Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pakistani-American's Tech Unicorn Files For IPO at $1.6 Billion Valuation

Washington D.C. based AI technology firm Afiniti, founded by serial Pakistani-American entrepreneur Zia Chishti, has filed for initial public offering (IPO) at $1.6 billion valuation, according to VentureBeat.

Zia Chishti founded his first company Align Technology in 1997 in Silicon Valley. It creates clear plastic braces for straightening teeth by using advanced 3-D computer imaging. The technology now trademarked as Invisalign has helped millions of people straighten their teeth for a beautiful smile without enduring the pain and unsightly looks of the traditional steel brackets and wires used in orthodontics. Align Technology is now valued at $10 billion.


Afiniti uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to enable real-time, optimized pairing of individual call center agents with individual customers in large enterprises for best results. When a customer contacts a call center, Afiniti matches his or her phone number with any information related to it from up to 100 databases, according to VentureBeat. These databases carry purchase history, income, credit history, social media profiles and other demographic information. Based on this information, Afiniti routes the call directly to an agent who has been determined, based on their own history, to be most effective in closing deals with customers who have similar characteristics.

Investors in Afiniti's latest round include GAM; McKinsey and Co; the Resource Group (TRG); G3 investments (run by Richard Gephardt); Elisabeth Murdoch; Sylvain Héfès; John Browne, former CEO of BP; Ivan Seidenfeld; and Larry Babbio, a former president of Verizon. The company has now raised more than $100 million, including the money previously raised, according to VentureBeat's sources.

Zia Chishti and Kelsey Wirth
Align Technology:

After graduating from Stanford Business School, Chishti wore braces when working as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. When his braces were removed he wore a clear plastic retainer. He noticed that when he did not wear the retainer for several days his teeth would move. However, putting the retainer back on helped bring his teeth to their desired, straightened state. It was this observation that a clear plastic device was capable of moving his own teeth that led to Chishti to conceive a process that became the Invisalign System.

Out-of-the-Box Thinking:

A background in computer science gave Chishti the insight that it was possible to design and manufacture an entire series of clear orthodontic devices similar to the retainer he wore, using 3- D computer graphics technology to straighten teeth. He and his co-founder Kelsey Wirth started Align Technology in 1997 to realize this vision. The process has now evolved to make extensive use of 3D printing for creating a series of braces to apply gentle pressure to straighten teeth over several months. In 2012 alone, the company printed 17 million transparent dental braces for patients.

Afiniti Target:

Afiniti has deployed over 150 programs for some of the world’s largest businesses, according to the company website.  The company says "we work with some of the biggest global brands across a wide range of sectors, including Airlines, Financial Services, Hospitality, Insurance, Politics, Retail, Satellite TV, Social Media, Telecommunications, and Utilities".

Big Names Board:

The company's board of directors includes heavyweights such as former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar,  former US Treasury Secretary John Snow, Shine Group’s founder and former Chairman Elisabeth Murdoch and Ivan Seidenberg, the former chief executive officer of Verizon Communications Inc.


Zia Chishti is a serial entrepreneur of Pakistani origin. Prior to Afiniti, he founded or cofounded Align Technology, OrthoClear and The Resource Group (TRG). Afiniti, Zia's latest venture, has filed for IPO to raise additional funds at $1.6 billion valuation.

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Hamid S. said...

This is not the first time that Zia Chisti has done something like this..a great mind coupled with a great team has resulted in this..

Amer S. said...

Isn't Careem in that league too ?

Monis R. said...

Amer: "Isn't Careem in that league too ?"

Well yes I suppose. But Afiniti is fully homegrown though with all founders from Pakistan and initial call center operations which inspired the software development again all in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

#HongKong #fintech firm to move #research & #development work to #Pakistan

LAHORE: Octo3, a Hong Kong-based financial technology company, has announced to move its entire Research and Development (R&D) wing to Pakistan.

The company, which specialises in development and provision of modern payment and other transactional solutions, further announced that it will invest in the Pakistani market in order to transform its ICT landscape.

The announcements were made based on the robust developments in Pakistan’s Information Technology sector and a rising need of digital payment solutions due to the growing e-commerce segment in the country.
“We have decided to shift our entire R&D department and other core function to Pakistan from Hong Kong as the country offers a lot of talent in the IT sector,” said Group’s Chief Executive Officer Tyrone Lynch.

“Few years ago, we outsourced our R&D wing to India, but after working a while we realised that things didn’t work as per our expectation, and we once again moved back to Hong Kong.

“After analysing the Pakistani market and the rapid developments and upcoming scope of ICT and digital payment solutions, on the back of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), we decided to shift our R&D wing to Pakistan,” Lynch added.

The company, which started its operations in 2009, has its presence in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and now Pakistan with its clientele expanding in almost entire modern economies.

Since its founding chairman is a Pakistani, it aims to add a lot of value in CPEC-related and other projects by building database centres and other such ICT infrastructure both with government as well as with private and multinational companies.

The management is already in talks with local banks and financial institutions for provision of backend support to locally available payment solutions, which can be accepted globally as well.

“We are a solution provider company but in Pakistan we will work both on ICT as well as digital payment solutions,” said Ajmal Samuel, ,hairman and Co-founder Octo3 Group Holdings Limited while talking with The Express Tribune.

“I have access to foreign players who are willing to invest in emerging economies, however, due to the negative perception of the country they hesitate to visit,” he added.

Talking about payment solutions, Samuel said that existing players offering different wallets have already paved their way and have established the market and “the next step for us is how we can transfer this existing customer base and wallets to e-commerce payment solutions, which can simultaneously be accepted in global markets”.

