Umar Saif has done a lot in his 35 years. A Pakistani, he earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Cambridge at 22. He began a post doctorate degree at MIT at an age when most of his peers – age wise – had not completed their bachelor’s degrees. He worked at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory where he was part of the core team that developed system technologies for the $50 million Project Oxygen. He collaborated with Anant Agarwal, now the president of edX, among other legendary computer science and artificial intelligence professors. After spending years away from his native Pakistan, he found that he enjoyed the entrepreneurial spirit of MIT and of the US more generally. However, it was a conversation with a colleague about what he wanted to achieve in his life that got him to rethink his plans for the future. He decided that he wanted to help establish a comparable entrepreneurial hot-bed like the one he found at MIT back in Pakistan.
He returned to the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), where he found that his top students were the equivalent of the top students at MIT, but they did not realize the potential they had. His own story became an inspiration for a series of entrepreneurs, many of whom he has started businesses with. He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010, selected as one of top 35 young innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review in 2011 and received a Google faculty research award in 2011.