Saif Akhtar - I Build Startups

Hello there! Pronounced "Seff", I've worked with a lot of startups as a co-founder, early employee, incubator, accelerator, and VC in the US and Asia. Nowadays, I build Delta LeafCannabisGenomeDAO full-time and work 1:1 part-time with founders building their companies on ops, product, and more.

- Co-founded 7 startups
- Early Employee at 6 startups
- Incubated 19 in Silicon Valley
- Managed investments in 49 in Asia
- Advised dozens of founders
Seed & Series-A founders hire me to:
- build processes & operations from 0 to 1
- define product, fundraising, and go-to-market strategies
- recruit core & advisory team members in ops, engineering, finance, legal, marketing, and sales
- review execution & alignment against long-term vision
- design org structures, roles, responsibilities, and processes
- craft product solution and north star metrics
- resolve co-founder conflicts
- advise them through all the good and bad parts of building a startup

Loving life and living the dream!

  • American-Pakistani from San Jose, CA
  • San Jose State University - BS - Mechanical Engineering '11
  • Beta Theta Pi, ZH #117
  • Star Wars EU nerd
  • Table tennis & cricket player
  • Married to the amazing @basmahmasood

Personally:

Born in Southfield, MI to two perseverant immigrant Pakistanis, my family moved to sunny California in '89 and have called it home ever since. Since we had the opportunity to spend time in Pakistan, I'm very lucky to be able to call Karachi my second home. It's also where I married the love of my life!

Dreams of designing cars and working at NASA took me to San Jose State University, where I graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Getting to see Silicon Valley disrupt things up-close piqued a curiosity in entrepreneurship and I attempted my first startup with a fraternity bro during senior year at university. It crashed and burned!

Since then though, things have gone better! I've been a part of a few fantastic teams, co-founded an incubator, accelerator, and a VC firm, and continue working with fast-growing teams through www.StartupStudios.co

Other things I love include gaming (PC + PS4), reading Star Wars Legends, and watching the 49ers!

Professionally:

I've tried a lot of different things and gotten my ass kicked more than once.

Experience:

My roles forced me to wear many hats, but my responsibilities have always involved building products, growing communities, and keeping customers happy!

Early Employee:

I've never been afraid of joining companies before they find their legs. These were the opportunities where I got to work side-by-side with some very successful people who allowed me to make the mistakes I needed to learn fast. I was often employee #1-10 and directly supervised by one or more co-Founder, which meant I got to learn from being in the room.

  • The Nerditorium - Generalist - Dec '11 - Jun '12: A live-work incubator in Austin, TX co-founded by Cedric Dahl and Ben Hoffman. I joined them as a generalist and got to work on cool projects like prototyping an intervalometer for smartphones, managed distribution for People in Motion, and transcribed over 300 episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast for Podly.
  • OrionCKB - Operations Manager - Aug '12 - Aug '14: A full-service performance marketing agency founded by Scott Briggs. I was hired as one of his first employees, independently managing $100k/mo client advertising spend for clients like The Body Works, Universal Technical Institute, Zady.com, Liberty University, BillGuard, Palo Alto Networks, and many more! OrionCKB was acquired by Tinuiti in 2016.
  • Smashon - Director of Product - Aug '14 - Aug '15: Founded by Tas Jalali, Smashon was a SOLOMO community focused on health & wellness. I was employee #9 when I joined and brought on to lead the product team which was distributed between three countries. Within a year of launch, Smashon had partnered with the likes of Safeway, Whole Foods, and Genentech to lead their employee and customer health & wellness initiatives through our ecosystem. I was mentored by Krishnain Chellakarai who is currently the CISO at Gilead Sciences.
  • F50 - Community Manager (Consultant) - Aug '15 - Nov '15: Founded by David Cao, I joined F50 to lead Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs, a Meetup group that David had grown from zero to over 15,000 members in the Bay Area. My job was to run an event per week between San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Palo Alto. In October '15, I was part of the organizing team for F50's first Funded! Expo as well as Google i/o 2015.
  • PlanetN Group - Group Chief of Operations - Mar '16 - Jan '20: Founded by Nadeem Hussain, I was fortunate to connect right as he was finalizing his last company's exit and starting Planet N. What followed was my first real VC role, getting to work with some phenomenal entrepreneurs in Middle East and Asia, and build an accelerator to promote financial inclusion in my home country of Pakistan. We invested in over 40 startups between pre-seed and seed. I got to alternate my time supporting the portfolio, managing our investors, and making partnerships with various ecosystems to expand our network.
  • Cannabis Genome DAO - Community - Nov '21 - Present: 

Co-Founder:

Whoever said your Co-Founder has to be someone you've known for years clearly doesn't know how to work with "new" people. All of mine started off as "partners towards a common goal" but remain some of my closest advisors and confidants today! We love validating our crazy ideas together.

