Kickstart Stories: Amin Gilani’s Startup Ideas


Meet Amin Shah Gilani – Amin is a Ruby on Rails expert and a freelancer on Toptal – A platform for the top 3% freelancing talent.

Yes, He Chose the wrong major!

Like most of us, Amin Shah Gilani went to college and chose a major de did not want. At the time he did not know he wanted to learn programming. He chose to study Economics and Finance after his Career Service Advisor suggested him so only because he had the GPA to choose it. While choosing his major, he had no idea what he was going to do in collage and after graduation. Gradually, he started losing interest in these subjects to the extent that he stopped going to classes and eventually failed a course in his last semester.

Self-taught Programmer

He took a year off from school and started learning how to program: something he had always wanted to do but never had the time to try. When he became good enough to hack together a simple program, he applied for Coinbase Bithack 2 – a bitcoin hackathon. He brainstormed some ideas for the competition, discussed them with friends and selected the one his friends hated the least. This was followed by three months of relentless programming to bring his idea to life. He doesn’t think he ever “completed” the application by submitted whatever he made by the third month.

First of His Many Startup Ideas

He created a program that would enable people to pay others for the provision of useful information over email. The program (Bot) was called Mailman, and the bot would sit between the sender and recipient of the email. As soon as the sender sent an email, a particular amount from his bitcoin wallet would go to the Mailman which would transfer the bitcoins to the recipient after he replies to the sender.

His app won first prize in the hackathon and Amin was sent $10,000 worth of bitcoin, which he used to fund his startup, Payload — after buying himself a laptop, of course.

Payload was a bitcoin startup idea that could not make it after the first year. Amin believes the team wasn’t prepared enough for startup life, but still firmly believes that the market opportunity is still there for entrepreneurs to exploit.

Not soon after, Amin was contacted by a Silicon Valley-based Venture Capitalist (VC) who was interested to invest in Mailman application. The VC invited him to attend an acceleration program in California, so Amin flew to the US. He met the VC, found a co-founder and started working to build a sustainable business on his application Mailman. He thought his target market might be too narrow with only the bitcoin currency, so he also decided to integrate the fiat money payment processors.

As it turned out, his idea faced rejections from 6 payment processors. They thought it was too risky to process redeemable credits via plastic currency, and thought the chargeback rate would be too high. When he was thinking of reverting to only bitcoin payment gateway, another startup in the US launched the same idea and took the lead in the market. Amin suddenly found himself amidst a partner conflict and having lost the first mover advantage, he decided to come back to Pakistan where his burn rate would be very low.

Back to Programming – and Drawing Board

He started doing freelance work after coming back to Pakistan and applied to work on Toptal’s platform where he now continues to take projects from the platform. After a few months working through with clients, he was brought onboard Toptal, the company itself, as a Technical Editor for their online engineering publication.

Still Working on More Startup Ideas

Currently, he spends time working 60 hours a week at Kickstart, and building quadcopters, and is looking forward to forming a team for his new startup idea. This time, he is being more wary in the process of selecting his team.

Languages: Ruby, Javascript

Backend Frameworks: Ruby on Rails, Nodejs

Front end: React, jQuery