Editor’s note (2/25/19): The original headline, “UR Senior develops $150M water filter startup” was changed because it improperly reflected the information Miqdad gave the Campus Times about his role in the company. Miqdad never claimed to have founded the startup.
Senior Muhammad Miqdad, originally from Pakistan, arrived on campus as a Renaissance Scholar. Now, he travels around the world to promote his product.
Miqdad is the Business Development Executive at the startup PakVitae, valued at $150 million. It has developed a $30 filter designed to provide clean drinking water free of water-borne bacteria, viruses, and contaminants.
Because PakVitae’s product is an improvement from previous technologies — at a lower cost and with better efficiency — the company is able to sell directly to countries’ poorest citizens rather than through international organizations.
Miqdad’s community work began in secondary school when he joined a nonprofit, teaching in schools around Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He quickly moved up the ranks and became the head of the program. This was a resounding success, but he realized that the teaching and fundraising model wasn’t sustainable. For Miqdad, enduring change was at the “intersection of business and social ventures.”
At UR, Miqdad switched his major several times, and was rejected by over 300 internships since coming to UR. Miqdad couldn’t land a job on campus his first year.
At points, he was at university counseling. He considered going back home.
His involvement on campus changed, Miqdad says, when he felt compelled to speak following the Paris attacks in 2015. Knowing that there were terrorist attacks in Baghdad just a day before, he worked with senior Beatriz Gil, then class president, to create a vigil to bring students together in the face of fear, recognizing the many communities in mourning.
Following the vigil, Miqdad said, he felt he had something to contribute. He became involved in SA and clubs, and later that year he won the Andrew Fried Prize. Realizing there were few other Pakistani students on campus, he made it a personal mission to encourage as many Pakistani students as possible to apply.
Miqdad said the UR community helped him learn about different cultures and people, ideals which now permeate all aspects of his life. “Everyone who speaks with me has had a piece of the U of R.,” Miqdad said.
Since he almost did not apply to the school, he feels fortunate to have arrived here, saying, “The University of Rochester wasn’t the door I tried to open, but it’s the door that let me in.”
The opportunity at PakVitae was similarly by chance, not by design. He first learned about the company as an advisor for a UR team competing against PakVitae for the Hult Prize. He reached out to PakVitae afterward to congratulate, to connect, and to learn. After some time, because of his background in nonprofits and his knowledge of business, they asked him to intern with them. He met the board, led a research and development initiative in South Korea, and worked with outsourcing partners. He was quickly asked to become an employee.
Knowing the difficulties of international students in obtaining internships and wanting to give back to the school, Miqdad is offering three paid, month long internships for international students this summer. Applicants can be any major, and the only requirement is a pitch to bring PakVitae to their home country. Miqdad will also be leading a workshop on the global water crisis Feb. 26th at iZone.