  • Denacom - COO - Jun '10 - Nov '11: Co-founded with my fraternity bro Grant Jasmin, Denacom was our attempt at building a communications system for patients inside hospitals to stay connected with their loved ones. We succeeded in building a prototype and signed two hospitals to beta test before being beaten by the iPad and it's healthcare app ecosystem.
  • Pinfluence - COO, Product & Ops - Jun '12 - Mar '13: Founded by Taylor Hazlehurst, Pinfluence was a SaaS community management tool for brands on Pinterest. With Carlos Cashman as an angel investor, I was initially brought on as a consultant to refine the prototype before joining Taylor as co-founder and COO. We were able to work with some awesome brands like Conde Naste's North American magazines, Victoria's Secret, and Best Buy.
  • Spartups - co-CEO, Community & Ops - Sep '11 - Nov '15: Soon after joining Pinfluence, I started a bimonthly meetup group to get connected with other entrepreneurs from SJSU. Within a few months of our events, SJSU and the City of San Jose offered to help us expand the meetup into an incubator and Spartups was born! With my co-founders Rand Owens and Emeka Nwadibia, we set up a 6,000 sq.ft entrepreneurship center in Downtown San Jose and built a community of 200+ mentors that's supported student entrepreneurs from SJSU, Stanford, UC-Berkeley pursue their ideas and get accepted into Y-Combinator and JFDI Asia.
  • getCompass - COO, Customer Success - Jul '14 - Nov '15: Built at Angelhack '14, Compass was built as a competitive intelligence tool for social ads. My second startup with my bros Rand Owens and Stephen Snyder. Compass gained significant traction as a monthly subscription service for digital marketers who desperately wanted to spy on their competitors.
  • 10xC Seed Fund & Accelerator - CEO - Mar '16 - Jan '20: In early 2016, there wasn't a single accelerator in Pakistan offering any funding to their startups. For an emerging market in the world's fifth most populous market with 60+% of the population under the age of 30, my co-founder Nadeem Hussain and I decided to introduce a local SAFE offering $10k - $25k. 10xC invested in 19 companies.
  • Startup Studios - co-CEO, Community & Ops - Jul '20 - Present: I met my current co-founder Chris Kim and advisor Rob Bircher while the three of us were advising the same company and loved working together. Startup Studios allow us to continue our individual advisory work while taking advantage of a network of individuals we trust who've grown companies from zero to $50M+ ARR and exits. Many of those people are part of your favorite startup accelerators and investment firms.
  • Delta Leaf - COO - May '21 - Present: 

VC / Investor:

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Advisor:

Sometimes companies will hire me for 10-50 hours per week to help them achieve specific goals or fill in some gaps. Most of them are friends who'll hire me to help until they can find someone more "full-time" to run the show for them. I now run most of my advisory work through Startup Studios.

  • Medicare Hospital - Innovation Advisor - Mar '16 - Present: Medicare is a 50-year old hospital and medical college in Karachi, Pakistan owned by my relatives. I regularly help with upgrading their technology, hiring engineers, and built their in-house incubator to prototype healthtech initiatives for their patients.
  • Sohail University - Innovation & Technology Advisor - Jun '18 - Present: Sohail University, founded in 2017, is an educational institution in Pakistan focused on emerging areas of science, technology, engineering, and business management. Also owned by my relatives, I developed their technology incubator program, helped hire the team, and regularly connect the University with emerging startups that can add value to their students.
  • LIVC - Fund Advisor - Nov '19 - Apr '20: Babar Lakhani from LIVC, one of Pakistan's premiere venture capital institutions, reached out to me for help with an initiative that would strategically invest in emerging tech companies in exchange for support from their many enterprises around the world. I created plans for a $30M, 10-year fund and was offered to run it as CEO but politely declined due to my interest in pursuing StartupStudios.co.
  • FillUp.pk - Product & Operations Advisor - Nov '19 - Jan '21: Started as a weekend project with my bro Ali Ladhubhai, FillUp.pk went from an idea to a startup after I helped plan the prototype, hired a scrappy dev to build it, and launched to paying customers within two weeks. FillUp partners with local fuel stations to deliver petrol and diesel safely. I help manage the engineering and delivery teams remotely.
  • The Talent Games - Fundraising Advisor - Nov '19 - Mar '20 Founded by Paul Keijzer and Shail Niazi, The Talent Games is a pioneer in AI-driven talent assessments for companies. They reached out to me for help getting ready to raise their seed round, and my role involved building their data room, rewriting their investment decks, and setting up their investor CRM to manage fundraising.
  • Founderslist - Community & Operations Advisor - Feb '20 - Jul '20: Founded by Philip Camilleri, we met through YC's Startup School after I first sent feedback about FoundersList' beta. Soon after, Philip asked me to help lead Community where I was able to help launch the FoundersList podcast, build new partnerships that offered $100k+ in startup deals, and was part of the team to help get FoundersList into the Acceleprise accelerator. While advising FoundersList, I met my current co-founders Chris Kim and Rob Bircher who were leading Marketing and Growth respectively.

References (Coming Soon):

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Early Employee:

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Co-Founder:

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VC / Investor:

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Advisor:

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The Startup Studios Podcast (Coming Soon):

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