Founder Story #3 - Taimoor from OctaLabs
From freelancing to flipping micro-products
Hey there, fellow founders! 👋
Welcome to the latest edition of Founder Stories.
Today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Taimoor, a 21 y/o solopreneur who embarked on his startup journey while still in school.
From launching his own political party to achieving recognition as a national winner at Microsoft Imagine Cup, Taimoor's journey is full of unmatchable determination.
Not stopping there, his obsession with super fast execution led him to build not one, not two, but an impressive seven micro-products in just seven months and he sold them all for bigger aspirations.
Join us as we dive into the captivating story of this young visionary who defies conventional norms.
Thanks for reading Alt Vault! Subscribe for free to receive new posts in your inbox.
How did you get here?
My journey began at the age of six when I insisted on having a computer at home. From there, my craze for technology began, starting with a fascination for computer games and eventually leading me down the path of web and brand development.
At 12, I somehow landed in Pakistani freelancing groups and started taking on various projects. It was a crazy ride, but I knew I wanted to do something significant.
That's when the idea of building startups came to mind—a way to create something meaningful that would leave a lasting impact and establish my personal brand. A win-win for all.
Describe the first version of your product. How did you fund it?
In 2016, I launched my first startup, QueryCity—an EdTech platform for O-Level students.
QueryCity functioned as a search engine of sorts for O-Levels, offering solutions to students' queries from any region or book. It was a game-changer, condensing a wealth of educational material into one accessible platform.
To build it, I reached out to a Pakistani developer on Fiverr, who helped me create a basic app connected to my database. Starting small, we gradually expanded the platform to encompass an impressive database of 500,000 O-Level questions and their solutions.
Funding-wise, I relied on my own savings from freelancing to support the development of QueryCity.
How did you acquire your first customer?
Initially, I offered QueryCity as a free platform, which allowed me to gather valuable feedback from my classmates and friends. This early user base formed a close-knit community that provided insights and helped shape the product.
Through word of mouth, my customer base expanded rapidly. Within just one and a half weeks of launching, I acquired my first 1,000 users. It was a thrilling experience. 🤩
Share the moment when you realized you want to build startups.
As I delved deeper into the world of freelancing, I came to the realization that I wanted to create something more than just assets or revenue for myself. Something beyond mere bragging rights among family and friends.
I can say freelancing had been a stepping stone, leading me toward this pivotal moment.
But later, it dawned on me that I wanted to build useful products with significant societal impact, and break free from the confines of a conventional business mindset a.k.a the dukan mentality.
Sailing solo, how did you build 7 products in 7 months?
My strategy involved dividing my product offerings into low, mid , and high-tier categories. I hired freelancers and agencies to build alongside me.
This agile approach enabled me to ship fast; each month we were building three products simultaneously.
Until now, what milestones have you achieved that you're really proud of?
Several. One that stands out is winning the ImagineCup from Microsoft in 2021—a national-level recognition that provided a significant boost to my roadmap.
What are your future goals?
My future goals revolve around building high-tier products that have the potential to make a lasting impact and create unicorns within the startup ecosystem.
I've divided my life into three phases.
Phase Zero involved experiencing the world of Pakistani freelancing and startups, which served as revenue-generating machines.
Phase One began during my university years, where I focused on side projects that allowed me to guide others, create a small community, and establish some brandable advantage, all while utilizing tech to its fullest.
Now, I'm entering Phase Two—it’s dedicated to building products that leave a significant impact.
To achieve this, I've established OctaLabs, my latest venture that integrates AI, Blockchain/web3, and eCom.
The products developed within OctaLabs will have the potential to reach billions of users, and my ultimate aim is to unite Indo-Pak founders in this pursuit to create unicorns without borders.
Moving on. Did the community play a role in your growth?
My own classmates and social circle were among the first users of my products.
Moreover, communities such as MicroAcquire and Twitter have been instrumental in expanding my network and connecting me with like-minded individuals.
I believe in launching products in the communities I’m passionate about, sharing progress with the world, and building in public. This approach fosters engagement, collaboration, and further growth.
