Umar Saif gives us an insight into his activities on ITLoW

July 6, 2009 at 4:39 pm 13 comments

umar_saifDr. Umar Saif is someone that many of us have been impressed with for quite a while. He is the epitomy of the kind of people we need in our universities. He is a mentor to the young people who are entrusted in his care. He is a teacher, a researcher, a counselor and a friend – someone the kids can look up to, someone with achievements who is there to help them become achievers, who is there to hold their hands when they need it, to pat them on the back when they have done well, to motivate them and brainstorm with them when they are stuck, to work with them to find solutions, to provide a nurturing environment for the talent that is in abundance in this country. For those who don’t know him, Dr. Umar Saif is an Associate Professor Computer Science Department at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. But he is so much more than that. He is also a Researcher and a serial entrepreneur.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Umar spent almost four years as part of the Oxygen core team at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). At MIT Umar also helped start and manage the multi-million dollar Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) collaboration on Pervasive Computing. He is still a part of the O2S group at CSAIL.

At LUMS he is also leading the Dritte initiative and was recently involved in running the University of Washington, Microsoft Research (Redmond) and LUMS collaborative distance learning course on “Computing for the Developing-world”. Some of the initiatives under Dritte include:

>> Poor Man’s Broadband

>> Donate Bandwidth

>> ChOpaal

>> Internet Bypass Routing

>> Teleputer

>> Inverse Multiplexing Cellular Bandwidth

>> Data-centric OS

>> Health care GIS

>> TinyPC

Dr. Umar Saif is the Founder of 3 startups at LUMS-, and These are the first 3 citizens of his dream incubator that he has finally been able to set up in Lahore – S.C.I. (Saif Center of Innovation).

findalong.comAnother venture that Umar and his team have started is called Umar refers to it as Google Docs or Google Search on Steroids. It allows users to search collaboratively online, to store stacks of research collaboratively so that each person doesn’t have to replicate what someone else has already researched on the same subjet. Perhaps I am not really doing a good job of explaining the strengths of but why should I even try when there is a video that does it so well.

bumpinchopaalseenreportSome of his work that has been recognized by various entities and groups includes:

Umar Saif says that whatever he has achieved to-date has been possible because he has been fortunate enough to find and work with a brilliant group of people who are excited by what they do. He said this interview was not about him but about the bright minds that work with him, the ones who have burnt their boats and are creating businesses that will eventually be multi-million dollar successful businesses.

Umar_Saif_in_actionI had the opportunity to meet Dr. Umar Saif and some of the young people who are part and parcel of the startups that he has founded – Sharjeel Ahmed Qureshi, CEO of SeenReport, Adil Saleem, Yasir Awan and Asim Fayyaz who is CEO of Chopaal.

It was one of the most delightful interviews I have conducted to date. In fact it was truly inspiring.

Here was a young man who had been an undergrad student himself just over 10 years ago. He had consciously made a decision to return to Pakistan because he  believed that they would have a better life here, that he would be able to contribute to the development of this country as well as do the kind of work that he loved.

sharjeel wins for seenreportAnd there were these young people who had sensed that this man was someone they should latch onto because he would bring out the best in them and, together with the passion for technology that they all shared, they would innovate and build sustainable businesses.

Sharjeel Ahmed Qureshi who is the CEO of SeenReport told me that he didn’t realize all the other work that was involved in running a business – like opening a bank account, making a business plan, worrying about operational costs and procedures.

Up until recently all three startups were bootstrapped with money coming from wherever it needed to – mostly Umar Saif’s salary from LUMS. This last mongh Sharjeel had thought he would have to sell the tyres of his car to meet expenses but they were fortunate.

Umar Saif and his team have found a Venture Capitalist or has the VC found them? So now all three businesses have their initial round of funding. The VC is apparently a blessing in disguise because he is very hands-on and is working with them to help open markets and by providing financial planning expertise.

