Binish Bhagwanee caught the attention of the Pakistan StartUp Cup mentors early on with her positive and definite answer to their question about the value proposition of Go-Fig Solutions, “To end terrorism.” She would go on to tell them, “Terrorism is a problem, and we have a solution.” The issue of terrorism is not isolated to her home country of Pakistan, but it is a problem they know too well, and Go-Fig feels they have the ability, technology and drive to make a difference worldwide.
Founder and CEO, Dr. Zeeshan Usmani has a vast academic career that includes being a Fulbright Scholar and Eisenhower Fellow. He earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, FL in 2009 and returned to Pakistan shortly after. In 2011 he joined Interactive Group as Chief of Research and his Ph.D. thesis, “Modeling and Simulation of Suicide Bombing”, was published in the form of a book that same year. During all of his education and working years, Dr. Usmani felt compelled to do more and continually aimed higher. In 2013, he left his job and ventured out to reach for that higher cause. He wanted to save lives.
“After three months I was beginning to get discouraged. We were getting no response,” says Dr. Usmani. BlastSim, a simulation, and modeling of suicide bombings for risk mitigation and planning, was their flagship product for counter-terrorism and it was ready for market. “We had the idea, the technology, the product, but no one was interested.” Members of his team, including Binish and Sana Rasheed, approached him about entering the StartUp Cup. He was skeptical about what benefits the process would bring them, but they entered the accelerator competition, and he sent them to the Build-a-Business Weekend in Islamabad. They returned with news they had been selected as a top 25 company. Dr. Usmani was surprised, but the tools, energy and clarity around how to market their business that they brought back with them were inspiring. He joined them in the competition, and they continued winning, ultimately taking the top prize out of over 170 startup teams. “We were scientists, technologists, not business people,” he says. Binish credits the mentorship and advice as a large part of their success through the weeks of the process. “They gave us help in what to say and not to say, how to market ourselves, and provided the right contacts,” she states.
Go-Fig (short for “Go-Figure-it-Out”) put those mentorship lessons into practice, and their company increased their revenue by $35,000 USD during the competition. By continuing to listen and learn, they have since secured an investment of $200,000 USD
. “Our confidence skyrocketed!” smiles Dr. Usmani. Among other clients, the company is working with Duke University and Dr. Usmani will be a keynote speaker at Brown University in February.
The company is now growing at a rapid rate. “Where we used to have problems of survival, we now have problems of managing 25 people and meeting the demands of the requests.” The team has 11 full time and 14 part time positions. 70% of the company is female due to their focus on creating flexibility for women with small children who have earned their University degrees and are encouraged to utilize their knowledge, skills, and talents while raising their families. As they are still growing, they are working to build the human resources infrastructure to support the purpose of their company. “We want to find good people with empathy, to feel the pain of the crimes that are happening. To know what it is to be human, to think beyond themselves to their country and the world.”
Dr. Usmani and Binish know first-hand, and recently, the pain of these crimes. While returning from the Pakistan StartUp Cup award ceremony, they and their 10-year-old son was robbed of all their belongings and beaten. The police took their statement but told them it was unlikely the perpetrators would be found. Upon returning home, Binish asked her husband, “What would you do if this had happened to someone else?” He replied that he would comfort them and then find who did it. “Then why not do that for yourself?” she answered. Dr. Usmani returned to the police and demonstrated how geofencing software could help them track the patterns of criminals. The police were impressed, and they are currently working with Go-Fig to explore ways to do just that.
“Go-Fig Solutions (Pvt.) Ltd. was born from the idea that the problems that we face as a society, however complex, are solvable.” his, combined with their passion for people and life, is apparent in everything they do. When asked what winning the World StartUp Cup would mean to the company, Binish gives her answer with co
tinued confidence, “We can grow and truly change something. Not only for Pakistan. We are doing this work for the world. We want to save as many people in the world as possible.”