Adnan Shaffi is co-founder and CEO at PriceOye, which is a marketplace for consumer electronics. Prior to that, he was a co-founder and CEO at CupertinoTimes.com, a technology blog that was acquired by a US-based publishing firm in 2015. Before that, Adnan was co-founder and editor-in-chief at Chip Hazard, another technology blog that was acquired by a UK-based investment firm. Adnan has an MBA from the Karachi School of Business & Leadership (2015) and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Bahria University (2011). Below are the edited excerpts from Manager Innovation’s recent conversation with the CEO of PriceOye.
Yaruq Nadeem: How did your entrepreneurial journey begin?
Adnan Shaffi: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart but what pushed me towards it was probably incompetence. Enrolling in a dual-degree program, I began having two shifts at the university. Picking social media marketing in a pre-Facebook era as yet another side-kick, is what got me here. In a year, I got to be one of the top 100 social media experts. This is where it all began.
Yaruq Nadeem: How did you decide between both scaling and selling your business?
Adnan Shaffi: This decision now is comparatively easier given that we know a lot about the market and its trends. But back then and most of all being students, imagining an amount in our bank account as unreal. Now that we think of it, there’s a slight regret as well that we could’ve done better. The decision in getting to sell it was very easy at that time.
Yaruq Nadeem: How did your journey transition from startups to finally reaching PriceOye?
Adnan Shaffi: We thought of taking some time off and completing tasks we had been pending for long. In 2014/2015, many people were buying Apple products just because they were fancy. We then began writing very high content on how to ease people with their gadgets and had soon signed partnerships with some of the leading publications in the world. Wanting to be closer to our target audience, we moved to the US from Pakistan.
Yaruq Nadeem: How did you come up with the name ‘PriceOye’?
Adnan Shaffi: We had a criterion set when naming the company, which also included the word having less than 9 characters. Secondly, we wanted to be a brand that resonated with the common man. We wanted to abide by the e-commerce rule of serving the bottom of the pyramid. ‘Price’ defined our USP and quite interestingly ‘oye’ is the word that is pronounced in all the 22 languages spoken across Pakistan. So that is how we came up with the name.
Yaruq Nadeem: When did you realize that you needed to raise funding?
Pakistan had no concept of startups and even so funding so we knew we would get none either. However, we surprisingly did get a call asking that “were we interested in being funded?”. He was a senior person but very keen to meet us. For the time being, we refused but he ended up approaching us yet again a few months later. Other investments were offered too throughout but we only got to reach back to them when we knew we desperately were in need of funds.
Yaruq Nadeem: How do you make the decision of when to listen to the investor and when not?
Adnan Shaffi: We got lucky in the process because I remember being selected for Forbes 30 under 30 that very day. We had decided for each investment that we’d only go for what would bring value to us and not just the capital. We were there for the people and not merely the capital. There is a lot of toxic mentorships out there and I would advise people to stay away from those people.
Yaruq Nadeem: What is your most important advice to entrepreneurs in the making or the audience in general?
Adnan Shaffi: The most important piece of advice that got us to here is just go and talk to people. All we’d do was look up startups in the region and then call up their founders, with the aim of just wanting to learn from them. And also, do your research before approaching them. If you slightly give them the impression that you have not done your homework, they might not entertain you in the future. In the end, I would say just work hard. Building a startup requires a lot of hard work and there is no shortcut.