Against All Odds: MPCS Married Couple Pursues Bold Ambitions
By Katie Knorr
Smitha Kolan and Farhan Hussain are not your average grad students. For starters, they both run successful YouTube channels with thousands of subscribers. Both were able to secure admission to Simon Fraser University’s competitive master’s program in professional computer science (MPCS). Then, they launched their own crypto company. And to top it all off, they recently got married – yes, to each other – celebrating their union with a destination wedding in Turkey.
How did it all begin? Kolan and Hussain met at a pre-university computer science program in Cupertino, California. They worked on a few projects together and soon realized that they were on the same wavelength when it came to their outlook on life, entrepreneurial ambitions, and love of family.
“But most importantly,” Kolan says half-jokingly, “we connected over our shared interest in food and travel.”
Despite their strong relationship, the couple’s union was not one without challenges. Though Kolan grew up in Singapore, she is originally from India and of Hindu faith, while Hussain is Muslim. Unfortunately, due to the political tensions between their home countries, India and Pakistan, they decided to host their wedding elsewhere.
They chose to celebrate their nuptials in Turkey, offering a live-stream to guests who were not able to attend in person. The couple held two distinct ceremonies to honour each other’s cultural backgrounds. In fact, it was such a unique occasion that it even got featured in the Turkish media!
But Kolan and Hussain are no strangers to the limelight. In her undergraduate thesis, Kolan compared the effectiveness of different machine learning algorithms at predicting Ethereum market volatility. She soon realized that quality machine learning resources were painfully lacking online, so, true to her entrepreneurial mindset, she decided to create some herself! And thus, her YouTube channel was born.
“It started out as a way for me to document my own learning journey in machine learning and artificial intelligence,” says Kolan. “But then it turned into something much bigger.”
Indeed, her YouTube channel now boasts over 40,000 subscribers, and over the past two years, has led to numerous speaking engagements at universities and technology companies. But Kolan’s guiding principle has remained the same: to improve the quality and accessibility of online resources for anyone wishing to study machine learning.
Hussain has been producing YouTube videos for four years now, attracting over 20,000 subscribers to his channel. His favourite subject? Cryptocurrencies.
Both Hussain and Kolan have been interested in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology well before these topics received wide-spread attention in mainstream discourse.
“We both had experience working with other companies in the crypto space, so moving in the direction of blockchain was a no-brainer,” says Hussain. “This laid the foundation to launching our own company Metacent.”
Metacent is the couple’s solution to an unchartered NFT market. NFTs, for those unfamiliar with the term, are non-fungible tokens representing a unique asset such as artwork, real estate, or digital content. These tokens live on the blockchain and essentially embody an irrevocable certificate of ownership and authenticity for the thing they represent.
“As investors, we felt there were not enough statistics on the NFT market, but the data was there,” explains Kolan. “For example, on average, within a single NFT collection, there are over 10,000 NFTs. Investors need to be able to understand the value of these individual NFTs, and Metacent helps with this by showing them the rarity, market saturation, and transaction analysis.”
The Metacent team has been working diligently on a minimum viable product (MVP) and plans to launch it on its website soon.
One might say that Kolan and Hussain have, in the process of finding each other, also discovered their career paths. Hussain’s goal is to develop products and services that will be used by millions of people. He decided to pursue the MPCS to help him achieve this ambition.
Kolan says that the MPCS has given her a lot of confidence and just the right mix of theoretical knowledge and practical experience to make an impact in her career. She is now completing her co-op placement at Covalent, a Canadian blockchain start-up led by SFU alumnus Ganesh Swami.
“When I look back at all the things I have done, I can connect the dots to where I am today,” says Kolan. “In the upcoming years, I want to continue growing my channel and Metacent. I am also interested in developer advocate positions with a specific focus on AI and machine learning.”
Looking even further ahead, Kolan hopes to become a thought leader in the field of AI and machine learning.
If history is any indication, no big idea is out of reach for Kolan and Hussain as they continue to work hard at pursuing their dreams. And, in true “power couple” fashion, they can overcome roadblocks together and rejoice in each other’s successes along the way.