Toledo Society

Omar Hamid | Design Extraordinaire and Co-Founder of LaunchGood

Omar Hamid | Co-Founder of LaunchGood

Unlike most people strutting through the college/university cycles, Omar’s career really started to kick off during his high school years. A design whiz at a young age, Omar started his own agency out of his parents’ house – Alfenn. Servicing some very sizeable clients, Omar took the liberty of not doing the university motions and instead focused on developing his art.

Sooner rather than later, Omar got tapped on the shoulder by a man named Chris Blauvelt – the founder of a nascent start-up called LaunchGood. LaunchGood’s idea was simple – it was going to be the platform which connects Muslims with great ideas to thousands of funders across the globe. It was like a Kickstarter specifically tailored to the Muslim world. Omar took on the project but quickly found himself directing most of his time and energy to LaunchGood. It came to the point where he didn’t want to work on any other projects and instead tried over and over (sometimes without being asked) to perfect the LaunchGood platform. Omar had found his passion.

Eventually, Omar pursued this passion and went all in with LaunchGood as a dedicated co-founder. As we sit with Omar on the Transit Lounge, he tells us that the start-up experience is no easy one – “It’s like falling off a cliff and trying to build an aeroplane on your way down”. Omar’s philosophy rests on a fundamental pillar: Just do it and your Rizq (wealth) is from Allah. It is the effort that is sought – not the outcome. Omar could live through his start-up experience because of this very wisdom (an “unfair advantage” as he calls it) and how much he believed in the cause of LaunchGood.

Amid all of this start-up success in the United States, Omar’s next move was slightly different, but we won’t say we were surprised. Omar found himself plastered over billboards in the Arab world – not for a LaunchGood Marketing campaign or for some exclusive big budget design project – but as a budding TV celebrity in Qatar. Starting off as a phone call with a relative to discuss a “start-up idea”, this opportunity translated into Omar being a participant and an effective superstar in the Arab world. A seemingly strange digression from the crowdfunding industry, Stars of Science saw Omar design something that would address a problem faced by every Muslim at some point of their life – a chair for praying in the masjid.

On the season finale of The Transit Lounge, Omar talks more about his vision for LaunchGood, the reason why they don’t search for investors and the road ahead for him and his various projects.

Episode 12: Omar Hamid – Design Extraordinaire and Co-Founder of LaunchGood

LaunchGood has become the biggest Muslim-specific crowdfunding platform across the globe. Whilst many comfortably use the platform, they are unaware of the story behind its inception. Co-Founder Omar Hamid’s journey started in late high school, as he kicked off his design career by starting his own agency – that’s right – during high school. The design agency turned out to be a stunning success, and all was well and good, until Omar got his most engaging project yet – the LaunchGood website. He would soon realise that this project drew him in like none other before and lit a passion deep inside. Eventually, Omar went all in as a Co-Founder and began his journey to develop the Muslim World’s largest crowd funding platform.

Magid Magid | Sheffield’s unlikely Lord Mayor

Magid Magid | Sheffield’s unlikely Lord Mayor

Magid Magid came to Britain at the age of 5 after fleeing Somalia. Growing up in Sheffield, by the time Magid was finishing school, he found himself working 12 hour shifts at different factories. He wanted to make enough money to pursue things he was passionate about; travel, scuba diving and more.

During this time, however, a deeper concern started poking at Magid. He knew he was working a lot, but he needed to do something that could open up opportunities for the long haul; Magid knew he had to go to university. There was only one problem; Magid had no clue what to study. Considering accounting, finance and all the usual culprits – no degree appealed to him except one: Aquatic Zoology.

We know what you’re thinking. Aquatic Zoology – is that even a degree? As amazing as that is, what we found to be even more fascinating was how this Aquatic Zoology major would end up as Lord Mayor of Sheffield. University became an entry point for Magid to speak out for issues he believed in. Never embroiling himself into the politics of it all, Magid knew that he cared about key issues and he knew he was going to do something about them. And so he did. Uncertain at first, Magid ended up running for the President of the University Union and won – a landslide victory at that.

