By Sarah Finley
The BBC’s weekly The Boss series profiles different business leaders from around the world. This week we speak to Shahzad Younas, founder and chief executive of Muslim dating website and app Muzmatch.
When Shahzad Younas took to the stage he was very nervous.
It was two years ago, and the then 32-year-old British entrepreneur was in San Francisco pitching London-based Muzmatch to a group of high profile potential investors.
He opened his address to the room by saying: “Muslims don’t date, we marry.”
Shahzad and his business partner Ryan Brodie were there because they had entered a global competition to win backing from prestigious Silicon Valley investment firm Y Combinator.
This US company offers financial and practical support to a number of new start-ups per year. More than 13,000 applied at the same time as Muzmatch, and it was one of 800 whose founders were invited to pitch in person.
As Shahzad continued his speech, the investors were soon bursting into laughter at how frank he was. Muzmatch was quickly given $1.5m (£1.2m), one of 100 start-ups that got backing in 2017.
Back then he was working for a bank in the City of London. He enjoyed his job, but at the same time he increasingly realised that there was a gap in the market for a decent dating app aimed at Muslims who were looking for a partner from within their religious community.
“At the time there were either these really basic websites for Muslims, or big dating apps that didn’t quite get our culture,” says Shahzad, who was born and bred in Manchester.
“In the Muslim community a lot of us did, and still do, rely on matchmakers [to find a wife or husband]. These are ‘aunties’ in the community who know families, and who would match up a son with another family’s daughter.”
His idea for Muzmatch was that it would be a digital matchmaker app for Muslims who wanted to find someone to marry.
Later in 2013 fate intervened when Shahzad was made redundant from his job, and he decided that he had to make a go of the app.