baby room while I'm working kind of thing or building my own company. That's the beginning of the pipeline. Yeah, that

Meenah Tariq 24:48
is that it gave me goosebumps goosebumps when you put it that way but that is exactly right. We I make I make jokes about like, oh Madonna you know Forbes five under five hashtag no. She is literally when I was pregnant with Madonna, I was working with the USA ID delivering trainings, I trained about five to 700 Women Entrepreneurs while pregnant, right? I would, I would travel we were doing by road. So we, I would travel by road, get there, throw up, deliver the training, throw up again, get back in the car and drive back for some of us, right. But she heard me talk about small business challenges while she was inside. She was just listening. She was just hearing me talk about pricing issues and costing mistakes and social media marketing like 500 times, right. But for her to be able to see and this is we it was missing. For us, those role models were missing for us, I think our mothers came from a different direction. And they they thought, Okay, this is my life, but I want something else for my daughter, I want my daughter to have a better life than me. And they pushed us in this direction. And now for us, we can be role models for these young ones and say, Okay, you can have this, but everybody has to come together to make sure the infrastructure exists.

Michael Waitze 25:59
I want to share a story with you. And then I want to give you a little bit of perspective from me. And then I want to talk about metric. My grandfather who passed away 2025 years ago or more right in the 80s. Yeah, maybe 30 or 40 years ago now. Sorry, I was kicked out of school, bullied basically out of school when he was seven years old. This is in like the 1920s because he stuttered. So he couldn't read and he couldn't write, and he couldn't do math. But he was super smart. And he built a pretty good business. And he married a woman who he was deeply in love with. Who was an actuary. So she was a mathematician, and she was really smart. And the level of respect that he had for her because without her, he couldn't have done like half the things he could do couldn't sign his own name on a check. Seriously. So the Reliance he had on her was passed on to me about this level of respect. So in my mind, that was my role model. Yeah, for a woman, he drove her to work every she didn't know how to drive he, he drove her to work to Aetna every day in Boston, from south of Boston every day, and then would pick her up as well. But like, that was my role model for this working woman. And remember, she was doing that in the 60s in the 70s. And that's how I grew up watching that going, Wow, I have a ton of respect for her. Because she like you want to live this full life, her brain was to active, right. And she fulfilled that by doing all these things. But it was the respect that he had for her. That kind of got passed down to me. Yeah, it normalizes

Meenah Tariq 27:40
it, right? Your relationship just normalized. There was nothing weird about

Michael Waitze 27:45
it. No, it was just what it was. Okay, how does somebody who worked at accelerator or built it, you know, helped build it has, you know, used to teach people train people was a venture capitalist as well, what excites you to then go out and say, I'm gonna stop doing all of that stuff and build my business.

Meenah Tariq 28:09
I joke about I say, we were just getting too much sleep, you know, two year old, like, we were just sleeping so much, we decided we had so much more time we need to, we need to make our lives harder. Okay, so for me, and you can probably tell by the way I talk about it, entrepreneurship is something that I'm just extremely passionate about, right? My mom, my mom says, you know, when she's trying to get me to like, pray, she's like me, now you don't want this entrepreneurship you're talking about is not gonna get you to heaven, you have to because that's, that's, that's maybe how, how passionate I am about it. I started I started business when I was six years old. I was telling you about it before. Also, I started just making and selling things. And I really, really, you know, really appreciate my parents for putting that in place. So that I was able to do it, I would literally just take my mother's like lemons and sugar and make lemonade and sell it back to my own parents. And then I grew that into like, then when my cousins would come over to stay for the summer, I would organize them into like a labor force and go around asking the neighborhood aunties, if they wanted any chores done and it was like a labor force for hire, I would charge money for like this child to pay for, that I would rent out for like, you know, we'll wash your carport and we'll wash your car and we'll do this in your kitchen or we're we'll do XYZ, what started but

Michael Waitze 29:30
why, like, what and how old were you? Like if you're six or seven or even 10? Where does this idea come from? Where you're thinking I can get all my cousin's six or seven, however many they were and we're gonna be like, cleaning up the local neighborhood people's houses and driveways and stuff like that. And I can make money like where does that come from? So

