I believe that the technology entrepreneurship ecosystem in Pakistan is at a tipping point! There are a number of factors at play that make Pakistan so ripe for both local and international investors looking to invest in the tech space:
- Quickly growing internet adoption currently estimated to be 25 million internet users and 15 million mobile internet users;
- Cheap smart phone devices costing under $50;
- 3G and 4G rollouts;
- Massive amounts of marketing and media spend by companies like Rocket Internet, Schibsted, and Naspers that’s targeted to make Pakistani consumers comfortable transacting online;
- Development of platforms like The Foundation at LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and Plan9 that are supporting passionate entrepreneurs during their formative years;
- Slow but steady investments flowing into startups at seed (e.g. Kima Ventures investment into Eyedeus Labs) and early stage (Frontier Digital Venture’s US$3.5 Million investment into PakWheels.com) from local and foreign angels as well as early-stage funds;
- Tens of millions of dollars being poured into developing pervasive electronic and online payment infrastructure in Pakistan (you have to take my word for it, but telcos and major banks will soon start announcing these plays);
- Successful entrepreneurs returning from abroad and providing mentoring to startups and building bridges for them outside of Pakistan;
- Gradual realization by seasoned businessmen and young aspiring entrepreneurs alike that internet has a massive equalizing power and they can tap into a global market of billions through online channels;
- Low cost of starting a technology business due to easy access to cloud computing platforms; massive distribution channels like the PlayStore, AppStore and Facebook; ability to create very targeted online marketing campaigns; inexpensive outsourcing of development tasks to freelancers; and quick feedback from customers to iterate and improve the products and services;
- Ease of doing a tech business in Pakistan compared to the red tape and bureaucracy that has to be dealt with while setting up an industry (in fact, software exports still enjoy a complete tax holiday in Pakistan);
- Excellent leverage on HR that tech (product) businesses provide compared to any other business and we all know that good HR is a constraint anywhere in the world;
- And lastly, because tech businesses are not as widely impacted by security, electric power shortfalls, gas load-shedding and others infrastructure issues plaguing the rest of the industries in Pakistan.
You inject a bit of capital to catalyze all this further in the 6th most populous (196 Million) country in the world, and we can have a perfect storm that can turn the Pakistani technology startups of today into the giant global businesses of tomorrow!
How long will you keep pumping money in sugar and textile mills? Let me share something that might shed some light on the opportunity that I am ranting about. The following chart compares the annual profit before taxes of a single games company based in Finland, a country with half the population of Lahore, employing only 120 people (which recently took over Nokia’s old R&D facility) with multiple publicly listed companies in Pakistan belonging to various industrial segments. Here are some eye opening inferences in case they are not readily evident:
- One mobile gaming company in a country with half the population of Lahore makes more profit before taxes than ten of the largest cement companies in Pakistan
- One mobile gaming company in a country with half the population of Lahore makes more profit before taxes than two companies that distribute natural gas to the entire Pakistan
- One mobile gaming company in a country with half the population of Lahore makes more profit before taxes than five power generation companies and two oil refineries combined
- One mobile gaming company in a country with half the population of Lahore makes more profit before taxes than nine of the top textile mills, five automobile companies and 5 sugar mills combined
Here is another chart to drive home the point.
- One mobile gaming company in a country with half the population of Lahore makes more profit before taxes than any one of the largest banks in Pakistan
- One mobile gaming company in a country with half the population of Lahore makes 6 times more profit before taxes than National Bank of Pakistan
Alright, so I have used one of the most successful games development companies for comparison, but that is besides the point. The point is, the next big games development company could be Mindstorm Studios based right here, in Lahore. The fact that it’s based in Pakistan does not minimize its chances of success. It’s as good an investment opportunity as Supercell of Finland!
