Get to Know HowTo Speaker Ruzwana Bashir, Founder at Peek.com

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The founder of Peek, an app that helps travelers find and book unique experiences, says she wishes she would have taken more risks earlier in her career.

By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)

Think outside the box. Take the road less traveled. Go against the grain.

When you’re ready to build your dream, you’ll probably hear a lot of this advice. But it’s not really helpful. You already know you want to do all those things. The real question is how?

Ruzwana BashirIf this sounds like you, then don’t miss the fireside chat our founder Shaherose Charania will host on Day 1 of our HowTo Conference with Ruzwana Bashir and Tracy Sun, the founders of Peek and Poshmark, respectively. They’ll be covering How To Think Different, Challenge Assumptions, and See New Ideas.

Ruzwana is the co-founder and CEO of Peek, an app that helps travelers discover and book amazing things to do when they’re on the road. Ruzwana is a travel junkie, having navigated her way through 40 countries -- she's wandered through the ancient city of Palmyra, gone horseback riding through the Mongolian steppe and went hang gliding in Rio de Janiero. When she travels, she's obsessed with ruins, beautiful landscapes and avoiding the crowds.

Ruzwana previously worked at Gilt Groupe, Art.sy, the Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs. Ruzwana has an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Fulbright Scholar, and a BA in Economics from Oxford University, where she was President of the Oxford Union.

We were able to snag a few minutes with Ruzwana to ask her a few questions about what inspires her and advice she has for young entrepreneurs.

Women 2.0: What do you love about your job?

There are three things I love about my job. It’s incredibly enriching to go to work with passionate people, doing something that’s positive for the world and for small businesses and the individuals that run them.

  1. Every day I get to work some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I love the environment I’m in, surrounded by colleagues who push me to be better each day.
  2. It’s really important that what we do has a positive impact on the world. 50 years ago the world moved from an era of subsistence to one of materialism; we were told to buy thing to make ourselves happier — that expensive handbag or big house. But that doesn’t make us happier. Buying an experience makes us 50 percent happier than buying a product. Peek is part of movement moving the world from one of materialism to one of experiences. We help people to find special experiences and create memories with friends and loved ones, and to get inspired by the world around them.
  3. At Peek, we empower small businesses since tour operators are often mom and pop shops. It’s incredibly fulfilling to know we help these small businesses that didn’t previously have the tools to come online or onto mobile, so that they can thrive and grow.

At Peek, we empower small businesses since tour operators are often mom and pop shops. It’s incredibly fulfilling to know we help these small businesses that didn’t previously have the tools to come online or onto mobile, so that they can thrive and grow.

Women 2.0: What's one piece of advice you'd give your younger self?

When I was younger, I felt like I had to tick a lot of boxes to signal that I was capable and smart. This meant I worked at Blackstone Group and Goldman Sachs and got my MBA from Harvard. (Editor’s note: Ruzwana was also a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Business School.)

I learned a great deal, but one of the things I didn’t do was focus on what I really wanted to do. I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I think it would have been better if I would have pursued that from the beginning.

I always feared I didn’t know enough or have enough experience. But it’s when you aren’t fully prepared that you really push your own boundaries and accelerate your learning, ensuring you get valuable new skills and more opportunities to take on greater responsibility.

My advice to my younger self would be to take risks earlier in your career rather than take the safe route.

Women 2.0: What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?

Number one, I always remind people they have to be resilient. Half of entrepreneurship is an emotional battle. You have to be very persistent. Nothing’s that’s worth doing is very easy!

Number two, recognize your weaknesses. It’s fine to have weaknesses. We all have them. Find other people to work with who can complement your skill set rather than focus on the things you’re not as good at. It’s more important to recognize when you’re not as good at something and hire someone who has that specific skill. As a team, you’ll be better because you’ll all be playing to your strengths.

Women 2.0: What are a few apps or tools you couldn't live or work without?

  • Peek: I drink my own Kool-Aid! Whenever I’m on trips, I find myself looking for something fun to do that. I have very little spare time, so when I have it, I try to make the most of it. I like being able to see something beautiful or being pushed into doing something I wouldn’t have done before.
  • Audible: I started listening to audiobooks because I never had time to read. The app makes it easy to read and download books. It’s great for multitasking -- running or running errands while you’re listening.
  • TeuxDeux: It’s a simple to-do list app. I can add to-dos on-the-go, move them around and prioritize things that are more urgent. It helps me be more organized.
  • Instagram: Instagram is great because I can not only see something fun and see what’s going on in a friend’s life, but also see a beautiful image or landscape from National Geographic.
  • Positive Prescription: It condenses a lot of the important studies and learnings from the social sciences into easily digestible posts. The Visual Prozac section acknowledges and embraces that looking at beautiful things can increase happiness.

Don’t miss our founder Shaherose interviewing Ruzwana on how to think different at our HowTo Conference on September 30. Grab your tickets >


About the author: Betsy Mikel is the managing editor of Women 2.0 and runs the content consultancy Aveck. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a lifelong obsession with French language and culture. When she's not biking all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym.