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Hassan’s Story: From TIG’s Scholarship Awardee to Founder

Two pairs of shoes standing on a sidewalk next to painted words that say "passion led us here."

Hassan is an alumni of The Intern Group’s internship program. Starting off as a scholarship awardee in 2016,  Hassan has certainly come a long way. Read his inspiring story:

” Hi. I’m Hassan. I was a part of The Intern Group back in 2016. I was awarded a scholarship for an internship position in Hong Kong. It was truly a rare opportunity. I had stumbled upon this post by TIG on Facebook while looking for internship scholarships, as I couldn’t afford the expenses. I didn’t have any idea of the impact it was going to have on my life.

Getting selected was a very smooth process. Everything, including the interview with my company, was arranged over email. I joined New Digital Noise, a digital marketing and design agency. I was the first and the only technical intern at the company since I had a background in Computer Science.

The internship was a smash hit: I went on to start a multi-million dollar company with my then supervisor, Gerardo Salandra, a former employee of Google and IBM, whom I worked with during the course of my six-weeks internship.

At the end of the internship, Jerry and I decided to start working on chat-bots together, which were very hyped at that time. We saw it as a big market opportunity. Large companies, such as fashion brands, needed to leverage new types of communication channels, other than email and phone, as more and more people started using instant messaging platforms like Facebook and WeChat. Facebook Messenger had recently opened their API for messaging, so we were able to build chat-bots that would integrate directly with Facebook pages to allow businesses to interact with and reply to their clients faster. These chat-bots leveraged AI and NLP (Natural Language Processing) capabilities to understand what the customers were asking for and performed relevant and appropriate actions based on that. That’s where Rocketbots was born!

 

 

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In the next few months, I was able to assemble a team of 7 people, and moved our office to Lahore. We built the first prototype of the product in the first six months. Based on that, we raised our first round of funding the same year, in 2017. We even started getting our very own interns from The Intern Group!

For the first two years of the company, that was really our setup. Gerardo, our COO, and some of the interns were working outside Hong Kong, while the rest of the team was in Pakistan. Jerry and I went back and forth between Hong Kong and Pakistan four to five times a year. We had to make sure that we were completely aligned and that we were going in the right direction.

In 2019, we were able to secure our second round of funding of $1.8M. We were already generating a decent revenue from our customers on a monthly basis, too. We changed our name from Rocketbots to Respond.io,  as our business had evolved into something more in the vein of a CRM but for messaging apps, and chat-bots only became a smaller part of our product as an optional integration. Finally, it was time for us to really grow our company and speed up the development process, and to bring everyone together.

We are now 25 people in total and we’re continuing to hire more. Headquartered in Malaysia, Respond.io now consists of several companies incorporated in four different countries, an incredible feat that I can’t imagine would have been possible without Jerry who has an MBA background.

 

 

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So that’s my story. I hope this inspires someone out there who might be reading this. The internship itself was a really fun experience for me as I got to meet a lot of new people from all around the globe. It prompted me to dream bigger. To dream of starting my own company. And I guess that’s all I ever wanted to do… ”

 

Check out our scholarship opportunities here.

 

 

Photos and blog by Hassan Ahmed

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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