For our latest Startup Spotlight series, we spoke to Rehan Haque, the CEO and founder of Metatalent.ai. A thought leader and a subject matter expert with over 15 years of global strategic and operational leadership experience in cybersecurity and risk governance, Rehan successfully implemented business process reengineering and transformational solutions across critical infrastructural & corporate sectors at leading organisations, including Deloitte, British Petroleum, BMI, and PFG.
Rehan has also served the UK Government, European Union, professional bodies, and academic institutions as a trusted advisor. He is currently a mentor to over 200 mentees across the globe.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
Absolutely! I started my career in Commerce and had plans to pursue either social media management or chartered accountancy at the point of Graduation. I have always been great with numbers and mental math and have a knack for financial accounting. However, my interest stayed in social media, a new concept in 2003. Nevertheless, as life always has something more to offer, and not to blame the peer pressure, I enrolled in MSC in the UK, majoring in Distributed Information Systems, and that was it. I made the most of my life choices and excelled in IS, cybersecurity, risk and compliance, and transformation.
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
My startup, Metatalent.ai, is my passion. I treat it much more than just a business. I believe in creating ripples of change with good work that must directly or indirectly benefit lives. The most exciting stories emerged when careers were made and our interns’ lives were impacted personally and professionally. The sense of contribution and accomplishment was surmounting when over 2000 registrations came in right after we launched in 2020-2021.
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?
Mistakes enable growth provided we learn from them. We, too, made mistakes in the beginning, as all startups are bound to. However, ours involved getting trolled over the internet on our business model. It happens when the expectations are not appropriately defined to the audience, and we did learn our lesson through that, and a press release was also issued right after to set the facts straight.
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers the reasons why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
Workplace diversity & inclusion is critical to any organisation’s strategic success as it allows the management to leverage all sorts of talent and expertise without bias. We, too, believe and practice the same at Metatalent.ai as we aspire to be the enablers of the Future Workforce beyond any social, racial or other difference or discrimination, i.e. catering to every talent.
For instance, one of the executives of Metatalent.ai’s management team is a female. She’s responsible for leading our strategy and innovation efforts whilst bringing a diverse portfolio and experience, which is crucial to our organisation.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
GO Green! A movement where becoming Eco-friendly in all aspects of our lives is a code of conduct.
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson!
I would straight away ask:
- How did you become what you became?
- How do I create that work-life balance in my life as well?
- And last but not least, is your Island for sale?
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
Believe in Yourself. I would have never been where I am now if I did not believe in myself despite all my challenges and hardships.
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?
After 15 years of working in the technology sector, helping implement government strategies and becoming a panel member at the University of Bedfordshire, I noticed a growing problem. The increasing use of technology and automation meant a shift from low-skill, routine jobs to higher-skill non-routine occupations for the human capital.
This effusive impact on the talent landscape post-pandemic meant disruption of business models and radical changes in the workplace, redefining the who, where, when, and how of the work and the workforce, which also disrupted the labour market, increasing the demand for skilled employees while making it more challenging and more expensive to employ the right talent for the jobs in hand. The need was grave, and solutions weren’t many. Hence, Metatalent.ai.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
Metatalent.ai is an AI-powered talent marketplace enabling the future workforce for the future of work with its workforce transformation solutions and offerings. We are on a mission to create a future-ready, self-sustaining, upskilled, and reskilled human capital, accustomed to functioning amidst the immersive & cognitive technological advancements, equipped with green skills, and ready to be deployed at leading organisations across the globe.
Metatalent.ai works with businesses across UK and MENA regions, helping them close the skills gap and meet their Talent needs by developing efficient talent pipelines. Our Human Capital benefits from personalised coaching & mentorship, applied learning, successful industry placements, and a network of industry experts to meet their morphing and changing career needs and preferences.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
People think having a great product, a brilliant team, and the right technology is enough to ensure success, but that’s not the case. It’s the boring stuff that matters the most, i.e. how to measure progress, set milestones, and prioritise.
Startup success can be engineered by following the proper process, which means it can be learned or taught, for that matter. I also learned that entrepreneurship is mostly effective management of all resources and that marketing and business functions are equally essential to a startup’s product and engineering functions. But the journey differs for each, and that’s the primary myth debunked.
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
A difference that I can think of, and that is purely my own opinion, is that startups must have the leverage and room to evolve and constantly innovate, which small businesses usually do not have, especially in their vision or capacity.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
Change receptivity, visionary, and adaptive leadership (i.e., switching caps between becoming a manager and a leader when the time calls for it).
I believe running a startup is chaos; one must learn to manage effectively, not control, not challenge, but direct and manage.
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
- Change aversion or a Fear of Uncertainty
- Having no direction or purpose for following through
- Rigidity in processes, services, policies etc.
These are self-explanatory, I hope.
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice you can give them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
- Keep it lean
- Keep it evolving
- Invest in people
I practice these to date and intend to continue doing so.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
Metatalent.ai is Raising!
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