Welcome to another “Behind the click” profile! I’ve got another digital entrepreneur to expose to you. Her story is very unique and she’s overcome many hurdles. Meet Asmau Ahmed, founder of Plum Perfect a visual search engine that provides instant personal recommendations to shoppers using their photos. She has a killer educational background but also the tenacity that we all need no matter which endeavor we are currently pursuing. Read on to find out about Asmau’s unique journey.
Current Occupation: Founder, PlumPerfect.com
Favorite read: Bedtime stories with my son
Recent read: The Tipping Point
2012′s ultimate goal: Do more of the things I love
Quote Governing Your Mission or a Quote that Inspires You: “…..we must speak or our ideas and ourselves will remain unheard and unknown” -Faith Ringgold
Twitter handle: @Plum_Perfect
LDC: So, Where are you from, exactly?
AA: Proudly, a citizen of the world. My parents are from West Africa- Nigeria.
LDC: What was it like attending Columbia for business school in New York City for you?
AA: For me, Columbia was a breath of fresh air. It signified new beginnings, a huge playing ground to explore, innovate, learn, network and make life-long friends.
LDC: What led you to combine your interests in chemical engineering and business in what we see as Plum Perfect?
AA: I really did not set out to combine the two. I knew from personal experiences and frustrations of trying to find the right colors and products for me, especially online, that there was a tangible business opportunity. So the engineer in me started exploring, and building, and testing, and building some more… and now we have Plum Perfect!
LDC: What is the site’s key value prop?
AA: From just your photo, we find the perfect colors and products for you. From a photo of your face, we find you make-up that would look fabulous on you. From a photo of your top, we can find the perfect skirt. We essentially scour the web and search through mountains of products to find the one for you, in seconds.
LDC: How did you obtain funding for the venture?
AA: A lot of hard work, perseverance and not giving up. Understanding that a ‘no’ from one investor meant one of two things – I needed to get back to the drawing board (armed with very specific feedback on what was not working) or we just didn’t fall in their sweet spot (happens a lot). My networks were instrumental in getting me meetings. It was up to me and my team to close.
LDC: What advice would you have for other women of color looking to fund tech-based companies?
AA: We are already used to working harder than everyone else. The same applies here. Network with other entrepreneurs and learn from their experiences. Black Founders has a great community of entrepreneurs, so start there. Build a team of doers – effort doesn’t count for anything in a startup, results do. Investors want to see results and a well rounded team they can trust to deliver. Become an expert in the non-tech aspects of your business. Nail down and validate exactly how you are going to make money. Articulate, very clearly, what your go-to-market strategy will be. It’ll change with time and experience — the savvy investors know that.
LDC: Along the funding route, before or after; did you ever encounter what you might consider to be racism and/or sexism? If so, how did you overcome it?
AA: I was pregnant when I started along the funding route. Well meaning friends asked me to wait until I had my baby. I figured I was already black and female pitching a tech company – I had 3 strikes already and that being pregnant wasn’t going to change a thing. Folks also advised me to get a non-black co-founder to round out the team… all well intended but misplaced advise.
I have not encountered racism and/or sexism explicitly but the numbers speak for themselves. Do I sometimes wonder if I would have had an easier time at this (and it has been TOUGH) if I were white or Asian or male? Absolutely. What’s my conclusion most of the time? Yes! Do I dwell on it? Nope! A waste of my time… I work with what I have today, and that’s plenty.
LDC: What has the response been to Plum Perfect?
AA: We started out as color p.i. and rebranded to Plum Perfect. People see it and say — I would use this or I wonder why this hasn’t been done before now. That’s the biggest compliment – to know that we are building something of value. The reception has been great. People appreciate the power of the technology and creativity that went into building Plum Perfect.
LDC: What is your biggest challenge in running the company?
AA: The challenges have evolved over time. First, it was technology and product build – motivating the team at 4 AM in the morning of the next release to not give up. Then, it was fund raising – convincing investors that we need money NOW. Now, it’s growing our market after the relaunch.
LDC: What’s your biggest hope for Plum Perfect in 2012?
AA: That we grow beyond anything I can possibly imagine – and I imagine huge! That we become a household name because we deserve to be. That we continue to provide breakthrough technologies that people love.
Be sure to watch for the next tech industry profile! In the meantime, keep up with the latest digital developments by following me on Twitter @mediaempress, and stay up on tech conferences via my site at www.ldcoleman.com
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