Hisham Anwar, formerly Zynga’s Director of Global Infrastructure, is the Co-Founder and CTO of BrightBytes Inc., a learning analytics company focused on providing data solutions that improve learning outcomes for students around the world.
BrightBytes was started with a clear mission in mind. The mission preceded the actual business plan and product roadmap. During our preliminary analysis of the market we created some rules that we felt were important for navigating the complex education market and maximizing the impact of the solution we would offer, this led to what we refer to internally as the five golden rules.
The rules allowed us to establish an offering that was successful in avoiding some of the friction inherit to the edtech market. The rules covered and defined the decision making process, pricing, and delivery model for the business.
We identified early adopters and targeted them before writing a single line of code. These conversations were invaluable in establishing the initial group of customers and building a product that addressed an actual gap in the market for a targeted segment.
The journey in search for product market fit has been an exhaustive exercise that has required three extensive rewrites of the application in less then 14 months. Burn out, capital, and velocity were a concern through this aggressive growth and discovery cycle.
I spend time with friends and family and go for long walks. One of the advantages of having started the business with one of best friends and awesome CEO is that we often spend time talking through these sorts of realities.
I have failed more then I have succeeded. Failure has taught me some invaluable lessons, both personal as well as professional. We encourage every employee at BrightBytes to take calculated risks to drive business outcomes, and one of the key components to achieving that goal is to embrace failure and recognize it as an essential component of innovation.
We have raised two rounds totaling 3.5 Million. The exhaustive nature of fund raising while necessary is fairly distracting. Can’t help but think about how much time is taken away from growing the business while engaged in the fund raising process. We have learned a lot about the importance of managing the process more granularly; and its helped. Convertible debt and innovative approaches by a hand full of VC firms have addressed this to some extent, it will be interesting to see how this evolves over time.
I wanted to focus on aligning my career to purpose and social impact. While I have enjoyed most of the places I have had the privilege of working at, the mission that sits at the core of BrightBytes is the main motivating factor for my move into entrepreneurship, and one that’s been tremendously satisfying.
I was the director of global infrastructure at Zynga Games. The transition was rather easy and seamless. I have been a part of several early stage startups and enjoyed the process of building and problem solving, making the entrepreneurial journey a perfect fit.
We have made a ton of mistakes and had some significant successes along the way. I would not change a thing, every decision and action thus far has been packed with invaluable learning and insights that have fueled our growth to date.
We made a conscious decision as a company not to hire any one with a sales back ground. That’s is profound to many and was quite the bold move on part of the business. Fortunately we have made it work successfully.