Meenah Tariq 29:49
a couple of different places. So first of all, the way finances were structured in my house were that my father was working and my mother was a homemaker and she Got a limited budget to run the household, right? So then when we as kids asked for something that was extra, and she then started giving us pocket money very early on, we had like a limited pocket money. And we would get it every month. And we could spend whatever we wanted to. And I loved reading, so I would spend a lot of it on books. And then if we needed more, we could ask her for an advance on our next month's pocket money. Or we could figure out how to earn it right. So it was just as simple as that. So because we had limited, we had limited cash, we have to figure out what we can do to get to the cash. And then also because I read a lot, I would read all of these novels where kids were doing these things. So I'm pretty sure I got the idea for selling lemonade from like one of the one of the kids novels that I used to read at that time, right. And so together, it just in my mind, it became this thing where I was like, okay, and the first time I did it, I realized, oh, this works, I can create. I mean, now I know the words for it, but I can create value and get paid for creating value for somebody else. Cool. And it was addictive, right? It changed my life. Because I think I started I started when I was six. And I then grew it all the way into starting my own hair business. When I was 14 year old. I ran that for 10 years. And I got to the point where brides would book me six months in advance of their weddings. And I was a really popular henna artist. But I did everything Michael, I was a photographer, and I wanted to buy a night, you know, a napkin, and I had to save money for it. So I borrowed some money from my mom. And I still have a notebook, which has like, you know, January pay that much every day back this much from my pocket money back to my mom. And because I wanted to buy that camera, then I started doing other things. I did event management, I did dress designing, I did I did event photography, once I had that camera, I literally tried out so many of the small businesses that I then ended up supporting in the next phase of my life. And I made all of the mistakes, right? So I created I laugh about this. Also, I created metric, not because I love numbers, but actually because I hated accounting so much. And I made so many of those number mistakes myself, and I saw firsthand how challenging it is. build anything from the ground up? If you are somebody who's scared of numbers, yes, I did all of those businesses very early on,

Michael Waitze 32:19
I'm gonna make a noncontrast I'm gonna make actually two non controversial statements and feel free to argue with me. And again, I learned this from my architect who I realized does not have a job. He just has a life. And his life is finding empty spaces and putting beautiful things in those spaces. Awesome. Yeah. And I feel like that you don't have a job either. You just have a life and that life is entrepreneurialism. And I don't think that that's an exaggeration. And I think the other kind of non controversial statement is now that I've spoken to you for what is it almost 35 minutes, I think I realized as well. That metric is really just an outgrowth and extent and an extension of what you've been doing your whole life, and kind of all combined and coordinated into a platform that then goes out and helps all the people that you've been investing in teaching and accelerating. In all the other different jobs that you had, including the Wi Fi thing that you've built as well, it feels like a like a not a summation, because it's not over yet. It's really just starting. But it's like I'm taking all these little things that I've already been doing in different places and putting it on a platform. And then of course, using artificial intelligence to do it. Maybe you want to tell me more about metric. And if I'm wrong there.

