A Female Tech Entrepreneur Who Aims to Revolutionize the Education System through Augmented Reality
Before leaving for the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) in November 2015, Navera Waheed had not anticipated the changes that would follow: giving up her day job; signing her biggest client over a Thanksgiving dinner in Texas. In the span of a year, Waheed’s startup “Cygnus Solutions” evolved from a company of two female co-founders working on all things logistics, technical, and financial, to a team of 10 male employees working on multiple innovative tech projects.
“When I came back from my exchange program, I knew it was time to step out of my comfort zone of an eight-hour working day and a monthly salary check and fully commit myself to the startup that I had co-founded!”
Waheed attended the IVLP on “taking your tech startup to the next level” that lent her the opportunity to travel and discover Washington D.C., Detroit, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Texas and learn about the American entrepreneurial ecosystem for technology startups. “Meeting so many women at the forefront of technology and entrepreneurship was just the kind of inspiration I needed,” she says. “What impressed me the most was this incubator for hardware startups run by a woman who started off from her basement – how often do you get to hear that?” she exclaims.
As a female engineer, Waheed is aptly aware of the stigma and stereotypes attached to women in technology. She credits her colleague, Wajiha, for being a strong influence in her entrepreneurial journey. “I had never ever thought in school that I would run a startup! It was at work one day when Wajiha suggested we should put our engineering skills to good use. I had no idea how startups worked, but I knew technology. Initially, we just had one project and Wajiha and I would spend hours after our day jobs on that one project. We were making no profit! In fact, our salary would go in the startup just so we could support it,” she says, recounting the early days of Cygnus Solutions.
Fast forward to 2017, Waheed’s startup is now lucrative and flourishing. Along with her team, she is working on a line of augmented reality products that can influence meaningful changes in education, fashion, and technology. Her dream project is to create a Virtual Dress Room (VDR) that allows users to virtually try on clothes. This caught the attention of her biggest client and now her partner, John Highland, the Chief Executive Officer of Biovideo.
“The IVLP experience was what set things in motion,” she says. During one of the networking dinners on Thanksgiving eve, she met Highland and after a riveting conversation on augmented reality and 3D modeling, Highland proposed that Cygnus Solutions handle the backend for his product Biovideo.
It was this offer, combined with the exposure of visiting female-led tech startups and meeting women in technology and entrepreneurship who were making an impact, that had Waheed committed to fully invest herself in her entrepreneurial venture.
“Somehow, I managed to convince Wajiha and together we traveled back to the U.S. for a follow-up meeting with Highland to finalize the terms of our agreement. By this time, we had both quit our day jobs and there was no way out anymore. We knew Cygnus Solutions was all we had.”
Today, Cygnus Solutions is incubated at the National University of Science and Technology – Technology Incubation Center. where Waheed manages a team of ten male employees, along with her partner Wajiha. Presently, they are developing a mobile application that uses augmented reality to show the complex processes that go inside a human body.