Khan presenting TypeSkip at StartUp Fest 2021. Photos courtesy of Argyle Interactive.
The week before winning the Baiada Incubator Competition at StartUp Fest 2021, fourth-year computer science student Basil Khan was in Las Vegas, Nevada, helping colleagues promote their product at a trade show.
That Khan would venture so far to help friends - a week before a major competition - reflects the tight bonds and keen sense of community among entrepreneurs at Drexel. Makers and problem solvers all, they forge deep ties by exchanging wisdom and sharing challenges. Yet the trip to the trade show just might have helped Khan get into the zone.
Taking the stage at the competition on Nov. 5, Khan convinced a panel of seasoned business leaders that his marketing app, TypeSkip, deserved to win a $12,500 prize, as well as a year-long residency at the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship, legal support from Morgan Lewis and accounting services from GMS Surgent.
“It can get nerve-wracking,” Khan admitted, emerging from a year-long cocoon of remote meetings to face 100 or so judges, competitors and observers “in the flesh,” at the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship’s premier annual event.
Yet here was Khan, pitching a product that had only existed for a few months, and commanding the room.
“I was pretty calm,” Khan recalled.
TypeSkip is designed to craft ads and marketing copy for a fast-growing corps of e-commerce companies, using AI. Khan began developing the product in June, finessing an earlier iteration of the app he first developed in November 2020, called MagiCopy. Through the software embedded in TypeSkip, entrepreneurs can quickly generate original ads and marketing copy, using a few keywords and bare-bones product details. Unlike its predecessor, TypeSkip allows entrepreneurs to collaborate with colleagues and maintain an archive of previously produced content.
The app is a boon to under-resourced startup owners eager to get their message out.
“For ads, you need to write compelling copy,” Khan explained. “Either you hire copywriters, who are expensive, or you learn it yourself, which takes years.”
A native of Pakistan, Khan comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His knack for “building things” emerged early. Launching his first startup, SnoozePhones, at age 19, he learned a critical lesson. The sleep mask with padded headphones was perfect for people with tinnitus and those who wished to listen to podcasts or music without rousing a sleeping companion, but sourcing and marketing the product proved to be insurmountable hurdles.
“I couldn’t compete with bigger brands. They have budgets for marketing, customer service, and more,” he said.
That adverse experience planted a seed that is poised to flourish, given growth in e-commerce that already generates trillions of dollars in revenue each year and is projected to climb.
For now, Khan is content to focus on completing his degree. Yet he hopes that TypeSkip will eventually become part of every seller’s workflow, evolving into an essential tool that will lead to success in the burgeoning e-commerce industry.
Khan’s sense of connection to the entrepreneurial community illustrates Drexel’s goals in launching the Baiada Institute, said Chuck Sacco, associate dean for strategy and innovation at the Close School and director of the institute.
“Our inclusive community is what sets us apart, and we welcome students from across the University to be part of it,” he said. “Starting anything is hard, and students such as Basil reflect what Drexel student entrepreneurship is all about: working hard, supporting each other and building the next generation of startups.”