“There’s a lot of innovation, there’s a lot of focus on creating new ideas and pushing the human race forward, so I think it’s an exciting time to be around.”
At EU Business School (EU), an entrepreneurial mindset is key to professional success whether you’re running your own business or working for a big multinational. It is the base of the educational experience and the philosophy of EU Business School. And so, we were thrilled to welcome Dr. Waqaas Al-Siddiq, serial entrepreneur, former venture capitalist and founder and CEO of Biotricity, to our Learning From Leaders conference to discuss his extraordinary career journey and offer advice to our students. The event took place within the framework of EU’s innovative Business Immersion Week, an initiative that takes place on all our campuses every semester and is specifically designed to bring business to life and help foster work-ready graduates.
Dr. Waqaas Al-Siddiq’s latest venture, Biotricity, is a modern medical technology company focused on delivering innovative, remote biometric monitoring solutions to the medical and consumer markets. It recently underwent a C round of funding which valued the company at $300 million.
Waqaaas joined us from California, where he was working on the Thanksgiving holiday, which, he says, gives him the peace and quiet required to think. “I am thankful for the time of the world that we are living in,” he explained, “There’s a lot of innovation, there’s a lot of focus on creating new ideas and pushing the human race forward, so I think it’s an exciting time to be around.”
The journey to Biotricity
Dr. Waqaas Al-Siddiq describes the entrepreneurial journey as “twisty” and says that his was no exception. He did some graduate work with the DoD (the Department of Defense, USA) on remote monitoring of environments based on sensor technology, including monitoring individuals in real time. “I really liked that application,” he said, “But I got caught up in industry and went elsewhere.” After working for some of the biggest names in tech, including IBM, AMD and Intel, his multidisciplinary background in cloud computing and economics led him to join a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.
While at the venture capital firm, Waqaas found the catalyst for his own entrepreneurial journey, because he thought “Ok, these people are getting funded and these concepts are good, but I also have good concepts.” Healthcare was always an area of interest for Waqaas, and with his expertise in connectivity and the cloud, he got engaged with Higi, a consumer health engagement company, which was later sold for $50 million. And then, Waqaas recounts, “I was finally at the point when I said, ‘I am going to actually pick and focus on the area that is most interesting to me because I think that’s the big play, and that’s the future,’ and so I started Biotricity.” Biotricity was the culmination of his early interest in remote monitoring, his extensive technological expertise and entrepreneurial experience – and a mission to bring affordable healthcare to as many people as possible. Waqaas noted that this mission was driven by his own family’s history of type 2 diabetes, which raises the risk of heart disease.
Lessons for budding entrepreneurs
As a serial entrepreneur with several successful businesses under his belt, Waqaas is ideally placed to offer expert advice to students and young professionals who are hoping to start their own venture.
1.Define the commercialization strategy first
For Waqaas, it is critical to work out how to sell your product even before it is developed. At Biotricity, he said, “We’ve got four different products, and we looked at how we were going to commercialize, who was going to pay for that, and we figured that out first. So, before we put pen to paper on a concept and we start developing it, we figure out that commercialization strategy.”
2. Advice for finding funding
To start with, Waqaas advises making a thorough analysis of all the companies that are working in a similar space and ensure that you “clearly understand the industry that you’re operating in and who are the other players that have gotten funding.” He also emphasized the importance of researching investor profiles, as some investors are only interested in, for example, investing in a series C or a series D. When setting up Biotricity, Waqaas identified potential investors by asking himself, “Well, what do these guys really invest in and why would they invest in me and what’s the parallel,” and then contacted them “in a very aggressive process” by reaching out through his network or through LinkedIn. Ensure you meet potential investors in the right space, he advised, such as at conferences which you know they are attending in order to find new businesses in which to invest.
3. Sell your vision
“When you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re coming out with your first concept […],you really are selling your vision. It is very much a sales pitch,” declared Waqaas, “And it’s not really different from whether you’re hiring your founding team or even your executive level management or your investors.” So, whatever stage you are at in the process of establishing your startup, make sure that you can transmit your vision effectively.
Advice for young professionals
Waqaas also had plenty of general advice to share with students about to embark on their career journeys, whether as entrepreneurs or working in companies or organizations.
- Changing jobs can accelerate your career
Contrary to the traditionally held view that you have to stay in each job for a certain period, Waqaas suggested that moving to a different company can actually boost your career by giving you the opportunity to learn something new or gain new skills. As an employer, he explained, “When I interview people, and I notice that they’ve skipped jobs, I am very curious to understand why. And if anybody responds with, ‘Hey, I went in because I wanted to learn this experience, I wanted to do X, Y, Z, I accomplished that and then I wanted to move on to the next’ that shows me somebody’s who’s ambitious, who’s driven, who’s got a very laser focus on what they want to do – and that’s a good sign.”
2. Apply for the job you want – even if you’re not an exact fit
Once again, Waqaas goes against conventional wisdom by suggesting that employers are looking for passionate and determined individuals who are ready to learn, even if they don’t have exactly the right profile. Write a cover letter stating why you believe you are a fit, why you want the position, and which skills you have and the ones you don’t have but will learn. When interviewing candidates for his own business, he asks himself, “What are the core skill sets of an individual and how can I enhance those and leverage those.” He goes on to say, “I’m more interested in dynamic personalities that are, of course, intelligent, but I’m not really hung up on if they have that exact skill set for the job that I’m looking at, because I believe that you can grow into that, and you can learn.”
3. Build around your expertise in one area to gain leverage
Waqaas believes that acquiring expertise in a specific area can enhance your career prospects beyond the opportunities that lie within that particular area. “I still believe that, even in the entrepreneurial area, you want to be very, very skilled in one particular area, and then you build around that,” he says. “So, if you have that expertise and you want to move into a different industry, there’s are complementary aspects that you can leverage and that support you as you move on.”
4. Optimize your time
Waqaas is a strong believer in efficiency: “I also really focus on efficiency, efficiency of my time more importantly.“ Indeed, he confessed that he even times his lunches to avoid traffic jams and restaurant queues. In the workplace, he organizes tasks into those that he can do more quickly by himself, including scheduling his own meetings, and those tasks that others can achieve rapidly. “So,” he explained, “If I’m giving a task to somebody, I want to know what date are you going to deliver it to me by. If that date is good enough, I will let you handle it and I will work with you. If not, I’d rather do it myself.”
Prepare for a career as an entrepreneur
We are a business school for entrepreneurial thinkers who want to break the mold, to innovate and build a different future. We develop work-ready graduates with an agile and creative mindset, who are adept at navigating change and finding solutions. If you are thinking of starting your own business, or want to boost your career, find out more about how our wide range of programs and hands-on, experiential learning approach can help you begin your own success story.