An interview with Latif Baluch and Ramy Al Kadhi from Calio

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In the age of social media, putting aside real time for friends can feel a little, well, old-fashioned. Latif Baluch and Ramy Al Kadhi want to change this with Calio, an all-encompassing calendar app for your phone that makes organising get-togethers simple (we’re always big fans of that). We caught up with the guys last month to see how business was going.

Tell us about Calio

Calio is a beautiful personal calendar that helps you organise all your events in one place. Calio allows you to easily share events with friends and family on the app. We have a number of unique features such as scheduling, voting for venues, and every event has its own chat.

Our fundamental drive is what we call ‘The Social Paradox’ – that the technology built to bring us closer, can take us further away…

We started the company about a year ago although the idea came to mind a year before that.

Was there a ‘lightbulb moment’?

The inspiration for Calio came to mind when we were both working and living in Dubai. Despite being best friends, we often struggled to actually see each other. Working in quite intense sectors we quickly learnt the importance of a well-organized work schedule yet, unfortunately, this didn’t translate into our personal lives. Our common frustration with social media became the fundamental drive for the years to come.

Were there any ‘pain points’ when you were starting up?

Time. We both had full- time jobs (Latif, Investment Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Ramy, Digital Marketing, Omnicom Media Group) and didn’t give the business the focus and attention it needed. This meant we had a slow start and made a few mistakes early on.

What’s been the highlight so far?

Ramy: Getting featured by Apple under ‘New Apps We Love’ a month after launching on the Apple Store. This let us know we were on the right path, and also helped us raise the first round of funding.

Latif: Getting our first round of funding in July. At this point I’d quit my job to work on Calio full-time, I hadn’t received a salary in a year, and we were lucky to find supportive investors. Now we can get the product to where it needs to be.   

And low point?

Latif: For me it was about 3 months in, I spent most days at home on my own in front of a screen, and learnt the hard way that running a business often means no immediate gratification. Chatting to Ramy and spending time with friends kept me sane and motivated.

Ramy: Trying to work on Calio while I had a full-time job. I found it hard to manage the two and couldn’t quit the 9-5 until we raised funding. I basically didn’t sleep for 9 months. I had the beach in Dubai, so I visited that nearly every morning to clear my head.

Did you get any support along the way?

Before we launched we tested the product with around 70 ‘Beta testers’ (mostly friends, friends of friends etc), they gave us incredible feedback and really helped us focus on the right things.

What is the best thing about being your own boss?

Latif: I like being able to do things differently. Taking an idea, brainstorming with smart and enthusiastic people and then just trying it. Very few companies truly offer that freedom.

Ramy: No corporate politics. I feel like I can be open and honest about how I feel. As Calio grows, Latif and I will ensure that we minimise any bureaucracy and hierarchies. (I can also wear what I want.)

Has life changed since starting your own business?

Latif: Absolutely, the lifestyle in Investment banking was very different. I enjoyed my time there but the work wasn’t fulfilling and what I do now feels infinitely more challenging and rewarding.

Ramy: Yes, I never liked working in a corporate environment because I felt I couldn’t push my big ideas through. Now I have the platform to share an important social message to society. So, my life has changed in a positive way!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a business?

Firstly, focus on your potential users and WHY they’d use your product/service. Secondly, as we like to say: ‘long term vision, short term goals’ you might have big ideas but do things in stages, learn and iterate (read the ‘The Lean Startup’ for more info on this.)

What are your plans for the future?

We’ve very product focused and aim to become the best personal calendar available. We’ve just started marketing the brand by organising and sponsoring interesting events in London, with our ‘Social Paradox’ pillar always at the forefront. We hope to do a bigger funding round in 2018 and grow the team.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew in the beginning?

Latif: Well I don’t have any regrets, but if there is one thing we could have done better, it’s releasing a product sooner. When you’re starting it’s easy to feel anxious or nervous but there’s no point, you have to just get it out there and keep working hard!

Ramy: Well a lot of things, but I think that’s part of the journey of starting with little experience – you learn along the way!

Are there any particular qualities needed to run your own business?

Latif: I guess it really depends on the underlying business. A couple of common things I’ve noticed in successful founders are self-awareness and ‘hustle’.

Ramy: Making strong and authentic relationships with different types of people. The contacts you make can go a long way. A lot of our wins to date started because we knew someone who we developed a good comradery with.

What helps you wind down?

Latif: Sports, I play a lot of football, do a bit of boxing and the occasional yoga session. Having a drink with good friends is the best downtime though.

Ramy: Three things; Sports, pints & parties.

Thank you to Latif and Ramy for taking the time to talk to us.

Interested in finding out more about Calio?

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Mathew Aitken

is Head of Content at Made Simple Group. This entails overseeing MadeSimple’s blogs (five in all!) and any other content we happen to be producing. In his spare time Mathew is an avid film-goer, TV-watcher and Tottenham Hotspur-endurer.
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