One of the incubated companies at the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship, interaCta, has developed tech to make all TV and radio broadcast interactive without the need of additional hardware, just requiring smart phones. Imagine the implications! It can disrupt the TV, Radio, Advertisement, Ratings industries just to name a few. A potential acquirer wouldn’t care whether the tech was developed at Xerox or LUMS. Eyedeus Labs, another team of LUMS students, recently raised money from Kima Ventures. They are looking to disrupt online video advertisement market by introducing non-intrusive advertisement methods in the videos that do not distract the viewer. Then there is Savaree, BizClout, Burq Solutions, JewelryDesignPro, P for Plan and the list goes on. All of these are great investment opportunities seeking capital. And these are just a few of the seed stage investment opportunities.
I repeat. This is a great time to enter Pakistan. Equity in technology companies is relatively cheap, assets are portable (predominantly intellectual property) in case one gives too much weight to country risk, operations are already on cloud platforms outside of Pakistan for many, and exit opportunities exist globally. The fundamentals of the on-ground businesses are already very strong. The Karachi Stock Market index has been growing north of 40% for the past few years (30%+ in $ terms) and broke the highest ever 32,000 KSE 100 index points barrier a few days ago. Most of that is driven by foreign investment into rock solid businesses by investors who can see past the FOX news propaganda and realize that the nation, that is often deemed to be on the brink of extinction since its founding in 1947, is as resilient as it is resourceful!
It is time local investors join the party as well. Pakistan is a gold mine of opportunities for the truly visionary, local investors with large balls and an appetite for risk looking for big rewards – people who can consider and invest in the opportunities lurking underneath the veil of ‘mostly perception based’ geo-political and security issues. If you are it, sign up as an investor at http://lce.lums.edu.pk/contact-form for starters.Disclaimer: The author advises, mentors or has some sort of a non-compensatory advisory relationship with almost all the local startups listed in this article. This post reflects the author's assessment of the tech startup scene and the investment opportunities he sees in Pakistan. The owner of this blog does not necessarily agree with the contents of this guest post.
The author is Executive Director, LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship. This post was first published on techies.pk
Pakistani Brothers Spawned Multi-billion dollar security software industry
Pakistani Technologist Umar Saif in Silicon Valley
Two Pakistani Tech Start-ups in Silicon Valley Immersion Program
Riaz, what do you suggest for a small investor in $1-2 million range? How does one go about investing in these opportunities? KSE?
Anon: "Riaz, what do you suggest for a small investor in $1-2 million range? How does one go about investing in these opportunities? KSE? "
I an not an investment advisor and do not offer any investment advice. But if I were investing $1-2 million in Pakistan, I would diversify with small amounts in risky but potentially rewarding tech startups with strong founding teams and the rest in more established consumer products companies which have a track record of high profits, share price growth and dividends.
Anon: " https://hbr.org/2014/12/3-myths-about-engineering-talent-in-china-and-india "
I disagree with the premise of the HBR piece. What Indians and Chinese are working with is western technology, not homegrown tech or innovation.
However, imitation, absorption and diffusion of western technology should set the stage for homegrown innovation in Asian nations including India, China and Pakistan. It's the path well worn by the Japanese who started with immitation but are now doing serious innovation.
E-Commerce in Pakistan: The Party Has Started by Monis Rahman
Pakistan is late to the party. E-commerce is booming throughout our immediate region. India's leading e-commerce website, Flipkart, recently raised a record $1 Billion in new investment, handling 5 Million shipments each month. The website sees so much potential in mobile shopping that it has a stated goal of becoming "the mobile e-commerce company of the future".
To our north, China's e-commerce leader, Alibaba, set a global record when it listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange in September. Alibaba's Initial Public Offering raised a staggering $25 Billion, making its record-breaking IPO the biggest in the world. Today the Chinese e-commerce giant's market capitalization is over $250 Billion exceeding that of Wal-Mart, the world's largest old economy retailer. The market value of e-commerce companies in Pakistan's immediate vicinity including Turkey, the Middle East, India and China exceeds half of a trillion dollars.