Tell us about the craziest experience you've had with a customer.
One particularly amusing story involves a customer who initially purchased the basic plan of one of my products, MagikPic, an AI avatar generator.
However, he wasn’t satisfied with the results and requested a refund, which I promptly issued. But here's the twist—after I fine-tuned the model and launched an updated version, the same customer returned.
This time, he not only purchased the product again but also paid me 10x the original price as a compliment. 😃
Then he sent an email saying: "Didn't realize you're in it for the long haul, and I was impatient. So, I wanted to pay you ten times the amount."
Share a challenging time when you were like "why am I doing this?"
While there have been setbacks and challenging moments, I've never truly questioned why I'm on this path.
For instance, during the demo day of QueryCity, my site went down just a few hours before the presentation.
Picture the scene: Presentation about to start at 9:30. At 7, I am scrambling to redeploy everything and get the site back up. 😆 It was a race against time, but we managed to overcome it and delivered a kickass presentation.
What have been the most influential resources?
Many! One podcast that I highly recommend is "My First Million" by Shaan Puri and Sam Parr. It offers a wealth of knowledge and insights from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Another resource that has been instrumental in my growth is Andrew Gazdecki of MicroAcquire. His expertise and guidance in the startup acquisition space have been invaluable.
Additionally, I find the FASTer newsletter by Faizan Siddiqi to be an excellent source of knowledge, news, and trends.
What is the best way to learn?
Blogs and YouTube videos.
I haven't spent a dime on formal courses. The vast amount of free research and educational content available for free is invaluable.
Using the knowledge shared by experts and practitioners on YouTube and Twitter, you can acquire practical skills and insights directly applicable to your journey.
What's the weirdest piece of advice that has helped you along the way?
After receiving a plethora of advice from various individuals and uncles in the industry, I became selective and picky about the advice I absorbed.
I realized the importance of seeking guidance only from those who have built something significant in the specific space I was venturing into.
Is there a brand, app, or podcast in Pakistan you wish you had built yourself?
First and foremost, I would have loved to build a government that truly embraces innovation and supports the growth of startups.
And I would have loved to create Muzammil's podcast, Thoughts Behind Things.
Additionally, I wish I had created Daraz.pk. While Daraz achieved early success through acquisition, I believe that building it on our own would have brought even more excitement and opportunities.
What tech stack do you use? Are there any global products you wish were available in Pakistan?
For low-tier products, I utilize platforms like Bubble and Webflow.
When it comes to mid-tier products, I often purchase boilerplates and combine them with some programming to build robust and scalable solutions.
As for global products, I’d say everything. To pinpoint, I’d love to have a few fintech solutions and access to some good accelerators as well.
What will be the biggest change or disruption in your industry this year?
AI has the potential to touch the lives of both tech-savvy individuals and those less familiar with technology.
I am personally highly invested in AI and its applications. We are witnessing advancements that were once only seen in movies, such as one-click analysis and other intelligent capabilities.
AI will continue to evolve and have a profound impact on society, spanning industries like healthcare, finance, education, and more. Its influence will be felt for the next 15 to 20 years, shaping the way we live and work.
In conclusion, Taimoor's remarkable journey is a testament to the incredible talent and potential that lies within Pakistan.
With a focus on building high-tier ventures and a vision to empower Indo-Pak founders, Taimoor's pursuit of creating unicorns without borders is an ambitious yet inspiring endeavor.
His story showcases the bright future that awaits our nation, where visionary entrepreneurs transform industries while also planning to run for office.
During our conversations, I even pledged my vote in perpetuity to Taimoor’s political party—Pakistan Tehreek-e-Aghaaz—which is on a break currently but in case he ever campaigns, I’m all in. 🥳
That’s it for today!
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this and hope you were inspired by Taimoor’s journey.
Lastly, I’d love to hear your thoughts about our new format and encourage you to share your two cents in the comments below.
If you enjoyed the read, I’d appreciate if you share it with friends.
Until next time,
Hassaan from Alt
Thanks for reading Alt Vault! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.