From student to start-up

As the founder of social media platform, Wakelet, Jamil Khalil is no stranger to the industriousness required to succeed in business. After some years developing Wakelet, the company has recently received several million pounds in backing from UK and US investors. Venture capital and seed funding are still new concepts for many businesses in Greater Manchester which means that just gaining investment from experienced funders is a significant achievement in its own right.

Wakelet is only the latest step in Jamil’s career since graduating from Salford in 2003, he has also travelled the world and been through a graduate recruitment scheme.
We spoke to Jamil to find out more about his journey from Salford graduate to internet start-up sensation. Here, he describes his route to success and the importance of giving back to the institution where he first realised his entrepreneurial skills.

How did you get from studying at Salford to where you are now in your career?

After University I wanted a break, so I decided to go travelling around the world. When I returned to the UK, I joined Airbus’s graduate programme working in Landing Gear Systems Procurement. I progressed pretty fast within Airbus to become the Head of Sourcing & EADS Coordination.

In December 2013, I left Airbus to set up Wakelet. From the problems I faced on the Internet whilst studying, travelling and working, I wanted to create a social media product that gives people the freedom to organise and share any content on the web, the way they want it. In December 2014, Wakelet raised £1.1m of investment, including backing from the original publishers of Angry Birds, and is now being used by students, athletes, travellers, bloggers, brands and businesses.

What is your biggest professional or personal achievement to date?

Funnily enough, I never feel like I’ve achieved anything significant. It’s been all small achievements, which have helped me develop, progress and stay hungry. If I had to list one, it would probably be leaving my Airbus job to set up my start-up. I had a great job and was progressing really well, so leaving when times were great was quite challenging, but I had to follow my dreams.

What tips would you give to current students and recent graduates who are entering the workplace?

Extra-curricular interests and activities count for a lot more than most people think, and you are much more likely to get a job you enjoy if you display passion and an eagerness to learn. I'd also recommend a shift of thinking; instead of looking for anywhere that will hire you, start looking for places that you would enjoy working at the most. This makes you feel more confident in your abilities and gives you a greater sense of purpose too when it comes to job hunting and performing in interviews.

Why do you choose to stay in touch with Salford?

I think it's important to stay in touch with the people and places that have had a positive impact on your life. My university experience at Salford helped prime me for "the real world," and I feel that by getting involved in what the university is doing now, I can give back and help others on their road to success.

Jamil Khalil, Founder & CEO at Wakelet, Salford Business School alumnus