Entrepreneurs usually don’t strike gold when it comes time for them to pitch their business idea to investors. But Umaima Mendhro, a Pakistani entrepreneur, is one of the lucky ones who got a bigwig venture firm (and at Google Ventures no less) to fund her business idea on the very first try.
It seems like a fantastic story that’s too easy to believe. But there’s a lot more to Umaima’s ‘first pitch’ than just catching a lucky break. It was a pitch that was the result of her childhood ambition.
This is the story of that pitch.
Umaima Has Always Loved Building Things
Ms. Mendhro has always had this dream of building a reputable multi-national company that she could one day call her very own. She always had big Ivy-League styled plans and aspirations from a very young age.
Of course, like any Pakistani growing up in Pakistan, she was also cognizant of the limits that she could face in getting her venture off the ground in Pakistan.
“Coming from part of the world, and specifically part of Pakistan, where I didn’t have schools around, I grew up with the idea of building my own path… Because of that, education became something I was truly passionate about,” she explains.
Realizing that education can take her places and make her realize her dreams, Umaima studied hard to get into Harvard, securing her MBA in 2009.
Realizing Her Dream
Once her studies were over, it was time for Umaima to fulfil her life’s goal – to build her company.
After the passage of 5 years, she reached out to the connections she made at Harvard and during a brief stint at Microsoft to work at her first pitch. Some of her connections eventually became general partners at Google Ventures.
Mendhro pitched her first startup idea for VIDA, her very own apparel company, to Google Venture. They agreed to fund VIDA, after hearing her plans for the business, offering $1.3 million in seed money.
Umaima wanted to combine art and commerce for her first business venture. The pitch for VIDA was that artists could be able to upload their own customized designs for scarves, sleeves, shirts and any other merchandise. Basically, VIDA was a creative platform designed to cater to the creative types from all around the world.
VIDA invited photographers, painters, sculptors, calligraphers and more. Customers can buy what they like online and creators get paid 10% of the revenue share. It’s a for-profit platform but also one with a social aspect to it – factory workers who design VIDA products are trained by the company as well.
So what made Google Ventures take notice of VIDA?
Umaima’s idea was one that she had been working on for as long as she can remember. This proved to be integral to her pitch as she already had sought out some 500+ artists, factories, customer insights and also had a prototype ready for her website already.
The preparatory groundwork also proved instrumental in determining her margins, and as soon as she got the check from Google Ventures in April 2014, she started selecting artists from diverse backgrounds. She attributed the need for diversity to ensuring that her business was scalable and growth-friendly.
“It was important to me upfront that it was a fiercely streamlined manufacturing process, because once we get that right, we can scale the business. We didn’t want a complex ecosystem.”
VIDA Proves to Be A Smash Hit
Mendhro launched VIDA on November 2014, and since then her product offerings have grown by 1000x. She features artists from over 150 countries and 2,500 cities.
As for VIDA’s financial success, the website has enjoyed a 30x revenue growth between Jan 2015 to April 2016. This has given Umaima increased confidence to prepare her company for another round of funding.
She has already participated in Google for Entrepreneurs Demo Day, and following a 5 minute pitch for VIDA, she has secured a deal with one investor. She will be having meetings with several more in the weeks ahead.
Even though Umaima Mendhro has had the benefit of a Harvard education and a great network, she is grateful that she got the chance to realize her dreams. Her hard work and dedication won her kudos, and as a Pakistani entrepreneur, she has raised the profile of Pakistan when it comes to overcoming all odds and making it big with the best of the best.