Meenah Tariq 33:28
No, I'm trying not to cry, because like that is the most beautiful way anybody's ever put it like that just I talked about it all the time to people like it feels like everything that we've been doing the last in all of our lives has brought us to the point where we started metric. And you also have to know my co founder and my co founder Omar, who also by the way is my husband, and we've been together for like 14 years at this point. married for about eight Yeah, he's a numbers guy. He knows all the dates, okay. It's not, I'm not the person that has that responsibility. But Omar has, you know, has been so when I was at itI, Omar was still being an accountant. And I convinced him to come and start to work with some of these entrepreneurs that I was working with, for free. Because I was like, Listen, this comes naturally to you. And we're really struggling, like I can't help them with this. So can you do this for free? So I started like involving him in the Ecosystm, pro bono for free. And he ended up doing this with hundreds of startups, right? He ended up building financial models, he ended up helping them structure their accounting systems, everything. So he's the one who actually one day at breakfast said to me, listen, Mina, this work that you know, you've been doing and I've been doing, I think there's a way to productize it and then get it to millions instead of you know, in the course of our lifetimes. Yes, we'll get to a few 1000 But it's not going to be enough. But if we can create a product out of it and make it so simple, that people can use it, then we can actually change the lives of millions. So for you know, having him as a co founder, he's a chartered accountant. He comes from that finance side, but he has also deeply worked with startups and SMEs. So together for us, this really did become a very natural extension of what we're doing. And our our third co founder, Dr. Habiba is our CTO, she has been working on machine learning for the last 20 years since before it was cool like her. She did her computer science in machine learning and data. You know, 20 years ago from the University of Illinois, she worked she was in the US for 10 years, she was in Germany for four years working at the University of Constance and then auto, then she was at Microsoft, in Australia, she's worked on multiple, you know, multiple countries, multiple different projects. And throughout, she's been into this. So when we brought her on board, her interest in this was okay, this is going to be so interesting, because the data that we get is going to be so rich. And the markets that we're working in are extremely opaque, dark markets, right? There is no data. So when somebody comes to me in a training and says Meena, I'm a photographer, I don't know what my profit margin should be. Can you tell me what do you think my profit margin should be? And I'm like, unless I worked with millions of photographers, I cannot give you even a range would be incorrect, right? Yeah. But with metric, we can already tell you, if you're a photographer, what the average range for photographers in XYZ region is. So if you're to below or to above, here are the things that you can do within your business to figure out what the best course of action is for you. So I've kind of jumped into this without talking about what metric is first. But that's the data piece that is super exciting. But then you

Michael Waitze 36:33
back up a little bit, because I want to understand how it works. And then I want to understand how the AI does this as well. But let's just get to the basic part of how does like, who's the target for it. I'm presuming it's SMEs, small and medium sized businesses who here's the other thing too. And I think, and again, tell me where I'm wrong here. But I think there's a secular change taking place here in that large corporations have access to they have resources that then allows them to do all this data analysis, all this financial analysis, because they have their own data, right. And they also have some industry data that is not opaque, it's not dark. And it means that there are companies out there that do research on these large companies. But they had to build like some of their own tech stack at some level. But for SMEs, they don't have the resources or the time to build it. And there's this abstraction that's taking place. And I think you're part of this secular change, whether it's in human resources. Stripe does this in the finance place for big companies. But it sounds to me like metric metric is doing this abstracting the finance roll out of a small and medium sized company and saying, use the platform to do this. And we'll help you do it at scale, because we've already built all the tools that you need, you can't build yourselves.

