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Hidden Gems: Meet Shafqat Huq of FestFriends and CAAZ Consulting

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shafqat Huq.

Hi Shafqat, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m a native Angeleno – born and raised by immigrant parents from Bangladesh. I was born at the Kaiser on Sunset Boulevard and have lived in greater LA for the majority of my life, so I would definitely consider myself an LA kid. I grew up in Alhambra for part of my childhood before my family moved to Cerritos, a suburb situated on the border of Los Angeles and Orange County, renowned for its excellent school district that draws in immigrant families from all over the world.

I attended Whitney High School, which was ranked the #3 high school in the nation when I graduated and had a reputation for its extremely rigorous curriculum and success in pumping out students for the nation’s top-tier universities. However, despite my strong test-taking skills, I was always more interested in spending my energy towards the various organizations I was a part of, rather than on my coursework like my academically-inclined classmates who had their sights set on Ivy League schools. I played multiple sports (soccer, basketball, tennis) and was involved in leadership roles in a wide range of clubs on campus like Robotics, Student Government, and Model United Nations. I also started several entrepreneurial “hustles” as a student which I used to fund activities and purchases, like going to Prom or buying the newest video game console. Looking back, I realize that these ventures were the original form of my entrepreneurial journey and ultimately what led me to pursue a degree in business.

I graduated from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University in 2015 with three Bachelor of Science degrees in Finance, Economics, and Accounting. I was pretty set on a career in Finance at the time, so I accepted an offer with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, thinking that’s what I would do for the next 30 to 40 years. Long story short, it did not work out that way. I bounced around for a few years taking jobs with different firms, struggling to find fulfillment in the work I was doing. In 2017, I left the finance industry to pursue a venture of my own. Eventually, that led me into software development and the tech start-up scene. Fast forward to today, and I am now the founder of a company called FestFriends and the managing partner of a software agency called CAAZ Consulting.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Absolutely not. And to be completely honest, I’m glad it hasn’t been an easy one. There were major challenges at virtually every level, from personal, family, organizational all the way up to a global level. All of these challenges have made me a better entrepreneur and a stronger person overall.

For almost two years, I battled with depression and anxiety after a very bad break-up, leading me down a spiral of self-sabotage to the lowest point and darkest period of my life. I was very private about my feelings and tried to internalize what I was going through, as my friends have always seen me as a very positive and energetic person who they could come to with their problems, and I didn’t want to burden them with my own.

Last year, the coronavirus pandemic hit just as we were getting ready to release our app after having spent nearly two years working on it. With the entire world coming to a complete standstill, no festivals took place and we were unable to launch. On top of all that, and more importantly, in May at the peak of the pandemic, my father was diagnosed with a severe form of Leukemia. He spent more than six months in the hospital, during which we were unable to visit or be with him for any duration of time as he underwent aggressive chemotherapy. Fortunately, he is in remission and in better health now.

The experience of trying to navigate through a pandemic, a family medical emergency of that severity (that too without being there in-person to provide support or get proper information from doctors), while also simultaneously trying to perform and juggle the responsibilities of operating multiple businesses already crippled, is by far the most difficult challenge I have ever had to deal with and overcome. The silver lining in having gone through all of this is that I have a better understanding of my limits and know that there is very little in the business world that I can’t handle.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about FestFriends and CAAZ Consulting?
FestFriends is a mobile app that provides users with a marketplace where they can buy and sell tickets to popular music festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Ultra, Electric Daisy Carnival, and dozens of others across the United States. Our marketplace operates similarly to the stock market, where users can place bids (offers to buy) and asks (offers to sell), and makes the entire process extremely seamless.

Our business model is catered specifically to festivals with wristband tickets, rather than taking a wide net approach to all ticketed events like concerts and sporting events, which are typically digital or paper tickets. We’ve created an extremely intuitive and user-friendly interface which makes the entire process very easy and convenient. Our primary value proposition is that we physically authenticate every ticket that goes through our platform. Our competitors like StubHub, SeatGeek, and other secondary ticket platforms do not do this.

We also place a heavy emphasis on community, which is a huge element of festival culture. Our users truly are our “festival friends”, and we make it a priority to engage with them in-person at events, not just through their phones at the point of purchase. We are able to connect with our users and interact with them in ways that our competitors simply can not.

CAAZ Consulting takes a founder-centric and holistic approach to software development, leveraging the experience my partners and I have accumulated over the past few years in building our own companies from concept-stage all the way to live products in the market. We work with our clients to not only build a beautiful product but a viable long-term business by providing additional guidance on common issues that founders may not have considered, such as: marketing, branding, legal, finance, human resources, etc.

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Image Credits:

Professional headshots were taken by Brynn Jones of Edge Creative

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