Our Klout Stars series highlights top influencers and how they got to where they are today.
Sumaya Kazi is the founder & CEO of Sumazi, a service built on top of Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter that empowers your network to introduce you to the people who can change your world. Sumazi was selected from more than 1,200 international startups to compete at the prestigious TechCrunch Startup Battlefield where it won the Omidyar Network award for “Startup Most Likely to Change the World.”
Sumaya is an internationally recognized innovator, leader, speaker and award-winning entrepreneur who has recently been recognized by Reuters and Klout as one of the “Top 50 Most Influential Executives on the Web” — the second woman behind Oprah. She has also been recognized by BusinessWeek as one of America’s “Best Young Entrepreneurs,” CNN as a “Young Person Who Rocks,” Silicon Valley Business Journal as a “Woman of Influence” and by UTNE Reader Magazine as one of “50 Visionaries Changing Your World.”
Previously, Sumaya served as the senior social media manager at Sun Microsystems, where she was responsible for the global strategy and implementation of social media. While at Sun Microsystems, Sumaya founded her first startup, The CulturalConnect. It grew from one weekly e-magazine to five weekly e-magazines and published more than 800 interviews of amazing young professionals in the for-profit and not-for-profit industries to a readership in more than 100 countries.
Sumaya has a strong passion for progress and has been deeply committed to the nonprofit community. She has served as a mentor for BUILD, a nonprofit social venture that empowers underprivileged and under-resourced high school students with an education in entrepreneurship. She is also on the steering committee for the San Francisco Muslim Women’s Giving Circle and on the advisory council for Jolkona Foundation (a Bangladeshi led non-profit). Sumaya graduated from UC Berkeley. She is a Bangladeshi-American residing in San Francisco, California. You can learn more about Sumaya on her website. You can also subscribe to her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter
1. How did you get started in social media?
I studied marketing and strategic planning at UC Berkeley. While I didn’t know exactly what my career path was going to be at the time, I knew I was fascinated with the marketing industry.
After graduation, I spent a year at a high-tech PR agency. There, I found myself increasingly frustrated with mainstream media, which inspired me to start my first company. The CulturalConnect started as a media platform dedicated to young professionals around the world. It spotlighted amazing stories of young business and nonprofit professionals with the goal of re-defining what success looks like in different ethnic diasporas.
At age 22, I was recruited as the youngest manager in the Global Communications division at Sun Microsystems. My day-to-day role was initially to support our executive management as well as handle the analytics and measurement for my division.
However, because of my experience building the CulturalConnect and using the tools of that time — MySpace, Friendster and Facebook (which was only for college students then) — I understood early on how businesses could benefit social media platforms. I became the crazy kid who kept coming up with all of these crazy ideas of how Sun could use Myspace or Facebook or YouTube for their business objectives. My vice president didn’t exactly know what opportunities there were with social media at the time, but she liked my ideas and we decided that I would be a social media manager; so I became one of the first social media managers that existed at a Fortune 500 company.
I started driving strategy and implementation of social media just for my division and then the program quickly grew to support social media for the entire global company. I led social media for over 5 years.
In 2009, Sun was acquired by Oracle. I began consulting startups and large companies on their social media strategy and the following year after realizing there was a huge gaping hole in how individuals and businesses connect with the people they need, I decided to start Sumazi.
While Sumazi was still an idea on a napkin, we were selected from more than 1,200 companies to compete at the prestigious TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield, where we won the Omidyar Network award for “Startup Most Likely to Change the World.” We got interest from our first angel investor, one of the founding team members at YouTube, and I then decided to quit consulting and start working on Sumazi full time.
2. In what ways does social media play into your current job or industry? Do you have any examples?
Sumazi is building the technology for the next generation of social media. Sumazi is built entirely on top of existing social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and soon mobile. Sumazi is in the business of making life-changing introductions. From my experience at Sun Microsystems and the Cultural Connect, I saw a lot of the pain points on how businesses and organizations can connect with their users, as well as tap into their users’ networks. From a consumer’s perspective as well as a user’s perspective, I want to be able to leverage my networks and my extended networks to help me at the time of need. Sumazi is really focused on solving these problems.
3. What does influence mean to you? Who influences you the most online, and why
If someone is influential to me, I either care about or respect their opinions around a topic of interest. It carries more weight in my sphere. Someone can be influential in my life, even if they don’t have a lot of friends or followers. I believe influence is a combination of importance to somebody’s life, impact and respect for their opinions. They might not always say something that I agree with, but I respect their opinions enough to consider that an influence to me.
I respect and have followed people like Tony Hsieh (Founder of Zappos), Michael Arrington (Founder of TechCrunch), Padmasree Warrior (CTO of Cisco), Rania Al Abdullah (Queen of Jordan) and Oprah. There’s probably another 100 entrepreneurs or nonprofit leaders that I also follow closely online that I consider influential to me.
4. What recent social media trends do you think are interesting or helpful?
I’ve definitely seen a trend with companies focusing on the intersection of social, consumer and mobile technologies. More and more, new companies are being built just on the mobile device and never needing a web component. I’m also seeing a new crop of social media companies that are trying to figure out how to make use of all the rich social data that exists today to help facilitate smarter decisions about new connections and purchases.
The innovation in the social media world is so quick to change that it’s fascinating to see how fast this space is growing.
If you are also interested in Sumazi, we are currently giving early access to Klout users. Just go to http://beta.sumazi.com/early/home.
Connect with Sumaya on Twitter at @sumaya