Hussein Al-Yawer studied Banking and International Finance (2005) and Investment Banking (2006), and now he’s launched a new app – Inviteez, aimed at getting you together more often with your friends.
Tell me about your time at Cass!
I did Banking and International Finance as an undergraduate from 2002 – 2005 and then an MSc in Investment Management in 2005 – 2006. I haven’t been at Bunhill Row for quite a while, but now I’m back I feel right at home! My favourite memory is definitely of the campus. In my third year of undergraduate Bunhill Row had just opened, which was mostly for MScs but they had some undergraduate stuff here too.
What did you do next?
After graduating I went to work for Renaissance Capital in London, and then later I moved to work for them in Dubai when they set up a Middle East office. Then I set up my own company in retail and trading in the Middle East. I did just that for a couple of years, then I started a couple of other projects. I helped set up Hotel Xanadu, a family business and a lovely brand, this was the first hotel of many. I’m still involved in this project but not on a day-to-day operational basis. I wanted to use my finance experience so I founded a trading company, and as well as that, Babylon Real Estate, a real estate investment firm – I’m still involved in that too, but it doesn’t actively keep me busy.
How did you get the idea for your app, Inviteez
I wasn’t on Facebook or twitter, in fact I wasn’t really on any social media until WhatsApp. One day I was watching a video (I forget who, or why!) that was showing how people are so involved with their social media and their phones, and they are always looking down whilst walking, that things pass them by. In day-to-day life, they are more closely connected to people hundreds or thousands of miles away than the people around them. So I wanted to help people have more personal interactions, outside the digital world.
The concept is that we all rely on social media but how can you flip it around, so that you don’t just interact online, but you now use it to meet with people and do stuff together and stop living so passively. So my idea was basically to engage people to get them to meet up.
The problem with meeting up and organising it through WhatsApp is clear to me. Most WhatsApp groups I belong to are event-based eg, football, meeting for dinner, a birthday party. But I noticed that perhaps 90% of event-based interactions are inefficient. For example, someone puts an invite out there, sees that nobody has RSVPed – nobody catches up on multiple notifications or reads back on a whole long conversation thread – and then the event just fizzles out and may not happen.
I wanted to take this frustrating process and make it all-singing all-dancing and make it easier for people to go out and meet up. So I created a model for my app and screen designs. There is quite a lot happening in the events space with regards to apps, both by start-ups and larger companies. There is something brewing so I’m trying to find the perfect model, combining the best bits from facebook events and google hangouts amongst others. How do you create a perfect product as per your gut instinct? I took the lead and developed the model, then I found a developer and have worked hard to develop it further and push it forward.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
I think the challenge will all be going forward in particular how to build awareness and engage people. The product itself is an iterative process and it has been fun playing with ideas – I get excited to try different stuff to end up with a great product, now I just need to create that buzz and get some momentum going.
The app space is very much more competitive now. Before, word of mouth could be enough to get something going, but people are so much more passive to new ideas now than they were.
Do you have any advice you’d like to go back in time give to yourself when you graduated?
[Tries several times to get the wording right] Someone that has just graduated should be more fearless and shouldn’t think of everything as part of a greater plan – just do it! Don’t treat life as a grand plan and fit your ideas into your predefined plan, just get on with it!
Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: My home! I love London in general, it’s my favourite city in the world.
Favourite holiday destination: The two places I go to the most are Marbella and Dubai
Must-check every day website: BBC News
Dream travel destination: I would say it’s probably somewhere I’ve not heard of yet! People tend to follow the crowds when it comes to holiday trends, which is a shame because the commercial success can spoil a place – so somewhere unspoilt I’ve not heard of!
Cheese or chocolate? Cheese with wine, chocolate any other time!
Hussein’s app Inviteez is available on iOS and coming soon to Android.