Osman Rashid named 2009 E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year

December 30, 2009 at 9:04 pm 10 comments

Osman Rashid is a young man of Pakistani origin who was born in London and grew up in Islamabad. In pursuit of knowledge, he went for his undergraduate studies in Electrical Engineering to the University of Minnesota. He remembers having to clean toilets to cover some of his costs at college – certainly very different from the comfortable life he led playing cricket in the afternoon on the streets of Islamabad.

Fresh out of college, he founded eBot, an email management company, which he sold to a major computer software provider in Minnesota. He then spent 4 years developing and driving innovative strategies as VP Marketing and Business Development for a couple of computer software organisations in the US until the entrepreneurial bug bit him again and he co-founded Gravitywell which was very quickly swallowed up by the bubble burst in 2001.

The next venture, Chegg Inc., was inspired by Osman Rashid and Aayush Phumbhra’s frustration with the policies and procedures of their own university’s bookstore. They knew there had to be a better solution – one that worked for students, professors and publishers alike. Since its launch Chegg has grown 25 times its original size. Chegg’s purpose is simple: Students don’t need to purchase textbooks; they just rent them.

Chegg was launched at Iowa State University in 2005 as a “hyper-local” classifieds directory. In the fall of 2007, Chegg introduced its revolutionary textbook rental service. It now offers its services to more than 6,400 universities and community colleges across the country.

According to the company website, Chegg lets students rent as many textbooks as they like with just a few clicks. Books are delivered in less than a week. Renting textbooks through Chegg not only saves students  50-70% off the cost of buying new or used books, it also eliminates the hassle of waiting in long lines at the bookstore. Not only do students and their parents save money and time, they also help preserve the environment.

Yet again we see a simple idea born out of a need and executed well. Modeled after online movie rental pioneer Netflix, to date Chegg has saved students $83,967,896.38 in textbook purchases – and the ticker continues to tick every second. Because the concept is so easy to understand, makes great sense and has made money from Day 1, Chegg has managed to raise more than $84 million in four rounds of venture funding, and $55 million in credit and debt facility, since it started four years ago.

Now Techcrunch has revealed that Osman Rashid has been working on a stealth startup by the name of Kakai which already has 40 employees and has raised Series A and B Funding to the tune of US$9.35 million.

Techcrunch’s Jason Kincaid further tells us that:

Very little is known about Kakai at this point. It was cofounded by Rashid and engineer Babur Habib, who has spent time working on both semiconductors and software at Intel, Philips, and Exponent. The company has been rumored to have something to do with electronic readers, but all reports are vague. I did manage to dig up the following from an old job listing, which seems to be in line with those rumors:
“Kakai is a stealth-mode start-up developing an innovative Linux-based, portable consumer electronics product (details available through non-disclosure agreement).”

Rashid isn’t talking. He does say, though, that we’ll likely be hearing much more from the company come late March. He also says the 40 person company is actively hiring top technical talent.

I would like to thank Mohtashim of IT Taazee for bringing Osman’s story to my attention. It always warms my heart to see young people from Pakistan really make it out there in the big bad world of commerce.

In one of his interviews, Osman is known to have credited his parents for the person he is today. As a child, his father used to encourage him to think out of the box – to create new designs with construction sets instead of the ones that came with the toy kit. As for his spirit, he says he inherited that from his mother who brought up seven kids and yet climbed trees when the need arose.

Osman Rashid has won the Ernst & Young 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Hip hip hurray for him. Well done Osman. We are all proud of your achievements. Keep it up.

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iP@SHA – Do you? Thanks for the memories. Here’s to 2010!

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