What this opportunity sparked in Magid took him a lot further than campus activism. Sharing a lot in common with the Greens, particularly their views on education, bottom-up structures and ethical funding, he volunteered actively and was eventually elected as a counsellor for the Greens. By 2017, Magid was elected by 3 other counsellors as Lord Mayor – yes, it’s as fancy as it sounds.

As we sit with Magid on The Transit Lounge, he describes how being a Somali Muslim in the public eye is no easy feat. He’s faced petitions to have him removed, smear campaigns and has even received death threats. Through it all, Magid maintains the same steadfast attitude – “This is who I am, you either take me or leave me”. He voices this same advice for struggling young Muslims – ‘believe in yourself, stay steadfast and be smart’.

On episode 11 of The Transit Lounge, Magid tells us more about his famous inauguration picture, how he adds his own flavour to century old traditions and the ways in which he connects to young people as a Mayor.

Episode 11: Magid Magid – Sheffield’s unlikely Lord Mayor

Magid Magid may have lived the most unconventional journey to politics there is. After leaving Somalia as a refugee, he arrived at Britain at the tender age of 5. After schooling and working long shifts at factories for cash, Magid eventually enrolled into university to study Aquatic Zoology. Apart from an exotic degree, Magid got a lot out of his time at university. He found a voice to speak out for things he believed in passionately, and eventually got elected as the President of the University Union. A strong believer in principle over politics, Magid joined the Greens party and quickly became an active member. Before he knew it, he would be elected as the youngest Lord Mayor of Sheffield (with quite a fancy inauguration). We trace Magid’s journey and the challenges he’s faced as a proud Muslim in politics.

Peter Gould | The Road to Zileej

Peter Gould | The Road to Zileej

In his early university career, Peter was going through an internal conversation that would radically alter the path of his life to come. Grappling with big questions of existence, Truth and ultimately, God, Peter found Islam gave him deep yet simple answers to these existential questions. After accepting Islam, Peter’s design took on a whole new form and wore the spirituality of his faith. Not known to him at the time, however, was that he would end up as a design celebrity in the Muslim world globally.

Peter’s journey to becoming a design authority was far from conventional. Rather than working for big corporate and gleaning skills from other experienced designers, Peter jumped straight into the deep end and started his own design agency. Initially working out of his garage, Peter made sure to embody one motto – business is about looking after people. And so Peter did just that – whatever client he had, he made sure to look after them well, and slowly but surely, Peter started landing some big names in Australia.

Committed to the Muslim community from the get-go, Peter wanted to translate his design skills to helping the community – but this was not without its challenges. Whilst Muslim organisations knew the value of good design, many suffered from the tragic ‘free sabeel illah’ model – the belief that everything for a good cause should come free (well, not always free – one client offered to find Peter a wife in exchange for a website design…). But with a positive mindset, a lot of travel and a passion for design, Peter worked on some of the biggest Muslim brands in across the globe- from the iconic Sami Yusuf to the prestigious Emirates – Peter has left his mark in many parts of the Muslim community.

Despite his powerful work in helping Muslim clients strategise their brands, Peter felt a gaping hole in his work, and really, within the wider Muslim community. Reflecting on the kind of products out there for his kids to play with, he realised there exists a serious lack of Islamic creative representation in the products used by Muslim families. In 2016, Peter co-founded Zileej – an innovation agency creating the next generation of meaningful toys, games and creative experiences for the Muslim world.

On episode 10 of the Transit Lounge, Peter goes deeper into his vision for Zileej, some past projects that are still running alongside his current work and what lies ahead for ‘Generation M’ and the Islamic economy.

Episode 10: Peter Gould – The Road to Zileej

Arguably the forerunner in Islamic related design across the world, Peter Gould’s journey is fascinating on both a personal and business level. By the time Peter hit university, he discovered two crucial things that would inform his work to come; his passion for design and his belief in Islam. Instead of working at a corporate firm to channel his design talents, Peter took the road less travelled by and started his own design agency from scratch. From here on, Peter worked with some of the biggest brands in and out of the Muslim World – from icons like Sami Yusuf to brands like Emirates Park Zoo and Colgate. Alongside servicing major clients, Peter is now working on some projects of his own. In the episode, Peter walks us through the journey that finally culminated in his most recent project, Zileej – a design agency creating the next generation of meaningful toys, games and creative experiences for the Muslim World.

