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BR Research

Interview with Qasim Asad Salam and Talha Masood, Founders of Remotebase

‘We foresee ourselves playing a huge part in promoting remote work, which is the future Founded by Qasim Asad...
Published January 30, 2023

‘We foresee ourselves playing a huge part in promoting remote work, which is the future

Founded by Qasim Asad Salam and Talha Masood in 2020, Remotebase finds & hires software engineers globally and matches them in teams that work with Silicon Valley-based startups and companies with the aim to empower top developer talent in emerging markets around the world. Qasim Asad Salam is also the CEO of Remotebase. His repertoire of work includes kickstarting numerous companies, mentoring startups in Silicon Valley, and investing in companies such as Kick start, Near pear, and more.

Since its inception, Remote based has grown exponentially. It has a team of 120+ individuals working across 6 countries and 30 different cities with over 85,000 vetted engineers on its platform. On its trajectory of growth, Remotebase has acquired major global clients such as Fireflies, Qureos, Walnut, and Northwestern Mutual to name a few. In 2021, the company conducted its first legacy event called Hirefest, a disruptive virtual hiring drive along with South Asia's largest virtual Hackathon with over 2,600 participants. Since then Remotebase has also ventured into offering niche tech tools on the web like KeyCoder, JSON Formatter, Job Grader, and Job Descriptor to become an integrated tech solution provider.

Following are the edited excerpts of a recent conversation BR Research had with the founders of Remotebase:

BR Research: Can you tell us about yourself, your experiences, and your achievements?

Qasim: I have always been super passionate about technology and was eleven when I made my first website. I entered the tech industry when I made an application that went viral while in college. Then later, I started a software house with Talha - now the co-founder of Remotebase. The software house did pretty well. We scaled it, and I moved to the US. Our experience with the software house taught us how to find, hire, and train software engineers as we worked a lot in that domain. I had an idea for a startup in the US for performance tracking for software engineers and eventually ended up with Remotebase. I pushed myself at an early age and did a lot of freelancing given my interest in the field. Moreover, I have been part of Pakistan's startup ecosystem for the past 5-6 years.

Talha: I graduated from GIKI in 2013, and after a year of working for a company where I couldn't fit in, I got in touch with a US company based out of New York with a team of 52 people, that was my first experience to work remotely back in 2014 when no one here used to understand remote working. Over the next few years, that company became a billion-dollar company. So I left that job of working remotely for this US-based company, but the idea that you could be part of that impact while sitting in Pakistani working remotely stuck with me. So I joined various startups here in Pakistan – all of which failed until I met Qasim in 2018 to set up Remotebase. From that day till now, I have had only one task: I make sure we can connect top-notch engineers with Silicon Valley.

BRR: How did you guys come together and set up Remotebase?

Q: We first met at Kickstart – one of the first co-working spaces in Pakistan. At that time, we were working on our startups, and we became good friends and decided that if things didn't work out eventually, we would do something together, which is precisely what happened as our startups failed. So this also shows you the impact of co-working spaces.

BRR: Tell us what exactly Remotebase is and what you offer.

Q: As Talha mentioned, we match Talent with companies across the globe. Our software engineers can work from Pakistan with companies in Silicon Valley. It's a two-sided marketplace: companies and engineers (demand and supply side) – and we match them. We started with software engineers, but we have also begun onboarding designers and expanding our entire team given we’re on the trajectory of growth and expansion.

BRR: Since you work with Talent, how do you see and compare the human capital in Pakistan –especially the tech sector with the rest of the world?

T: We firmly believe that an engineer in Pakistan and Silicon Valley is only different because of location. A Silicon Valley engineer gets the local dividend, plus an engineer sitting in Bahawalpur or Sahiwal does not have the array of opportunities that his counterpart in another part of the world does.

For the past ten years, I have been working on the same: what parameters do engineers from Pakistan need to fulfill to work for companies in Silicon Valley. In my experience, we are very much the same in talent and skill set. But, we need to improve the exposure and soft skills (that we have been addressing at Remotebase). These soft skills include communication in the English language, presenting oneself from behind the screen, and building one's personality and resume online. So, we work on building the personas and profiles of these engineers that we feel have comparable skill sets by helping them learn about remote work ethics, communication, and conversation skills, maintaining one's LinkedIn account, etc.

BRR: How do you both want to change the IT/Tech sector landscape in Pakistan and abroad? How is Remotebase doing that?

