Rahim Mitha

#BLUEPRINT: Zain Manji

Rahim Mitha
#BLUEPRINT: Zain Manji

Today I had the pleasure to interview Zain Manji, the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Fiix, a company that is building the next generation of auto repair.

From working at some of the biggest technology companies in the world such as Instagram and Google to becoming a Y-Combinator Founder, Zain is no stranger to innovation. Wether it be sitting in the auto repair shop for hours or being overcharged, getting car repairs is usually both costly and frustrating. Fiix is on a mission to change that, and remove the hassle by connecting customers directly with licensed mechanics who can bring car repair services to their homes. With high demands for their service across Canada, Zain and his team at Fiix are on track to disrupt an age old industry across the country. 

Q.1. How has competing in sports at a high level as a varsity athlete contributed to your success as an entrepreneur and start up founder?

I think you pick up a lot of really good skills and traits through participating in sports. As a tennis player I was always on my own in my matches, there was no coach to get advice from or team mates to rely on; that really taught me how to react quickly, solve problems on the fly and think critically on my own. Independence is something that tennis has instilled in me from a young age. In all sports, competition is at the forefront and you are always playing to win and trying to put yourself in the best possible position to come out on top. I believe all those skills are very transferable to business because you are actually facing many of the same problems, such as tough competition, but just in a different context. Overall, competing in sports has been a great precursor and prepared me well for life in the startup world. 

Q.2. Having many opportunities to work with some of the biggest tech companies in the world such as Instagram and Google, what made you want to start your own company?

When I was in university, I was always trying to build things on my own and create things that I wanted to see in the world. It became clear to me that I really enjoyed building products and the feeling of seeing people use the things that I had created. While I was at University of Toronto, I completed internships with Instagram, Google and Yelp and I was fortunate to learn a ton and surround myself with some great people. However, after a little while I began to feel like I was just a cog in the system. I was still planning to go back to Instagram full time but when I retuned to U of T for my last year I began working on a side project with my two Co-Founders which turned into Fiix. We were doing pitch competitions and trying to gain some traction and actually ended up getting into Y-Combinator which is when we decided to take things more seriously and commit full time. 

"I was always trying to build things on my own and create things that I wanted to see in the world"

Q.3. What advice would you give to a non-technical entrepreneur who wants to gain a technical background?

I would 100 percent recommend that everyone should gain some form of a technical background. There are so many advantages to having one and there are really no disadvantages. I think with any company that someone wants to build, and every company that exists right now, they are either going to build it with technology first in mind or they will have to transition from their manual process to a technology driven approach. Given that if you want to run a business or have a large impact with your business, you should have a technical background. Also, when you are just starting out, having a technical background is great because you can actually build the business on your own without having to spend a lot of money hiring a developer or going out and trying to find a technical Co-Founder. In terms of how to get started if you don’t have technical background, I would recommend self learning on YouTube, reading a ton of articles and following industry leaders on Twitter. There are so many resources out there and there is really no excuse not to learn. Even in more traditional jobs like banking, knowing how to code and leverage technology can be extremely beneficial. In my first job as a financial analyst at BMO I had to filter through an excel spreadsheet with hundreds of lines and flag duplicate account number entries. I was able to writing some code and automate the process 8 hours to 2 minutes! 

Q.4. What are the two to three guiding principles that have helped you to navigate through the hardships of starting and scaling a successful business? 

I think having a good support system around you is super important. Wether it be a strong Co-Founder team, friends or family, having people around you that support you really makes things so much more enjoyable and fun. It’s easy to feel lonely, but having great team mates makes a huge difference when you are trying to do something that is challenging. Also, try not to get burned out. It is easy to try and sprint all the time but when you are running a marathon that is a bad strategy. Usually successful companies take a long time to build, upwards of ten years. You have to be pace yourself and be mindful of playing the long game so you can actually last ten years and not burn out too quickly. 

"It is easy to try and sprint all the time but when you are running a marathon that is a bad strategy"

Q.5. What are you most excited in the next 6 months for Fiix?

I am most excited about the opportunities for Fiix to grow into new markets and cities across Canada and the U.S. I am also excited about growing the company’s top-line and bringing more people onto the team as we try to take over the market and make a positive impact on the auto repair industry. Overall, expansion and growth for Fiix really excites me and I am looking forward to containing to build with the team here in Toronto!

Connect with Zain on LinkedIn or at Fiix.io and check out his awesome content and message! If Zain's thoughts resonated with you, share this on LinkedIn with #BLUEPRINT and follow along with this series!