Pakistani entrepreneur accelerates UAE startups

Almost 30 per cent of the startups that Dojki has worked with have attracted billions of dollars and thousands of talented professionals to the GCC
Almost 30 per cent of the startups that Dojki has worked with have attracted billions of dollars and thousands of talented professionals to the GCC

Dubai - Farzal Dojki’s company Next GenI has worked with over 50 tech startups in the GCC, deploying hundreds of engineers and millions of hours over the past 10 years



by

Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Sat 15 Jan 2022, 5:36 PM

Building a tech team for a tech product is like a “fun roller coaster experience”, says Farzal Dojki, founder of NextGenI, a firm that works with the founders of tech startups to build their tech teams, or with enterprises in their push towards digital innovation.

As an industry veteran who has worn many hats, Dojki will be the first person to say that not everything has been smooth sailing. After receiving a CS and Economics degrees from Austin and NYU, he worked in the US as a software developer for two very large firms. However, when he returned to Pakistan in 2005, his first job was at a small company.

“We did not use the term ‘startup’ back then,” he recalls. “That was a big change in my life, and exposed to me the fun of working in a small team of passionate builders. Jeff Bezos’s 2-pizza-theory is the best explanation of where the fun stops and bureaucracy starts. After that, I worked for a few more years at two small companies, and I loved it.”

However, when a fourth startup that he worked for shut down, he decided that it was time to go solo. “That was the genesis of Next Generation Innovations. Over the past 10 years, we have done over a 100 projects, of which there have been around 50 pure startups, and of them, more than 20 have gone on to raise series A or more.”

Dojki stressed that NextGenI works with a wide range of companies as long as it is innovative work. “We are a boutique firm; that is our biggest advantage, and we wish to retain this advantage as it helps overcome challenges. We answer not to our shareholders, but to our employees and our customers.”

He noted that the size of a potential client’s personnel team could literally be one person for an idea stage firm, or over 10,000 people for an enterprise. “This breadth of experience is only navigable if we focus on one core area, and for us, that core service is fast innovation. We only take on work if it is innovative, and we are confident that we can be the best people to solve it.”

Asked about the challenges that he has observed in the UAE’s startups scene, which NextGenI is in a position to tackle, he said: “I think we solve two challenges. First is that of talent, where it is hard to find co-founding CTOs. NextGenI, through our UAE entity, offers a path where we can take on the role of interim CTO until the startup raises a series A and can offer potential C-level executives the roadmap and stability that the expat population of the region requires before taking on job roles.”

Second, he says, is the wealth of experience that the company offers in product strategy; most founders in the GCC are first-time founders, and they can use experience working with a team where most team members have worked for two or more startups. “One of our software engineers has worked on three startup products over the past six years and all three of them have been acquired by European and American Decacorns.”

Dojki pointed out that NextGenI’s London office serves the EU and North America region, which is important as there is a lot to be learned from these advanced economies. However, with the increase in startup activity across the region – 300 per cent in Pakistan, and 50 per cent in most of the GCC – the firm wants to keep putting its best people to work for the region, “…and not distract ourselves,” Dojki says.

Recently, he was awarded the 10-year Golden visa. While he is the main recipient of this visa, Dojki said that the credit goes to “the hundreds of Pakistani software engineers from our local universities who have worked at NextGenI over the past 10 years.”

“The software products they built have allowed the founders to raise approximately $500 million in VC capital,” he stated. “These platforms are collectively valued at over $4.5 billion. The validation from the UAE government increases our motivation to continue to invest our best people’s time into GCC startups.”

rohma@khaleejtimes.com


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