Is dropping out of high school the key ingredient to success? Of course not always, but it seemed to work for Bilal Athar, a 26 year old Pakistani entrepreneur who is now drawing comparisons with the likes of Bill Gates. Athar is currently working alongside former Ridgefield resident John Patrick, a technology visionary and early investor in Uber, to globalize the young entrepreneur’s startup brainchild, Wifigen.
Athar knew from a young age that he would fare best as his own boss, not conforming well to classroom rules and authority. He soon dropped out of high school and later enrolled in a course to become a Cisco-certified systems engineer. After holding a relatively safe job in cybersecurity training, Athar moved into, what was for him, uncharted territory. In founding a startup that produced software solutions to manufacturing companies, Athar experienced his first entrepreneurial failure, and soon became bankrupt.
However, this initial failure would not last for long; Athar soon took multiple coding-related freelance jobs to make ends meet. In the meantime, the young entrepreneur developed a new and improved startup, Wifigen, which allows anybody to access free WiFi in public areas simply by using their social media credentials, such as Facebook or Twitter. In return, consumers will receive coupons, store recommendations, and discounts.
It was around this time that Athar began to help a new anonymous client, whom he had met through a freelance website. This client had requested tech help with his blog, Attitude LLC, and quickly realized just how talented Athar was. After numerous conversations, Athar’s client requested a Skype call and revealed himself to be former IBM Vice President of Internet Technology, John Patrick. Patrick holds an incredible presence in both business and technology, and has been named one of The 25 Most Intriguing Minds of the New Economy by Business 2.0. He admits that one of the first reasons he was drawn to Athar was because of the young man’s outstanding English language skills, and later, of course, his technological talents.
The two formed a closer professional relationship, with Athar relying on the Internet visionary for mentorship; as the Marketing Vice President of the IBM ThinkPad brand, Patrick had copious advice to offer. At this time, Athar also revealed his Wifigen concept to Patrick, who thought it was a brilliant idea but hesitated to invest initially. On March 23rd, 2015, Patrick finally moved to invest in Wifigen, valuing the startup at $1 million.
The quickly growing company is now in beta testing, and has already experienced successful launches in New Zealand, Pakistan, and the Changi Airport in Singapore. Bilal and Patrick are now looking to expand the company’s reach to the U.S.A, as well. Wifigen was recently featured in the top 7 startups to look out for in 2016 by Tech in Asia, and will undoubtedly progress from there.
Research by Claire Taben and Anna-Sophie Massek