Meenah Tariq 37:42
Yeah, so there's two things right, a tech is inherently deflationary. So number one in an economic crisis, it really helps because tech is solving for a lot of those issues that otherwise you you simply can't afford so many of these things. And number two, yes, definitely. Tech is also tech is also something that democratizes right. So what we're trying to do is democratize access to those benchmarks as well as to your just your basic finance, finance roles. In SMEs in emerging markets actually do not exist because they can't afford it, they cannot afford to hire a data analyst that is looking at all their data, they actually usually cannot even afford a single platform where all of their data can come together, they cannot afford any kind of expertise that's able to then crunch that data and feed it back to them in any way, shape, or form that would be understandable for them, right. And business founders themselves. Business owners themselves cannot do it in SME, you know, in small and medium enterprises in emerging markets. Business owners generally shy away from anything that has to do with numbers, just because of the way Accounting and Finance has been built for centuries, you know, how we were talking about how women have been brought up. In the same way businesses have been brought up to almost fear accounting and finance, it has been gate kept to such an extreme level, where it is so complex, and it is so hard and it's so connected to regulations and government stuff and taxes that it becomes this big monster versus understanding that it is just a building block off my business. And it is meant to help me grow my business, right? So instead of something that was helpful and supportive, it is scary, like talking to your accountant usually gives you anxiety because hey, they're speaking a different language. And be you're really scared of what they're gonna say next. I remember we had somebody on our team who was a tax expert, and he said, he said, listen, the way I do it is I go in and I scare the client first. In the first meeting, I just scare them I tell them everything that can go wrong with their business and everything that's about to blow up. And then I tell them how I will solve it for them. How I will make it easy and how I will come in and save them and we're like Nope, that is not how we do business. We will never scare that is the opposite, right? But this is the way I'm married to a chartered accountant. I've seen In his journey in chartered accounting, and he is also my co founder. So I understand how this has been built. And, again, because accounting is linked to regulation, people believe that they only need to do it, because you need to file your financial report somewhere, you don't, you don't know how to read those financial reports, and you don't know how to use those financial reports, you are only filing them. So metric we started off by building and we call it the world's most we started calling it the world's most founder friendly Financial Intelligence app. Before it was the world's most founder friendly Financial Intelligence app. It was aspirational for us. But we call it that because that is what our vision for it is right? metric to become the simplest building block of business building in emerging markets. And I want to give you an example like how we think about it, right? Most people don't realize or don't think about companies like Mira, Facebook, as social impact companies. But if you look at what they did for SMEs in emerging markets, they completely changed our reality, right? So, you know, a few a decade plus ago, maybe if I was a small business owner in a small city, somewhere in Pakistan, or even any other emerging market country, if I wanted to sell in a different country, in a big in a bigger city, even not even just a different country, I would have to move all my inventory into that other city, I will have to figure out warehousing transportation, I will have to figure out a graphic designer and you know, a consultant for marketing and all of these complex things, which meant that it was really, really, really hard for me to do it right. Now, if you're in a small city, in any country, in anywhere in the world, and you have a business idea, one of the first things you do is create a Facebook page or an Instagram account, and then you create a tic tock account. And you start taking pictures with your phone, your own phone, off your product, and you start putting them up and over time slowly, you build an audience and you start to generate sales, and you can sell to anywhere on Earth. Yeah, if you have a shop, a free shop on any of these platforms. Sure. I'm simplifying this right. Yeah. But it makes a point, though. Yeah, that it is that simple. Nobody is scared of marketing anymore. Because it is not complex. It has been democratized and simplified to that extent, where an auntie sitting in Powerball will be able to do it without having to ask anybody for help or having to spend anything on marketing, right? That is what do we want to do for accounting and finance, we want it to be so simple, that the day you think of a business idea, you you make your bank account, your Instagram account, and your metric account, and you connect everything together. And your accounting and your finance is being done. And you can see in real time, how much you're spending, how much you're earning. And what are the next few steps that you need to take is your profit margin. Okay. Is your is your retention high enough? Are you doing any mistakes in your marketing strategy that are reflecting in your customer acquisition cost? And what is it that you can fix to make it be better? Like that? Is the end vision for us? And

Michael Waitze 42:59
how? Like, how the founders use it, what do they connect to it? Can I connect my bank account to a do I have to input things into it? Like how does it actually work mechanically.

Meenah Tariq 43:08
Yeah, so mechanically, you can input things into it. And there's a few different ways for input. And we're working on a lot more integration so that that input can be even more simplified, which is where bank integrations also come in. Right. So basic, zero, like at zero, you start by putting things in, it's on your phone, you download it, you say, Okay, this is, and it's very conversational, it's not scary. There's no Excel sheets, anywhere you say, this is how much I spent. And this is what I spent it on. And you're done. This is how much money I got. If you know the name of the customer. This is the person who I sold it to. This is the item and you can add in as many items as you want. You can add a discounting there's a ton of features in there, right? But it's all super steps. Super non scary, super simple. When you're when you want to go one step above, you have the OCR you can take pictures of your invoices, your receipts, you can save them within the app, you can document you know, you can it's digital vouching so you can save anything in a digital format. And you can have it have your input be done that way. Then when you get a little more complex, you can connect your QuickBooks to it we've already built into QuickBooks integration. So if you're a business that already has QuickBooks, and you're using that to manage your business, you just layer metric on top. So as the business founder, who is who QuickBooks is not made for so these tools that are in the market are made for accountants not founder. So as a founder, you can simply then learn metric to translate what QuickBooks is saying for you, or in the future Zoho, zero, anything at all, translate what all of those things are saying and you know, in your dashboard in your phone, what the health of your business is like, for the UAE we already have seven banks integrated because the UAE was our primary market in terms of monetization. So we have seven UAE bank. So again, you can simply connect your bank account and your transaction data starts to flow it. We're also building integrations with Shopify. So if you're an E commerce business, you connect your Shopify account, your data starts to flow in over time, the way we envision it. Is that metric will become that layer that connects to everything that you can possibly be using to build your business. So if you have a POS, you connect your POS, if you have an E commerce platform, you connect that. And this becomes the layer that translates everything, aggregates all of that data and translates it back to you, in the simplest possible way you, as a business owner are able to use in real time day to day,

Michael Waitze 45:26
how long has the metric been out there? When was it founded? And when was the product like not finalized? Or when did it go out into the market?

