All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them, says Walt Disney.
Disney’s quote, perhaps, best explains the success story of Farhan Masood, who has been recognised among the world’s brilliant minds by Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum earlier this year for his product – world’s fastest retina and face scanner algorithm called SmartXS.
Masood’s dream – to build a Pakistani product and turn it into a global one – came true this year after he won the MITEFP Business Acceleration Plan contest, a highly competitive annual event that lasts for 4 months to handpick and select one among hundreds and there is one such brilliant mind produced every year by BAP from Pakistan. The objective of BAP is to help Pakistani IT, ITES, telecom and new media companies improve their business.
Of the 165 participants that compete in this contest, some members of top teams also get a chance to attend an entrepreneurship development programme at MIT in Cambridge, USA.
After a winning performance in the contest, Masood joined the list of MIT alumni. He has just returned after attending a course at MIT, one of the world’s best educational institutes. Those who attended this programme previously had benefited a great deal.
According to Pakistan Software Export Board’s website, some of the companies that participated in this programme saw their revenues grow by 5 to 10 times and valuation increase by 15 times. Giving the example of Sofizar, the PSEB’s website stated that the company’s revenue increased from less than $1 million to $30 million in two and a half years.
Masood, too, seem to benefit from the programme as his product has been well received by both MITEFP and the industries worldwide. “MIT Enterprise Forum has done tech evaluation of SmartXS, which is a big achievement,” Masood told The Express Tribune. “When your product is recognised by MIT, there is not much you can ask for.”
Interestingly, the man behind this technology is a college dropout who hated math for he was weak in the subject. “I have got all of this achievement because of my passion,” the 36-year-old Lahorite said.
Masood is the CEO of Solo Smart that’s based in Lahore and has offices in the UK and USA, represented by its subsidiaries namely Solo Tech and Solo Metrics respectively. It also has an office in Australia.
“We are trying to bring all these companies under one name – Solo Metrics. It is a high-tech company that deals in Mechatronics – a combination of software, electrical and mechanical engineering,” he said.
SmartXS is a biometric verification system that uses human face and eye to verify his identity, Masood said, and works mainly in two spaces – workforce management and security access control.
“Our algorithm is very fast,” he said while claiming it is the world’s fastest retina and face scanner algorithm.
The product was first brought to life in 2005 and its hardware was as big as a refrigerator, but now it’s smaller than a PC, Masood said. It has started to get worldwide recognition.
He said his product is currently used by the National Database and Registration Authority, the Pakistan Army and many multinational groups including Pepsico, Nestle and Tetra Pak. These companies are in talks with Masood for the implementation of the technology in their global operations.
“We are also getting queries from immigration departments of many governments for this product,” he said, refusing to share details. “University of Pennsylvania has also shown interest in the medical application of this product.”
Before starting his own entrepreneurial venture, Masood served as IT professional and had a lucrative job. He is the originator of Urdu, Persian and Arabic on internet and was able to incorporate Urdu, Persian and Arabic characters in English-based Windows back in 1997.
Masood was hired as a project director in Dubai Electronic Government in 2000. “The government had softened its state laws for one day to hire me and few others,” he said as he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, a requirement for that job.
Despite his lucrative job that paid him 55,000 UAE dirhams per month, he chose to be an entrepreneur. “If I can do a lot of things for others, why not for myself and that very thought was the reason I chose to come back and launch my own business,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of the story had misspelt mechatronics. The correction has been made. Additionally, the earlier article incorrectly stated that MIT had recognized Masood for his achievement - it was the MIT Enterprise Forum.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.
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