Iba Masood has gone from graduation to being a successful entrepreneur in no time at all. Her online business Gradberry is now trying to help others take the leap from education to employment
“We’re trying to go more global. We started out with the UAE, and we were expecting to only be in the Middle East, but now we’ve been posting job opportunities from Ireland, the UK and very, very diverse countries,” Masood says. “We’re even seeing candidates from locations like Portugal and France.”
She adds that Gradberry is looking to emulate the success of another prominent professional networking and recruitment platform, LinkedIn, which floated in New York in a $9bn IPO eighteen months ago.
“The goal is to become the LinkedIn for students and graduates. We want to become a social networking site specifically for people that are aged between sixteen and 23,” Masood explains. “LinkedIn has not been able to capitalise on that youth market.”
Masood says she is also eager for action on youth unemployment, which stands at around 26 percent across the region, at a government level. Recently, she has been pushing the idea of an ‘internship’ visa, which would give overseas students in the UAE an additional six months stay in the country in order to secure work. This, she says, would “make sure employers are less confused about the procedure for hiring interns”.
Gradberry is also working with universities to help students better understand what is required of them by employers once they complete their studies. Masood says that as things stand, many graduates struggle to grasp the basics of what is expected of them.
“Students and graduates [in the region] are lacking information. They don’t even know how to create a proper CV, but they are graduates from universities,” she says. “We receive more than 100 applications per day for all the job applications we post, and we actually go through all of these CVs to see how advanced students are and to see where the gaps are — and they’re huge.”
Masood says that Gradberry recently secured its first batch of seed funding, although declines to say how much or on what terms, and is currently looking to secure further capital investment. For her, the attention Gradberry is generating among employers, students and other entrepreneurs is the pay-off for the risk she took a year ago when she left her job to pursue the project with just $200.
“Entrepreneurship is up and down – sometimes you have the wins and sometimes you have the losses. Last month we closed our first seed funding round, but before that for an entire year we faced rejection every single day,” Masood says.
When asked if there was ever a point over the last twelve months where she considered giving up on the idea of Gradberry altogether, Masood is refreshingly frank. “This is something that is common for entrepreneurs — one day can be a win and one day can be a loss,” she believes. “You just need to average it all out.”