Meet Atif Azim; Cisco bought his first firm for $74m; second may fetch more

Atif Azim is an accidental entrepreneur. After his undergraduate at Imperial College, London, he was accepted for a masters in computer science at Stanford, which he gleefully accepted.

“The founders of Google were just six years our senior. Everyone around me was obsessed with building products and changing the world. The energy was contagious,” recalls Atif.

Brience – which had raised US$200 million – was considered a hot prospect for an IPO. But the dotcom crash hit badly and those plans were shelved.

Atif quit shortly after, along with a couple of other people, and started wireless security firm Perfigo. His first client? Stanford.

Other universities across the west coast started noticing Perfigo’s work and signed up. 

In 2004, network security leviathan Cisco acquired Perfigo for a cool US$74 million.

Working remotely

VentureDive was born in 2011 after Atif quit Cisco to go back to building globally scalable products. The startup took a small equity stake in Careem in exchange for building its entire tech stack – meaning the app, website, and other digital platforms.

It turned out to be a prescient move for the former Cisco executive. Even a five percent stake in Careem – at a billion dollar valuation – is worth $50 million today.

Careem’s gone from strength to strength since launch in 2011, which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Atif’s VentureDive providing technical support at every step of the journey.

A ride-hailing unicorn can’t simply outsource its tech indefinitely. A few months later, Rakuten led a US$350 million funding round in Careem.

How did he do it?

“It’s important to be bold in your ambitions,” he affirms. “Make sure you invest in people, the right people. Invest in processes, otherwise you can’t scale.''

Atif’s also building localised products to cater to Pakistan’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.  />

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