But the party has indeed finally started in Pakistan as well. By 2017, the size of our e-commerce market is expected to reach over $600 Million from it's current size of $30 Million spent on online purchases annually. There are several factors driving this growth, which will dramatically change the way we buy things over the next several years.
Growth of Internet Penetration
Pakistan's Internet penetration rate historically exceeded that of India until 2009. In 2009, India launched 3G and its Internet penetration sky-rocketed. The same hockey stick growth took place in Sri Lanka's after its 3G launch in 2006. With Pakistan's long awaited entry into the 3G club a few months ago, there will be a similar burst of Internet accessibility which will further catapult online purchases.
Following the pattern of our neighbors, Pakistan's Internet enabled population will increase from 30 Million users today to 56 Million in 2019. Over the next five years, 28% of the country's citizens will have Internet access. This unprecedented reach will transform not just how consumers purchase goods, but will also significantly impact several other industries. My own online jobs classifieds site, ROZEE.PK, today processes 40,000 job applications a day and has helped over 1 Million people find jobs. Social media sites including Facebook and Twitter are transforming how we consume news and shape opinions.
Ubiquity of Access through Mobile
Along with the rise of Internet accessibility through 3G, Pakistan is simultaneously witnessing a surge in smartphone usage. There are an estimated 9 Million smartphone users in Pakistan, using handsets that are fully equipped with web browsers and online connectivity. Smartphones have become increasingly sophisticated, not only substituting many functions previously only capable through desktop and laptop computers, but also greatly increasing the ease of going online. Not only is the Internet becoming more accessible to consumers, consumers are also becoming more accessible to Internet merchants through the ubiquity of the smartphones in our pockets.
While the growth of smartphones in Pakistan is linked to the rise of Internet penetration, it is more so driven by the declining cost of increasingly sophisticated devices. Chinese companies which have traditionally manufactured devices for the world's leading mobile phone brands including Apple and Samsung, are now OEM'ing their own handsets for a fraction of the cost powered by Google's Android operating system. So significant is this trend that Samsung's third quarter profits fell by 50% as its mobile business continued to lose ground to low-cost Chinese smartphone makers.
The rise of Pakistan’s startup ecosystem: Shifting traditions and inward inspiration
Just two months ago, e-commerce company Markhor, which works with local artisans to produce high-quality men’s leather shoes, became Pakistan’s most successful Kickstarter campaign, raising seven times more than its intended goal, catching the attention of Seth Godin and GOOD Magazine.
There is no greater evidence of this positive change than in Pakistan’s burgeoning technology ecosystem. In a new report released by my company, Invest2Innovate – which was commissioned by the World Bank’s Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) – we mapped the number of startup competitions, incubators, university programs, coworking spaces and forums, and analyzed the gaps and challenges entrepreneurs continue to face in the country.
Three years ago, the ecosystem was relatively nascent, with just a handful of organizations. Today, the space is unrecognizable and brimming with constant energy and activity.
A closer look at Pakistan’s tech scene
Plan9, the country’s largest technology incubator launched by the Punjab Information Technology Board, recently announced PlanX, its new startup acceleration program. The Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), one of Pakistan’s top universities, recently graduated the first class of incubatees from its Foundation program.
The IT trade association, Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES will soon launch Nest i/o, a Karachi-based technology incubator seeded by Google, Samsung and the US Department of State. Coworking spaces like Basecamp in Peshawar, DotZero and HQ in Karachi and TechHub in Lahore are sprouting all over the country – providing space to fledgling and growing companies.
Hackathons and Startup Weekends are producing startups like Savaree (a ride-sharing application similar to Lyft) and Groopic (a photo editing application), and online publications like TechJuice and PakWired also provide constant coverage of rising companies, events and other startup-related news.
While this phenomenon is not unique to Pakistan – we are watching startup communities sprout and thrive all over the world – there are several factors that make us hopeful about the growing ecosystem.
