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Ridwan Hafiz: Attending Iterative Accelerator Program Has Transformed Go Zayaan and Changed Our View About Building Businesses

The early days of startups are always challenging. Full of ups and downs and much uncertainty. Things change fast that requires agile decisions and constant innovation. Especially, when you're a travel-tech company in the middle of a pandemic, you have to think and act faster. I don't know about others but it has always been a super-human effort for me to stay focused on one problem at a time. Because there are always so many problems going on at the same time and I want to solve them all at once. 

In the last quarter of 2020, we came to know about Iterative, a YC style startup accelerator program focused on the Southeast Asia region, when attending Tech in Asia conference. They were taking applications for their second batch at the time. Without thinking much, we went for it. Technically, Bangladesh is not part of SEA, but we thought it's worth trying. 

Fast forward a few weeks, we got in as the only company from outside the region. The next 12 weeks have been a roller coaster. Two partners, Brian Ma & Hsu Ken are seasoned founders and now active investors and they took a deep dive into our business. 

Every week, we spent an hour in a partner meeting and tried to find problems together and then solve them. The biggest lesson for us was not to try solving all the problems at the same time. Find out what’s working and what’s not. Iterate from your mistakes quickly and keep repeating the whole process. 

We set our weekly goals for 12 weeks. Throughout this whole period, the entire team was busy chasing these goals. We never realized that we could achieve so much in 12 weeks. 

Iterative also hosted small group sessions amongst 4 companies from the batch every other week where we would try to solve each other's problems using our distinct perspectives. Almost every week, there were speakers from different industries who shared invaluable insight into different verticals and into the nuances of building businesses. 

During the final few weeks of the program, Iterative arranged a fundraising Bootcamp where they helped the companies to prepare their pitch in front of the investors. After 3-4 sessions, we were ready for our Demo day which happened on Bengali New Year. More than 100 VCs from all around the globe showed up and we got to pitch in front of them. 

It was truly a life-changing experience for me and for us as a team at Go Zayaan. After 12 weeks, we are now a completely different company — our presentation, our strategy, our thinking has changed — we can clearly see we have transformed as a company. The program has better prepared us for the journey ahead. 

We have not only learned a ton, Brian & Hsu Ken, the two fathers of Iterative, have prepared us to embrace the journey of entrepreneurship.  

Iterative can be a game-changing experience for any founder. I would be super happy to see more Bangladeshi startups applying for the program. 

The education on business building coupled with the network and resources the program offers can offer true inflection points for any early-stage ventures. It has been an inflection point for us at Go Zaayan

Since they have accepted one Bangladeshi company, the door is now open for others to apply. If you are an early-stage founder, I would encourage you to apply. Here's the link to know more about Iterative.

Ridwan Hafiz is the Co-founder & The People’s Champ of Analyzen and Founder & CEO of Go Zayaan

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