Shahid Hanif

 

Shahid Hanif is the Co-Founder and CTO of Shufti Pro, AI-based identity verification and fraud prevention solution. Previously, he also co-founded Zensed, a machine-learning-based fraud, and chargebacks prediction system. He completed his MSc in Artificial Intelligence from The University of Edinburgh. Providing cutting-edge fraud prevention solutions to online businesses and banks is his passion.

Where did the idea for Shufti Pro come from?

When I look back at how I started this company, I see a single turning point that centers around customers’ happiness.

In 2012, when I had to use other ID verification services in my personal capacity, I was shocked to discover how slow their verification process was while their support team took days to reply. On top of that, their developer’s documentation was hardly of any help.
At Shufti Pro, we tried to make all this better by providing robust support, verification in seconds and developer-friendly documentation (more like a guide) for easy and smooth integration.

Entrepreneurs have been coming up with ideas in the most unusual times and places. For me, it was when I availed the services of one of the leading players. With enough training and faith in machine learning and applications of AI, I knew in my heart that I could provide a much better service than what was currently available in the market.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is quite busy. I wake up with a drive to be the best version of myself and a roadmap to tackle the day’s challenges. My days are pre-planned unless of course something unexpected comes up.

Major activities of my day include coordination with teams in different countries and collaborating with my customers. But I never forget to take some time out for myself that I usually spend reading or with my family.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Whenever an idea comes to my mind I run a feasibility test on it and then discuss it with my team. Luckily, my team shares my ambition and drive. So it is never difficult to make them understand my perspective of business matters. I tend to hold regular meetings with them to brainstorm and get the juices flowing.
Lastly, I always keep an eye on our competitors, it stimulates my creativity and gets me tons of brilliant ideas.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Developments in artificial intelligence excite me without fail. I know that it has huge growth potential and is being rapidly deployed to generate solutions for virtually every problem on the face of the earth.
Being tech savvy, I see a vast domain to experiment and develop innovative solutions in the field of identity management by leveraging the power of automated technology. My focus is on enabling solutions for fraud prevention and authentication for a wide range of digitized industries.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Never settling for less. This habit has paid me dividends throughout my life. Being an entrepreneur you learn to live with unprecedented hurdles and failures (especially in the beginning). At times, immediately after a failure, you can easily become delusional by early success. But once you learn to not settle for less, you become unstoppable.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would probably encourage myself to put more trust in myself and take risks quicker than I did. I would also advise to embark on entrepreneurial ventures much earlier and start Shufti Pro waiting for the right opportunity and financial planning.
I feel like I spent a lot of time in the industry gaining experience and developing solutions for others when I could have been doing all of it for my own product.

As an entrepreneur, one has to face tremendous challenges before accomplishing goals. Starting early helps gain traction before the industry reaches its peak, especially areas like fraud prevention. Regardless, the identity verification market is expected to make record growth in the coming years and we’re already among the top players of the industry.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Personally, I don’t believe in luck, though most of my colleagues and friends do. Statistically speaking, I think of luck as a biased value or an estimator. When you’re born this value is initialised and until you’re 16 or 18, this value changes a little bit (depending on your teenage experiences).

But once you step into the professional life, you need to start building yourself, so that your personal bias value will remain the same, though increasing, year upon year.

How?

Well, instead of going through all of one’s own life experiences in a kind of ‘viewer’ mentality, someone who guides his own luck is constantly analysing situations. It helps discover the opportunities in life that helped produce results in the first place. This non-partisan approach guides entrepreneurs in taking a leaf out of the playbook of successful businessmen and apply the same to their lives.

This process needs to go through a number of iterations before it can bring real results in the form of success. Once that happens, it is often misperceived as ‘luck’ instead of intelligent analysis. When in fact he’s just analysed and learned from so many firsthand experiences, that he is able to affect his own life more positively than others. That is – in my view – ‘luck’.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read, learn, repeat. I recommend everyone to never stop learning, and reading is the simplest and easiest way of doing this. As Warren Buffet puts it,
“I still probably spend five or six hours a day reading.”

If you feel like you have enough knowledge about something, share it with others, you’ll learn different perspectives about the same subject.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Taking calculated risks and valuing my people. Risk-taking is necessary for growth. You can’t really get a grasp of the industry unless you take some sort of risk to dig deeper into the growth prospects.

Other than that, my team is a major reason behind the remarkable growth of Shufti Pro. I enjoy working with a team of like-minded people and experts who share the same passion as I do.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Public speaking was not my strong suit, and it used to hold me back while giving presentations to audiences of bankers and businessmen. I took it as a challenge and read about it. I forced myself to attend every business event that my schedule allowed me to give presentations. Now, I’m very comfortable communicating with large audiences.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I would suggest working around developments in AI, blockchain, and machine learning. Anything that will solve an unaddressed or poorly addressed problem will gain rapid growth.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Fisher AG7 Astronaut Space Pen. Such unique items always grab my attention.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

As I need to collaborate with teams in different countries I need to be smart in managing them. Currently, we’re using an app to create employee activity log in real-time. The employees update each task in it and it calculates the hours a person has worked.

So I can monitor their activities in real-time. Also if I have to assign a task to someone and I don’t want to write it down, I simply record an audio clip with this app and share with my team members. It saves me a lot of time.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

It’s hard to mention only one really but I’d say it’s The Alchemist. It talks about chasing your dreams while risking everything and that is sort of what every entrepreneur is actually doing.

What is your favorite quote?

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey

Key Learnings:

  • Never settle for less. You are what you think of yourself.
  • AI/machine learning and blockchain is the future. Entrepreneurs who have the passion for tech must work around these areas and target better serviceability.
  • Hire like-minded people, invest in them and make them your business partners, not just employees.