The Future of Professional Networking in MENA – ‘Wasta’
Founded in June 2021, by second-time founders Shyam Visavadia (CEO) and Lalita Chopra (CTO); Wasta is a start-up that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to curate a one-on-one introduction between founders, investors, and entrepreneurs that share the same goals, interests, and objectives.
Wasta is a ‘super connector’ that helps share and explore mutual social and professional interests, whether it’s helping find a co-founder, fundraising, accessing resources, or finding talent. Wasta is truly building a network designed to reflect the multifaceted nature of what people need to move forward in their entrepreneurial journey.
Shyam Visavadia, CEO at Wasta says “The pandemic continues to change how people interact. Face-to-face networking events have been scaled back, business meetings are moving virtually, and an increase in remote working has opened opportunities for virtual collaboration that transcends regional boundaries. Traditional networking events are cumbersome, time-consuming, and for some inaccessible. This leaves most people polarised and increases inequality in accessing opportunities. Current online professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Lunch club are lacking in personalization and relevance”.
Wasta is currently free to join, applicants are verified before they join the community. Once the applicants become a part of the community, they receive a weekly opt-in reminder, Wasta then introduces the members to their respective matches. Members can either organize a virtual call or face-to-face meet. After the meet, Wasta requests feedback to improve its matching algorithm.
“Our goal is to make meeting people more relevant and meaningful. Wasta takes away the things we hate – constant self-promotion, likes, inbox spam, and small talk. We’re building a community that really supports first-time founders, solo founders, professionals with side hustles, and women entrepreneurs. Our matching algorithm is unique which gives way to our network moat, differentiation in terms of network curation, and consequently the impact on the quality of the community” says Lalita Chopra CTO at Wasta.
The community is rapidly expanding with over five hundred verified members in just three months and hundreds of prospects on the waitlist.
Ahmad Kamal, Global Head of Tax SWVL says “Wasta is the smartest way to grow your network in the region”
Tara Hession, Be Spark Talent says, “Wasta has helped build my pipeline of clients across UAE & Saudi Arabia”
Ahmed Kamal, Tech Lead, AI platform at Careem notes “Wasta is a brilliant way to connect to an amazing pool of like-minded people in our new remote-friendly world”.
Wasta currently operates across United Arab Emirates, Kingdom Saudi Arabia, and Egypt but has plans to expand across GCC, India, and Africa. Wasta will also look at launching a mobile app, onboarding key hires, strengthening their corporate partnerships, and commencing fundraising.
Wasta is a smarter, more dynamic alternative to in-person networking. It represents the future of how people will make new connections as well as nurture existing relationships within their network.