Meenah Tariq is a VC investor turned entrepreneur – CEO and co-founder at Metric, a VC-funded fintech automating accounting for SMEs and startups in emerging markets. She is a Partner at Karavan, a Middle-east-based fund focused on early-stage startups in Pakistan. Meenah has supported thousands of entrepreneurs over the last decade, including directly training 700+ business owners, across a wide variety of industries and geographies, in Pakistan, Nepal, Iraq, and Bangladesh. She has been designing and implementing programs to practically support women entrepreneurs, encourage entrepreneurial mindsets in young people, and equip entrepreneurs with the business acumen required to scale high-impact businesses and SMEs, with organizations such as the World Bank, DFID, and the USAID. Previously, she was the Head of Strategy and Accelerator at Invest2Innovate Pakistan. Below are the edited excerpts from Manager Innovation’s recent conversation with her.
Yaruq Nadeem: How did you begin your journey in the field of entrepreneurship?
Meenah Tariq: It never is one definite start, but just that when you now look back, there are certain dots and patterns that now make so much more sense and you realize that it was all just happening then. I was 6 when I began selling things at home, crafting my very own lemonade business and that is where the concept grew in me. That financial independence pushed me to continue creating value then. Doing my Bachelors from FAST University, I went abroad for my Masters and it was there that I landed at one of the world’s best schools for entrepreneurship. My love for business started making much more sense here. Coming back to Pakistan, I began working here and there, setting up startups and so this is what made me up. But as I said, nothing was done under a plan.
Yaruq Nadeem: What challenges did you face whilst embarking on the entrepreneurial journey? How did you overcome them?
Meenah Tariq: My father wanted me to be a doctor, but not wanting to be one myself, he entirely gave up on me to do whatever I felt like. This gave me the freedom to explore options alongside my degree. I began a number of businesses alongside as well, just for the sake of it, and also mentioned this fact in my Fulbright application. Again, these do not seem like challenges, but things just kept on working out for me.
Yaruq Nadeem: What are startup metrics, and why are they important?
Meenah Tariq: So a startup metric basically is what you’ve done so far and how valuable that is. You then share that metric around the specified business model, which is how you understand that is your business actually growing or not, and also how aggressive the growth is. It also helps tell you how many people are coming back to using your product rather than a one-time download and ever coming back to it.
Meenah Tariq: Yes! I believe not only for startups, but also for SMEs. For a VC, what really matters is your key metrics, such as customer acquisition cost. Also, measuring these metrics gives an idea about the business and the problems it is facing.
Yaruq Nadeem: What should be the ideal values of these metrics in terms of fundraising in the early stages?
Meenah Tariq: There is no target value that I’d like to specify. I as an investor would invest in different verticals as opposed to others. What matters more is what trend is your business setting, and also what is your customer acquisition cost. Month on month growth or week on week growth is what gets to you.
Yaruq Nadeem: As you mentioned that some startups manipulate their metrics for fundraising, do you think this is a common practice?
Meenah Tariq: It is in between being superbly common and also not. It all comes down to understanding mindsets and the games on part of the founders. I don’t agree on this manipulation, because it is all down to how well they present their strengths. I look into their top achievements and then compare one to another, after which I decide whom I am investing into. Sometimes you shut your eyes off and invest because at the end you have to rely on your gut feeling.
Yaruq Nadeem: How do these metrics impact startup valuation?
Meenah Tariq: Your GMV, MRR, ARR are all linked to it. The same as I mentioned above, it all is as easy as you manipulate the figures to the best of your benefit. Your revenue is your valuation. Valuations increase with the increase of active users. However, It is not linked to any specific number, but to the global trends as well.
Yaruq Nadeem: What advice would you give to founders who are aiming to raise funds?
Meenah Tariq: Fund-raising is much harder now than the previous year as the frenzy has ended. The good part for you is that there are no questions you have to be answerable for, more because you’re at the starting point now. This year, due to a loss of funds out there, people now are no longer pushing for larger rounds. If you’re raising this year, just don’t’ be disheartened. Also, don’t keep your round size too large because you’re in the early stage right now. Show yourself as a great deal and execute it well. This is how you get money from the market.
Yaruq Nadeem: What motivated you to launch your startup? How would you compare your experience of being a VC versus a startup founder?
Meenah Tariq: Value! You get known and that adds value to your name, apart from the financial part. I shifted from being a VC because I realized that one should be a VC, when you’re done with the hardworking phase of your life. Since we’ve been working with startups for more than a decade or so, we constantly realized that businesses are held hostage when it comes to accounting. Taking this challenge for ourselves, we decided to jump in.
Yaruq Nadeem: What is the target market for the Matric app? How can the app help the startups track the metrics we discussed?
Meenah Tariq: It is an android only app that can be used to do your accounting for you. It lets you know all of your costs just as mentioned above and makes a business a great deal easier for you. It focuses on simplicity and also working in real-time. It is a product that does not leave behind space for you to hire an accountant or any other person for the deals. Revenues, and expenses, all can be handled by the app on its own. Your reports can later be downloaded and sent to wherever you feel like. It also sends suggestions!