“The e-commerce growth is so huge in Pakistan that some global players like Amazon have asked us whether our company can provide any digital payment solutions from Pakistan,” he claimed.

masadi said...

Riaz hack WW Pak Alumni, how goes man? Long time no hear, this is your old friend from chowk, the badshah masadi, still unemployed and still resisting. You still polishing musharraf's butt and throwing out stats you don't understand. Come on man, give it up. Trump was good but turned, the MIC won, he bombed Syria the asshole based on the CIA's fake chemical attack, and what about Flint Michigan, which country should bomb the US because of chemical poisoning of the black community, huh WW?? Lay it out man, don't be afraid that the FBI might arrest you for speaking truth to power...and most of all don't f'ing censor my comments. Have a nice day...and do some exercise goddamit.

Riaz Haq said...

OPEN (Organization of Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs) in Silicon Valley recently congratulated Ahmed Khaishgi for one of the biggest M&A wins ever for a Pakistani American entrepreneur.

Ahmaed Khaishgi is the CEO of SquareTrade acquired by AllState for $1.4 billion.

Allstate Non-Insurance Holdings Inc., the insurance broker subsidiary of Allstate Corp. ALL, -0.52% said late Monday it has agreed to buy SquareTrade Holding Company Inc. for about $1.4 billion in cash and debt. The transaction is expected to close in January. Privately held SquareTrade, based in San Francisco and London, is a provider of extended warranty plans for electronics and gadgets. Shares of Allstate fell 0.2% in the extended session after ending the regular trading day down less than 0.1%.

Athar O. said...

National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) approved, in principle, today by CDWP. This has been Minister Ahsan Iqbal's desire for over a year and a part of Vision 2025.
This will be a Consortuim of 8 Labs across several Universities with 4 computing clusters and its own Competitive Research Fund to be open to All AI Reseachers and Universities (including private Universities).
A unique academic partnership driven by results to aspire for sustainability in 3 years, specific targets about publications, startups, and collaborations. This will become a model of extremely competitive research funding at Universities for the future. Looking for industrial and corporate partners to join the gang and make Pakistan artificially intelligent.

Riaz Haq said...

Cisco bought his first company for $74m. His second might be worth more

It turned out to be a prescient move for the former Cisco executive. Even a five percent stake in Careem – at a billion dollar valuation – is worth US$50 million today.

“It started in a small conference room with about four of us. The initial goal was MVP in six weeks. We had a crack team of developers. We did road testing, made sure the apps are working, and distances are calculating correctly. The thrill was definitely back,” he laughs.

Careem’s gone from strength to strength since launch in 2011, which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Atif’s VentureDive providing technical support at every step of the journey. SimilarWeb says Careem’s app – which has approximately 20 million downloads – is more popular than Uber in the Middle East and North Africa region. That’s no small feat.

“You can find lots of people who can code. But having a mindset to build products that are globally scalable is a different ballgame,” explains Atif.

“Rollouts have to be live, there cannot be any downtime. To manage these things at scale we have an internal philosophy of building for 10 times anticipated traffic but planning for 100 times. The system architecture we build supports this.”

Careem’s partnership with VentureDive continued until July 2016, after which it simply acquired the team working on its app. Atif says one of the reasons behind the deal was to give engineers more ownership of the product – now they were entitled to things like equity and larger bonuses.

It could also have been to fulfill corporate governance requirements. A ride-hailing unicorn can’t simply outsource its tech indefinitely. A few months later, Rakuten led a US$350 million funding round in Careem.

But Atif is quick to point out that VentureDive isn’t an “outsourcing company.” Operating on a partnership model, the team won’t simply accept any contracts that come its way. Rather, it’ll pick and choose the clients very carefully.

“We try to be the technical partners and the thought partners. To build global products, you either have your own feet on the street or you team up with emerging companies you feel will make it big,” he explains.

He points to IslamicFinder, one of the largest Muslim communities on the web, as an example. The founders are based out of Saudi Arabia but have relied on Atif’s team to build the apps and sites that are used by millions of people today. Everything from the design philosophy to product updates is handled by VentureDive.

Riaz Haq said...

Afiniti Founder Zia Chishti Ousted After Sexual Assault Allegations

Tatiana Spottiswoode, a former employee, said the 50-year-old Chishti sexually assaulted her during a business trip to Brazil. After accusing the founder of attacking her, he filed for arbitration in order to silence any accusations, she said.

Spottiswoode, the daughter of an Afiniti co-founder, provided photographs of the alleged assault as part of her testimony, saying the encounter was so violent that a nurse who examined her at a hospital said she had signs of concussion. “My body was covered with scratches, cuts and contusions,” Spottiswoode testified. “I had bruises around my neck that looked like I had been strangled, a large bump on my head, a black eye.”

Five former Afiniti employees say the testimony is illustrative of a culture of heavy drinking and drug use at Afiniti. Much of the partying took place during business trips to far-flung locales such as Dubai and Brazil where female employees in their early 20s were encouraged to socialize with senior executives, the people said, asking not to be named for fear of retaliation from Chishti.

Spottiswoode described a visit to Dubai in 2016, where she said Chishti groped her in front of co-workers and assaulted a colleague. She said Afiniti reached a settlement with the other young woman that barred her from discussing any details of the assault or any compensation -- a detail that was confirmed to Bloomberg by two former employees of Afiniti.

“The Board of Directors of Afiniti announces that Mr. Zia Chishti has stepped down from his role as Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and Director of Afiniti, effective immediately,” the company said in a statement. “The Board will make additional organizational announcements in the coming days.”