LUMS Alum Selected for the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia List
Muhammad Saad (BS Computer Science, 2015), a graduate of the Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering, has been selected for the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia List.
Saad is the Co-Founder of BridgeLinx Technologies, a venture-backed, tech-enabled logistics platform, marketplace, and solutions provider. BridgeLinx deploys technology to bring efficiency, scale, and innovation to Pakistan’s fragmented and inefficient logistics services markets in Pakistan, the MENAP region, and beyond. Just nine months after its launch, BridgeLinx raised USD 10 million in the largest seed round in Pakistan and is now the largest logistics platform in the country.
Saad spoke to LUMS about his start-up beginnings and the challenges he faced that led to the coveted Forbes recognition.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
I had decided I wanted to build something of my own while I was still a student at LUMS. I rejected the traditional route CS majors usually took at LUMS and started working on my first start-up, Treble, right after graduation in 2015. Treble was an ambitious start-up in the music space but early for its time. The start-up ecosystem in Pakistan was nascent and full of challenges; that is precisely how my first few years were. I went through many highs and lows, made countless mistakes, and achieved extraordinary things, but in the end, Treble failed.
How did this experience shape your subsequent initiatives?
Recovering from Treble’s failure was tough, but I knew I had learned a lot. With the support of my family and friends, I was able to get back on my feet and start my second start-up We Over I. This is a venture-builder that partners with global start-ups to become an extension of their product team. Our vision was to expose Pakistani talent to the best international start-ups and use our engineering strength and resources to contribute to them. All the learnings from my work with Treble came together to help me grow We Over I at a fast pace. Today, it’s a profitable business working with top global start-ups.
During the global disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I met my future Co-Founders Salman, Ahsan, and Abbas. We discussed the most significant global challenges and pinpointed one we were all interested in solving – the inefficiency of Pakistan’s logistics and supply chain industry. Pandemic or not, this was a problem worth solving that could massively impact the country’s economy while improving the lives of countless people. Once again, I took a leap of faith and left what I was working on (with We Over I) to focus full-time on building BridgeLinx.
Within a year and a half, BridgeLinx has grown to become a 250+ people team, has raised a $10M Seed Round, and has become the largest logistics platform in the country.
What was the gap you were trying to fill through BridgeLinx?
In Pakistan alone, road freight is a $50+ billion industry. It is a highly inefficient, opaque, and intermediated industry: intermediaries employ archaic, manual methods to match loads with a highly fragmented base of carriers (70%+ of fleet owners own less than five vehicles). The costs of matching inefficiencies, opacity, information asymmetry, and a lack of operational sophistication are borne by shippers (who pay more than they should) and carriers (who take home less than they should). Intermediaries’ stranglehold on information and capital perpetuates such inefficiencies, with hundreds of thousands of carriers locked in reinforcing cycles of debt and poverty.
We are on a mission to change this. Our AI/ML-based tech platform disintermediates road freight, allowing carriers to connect directly with shippers. As a managed marketplace, we guarantee transactions, build operational excellence, and create transparency; as an aggregator, we democratise the industry, allowing carriers to choose the loads they want when they want.
So far, what has been the impact of BridgeLinx?
In a little over a year, we have scaled to tens of thousands of weekly loads. We connect tens of thousands of carriers to Pakistan’s largest shippers – concerns ranging from heavy industries (textile, cement, fertiliser, agro-businesses, chemicals, and many more) to e-Commerce / B2B marketplaces, including more than two-thirds of Pakistan’s top 100 exporters. We take pride in improving the lives of on-platform carriers – through higher payouts, but also by offering insurance, education subsidies, and working capital assistance.
The impact we make, the pace at which we execute, and the near-unlimited potential to grow and optimise were recognised by top-tier global VCs, who led / participated in our $10M seed round, the largest-ever in Pakistan at the time.
How has your time at LUMS helped you in your professional life?
LUMS provides an excellent environment to experiment and learn new skills. I spent most of my time at LUMS working on different projects with professors, implementing what I learned in my courses, and building tools for myself and other students. LUMS also helps a lot with your communication skills. By the time I graduated, I did not only have enough skills to kickstart my start-up but was also easily able to pitch my work to thousands of people at international events.
What were some of the main challenges you faced?
A startup’s journey is filled with challenges. In the early days, my biggest challenges were building and growing the team. Both Treble and We Over I were bootstrapped, so I had to work on the side to earn not just for my survival but to hire, sustain and grow.
When we started BridgeLinx, our challenges rose to another level. BridgeLinx is disrupting a complex and archaic industry. Bringing technological innovation to an industry that still runs on paper, has a non-tech savvy customer segment, a lack of operational sophistication, and a lot of opaqueness is a significant challenge that will take years to solve.
How does it feel to be part of Forbes 30 Under 30?
It has been quite a humbling experience. However, my achievements are not my own, they are my team’s, and the credit goes to everyone for what we have achieved. A lot of credit goes to my family for their help and support during the arduous journey.
What advice would you give to LUMS students?
Learn and experiment as much as possible during your time at LUMS without worrying about failure - the goal is to learn as many skills as possible. And if you aspire to build a start-up one day, I would recommend first working in one. Good, fast-moving start-ups generally offer a high growth curve and your goal should be to learn as much as you can before you make your own jump.