The Fahim Saleh I Knew
It’s been a rocky day, to say the least.
Fahim Saleh, investor/founding member of the Pathao team was murdered in NY.
I heard this 12 hours ago and was in denial.
Having spent the entire day with close friends, distracting myself, it’s time I put this (and myself) to bed.
*Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer, any organization or individual.
Fahim was the guy who gave a 17-year-old high schooler a chance.
By no means, did he hand-it-out.
In 11th grade at the time, I was pitching a weird book-sharing/dating app.
Fahim invited me to the office. He didn’t care I was in high school.
Gave me a coding challenge with a 24-hour deadline.
Took an all-nighter but I did it.
I sent an email right away.
And he didn’t fucking respond.
One day, two days. Fuck.
But being the stubborn fucker I am, I emailed him once more.
And he replied. He was positive.
But the same ghosting happened again.
And I persistently, but politely, messaged again.
I wanted the job. And years later, I think he respected that.
Fahim had a way of finding and backing the right people.
When I started Dhaka Rides, Fahim backed it.
We ran a pilot. Built tech. Ran Operations. We hustled.
But I wasn’t ready. Didn’t have the chops. And carpooling in Dhaka didn’t make sense.
Fahim got on a call one morning. He pulled out.
Devasted, I cried like a baby that night.
But with each passing year, that decision taught me more lessons.
6 months into Hackhouse (Fahim’s incubator project) that we started working on Pathao. Quite frankly, it wasn’t until another whole year of unsexy, hard, everyday grind that anyone knew of us. We were a tech-enabled courier service in Chairmanbari, Dhaka.
Fahim’s role at Pathao was invaluable. But wasn’t there for the day-to-day grind. His role is perhaps best described as a founding investor/advisor.
A company built and run by engineers. Hackers if you will, trying to figure things out. And boy, it took time. By the time Pathao started to pick up the pace, Fahim spending more time in NY.
In 2016, Pathao raised seed money. We piloted ridesharing.
By this point, Fahim’s role was introductions and advice.
Ridesharing took off.
We raised further capital.
We scaled our app, grew our driver base, built more tech, hired more people.
Our revenue grew.
Our users loved us.
Our drivers, with their first smartphones, were coming online.
For Bangladesh consumer tech, this was a tipping point.
Our team was growing. Our boring courier company…slowly became the tech startup we were trying to make.
And it was happening at breathtaking speed.
Fahim was not physically around but advised and supported Pathao remotely.
I think, he thought his time better spent in the connected hub of New York, unlocking new opportunities. Not caught up in the day-to-day of Pathao, but learning from it nonetheless. Another lesson right there.
Day-to-day, Fahim was less involved and eventually did a partial exit.
Through every 1st/2nd degree interaction, it became clear to me that diplomacy wasn’t Fahim’s strength.
Nor did he care too much about it.
He held strong opinions and let others know about it.
That kind of personality is often polarizing.
In 2017–18, he went to Nigeria. Had a bumpy start and did it all over again by launching Gokada.
His journey in Lagos was less pleasant than in Dhaka. Business environment, finding operational talent, and so on was tough. But he kept pushing.
I would describe Fahim’s mentality as such
If I believe in it, I’ll make it happen. Come what may.
He did the same in other places, putting his credibility and lessons from Pathao’s success to good use.
Fahim grew himself from a highschool whizkid with Prankdial success into a credible early-stage investor. And he did it more than once. In emerging markets.
Those in the know, understand the challenges.
When I met Fahim in 2015, he was already an impressive guy.
A role model even.
Over the years, I came to know his many… human flaws.
But when I think of Fahim Saleh tonight…
I remember his indomitable will.
His complete and utter disregard for the status quo.
And his lopsided extreme focus to makes things happen.
I remember a man who changed things and people.
A man who left us too early.