Today, The Asian Entrepreneur has the pleasure of speaking to Hamzah Khan, the person behind lawprep101.com, a website that is currently revolutionising legal learning.
Tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a LLB graduate via University of London. I was born in America, happen to be a Canadian citizen who has spent most of his life in Canada, but my background is linked with Pakistan. I spent the first six years of my life in my home country, before my parents permanently shifted to Toronto, Ontario. I completed primary, middle and high school in Toronto. As a student, I have been geared towards creating ideas, solutions to problems, business development and research. Professionally speaking, though I happen to have a diverse employment experience, I have always preferred startups, innovation and even had a nag for the stock market as an occasional dabbler. After completing high school, I enrolled in the external distant-learning LLB program provided by the University of London, and moved back to Pakistan. The shift was politically motivated, as I had always wanted to positively impact my country. While I excelled academically, there was a complete lack of employment opportunities in Pakistan, and the concept of part-time, student employment was pretty much non-existent among the upper middle class and upper class. I quickly realized that in today’s extremely competitive market, I had to innovate. I was initially chasing business ideas for the sole purpose of creating a revenue stream. I now realize that the best of business ideas are given birth when an individual faces a real life problem, to which the idea of the business is the solution to that problem. Apart from business, I frequently travel around the world as a hobby.
In your own words what do you do?
I work for myself. Whether it is my LLB degree or the startup I’m working on, I’m chasing the self-employed status. I consistently find ways to innovate, look for streams of investment; monetary or otherwise, and self-develop my characteristics and spiritual depths. Of course, not everything I do is serious. I’m actually very laid back, and in my own words, just enjoying the ride called life.
What led you to your current business?
During the second year of my degree, I was studying the distant-learning degree without any tuition or support, right out of my bedroom. Of course, that meant whenever I needed help, I was researching online. For me, studying solely text, whether articles or legal databases online can get extremely boring at times. So I searched for online lectures, but had to settle for the very few options that came up and quickly realized that there was a need for interactive video lectures for law students. That’s when the idea of my current startup came about.
Could you walk us through your process of developing your business?
Running a startup can sometimes seem like a lonely ride. I did not want to take that ride alone, so I offered some of my closest friends that were studying the same degree with me, the opportunity to partner with me. Due to the way things shaped out, varying business factors led to a sole partnership between a friend of mine, Danish Aftab, and I. Danish is a former McGill student, who also made the shift to University of London’s external LLB, and it ought to be noted that we mutually discovered the need for this startup during our studying days. Before anything, I wanted to visualize what the end product may seem like. While completely achieving that is not possible, visualizing played a critical role in the web development and design of the brand of lawprep101.com – which admittedly is just the very basic step; naturally the implementation phase then follows. Project management consists of various aspects, and is a very broad role to handle. We financed the entire project ourselves; from the studios we have setup to the entire web development. It’s never an easy process, but one’s ability to get the job done determines the eventual outcome.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties in the beginning?
I had my fair share of problems working on this project, considering this is the first concrete venture of my life. There is a big learning curve involved in a startup which we often underestimate and don’t appreciate the way we should. Early on, I particularly faced challenges when dealing with outsourced work and assuring what we were looking for was delivered. I understood early on that a relationship of reliability and trust is the key to swift delivery when dealing with in-house web developers, and paying the extra buck is worth it. Challenges often arise from various angles. I guess the key for me has been realizing my mistakes early on. Moreover, self-financing the entire project is never an easy thing to do – it’s great to have a business partner who takes off half the burden. At the end of the day, there are three key ingredients for a successful startup to pan out: determination, consistency and the drive.
What is your long term plan?
I have a lot of ideas in store for lawprep101.com – to eventually take this project to the next level. While our core product will always be the video lectures, I feel like we have a lot of room to work with. The idea was always to make this more than just a digital course for law students. I want to make it the academic hub for law students; hosting educational text, research articles, interactive study-based applications, and eventually launch an app to widen the access for as many as possible. To sum it up, the long term plan is to evolve lawprep101 into a portal, which every law student within the prescribed jurisdiction has open on their devices regularly as the go-to source for legal education.
Could you share with us some industry insights?
By the end of 2016, the e-learning industry is expected to be valued at $133 billion dollars. That’s a massive figure. Likewise, this industry offers various opportunities, for literally anyone and everyone. You could make a course in regards to anything – and it can be successful, granted it’s streamlined into a niche and not a generalized subject which is competing with major market shareholders. The reason for this growth is pretty straight forward. Technology has completely revolved the way we learn, and not just that, do many other things. Access to education now is at the click of a button. You could be sitting in Timbuktu, and study the laws of England through lawprep101.com – Get what I mean? The potential is there, the key is how one goes about exploiting that potential. There are strategies that have already been laid out by the big guys, who came to the game early. All you need to really do is follow that. Develop a mailing list before you even develop your product. Things are done differently now.
What are some important lessons you’ve learnt about entrepreneurship?
Things don’t go as planned right off the bat. There will be a lot of struggles involved in initiating your first startup. Some very basic challenges a newcomer learns are discipline, the need to stay on track, and also the importance of work-life balance. If you aren’t organized, you’ll learn the hard way. There are two types of people in this world. There are those who live and learn, and others who learn and live. I prefer the former, as it allows me to go through the experience of what I have done wrong, rectify myself, and ensure it doesn’t occur again. This is how I have been successful in all walks of life, not just business. So if you’re having trouble, in even the most basic of things, such as getting our first hundred subscribers – stay at it. Be focused. Distractions will only make you hop from one business model to another – which is time and money lost.
Any tips for achieving success?
Have an action plan ready. Write down your thoughts. Visualize your brand before it comes into existence. Most importantly, don’t give up in the times of difficulty. Many at times, entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey. If you’re already working on a startup, you know you can very well take on that challenge. Throwing in the towel at the slightest of difficulties or even major ones is something only a loser at this game does. A true businessman understands the bottom line behind entrepreneurship: solutions. Solutions for the market and solutions to your own problems.