First, Pakistani entrepreneurs have largely led the growth of Pakistan’s ecosystem. In his book, Startup Communities, author and cofounder of TechStars Brad Feld noted that leaders of a growing startup community must be entrepreneurs who have a long-term commitment to growing the ecosystem and “must be inclusive of anyone who wants to engage with the community.”
For example, DotZero, one of Pakistan’s first major coworking spaces, was cofounded by four successful technology entrepreneurs based in Karachi. The Karachi Institute of Technology & Entrepreneurship (KITE), established in by a Pakistani entrepreneur, is providing an alternative and innovative learning environment to students wishing to enter the technology sphere.
Second, though security issues, corruption, and political instability have increased the perceived risk for foreign investors, it has also in turn caused Pakistanis to look inward, build indigenous networks, and replicate models that have worked in other countries for the local market.
As a result, we’ve seen an ecosystem that is being built by Pakistanis for Pakistan. Moreover, given that 2/3 of Pakistan’s 180 million people are under 30 years old, we have a young population who are hungry and determined to change the environment around them. Young Pakistanis are launching local chapters of global brands like TEDx, Startup Weekend and Startup Grind, further fostering idea generation and the dialogue around innovation.
Pakistan-born Imran Aftab was traveling in 2004 when an AOL Time Warner colleague posed a rude question.
“Imran, you’re from Pakistan, yet you seem normal,” Aftab recalled. “What is the problem with the rest?”
Aftab, then director of global outsourcing at AOL, spent half an hour explaining that there was more to the millions of Pakistanis than the public perception after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy.
“People see all bad news. I thought, ‘How can I change things even at a small scale through business?’ ”
After that trip, the chemistry major decided to use his knowledge of outsourcing at AOL to start his own business that could make money while also helping his fellow citizens in Pakistan.
The business he created is called 10Pearls, a profitable custom software company based in Herndon, Va., and Pakistan. The company has more than 150 software experts supervised by Aftab’s brother in a 33,000-square-foot office in Karachi. Only about 15 employees work in Herndon.
Aftab creates customized software for all kinds of interfaces, including mobile platforms, kiosks and Web sites. Clients include NVR, Time Warner Cable, Discovery Education, National Geographic and Zubie, a spinoff of Best Buy.
For Zubie, 10Pearls helped develop an Android and Apple application that allows people to see where their cars are located, diagnose auto repair issues and track historical routes.
Although 10Pearls is relatively small, with revenues of less than $10 million, Aftab said it has been profitable since it began 11 years ago making Web pages for handyman businesses.
The company, which Aftab calls a social experiment, reminds me of the “double bottom line” businesses that Washington sports mogul Ted Leonsis espouses. That refers to business that earns profits while accomplishing some social good.
“I see that business causes positive impact,” said Aftab, who makes three visits a year to his native country. “It can change things even at a small scale. Business is a good way for people to learn about each other.”
“I see that business causes positive impact,” said Aftab, who makes three visits a year to his native country. “It can change things even at a small scale. Business is a good way for people to learn about each other.”
The enterprise isn’t all about altruism.
Pakistan is a good candidate for outsourcing because of its large English-speaking population — 180 million or so — that is tech-savvy, has mathematical skills and whose labor costs are far below that of the United States and other developed countries.
He knew the bigger money was in developing software applications, but he had to build experience first. He quit AOL Time Warner in 2005 and worked as a consultant while he grew 10Pearls.
Bigger contracts started coming in, including one from a big telecommunications firm that needed help. During the Great Recession that started in 2008, business stagnated and 10Pearls pivoted to mobile applications.
“I could see that mobile was going to grow explosively,” he said.
The company’s big break arrived in 2011, when it won a highly competitive contract to build a mobile application for Social Radar, a Washington company started by Blackboard co-founder Michael Chasen. A key part of Social Radar’s business is that the app allows users to interact with people in the immediate vicinity.
