Not your typical UW-Waukesha student, our December spotlight is on Ahsen Masood –an amazing self-taught technology inventor and professional software developer. One of the aspects that makes Ahsen’s story amazing is that he works diligently to establish technological concepts that help society as a whole. His career goal is to bring his start-up, nonprofit organization called Savelife Foundation, Inc., to the level necessary to help people in need of blood worldwide.
As you can imagine, this young entrepreneur does not have a lot of free time. “I'm constantly thinking, debugging, and coding,” he explained. “I like to hang out with friends and family of course, but for the most part, I am always running some new creative ideas in my mind,” he explained. He likes to work on his non-profit, keeping it updated with new features and always making sure “to spend time giving back to the community with my technical skills.”
Ahsen chose UW-Waukesha because, “I felt welcome and comfortable here from the start,” he said. “Not only do they offer plenty of IT classes, but it's close to home and this has allowed me to continue my professional work, while earning my degree. I knew from the start I would have many opportunities here, and if needed, support in taking advantage of those opportunities and help in achieving my goals,” he added. His favorite classes are “math and any IT class.” After completing his first two years at UW-Waukesha, he plans to complete his bachelor’s degree and then put complete focus on his professional work.
His journey as a software developer began at the age of 13, growing up in Pakistan. He started building small applications for fun, and eventually turned that into an income by developing professional software for companies.
“It was fun for me! I spent countless hours coding and learning new things,” he explained. In 2010, when a dengue fever struck the country, blood transfusions were necessary for survival, and blood donor demand was at an all-time peak. Hundreds of people were dying due to the blood shortage. Corruption ran rampant in the blood banks – raising prices
or using delay tactics to make money. This dishonesty resulted in poor people not being able to afford the blood.
With no electricity in the country for more than 12 hours a day, there was no efficient way to locate blood donors in
an emergency. Ahsen came up with an idea that would pair potential blood donors with recipients through a text messaging service. Since everyone in Pakistan has a cell phone, his idea flourished. Within 24 hours, he created the first basic system to pair donors and recipients. He designed it so that volunteers could sign up with the service by sending a text message with their blood group. Similarly, recipients could send a text message, “I need A+ in this city near that hospital.” The system would then find donors in the specified locations and text the matching volunteers asking their availability. If they accepted, both parties were connected. Within 24 hours of the launch, hundreds of volunteers had signed up. By directly connecting recipients with blood donors, Ahsen’s new system saved many lives. Eventually the system crashed, however, and Ahsen had to keep resetting it - in order to keep it running. He soon realized that some users were not following specific patterns in their text messages needed for sign-ups, etc.
As a result of these deficiencies, Ahsen soon developed a second version. Using artificial intelligence, the update would understand natural language and as a result, text messages were no longer restricted to a specific pattern. According to Ahsen, “A text message in any language, or even with a spelling mistake, was no longer a problem. It would detect grammar issues and would still understand what the person was trying to say, and respond back accordingly with further questions or answers. It would even ask for their name, age, and location, if they did not provide those initially.”
As soon as the new version was available, sign-ups and blood requests tripled, according to Ahsen. Pakistan news channels shared the information about the new technology, resulting in more people using the free service. Ahsen
received many emails, thanking him for the new technology that was now helping to save loved ones in a timely manner. During this time, he spent the majority of his evenings reaching out via international telephone to Pakistan, making sure that everyone was getting what they needed and working tirelessly to resolve any issues.
Ahsen continues to face challenges on this project, but “that’s what makes me excited - because I always get to learn new things,” he explained. He has since launched cross-platform mobile apps to make it easier for people to connect.
The current model is not just a mobile application or a text messaging system – rather, it’s a platform in which other teams can use as a white label solution and run their own automated blood donation system. For example, a school can create their team on our platform, and we would provide them a mobile application and a website with their brand name.
Limited by his own time and resources (currenlty funding the project himself), Ahsen has many future plans for the foundation. He’s been told that Savelife Connect is the Uber for blood donations and has great potential. The project is definitely close to his heart and something he wants to maintain, while he continues to learn new things. To learn more or donate to this organization, visit https://savelife.pk
While Ahsen’s story is motivating in and of itself, he shares this advice for incoming UW-Waukesha students: Never give up! Chase your dreams and stay positive. I see myself as an example that dreams really do come true. I've watched and experienced my life drastically change because I kept following my dreams, even when it seemed like there was no hope. When I felt like giving up or that hope was lost, I continued on anyway. The reason for this is simple. You have one chance, one shot here in this world. I’m here to tell you that no matter what dream you have, you can do it! When you dream big, most people will react negatively, because chances are they aren’t chasing their own dreams. Do not let them discourage you. What is your dream? Remove money from the equation and take a moment to ponder what it is that you would love to wake up to and work on every morning. Remember this: If nothing else, if you try and fail you will live your life knowing that you tried and took your chances. If you never try, it will be a mistake that will be on your shoulders the rest of your life.
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