This immigrant woman didn’t get accepted on her 17 but got $3 million at 26 by YCombinator

At every stage of the process (even when you’ve seen years of success), surround yourself with people who are smarter than you – absorb their wisdom to ensure broadened understanding, and ever-increasing knowledge toward happiness and success.”

Iba Masood, a Pakistani Femigrant, is the co-founder and CEO of TARA AI, a project-planning and recruiting platform that disrupts the software engineering field as we know it.

Iba is an energetic, goal-driven woman born and raised in the UAE and now leading the growth of TARA Intelligence Inc. in Silicon Valley. Her company has recently raised $3 million in new seed funding from Y Combinator, Moment Ventures, GSV and others. Ford, Cisco and Orange Telecom are using artificial intelligence from Tara AI to find top coders for freelance software projects.

When Iba was just 13, Iba had a dream – to start her own technology-related company in the United States, one that would come to being with her ignition, and grow to become a large, successful, useful resource for the tech industry.

In going after her dream, she started her undergraduate at 16, completed 3 student internships at top companies, and received her Bachelor’s in Finance at the top of her class, at 19 years old. But despite her accomplishments, she graduated into a global economic recession. Getting hired – let alone at a salary with which she could support herself – seemed near impossible for a while, in any country.

Even with these hurdles, Iba worked tirelessly at applying for jobs and looking for the next move to create a foundation for her future career. She got accepted into a traineeship at McKinsey, which paved the way for her new role at GE. The role at GE, however, came with a very low salary. Iba found herself extremely challenged to land a job that would help pave a career. She felt a sharp lack of the career stability, that would allow her to support herself financially, do work that was rewarding to her, and have potential for growth and development in her future.

This lack of stability Iba so craved is what propelled her to take calculated risks to achieve her goals. She saw the beauty in taking risks because of the potential reward that it could bring. If she wasn’t getting what she needed the “typical” route, she thought, then she was willing to brave more unique routes to get to her dreams.

At 21 years old, Iba founded her first company, a career platform for graduates to find jobs. The platform really took off, catering to hundreds of Enterprise customers in the Middle East. Iba was very proud of her work, but she felt that they hit a growth ceiling. She knew she had it in her to create something that would yield even more profit, more jobs, and more and more useful tools and products for the technology industry. She wanted to create something that had even more potential, and this initial success gave her the experience and confidence she needed to move forward.

At 25, Iba first came to the US on a visit visa, and eventually stayed with the pull of her latest dream and entrepreneurial endeavor: TARA. In the US, Iba found that her idealized view of the U.S.’s technology sector – the view that the industry was a merit-based space in which everyone had a fair and equal shot – was not so true to reality. In her experience, being a woman and/or a person of color in the start-up world means it may be more challenging for you to get funding, or get opportunities for starting out/growth that others may get more easily. Having lived/worked in multiple countries/cultures, Iba knows that the US has a ways to go in improving opportunity for minority groups.

Having faced these challenges strengthened Iba’s resolve that the platform she was working on, TARA.AI, was a tool with which she could make a positive and necessary impact in the industry. TARA Intelligence is used by software companies to predict and build an early version of their product. This allows a company to predict the tasks they will have to accomplish, and the milestones they will have to reach in order to successfully execute launching a new product.

A part of her journey that Iba is very proud of: having TARA become a YCombinator company. Iba first applied to YC at 17, and didn’t get accepted. When she applied again at 26, she was intimidated, feeling that as someone without an ivy league degree and as a silicon valley outsider, she may not get accepted. But despite the very real fear, she applied anyway – and not only got an interview, but got in!

One thing that Iba brought to the TARA Team from her own knowledge as an entrepreneur with a previous company: no woman is an island. Learn to build a network of friends, partnerships, mentors, peers, advisors, so you never feel that you are working alone. A solid way to ensure consistent development and growth is to surround yourself with a network of people who will constantly push you to grow, look at problems from different angles, and, above all, keep believing in your own ability. 

Her advice to other Femigrants: At every stage of the process (even when you’ve seen years of success), surround yourself with people who are smarter than you – absorb their wisdom to ensure broadened understanding, and ever-increasing knowledge toward happiness and success.

Editor: Arfa Ahmed

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