Harvard in Tech Spotlight: Nadia Masri, founder and CEO of Perksy

Jess Li
Harvard in Tech
Published in
5 min readJun 14, 2021

I spoke with Nadia Masri, founder and CEO of Perksy, a next generation market intelligence platform that leverages the power of mobile to drive real time insights from hyper-targeted, hyper-local audiences.

Nadia was born and raised in Toronto. She started her first company when she was 17 and a freshman in college in Waterloo, Canada. She was a franchise manager for College Pro, where she learned tons about hiring, training, and managing employees, handling day-to-day operations, doing marketing, and everything in between. She sold her franchise to another student before her sophomore year.

After College Pro, she founded Birdcage Magazine, a well-followed blog covering youth culture from fashion to film to music.

Following Birdcage Magazine, Nadia served as chief marketing officer and co-founder of Foursixty, a digital marketing platform for eCommerce retailers that empowers brands to monetize their community generated content. While Nadia had been a founder before, Foursixty was her first traditional tech startup experience and her first experience serving in a role other than CEO. After 1.5 years, she exited the business and went back to school to Harvard.

At Harvard, she took a marketing management class, which first exposed her to market research. While her prior experience had largely been marketing-centric within her scope as an entrepreneur — from College Pro to Birdcage to Foursity — the Harvard marketing management course exposed Nadia to a more nuanced but critical area of the larger field of marketing: marketing research. Nadia had always been a fact finder by nature. She loved sourcing hard to find information to answer even the most obscure questions when needed, so she was excited to learn that there was an entire industry — the market research industry — that was wholly dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and insights.

At the time in 2015, there was no compelling way for brands to collect meaningful feedback from younger audiences. Native mobile apps were still largely unexplored by brands and market research firms as a primary research methodology, and Nadia knew it would be a critical channel to tap into to meet Gen Z and millennials where they spent and would continue to spend most of their time.

Nadia initially created a precursor to Perksy as a final project for the marketing management class which was more focused on academic and clinical research studies, but as she explored the research space further, she knew it was what she wanted to go all in on — especially in the context of brand research and consumer insights. She saw huge potential in building the next generation of market research technologies and to connect meaningfully with the next generation of consumers and decided to pursue the path that led to Perksy.

Nadia shared her advice on being a founder, leading teams, learning new skill sets, and doing user research.

Try everything. When Nadia was starting Perksy, she knew she would need to attract and hire product and engineering talent. But in the beginning, she only had an idea and hadn’t built a product yet. Of course, product and engineering team members would be crucial in taking the product to the next level, but to find, win over, onboard, and lead the right people, she would need to build the product first. In that process, she would also build greater understanding of and empathy for product and engineering functions, which would in turn make her a better CEO for the company.

So, Nadia looked up the classes she would have taken at Harvard to learn these skill sets. She downloaded the syllabuses for each class, bought the books, and taught herself the course material. She then found some contractor friends to work on early iterations of the mobile app.

Similarly, at Foursixty, Nadia was the first marketer. It was there that Nadia learned to flex many different types of muscles within the marketing, partnerships, and business development realm and found unique ways to think about new domains as she explored each from the ground up, without too much guidance to cloud her curiosity and discovery process.

Her advice is that ultimately, regardless of what experience you have, as a founder, you’re building something entirely new each day. Each day comes with challenges, opportunities, tasks, and situations you’ve never encountered before as a founder or otherwise. To take your company to the next level, you constantly have to do things you’ve never done before. Get used to being comfortable with uncertainty through diving into the unfamiliar and learning to learn. Even with her entrepreneurial experience, most of what Nadia has needed to know building Perksy was learned on the job in founding, leading, and growing Perksy itself.

Focus on the user experience. Through building Perksy, Nadia has fully realized the power of an excellent UX. Build an interface that makes your users genuinely happy and excited. Doing so attracts and engages your audience more effectively. She wholly believes in the power of UX/UI and emphasizes how this can be a differentiator for a business and a strong competitive advantage.

Listen. When asked about conducting effective user research, Nadia shares the importance of just listening. Ultimately, she says, all people just want to be heard. Provide a space for them to share what’s on their mind. Ask questions. Show your curiosity. And show you truly care what they have to say.

Don’t follow too many playbooks. As a founder, aim to build a culture that truly resonates with you. Build the company you would want to work at every day. Find people you genuinely want to work with. Don’t try to copy culture playbooks from other companies simply because they worked for those founders. Use those ideas as inspiration for what you want to create in your company, not because it worked for them, but because it resonates with you. Find and build a culture that is authentic to you as the founder and represents a place where you would love to work.

Founder’s don’t start companies to make a quick profit — there are much easier, faster, and more certain ways to be financially well-off. Founders start companies because they have a deep belief in their vision, mission, and solution to the problem they are trying to solve. Make sure your mission and team reflect your values.

Be self-reflective. Everything moves so quickly in entrepreneurship. In just a few months, you learn more than most people do in years, so it’s important to intentionally take time to reflect. Question your assumptions. Make room for meaningful introspection. Digest your learnings. Understand how you can transform experiences into tactical lessons learned that improve your business and life.