Of all the startups incubated at the Nest.io there is one that stole and broke my heart.
Adil, Junaid Malik and Shahzad Iqbal, all three graduates of Namal College, Mianawali moved to Karachi to follow their dream of building a technology startup at the Nest.io. When I first ran into the twentysomethings they came across as understated, reserved but well-meaning founders, trying to find their feet in the hustling city of Karachi. We ran a few pitching exercises and in the company of stars like Wonder Tree, MandiExpress, Sukoon and Sheops, Rateker, the Malik and Iqbal startup didn’t shine. I remember telling Junaid that his story didn’t grab me and that he needed to really put his heart into it to make it work.
At the Asia Pacific ICT Awards in Colombo, Junaid and Rateker’s pitch transformed into something truly magical. In that one week, end of November ’15 in Sri Lanka, Junaid’s star truly shone. He went from the bottom of the pool to the top of the ranking charts judges and mentors maintained privately. Junaid rocked our collective boats. Rateker went from the startup that nobody got to the startup we all got really excited about. The idea was essentially hot or not on steriods. Rather than faces and portraits you would rate everything. Ideas, teams, speakers, presentations, teachers, communities. I remember thinking if there is one team in all the batches we have seen so far that will break the 100 million dollar exit barrier, it will be Rateker; Junaid, Shahzad Iqbal and Adil Malik baby. Three kids from Namal who came to Karachi and hit the ball out of the park.
When we got back to Karachi Junaid came to two mentors at the Nest and confessed that what he really wanted to do was standup comedy. Being a founder was no longer his first love. Technology and startups had been relegated to the sideline in his heart; stage, lights, camera and applauding audiences was where he really wanted to be. When we understood how deep this feeling went and our few attempts to make him rethink his decision failed, we gave him our blessings.
I saw Junaid urf (aka) JD on the stage for the first time last night. The venue was the same stage where I had seen him pitch two years ago while preparing for the Asia Pacific ICT Awards. The mind gym at the Nestio. JD had finally come back home.
Junaid still comes across as reserved, understated and well meaning. Two years of performing stand up in a tough city like Karachi has only made him stronger. He carries the “angry young pushtun in Karachi look” very well. After the two opening acts by his fellow standup performers Junaid had us rolling on the floor and in stiches within the first few minutes of getting his hands on the mike.
The material was fresh, funny and personal. From the Italian Iranian diplomatic crisis to seeking an apartment to rent in Karachi as a young man. From using Tinder to find love in Karachi to his plans to become an air force pilot as a seven year old in search of vengeance. But it was his commentary on his mom becoming a PIA pilot that really brought down the house in the closing minutes. And the angry young pushtun delivery just spiced it up by another notch.
If you missed the show last night at the Nest, Junaid is performing again later this week on Friday evening at the HotSpot. Don’t miss it. Yes you should certainly support local artists, especially standup comedy, in a city like Karachi but trust me. The angry young pusthun from Mianawali is not going to disappoint you. And we could all use the free flowing laughter that arrives when Junaid Malik urf JD grabs the mike and gets on stage.
It will be the best five hundred rupees you will spend this year.