Iraj Islam is a serial entrepreneur, software engineer and product designer. He is passionate about building innovative products that change the world. Raised in Sweden, Iraj ventured back to his homeland Bangladesh where he co-founded NewsCred in 2007. Between 2007 and 2014 NewsCred rose more than $40 million USD from top-tier Silicon Valley VCs and is today the world’s leading content marketing platform. He was named one of Sweden’s top 3 entrepreneurs by Swedish magazine Internet World in 2006. He was also named in the Silicon Alley 100 2012 by US publication Business Insider.
In Digital Marketing Summit 2014, organized by Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF), Iraj Islam conducted a special interactive session with the audience focusing on his business, learning and experience in the field of digital marketing.
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In a close conversation with BBF correspondent, Iraj shared his story of becoming and being a young entrepreneur with big dreams. Excerpts from his interview are exclusively shared here.
BBF: You began your first business venture when you were 16. What motivated you to move into the field of an entrepreneur?
Iraj Islam: It’s a very interesting question walking down memory lane. I think I started my first business in my head in that point when I was 8 or 9 years old. In the sense that I was doing different graphic design work for my parents who were researchers, and their colleagues. I actually designed all of their diagrams and things like that on Photoshop. Then as I turned 11, I started learning programming and how to build things and over time sort of it’s branched off to different businesses. The key to the love for entrepreneurship is this realization that you can shape the world around you. That you don’t necessarily only have to live in passively.
I think the most inspiring thing about entrepreneurship is you create things and you can change the world.
BBF: Would you please tell us about your company NewsCred? How it began and some of the hurdles you’ve faced over the years?
Iraj Islam: NewsCred began around seven years ago herein Bangladesh. All the founders are Bangladeshi- me, Asif and Shafkat. It was actually started in this very hotel. It was the day before Shafkat’s wedding, we were here at the Radisson and I pitched him NewsCred and we started talking about NewsCred. At that time, NewsCred was primarily about news and storytelling and how we felt; there was a credibility issue in news. For example, everyone in the world knows that news is biased. There are certain sources that have a left political meaning and there are certain ones that have a right political meaning. But there was no platform where you could voice your opinion about the credibility of news at whole different news sources and journalist accountable for news on the day. So, we wanted to create this platform and hence the name NewsCred.
As we evolved NewsCred, what became clear and apparent to us is that in every digital ecosystem – whether it’s the internet or the mobile web or app economy or tomorrow if it’s Google+ or augmented reality or the Apple watches or any new technology platform that may have emerged – content will always be the heart of that economy. Therefore, we asked ourselves the question, “Who will be cable TV of this whole new world?”And “Who will be the company that you can predict the entire world’s content put in one place and also give you the technology to message that content in to beautiful user experiences in all of these new platforms?” That really started the vision of NewsCred.
Today when we look at the field of marketing, we feel that marketing has been broken for the last 100 years. Our mission at NewsCred is to fix marketing for the next 100 years. Because marketing is not advertisement (although many people think so), we think this phase of advertisement of “buy 1 get 1free” and this superficial form of marketing that has become pervasive in our society . That’s not a world that I want to grow up in. So when we looked at the world, we said “how can we make marketing meaningful again?” I think the result of that content is marketing and how do you tell really meaningful stories that can captivate audiences around the world and ultimately help customers make an informed decision about the product and services that they would like to buy to make their lives better.