The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Shahzad Younas, founder and chief executive of Muslim dating website and app Muzmatch.
When Shahzad Younas took to the stage he was very nervous.
It was two years ago, and the then 32-year-old British entrepreneur was in San Francisco pitching London-based Muzmatch to a group of high profile potential investors.
He opened his address to the room by saying: “Muslims don’t date, we marry.”
Shahzad and his business partner Ryan Brodie were there because they had entered a global competition to win backing from prestigious Silicon Valley investment firm Y Combinator.
This US company offers financial and practical support to a number of new start-ups per year. More than 13,000 applied at the same time as Muzmatch, and it was one of 800 whose founders were invited to pitch in person.
As Shahzad continued his speech, the investors were soon bursting into laughter at how frank he was. Muzmatch was quickly given $1.5m (£1.2m), one of 100 start-ups that got backing in 2017.
Today the fast-growing company says it currently has more than one million registered users across the UK and some 90 other countries.
Rewind to 2013 and it wasn’t a group of investors that Shahzad had to convince, it was himself.
Back then he was working for a bank in the City of London. He enjoyed his job, but at the same time he increasingly realised that there was a gap in the market for a decent dating app aimed at Muslims who were looking for a partner from within their religious community.
“At the time there were either these really basic websites for Muslims, or big dating apps that didn’t quite get our culture,” says Shahzad, who was born and bred in Manchester.
“In the Muslim community a lot of us did, and still do, rely on matchmakers [to find a wife or husband]. These are ‘aunties’ in the community who know families, and who would match up a son with another family’s daughter.”
His idea for Muzmatch was that it would be a digital matchmaker app for Muslims who wanted to find someone to marry.
Later in 2013 fate intervened when Shahzad was made redundant from his job, and he decided that he had to make a go of the app.
“I’d wake up at 6am every morning and go to bed at about one or 2am,” he says. ” I was working from my bedroom at home, and it was intense. I had to learn how to build an app from scratch.
“But I knew I had to make it work. The opportunity was big enough – there are 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, and clearly no one was serving them.”
Shahzad did a soft launch of the app in 2014, and his marketing methods were somewhat different to the bigger dating apps.
“I’d go to big mosques after Friday prayers and hand out cards for the app,” he says. “Then I’d go to any kind of family Muslim event that I knew was on, and I would literally stick them under windscreens.”
Watching a business grow on your own can be hard, and at the beginning Shahzad said he found it excruciating.
“I remember the first couple of months I would constantly look at Google Analytics, which would show me in real time how many people were on the app,” he says.
One time he says he checked, and there were just 10 people on Muzmatch.
But over time user numbers grew into thousands, thanks mainly to positive word of mouth. Soon people started telling Shahzad how they had met their wives or husbands.
“Once I heard the first success story it made it feel real,” he says. “And it cemented in me that the app was going somewhere.”
Business partner Ryan, a seasoned app builder despite still being just 25 years old, came on board in 2016.
Together they completely redesigned Muzmatch, with feedback from their early customers.
They added in 22 more profile questions that people were asking for, such as how religious a person is, and how often they pray – things that really mattered to their users.
Muzmatch also allows users to opt out of having a profile photo, or to blur it instead. People can also tick a box whereby transcriptions of their in-app chats are sent to one of their parents, or to another chosen guardian.
Shahzad says that while Ryan is not a fellow Muslim, he really “gets what the app is about”.
Eden Blackman, founder of dating website and app Would Like to Met, says that Muzmatch has been at the forefront of more specialised dating apps.
“In recent years ethnic and religious dating has moved from a niche to a mainstream platform, and what Muzmatch is doing leads the pack,” he says.
“If religion and online dating can be matched perfectly… it should be on hallowed ground. From what I have seen and heard about Muzmatch they seem to have broken the mould.”
With a second office in Bangladesh, Muzmatch operates a “freemium” business model. It is free to use its basic service, but you can pay from £10 a month for extra features such as unlimited viewing of profiles, and having your own profile seen by more people.
The company says its annual turnover is now more than £4.5m.
As the app continues to grow in popularity, Shahzad says that its potential users are the estimated 400 million single Muslims around the world.
“We’ve now had thousands of marriages and babies [thanks to Muzmatch],” he says. “Thinking about them every day makes me feel like all that hard work at the beginning was worth it.”
People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.
between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
heightened and clashes broke out.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of clashes.
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.
Everyone has the right to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely in Canada – but we cannot and will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind. We strongly condemn the despicable rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend.
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.
‘Protesting is a right’
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.
Montreal is a city of peace.
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.
“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”
When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…
NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…
Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…
Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.
Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.
While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.
“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.
However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.
Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.
No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.
“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.
Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.
“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”
In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.
Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”
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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.
Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.
Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.
Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.
Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.
“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”
She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.
Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.
Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”
“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.
The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”
The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.
In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.