T: We often hear that Pakistani software engineers are very service oriented and need to be more innovative and have product knowledge. This has made me very uneasy over the years, and this is one perception I strive to change. I want them to be not just engineers but problem solvers.

Q: For me, no matter where you’re from – no matter what your religion, caste, culture, ethnicity, or gender is – you should be judged on your skillset. How is Remotebase trying to achieve that? People from one of the first batches of Remotebase of only 3-4 people were placed in Amazon and Tesla in just 2-2.5 years. Imagine what impact thousands of such cases could make on the IT exports in the country. For context, Tata Consultancy – a subsidiary of Tata Group- does $25 billion worth of annual IT software exports for India. Imagine just one company in Pakistan being able to address the current account deficit in the country.

BRR: Have you gotten any funding for your business? Can you talk about that?

Q: Yes, we have recently raised a seed round and Pre-series A round of funding. So we are not looking to raise capital as of now – maybe in a year or so because we are a cash flow positive business and we are not the kind of business with very high costs. We have both local and US-based investors.

BRR: Pakistan has witnessed significant growth in startup funding in the last couple of years. But now that capital flow is seen coming down. Is this VC-funded startup model sustainable?

Q: This model is not only sustainable, but it is also the only solution to Pakistan's problems. Plus, this model has worked in the US, India, MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) region, and worldwide. The problem with Pakistan is that the supply of capital is minimal, and raising capital is challenging and expensive. There is also a need for more understanding of the model. Venture capital is a high-risk, high-return model. And also, we have had only a handful of startups that have successfully exited this model. The fact that this model doesn't exist appropriately in the country is the problem – not the model itself.

BRR: You have grown considerably in the past three years.What's your plan for the future?

Q: We are present in 6 countries and over 30 different cities. Pakistan is the hotspot. The second upcoming hotspot is going to be Nigeria. Most of our customers are in the US, but we also have customers from Dubai. We have a team of over 120 people, all working remotely. Our physical presence is in Lahore, but we also hire remotely for Remotebase. Growth rate-wise, we have increased. In year one, we grew by 10-15 percent month-on-month; in year two, growth was 20-30 percent month-on-month. Year three was a bit slower due to the economic slowdown, but now it's back on track.

BRR: How do you ensure the engineer you bring onboard is the best and reliable?

T: The vetting process at Remotebase is very rigorous and something we are very proud of. Whether it is an engineering or non-engineering recruitment, we can do it well. It starts with a profile and a candidate's resume on our system. After that, they must take specific tests to advance in the recruitment process. It begins with the domain test, which maps their skills and talent. Then they have to record their online HR interview that answers some predefined questions. The final step is problem-solving analysis, where engineers solve problems and present solutions. Other positions need not take the problem-solving test. Once this is done, someone from Remotebase will connect with you if you are higher on the leaderboard. This is usually someone from the HR team who tries to understand the prospective resource's work history, salary history and expectations, and any red flags. Based on that interview, there are either one or two more rounds of interviews. Once they pass these, we place them into our network, which will reach 100,000 recruits soon. We also have a smaller network called the hot network that consists of engineers ready to be placed and matched. There is a two-week risk-free trial period of the resources with the clients, after which they become permanent members of the client's team through us. We maintain proper checks and balances every month to ensure that the engineers work with the clients without problems. A lot of to and fro happens, but we ensure that the quality is always maintained. That is the process in a nutshell.

BRR: Remotebase recently made headlines on Forbes and Wall Street Journal with a funding round and the new service "Talently" that you will launch. Can you talk about Talently, what it is and what it offers?

Q: We will have 100,000 people on in a couple of weeks on the Remotebase platform. Currently, we stand at around 87,000. Talently is a less hands-on approach to Remotebase. So instead of such a thorough process, we have 87,000 people listed with their skill scores. Companies can directly talk to and hire these people. Now it's a subscription-based model. You can call it a low-touch version of Remotebase. We had so much data about engineers and their scores, and there are so many other companies looking for engineers in the US and Pakistan that we thought we should give them access to this data.

BRR: Where do you see Remotebase in the next five years?

Q: In the next five years, I see Remotebase as something other than just a local player. We are already expanding outside the country as a global remote player – it doesn't matter where the talent is coming from. I see us playing a huge part in promoting remote work, which is the future, and us being able to be one of the top companies that can match Talent with companies to create opportunities for working from home.


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