Meenah Tariq 45:32
The product went out in the app was launched our first the Android app, we started just with Android app was launched in July 2022.

Michael Waitze 45:42
Okay, that's almost two years ago. That's almost

Meenah Tariq 45:45
two years ago, in our first 30 days, we realized that this was and this was, it was like it was something out of like, it was something out of a movie, right? We were 30 days in I had to sit down to write my first investor update. And so I asked my my data person to give me like the data on like, what, what the usage has been like, and he's like, we've been using 30 countries. I'm like, what, like we've been using 30 countries, I made him go back and check like seven times, because I couldn't believe it. We were using 30 countries in the first 30 days with no marketing, we had at that point, not run anything at all, it was completely organic. In the in the next like 10 months, we had crossed 170 countries to date metric has been used in 190 countries, and we have 130,000 businesses on the platform. Oh my gosh. So for, and this is the 190 countries is organic. So what we what it made us, I think what it validated for us is how real this problem is, and that we were not dreaming it up when we thought that this was a real and critical issue. Right? And not not only was it a real issue for the country that we were in, but that it was an issue, no matter where you were never had no localizations. At that time, we did not have banks, we did not have QuickBooks, we did not have we did not we still don't have any language localizations we don't have any tax localizations we only have tax for the UAE now. Even then, people kept finding us and people kept using us because this problem was just so critical. And business owners really do not have anything to fall back on. And

Michael Waitze 47:12
how do you how do you get paid for this? Do they have to? Is there a signup thing? Is it a SaaS product that they use on a month to month basis? How does that work? Yeah,

Meenah Tariq 47:20
so when we first started out, we had just a free plan, we did not have payment rails in place until like mid last year when we finally got them in place. And we had like 200 businesses attempt to pay us even before we have payment rails in place from all sorts of Imagine, imagine if you're a startup founder, and that happens, like it was just the most?

Michael Waitze 47:36
Where do we send the money? You're like, not yet. Oh, my God. Yeah.

Meenah Tariq 47:40
And we're like, oh, Allah, let us sort of fix this, because so we had Google Play pay, we had Google integrated for payments. And because we were in Pakistan, and we we did not have our bank account was a digital bank account in Singapore, Google kept blocking those payments. So we had to fly to Singapore to open up a physical bank bank account to solve that problem. But again, you know, those are the kind of issues that you face as a startup founder, that you don't think you're going to be facing on Day Zero of the business. But we have, we have four plans. So there's the smallest plan, which is $9 a month, which is a life plan that gives you a lot of basic flexibility. So by the way, we're a freemium model. So there's a free app, which is free forever, where we, we believe that a massive volume of businesses will always be and we want it to be because we want this to change everybody's lives, not just those people that can pay for it. Then there's a $9 plan, there's a $29 plan, and there's a $79 plan. In the $79 plan, you get access to QuickBooks, you get a lot of those integrations. But of course, then like, you know, functionality shifts, as you kind of go go up or go down. But we have all of those plans in place, we've already hit $100,000, in ARR. And I'm always forgetting, like if I'm supposed to say this on podcast or not, but now I've said it, we've hit $100,000 In ARR. Already, again, with very little money that we've spent on monetization to date, we built all of this off of a small pre seed round that we did almost two years ago now. And I think we've been able to stretch and we were very capital efficient company. We're very middle class and how we think I guess, again, because from where we come from, and our own personal backgrounds and the country we come from, so that has been built in like being able to stretch the dollar is something that's built into our DNA. And so yeah, we've been able to build all of this off of, you know, we raised under $1,000,000.02 years ago. And at that time, we had like the bare bones of the product. So we were able to get the whole tech team and build the product, get designers, everything and get to this point.