Anyway, I am not going to give the whole show away. This episode starts off with Umar Saif giving us an overview and then we meet and talk with Sharjeel, Adil, Yasir and Asim. Enjoy the show! I certainly enjoyed putting it together.

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13 Comments Add your own

  • Umar Saif gives us an insight into his activities on ITLoW…

  • 2. Yaser  |  July 6, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    There appears to be a problem with the video link.

    PS: i have finally commented on a post 😉

  • […] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire […]

  • 4. Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry  |  July 7, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Ma’am, surely you, Dr. Saif and Sir Zia Imran are amongst few inspirations that didn’t let me dive into the job market after graduation. It was a hard decision for me to get into entrepreneurship right after graduation but after all these months, i am still not disappointed. Have a good day and i’m off to watch this episode. 🙂

  • 5. Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry  |  July 7, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Interview link broken. 😦

  • 6. Jehan  |  July 7, 2009 at 10:58 am

    @Yaser aah the silent one speaks up.:) Sorry about the video link. It was all Rabia’s fault. It is working now.

    @Rafaeel yes they are both very inspirational guys. I have a lot of respect for them. The video link was not broken. It had to be unpublished to edit something out. It is back up now. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  • 7. aatir  |  July 7, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I never knew there was so much love for Umer Saif. I’ve been hearing so much of the flip-side that this story sort of comes as a surprise to me.

    But its great that he’s doing some good work at LUMS and for Pakistan in general.

  • 8. Fariha Akhtar  |  July 7, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    A truly amazing man MashAllah and one of the things that I like most about him – a very down to earth person. I have had the opportunity or I should rather say privilege of not just interacting with Dr. Saif but one of the guys who works as RA with him as well and must say that they are one energetic group of people who will InshAllah change the general perception of “RESEARCH” in Pakistan or at least in the IT Sector of fact they already have I believe! 🙂

    All the best guys!

  • 9. zafar Khan  |  July 8, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Umar, I am very proud to know you, dude! You already know that, but I just had to write it in this forum.

  • 10. Babar Bhatti  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:11 am

    After communicating over email for a while, I got to meet Umar, Sharjeel, Yasser and Adil last year when I visited LUMS. Great team, lots of talent and very high energy! The SeeNReport team had to work very hard but I am sure that it made them stronger!


  • 11. Awais Naseer Keyani  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:58 am

    OMG! I had been missing such an awesome discussion?? 😦 I was wandering, why is there a scary silence at Dr. Umar’s show at web studio…?? Now I’ve come to know that you people are here.

    So I’ve to comment here too!

    Infact Dr. Umar’s incubator idea is what that will bring the dream of multi-billion dollar business from Pak into a reality. We can say, we are now close to have a VC org. here in Pakistan! is really a rocking idea… it has the potential to hit the masses as the SMS itself!!

    I knew about see’n’report, am a fan of it and believe that its the next big venture in the universe. But is kinda addition to my info. I’ve deeply looked into the idea as a student, so it comes right one to one with the current social media and search engine leaders.

    You guyz rock!! Desperately waiting to meet you all! 🙂

  • 12. Umar Saif  |  July 11, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Someone just sent me a link to this to read the comments. Jehan, as usual, has been overly generous with her words … I deserve far less. Thank you for everyone for your very kind words!

    As I said in the interview, this is about the people I am so fortunate to work with. I am at best a fledging entrepreneur — it’s the passion, determination and hard work of the teams at Seenreport, chopaal, bumpin and findalong that make all of this worthwhile.

  • 13. Abdul Azeem Khan  |  July 24, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Well i feel myself lucky to have studied a course from Dr.Umar at LUMS Ii did my undergrad from FAST and masters from LUMS but studying from Dr.Umar was a completely different experience.After studying from him one realizes the gap that exists in our education system.
    And also i must commend Sharjeel Adil and Yasir who i know from my Fast years.they have realy done a great job with seen report and other start ups and are a ray of hope for all of us who have entrepreneurship ambitions.


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