Part of the magic of being involved in such a global and dynamic community is uncovering more about our residents lives on a daily basis. Its one thing to be surrounded by all the awesomeness that they have achieved – but learning more about how they got there and what makes them fizz on a personal level makes that connection way stronger. Our Community Coordinator Casey had the pleasure of chatting to APImatics’ Adeel Ali about his work, his roots and his future plans.
CM. As a child, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?
AA. It fluctuated from being a pilot to a civil engineer and even the characters I used to read in story books until I saw a computer for the first time in 1993. There was this TV series in which a guy used a computer to search for criminals’ details, and I fell in love with that magic! I was so passionate about it that I eventually dropped out of a highly reputed degree in Industrial Electronics after securing admission among 7 students from my Province to study Computer Science.
CM. Go you! You now have an awesome little startup called APImatic which is causing quite a stir in the tech scene. How would you explain what your company does to someone who has little to no tech understanding (i.e. me)
AA. Remember the good old days when you used to have a CRT monitor running a browser that was your only point of interaction with the Internet? Now just look around you. Can you count the number of smart devices you and your friends use to check your emails or access Facebook? I myself usually access Gmail on 4 devices – on a Windows laptop, an Android phone, an Apple iPad, and a Smart-Watch. That is because Gmail has created an ‘app’ for all of the devices I use, and it’s a no brainer how crucial being available to their users on every gadget they use has become to the success of a business. That’s where APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are extremely useful, as they can effectively provide digital content to all of the emerging platforms and devices.
However, providing an API is only the half of story. APIs can only provide you with data, and to convert that data into meaningful information you need developers who create the beautiful apps you and I use. That’s why API providers also provide developer kits in multiple programming languages to help developers using their APIs. Building those kits is not too difficult, but maintaining them (especially after every API update) is quite painful, and API providers end up having to hire a bunch of developers to build and maintain their kits. We solved this pain point by automatically generating those developer kits in eight programming languages to date. How cool is that? You’re actually saving the cost of a bunch of developers, which we estimate to be up to 95% of the cost associated with the manual development of the kits.
CM. That was literally the best, most concise and understandable explanation I have ever heard. Thank you muchly for helping me feel marginally smarter!
CM. Tell me, How did you meet your business partner Zeeshan?
AA. Zeeshan joined our research group at the University of Auckland in Feb 2010. We met there for the first time, and have been friends ever since. When I won a prize in the Spark Ideas Challenge in 2013 and was invited to proceed with the idea, Zeeshan was the first person I discussed the opportunity with. The two of us, along with our PhD supervisor Dr. Partha Roop, began the journey, which eventually turned into APIMatic.
CM. You’re a long way from home. What bought you to NZ?
AA. Quality education for free! Both Zeeshan and I got scholarships for Higher Studies from Pakistan, and New Zealand was among the options offered including France, Germany, and Korea. I chose New Zealand personally for three main reasons; 1. Auckland Uni was one of the top 50 universities of the world. 2. I wanted to experience the mesmerising landscape of NZ, and 3. I wanted to move to a cricket playing country.
CM. Whats the tech scene like in Pakistan in comparison to New Zealand? Is there a culture of co-working spaces?
AA. Pakistan has a huge industry of outsourced software projects from USA, Europe and the Middle East. The situation is not as good as it used to be before 9/11, but still there is a lot happening in the IT sector. In fact, we applied and got selected for BlackBox bootcamp in Silicon Valley via P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association) because BlackBox doesn’t have any technology partner in NZ. The culture of co-working spaces is also growing up, and some of the notable spaces are Nest I/O (supported by Google), DotZero, and Plan 9. More spaces and their facilities can be found in this article.
CM. Do you see yourself going back to Pakistan once you finish your degree?
AA. Right now, I see myself moving to Silicon Valley for APIMatic as soon as I submit my PhD Thesis (in Computer Science). In Pakistan we have already hired some engineers, and are planning to form an office soon. I will likely be travelling among Pakistan, New Zealand and USA in the next few years, but I’d personally like long-term to be based permanently with my parents, who are currently in Pakistan.
CM. What does a normal day consist of for you at the moment?
AA. I normally wake up 20 minutes before sun-rise for Fajr (the Morning Prayer), but some days even earlier to take Skype calls from Europe and USA. I will then respond to important emails before coming into the Grid, and then the rest of the day goes in firefighting for APIMatic. As in the real world, fires are unpredictable and must be dealt with immediately, and the same is the case with startup tasks. You don’t have a fixed schedule and are required to be highly agile.
CM. With all the different aspects of your life that you have to juggle, what advice would you give to anyone else struggling under a huge work load?
AA. I would repeat what has already been said dozens of times; Work never ends, so give it your best for a specific amount of time, but shut it down afterwards. Don’t compromise on the three Fs: Family, Friends and Fitness. It’s easy to say, but hard to act upon especially if you’re a startup founder. It’s difficult to juggle too many balls, so better to drop a few and focus on the important ones.
CM. Great advice, I agree wholeheartedly. What are you most proud of? (it doesn’t have to be work related)
AA. People around me. I feel lucky to have a very loving and supporting family, circle of friends and co-workers.