Michael Waitze 49:39
What's the long term vision by the way, congratulations, I love companies like yours that raise money but spend it like it's their own money. Do you know what I mean? Like it's not like it's somebody else's money, like a drunken sailor.

Meenah Tariq 49:51
Yeah, maybe also because we were investors before this, right. So we like you know what, when you're on the other side, you know how it feels. So When you're on this site, again, you know exactly how to build. And again, because I guess I come from an SME background myself too. So as an SME in emerging markets, you don't have any external funding. So you build with your own money anyway. So that's it's part of our DNA.

Michael Waitze 50:16
I'm sure your mindset has changed quite a bit, since you're a six year old, for sure. But there's an there's an embedded mentality around you about like how to do a business and how to run it efficiently and how to involve your cousins, which I loved. Actually, that probably never goes away, but just becomes more refined, more sophisticated and more nuanced. And actually, that's the great thing about starting off with being an entrepreneur when you were six, as you said earlier, the lessons you learn along the way, particularly when it comes to capital efficiency, right? I have no money. I want more money from my mom. But she's not going to give it to me, because she doesn't have it. How do I get it? Once I get it, I want to save it for that Nikon camera, so that I can use that camera to make more money. And once you get into that kind of cycle, it kind of never goes away, if that makes sense. No.

Meenah Tariq 51:00
Yeah. But you know, Michael, there's a there's, there's a flip side to this. Also, as a tech startup founder, you are also expected to show those insane top line numbers, maybe you're not expected to show when you're building your business your way, right? A lot of times there's a lot of this pressure. So you exist in this place where you don't want your scarcity mindset, which is what I was brought up in right to influence the decisions that you will take for your startup in an in a world where you have to have an abundance mindset. So I had to unlearn some things to which it wasn't just being refined, it was also unlearning a lot of those things I don't right now the world has been thrust back. Like globally, we've all been thrust back into the scarcity mindset again, right? But it is so critical to not lose sight of that abundance mindset to know that when you're creating value, value will always be created for you, when you create value for the universe. The universe always sends value back to you exactly. And you have to do it with that abundance mindset. So you have to be you have to be careful, you have to spend it like it's your own money. But you also never have to make yourself smaller, fearing that there isn't going to be enough resources out there for you. If you're doing a good job, there will always be resources. Okay,

Michael Waitze 52:17
I'm going to end there. We've been at this for over 50 minutes. This has been an incredible conversation, you have to promise me that as you continue to grow and continue to learn. You'll come back maybe you're one of your co founders of both. And we'll come back I want to keep telling the story of Metric. Meenah TariQ, a co founder and the CEO of Metric, thank you so much for doing this today. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

Meenah Tariq 52:38
I loved it so much, Michael, I just I think you have such a, you have a gift for putting things together and pulling things out of people and putting them together in this beautiful, like I literally, at one point you were talking I was looking around for like some tissue because I was like, I'm gonna start tearing up because I cry really easily anyway. And you all the things that you said, were really just hitting me in my heart, I'm like, okay, he's gonna make me cry. I need some tissue. I should have been better prepared. But this was it was so lovely for me. We are in a tough time, right, globally, we are globally we're in an economic recession, people are hurting there is this tough financial climate that we're building in. And as startups we're also, you know, we're facing it to 2023 I think was really tough for everybody globally. And we also went through a lot of this a lot of stuff, a lot of fires that were burning everywhere. But it is so critical. I think conversations like this that helped me reaffirm my own belief in my own journey and in the product that we're building and remind me of why we're doing this. And I think that's what this this meant for me today. I would love for my co founders to come and talk to you. Omar is amazing. He's he's had his own journey. Dr. Habiba is phenomenal. She's had this just heard, she never talks about it. So it would be interesting to see how much you can get out of her. But she comes from a really different place in Pakistan and her journey has been just absolutely insane. And I would love to, I'm going to send this to a lot of my other founder friends and say, You need to try and get Michael to talk to you because this was so much fun.

Michael Waitze 54:08
Thank you. I really appreciate it. I loved it.

 

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