Zia Chishti, a Pakistani entrepreneur, hit the billion-dollar mark once again with Afiniti. The company marked the third billion-dollar company Zia founded, previous two being TRG and Align Technology. Afiniti focuses on developing artificial intelligence for use in customer call centers and is valued at 1.6 billion dollars. Zia has had a great entrepreneurial career, let’s take a look at his life and journey until now.
CEO and Chairman of Afiniti, Zia Chishti was born to American-Pakistani parents. After the death of his father, he came to Pakistan with his mother. Zia wanted to get into business in Pakistan, right after school. He did not want to go back to the US. However, his mother realized the state of education in the country. Hence she convinced Zia to move back to the US to complete his studies. In 1988 he came to New York and started college. He received his BA degree from Columbia University and went on to do his MBA from Stanford. He landed a job as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley which started his professional career.
The inspiration for Align Technology came to Zia through personal experience. He wanted to fix his teeth when he was in college. That was when the idea of using transparent aligners instead of braces to help straighten teeth came to him.
“I felt there had to be a better way to accomplish the same outcome. The company was focused on the dental space, and we had the technology that would allow a whole full art orthodontic treatment without braces. Since I also had an engineering background, we would instead use air-generated plastic appliances, and, as it turned out, it was extremely successful.”
Zia secured investment Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, investors of Amazon, Electronic Arts, and Google as well. Align Technology went on to raise $140 million from venture capital in 3 years. In January 2001, the company went public with a valuation of more than a billion dollars.
The company was worth $20 billion in 2018; however, Zia Chishti was not a part of it anymore. A dispute with the investors forced him to move on from the company.
After his ousting from Align Technology, Zia Chishti started searching for a new business. He soon founded The Resource Group (TRG) in Pakistan. Despite being known as a call center, Zia insists that the company is a private equity shop and investment firm.
The company invests in business process outsourcing (BPO) and related technology companies. BPO sector obtains capital from the company. Also, the company has made a series of acquisitions, divestments and minority investments in technology businesses.
Even though the company was build in Pakistan, Zia kept the headquarters in the US. The total value of TRG’s portfolio companies is more than $1 billion, and it also has a significant holding in Zia’s 3rd billion-dollar company, Afiniti. TRG remains among the volume leaders at the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX).
image from afinity.
Zia Chishti founded yet another billion-dollar company. Afiniti is a company that develops artificial intelligence software to help companies improve the efficiency of their business processes, specifically their call center operations. The company was worth $1.6 billion in 2017, and more than 30 companies in 18 countries were using its technology.
Zia is already thinking about growing Afiniti and is calculating its next move. He believes the company has the potential for its services to be utilized by more than just call centers. In an interview, he stated.
“Our big application is call centers, but in general what we’re doing is changing how enterprises allocate their internal resources and staff when associating with their customers,” says Chishti. “So it could be anything: text chat, how the sales force is allocated, employees in stores.”
Zia Chishti’s journey has been nothing short of a remarkable one. Having a portfolio of 3 billion dollar companies is a fantastic feat to have. We can learn and take inspiration from his journey, to start one of our own.
Read: How to Start a Startup