That's how it feels when you meet Ruzwana Bashir, an enthusiastic, bright-eyed, Londoner who's working on a startup, Peek.
Peek isn't what's special about Bashir. Candidly, it's an average startup idea in a crowded space. Peek wants to be a one-stop shop for tourism and activity booking online. The site is beautifully designed and looks like Airbnb, but there is no shortage of trip-planning apps and experience-driven sites. It's difficult to scale and manage a startup that relies on local businesses. For some of Bashir's vendors, a profile on Peek is their business's first website.
If anyone is up to the daunting task, it's Bashir. Bashir, 29, attended Oxford University and began her career at Goldman Sachs, then Blackstone. She's the first British Asian woman to become President of the Oxford Union , a debate society that has yielded a number of politicians and prime ministers.
Bashir attended Harvard Business School and joined the New York startup scene under Kevin Ryan at Gilt Groupe. From there she went to Artsy and was a member of the founding team. She ran marketing and business development and sat in on investor pitches. There, she became acquainted with tech executives such as Google executive Eric Schmidt.
Once she was familiar with the inner workings of startups, there was one last thing Bashir needed to start a company: a technical co-founder.
A friend introduced her to an engineer who was passionate about travel and ready to start a new venture, Oskar Bruening. Bruening graduated from MIT and worked for VMware and Symantec. He then worked for a startup backed by Benchmark Capital and SV Angel, Pipewise.
The pair met for coffee one afternoon in New York. Bashir says they instantly hit it off and scrapped all their plans that afternoon to whiteboard Peek. Later that night, Bruening and Bashir attended a friend's party together and the co-founder relationship was solidified.
Bashir's bubbly persistence has helped her move the startup forward. The spellbinding founder flew to Portland, for example, where the owner of the domain Peek.com lived. She told him she was in town and asked him to coffee. By the time the meeting was over, the owner agreed to give her the domain for an affordable price. A single word domain like Peek would normally go for millions of dollars.
Finding investors to back Peek wasn't an issue either, even though Bashir was a first time entrepreneur who didn't have a product made. She and Bruening raised $1.37 million from Eric Schmidt, Square founder Jack Dorsey, Ben Parr, Khosla Ventures and SV Angel. Six months later they launched the website.
Now Peek has launched in eleven cities with 1,000 businesses using the platform.
Whether or not Peek will be a success remains to be seen. But Bashir's personal success seems like a sure thing.
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- Ruzwana Bashir