Listen to Peter’s journey wherever you get your podcasts.

Shahed Amanullah | Silicon Valley, Start-Ups and Muslim potential

Shahed Amanullah | Silicon Valley & Muslim Start-ups

In the late 1990’s, the tech start-up space was absolutely booming. The world was coming to terms with the power of technology, and after seeing some incredibly successful ideas, investors were ready to throw stupidly large amounts of money at tech start-ups. In this environment, Shahed Amanullah saw an opportunity which he couldn’t miss. Teaching himself how to code and desperately looking at ways to get involved, Shahed eventually landed his first gig in the start-up space. He managed to score a job as a creative director for a 40 million dollar backed tech start-up.

Whilst the tech company went under in less than a couple of years, the experience and exposure that Shahed got was invaluable. For starters, Shahed learnt that Silicon Valley was surprisingly Muslim friendly. In fact, it was a competitive advantage to be a Muslim because of all the Muslim connections (and there were many of them) you would inherit. This environment gave rise to Shahed’s first big project: Zabihah.com

Whilst Zabihah.com now hosts thousands of halal restaurant reviews from all over the world, it humbly started off as a way for Shahed to share all the cool Halal places he came across with his Muslim friends in Silicon Valley. As the website stayed up, Shahed started noticing postings from all over the world and knew he was onto something. 6 years later, Yelp.com came to be – and quickly became the standard worldwide restaurant review platform. They did what Zabihah did for Muslims but did it for the entire world. Here, Shahed learnt his first important lesson about the Muslim Start-Up philosophy – products should be “By Muslims, for everyone”.

On the Transit Lounge, Shahed describes that there are two main ways to go about start-ups as a Muslim. Either you go the path that he learnt (“By Muslims, for everyone”), or you do the wrong way – take a Western idea, cripple it and try selling it to Muslims. Shahed believes Muslim start-ups need to move beyond copying other ideas – they need to carry a Muslim spirit and an embedded social purpose. Our belief system is filled with rich values that we can share with the world, and we shouldn’t shy away from those things.

It’s through this desire to see authentic Muslim businesses thrive, that Shahed’s brainchild enters – Affinis Labs.\Affinis Labs seeks to change the Muslim mindset when it comes to start-ups. We don’t need to be mediocre or think small anymore – we have the talent and we can source the funds. According to Shahed, all that needs to change is the way we think about our abilities.

On episode 9 of The Transit Lounge, Shahed delves more into his other start-up projects such as Zakatify, describes his expansive career inlcuding his role at the World Bank and the US State Department, and lends us some hard-hitting truths about the Muslim mindset today and the way forward.

Listen to this episode & more of The Transit Lounge Podcast wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts and Spotify.

Episode 9: Shahed Amanullah – Silicon Valley, Start-Ups and Muslim potential

If there is anyone who has walked the world through his career, its Shahed Amanullah. He’s worked at several major engineer firms, at the World Bank, in real estate development and in the US State Department. But these jobs have only been in between what Shahed is truly passionate about – creating, leading and supporting impactful start-ups. A Silicon Valley native, he founded Zabihah.com – a Yelp for Muslims (before Yelp was a thing), Zakatify – an app changing the way we do Zakat and is currently the founder and CTO of Affinis Labs. We cover all bases with Shahed – from Muslims in Silicon Valley, to what makes a successful start-up and how Muslims should approach business today.

Check out the Toledo Society blog where we summarise some of the key lessons from this episode with Shahed Amanullah.

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In case you missed it, check out our interview with fellow South African entrepreneur, Haroon Meer on how to scale a successful start-up.
Also check out this great episode with Mohamad Jebara on entrepreneurship and Islamic values.