The deal with Chasen helped establish 10Pearls’ credibility. That led to more and larger mobile app contracts....
Farhan Masood, founder of SoloInsight, has been given the prestigious award of Entrepreneur of the year at Open Karachi’s flagship event eCon14. Masood is a name known to everyone in the tech industry for he has been scoring plethora of achievements for the country and himself.
eCon14 happened earlier today at Karachi where entrepreneurs and business leaders participated from all over the country. The event provide networking opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs in order to build an Entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan.
Masood was given the award of Entrepreneur of the year in recognition to his contribution, commitment, and performance. He is the role model for all the up and coming aspiring entrepreneurs of Pakistan. Earlier this year, during an interview on Voice of America, he discussed his entrepreneurial journey, his struggles of starting from scratch and rising from ashes to secure 3 million dollars of investment and then finally moving the business to America with fancy clientele all over the world.
SoloInsight Inc. is an innovative electronics engineering and IT company working in the fields of research and development of diverse intelligent pattern recognition technologies and products. As a technology provider with core expertise in computer vision, Solometrics provides the development of technologies and solutions related to the human recognition that targets the security market. Leveraging the most advanced multi model biometric platform for face & retina recognition, our solutions provide a circle of trust around all aspects of the identity and the credentials assigned to it. This includes enrollment, registration, usage, access and reporting.
SoloInsight has specialized in Face, Eyes and Fingerprint recognition based Access Control hardware, software and integrated solutions. We have successfully catered our solutions to environments where other biometric devices did not work efficiently. Face and Retina Recognition is getting more popular because its performance has improved radically over the years. SoloInsight is amongst the pioneers in biometrics industry. Having reached accuracy rates of around 99%.
36 startups in Asia that caught our eye (21 December 2014 #Pakistan's #Savaree ranked #1 in Asia
http://techin.asia/1sVE1Mw via @Techinasia
Plan X is arguably the largest startup accelerator in Pakistan. It was born out of Plan 9, which is the top startup incubator in the country. Plan X launched in September 2014. It has taken in a number of startups, most of which graduated from Plan 9 and have already gained momentum and attracted funding.
Hafsa Shorish is the Plan X program manager. She is not new to the startup world, having previously headed Plan 9’s marketing and PR. “For me it’s the natural step forward. I loved every bit of my stay at Plan 9 and even now I sometimes get that nostalgic feeling every time a new batch of startups comes in. The role here at Plan X is different and challenging in a different way,” Shorish tells Tech in Asia.
But how are the two entities different for the startups in Pakistan’s fledgling startup ecosystem? “The fundamental difference between Plan 9 and Plan X is that the first one is an incubation program where we take idea-level startups and help them build a viable product and business out of it,” Shorish explains. She adds:
Plan X is an accelerator, and startups here already have a product and some customers too. We help them accelerate on that to gain more customers. The push at Plan X is expansion and funding, if it is required, rather than building a solid product. If you don’t have a product and some customers already, Plan X won’t do any good to you. […] Apart from that there is no other criteria. If you can prove those two things we are most likely to let you in.
Plan X – backed by the Punjab IT Board, and headed by Dr. Umar Saif – is different from many other accelerators in that it doesn’t take any equity. During the program, each individual startup is allocated one dedicated startup industry mentor and one business analyst to help them do ground work and give practical advice.
Recently, the Plan X team started collaborating with big companies like Nestle in order to find areas where startups can work with such massive corporations in terms of doing business, offering perks, offering mentorship, or even investing.
These are the startups in the current Plan X batch:
Bookme.pk is well known to Tech in Asia readers as the startup that’s looking to be Pakistan’s go-to site for booking cinema, travel and event tickets. Currently it’s operational in three major cities: Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
The idea behind X-Gear is that drivers want to know their vehicles better. X-Gear is a little gizmo and an app that, once installed, will give a car’s river useful information about the vehicle to make informed decisions about its maintenance and the way it’s being driven.
The startup is also targeting the fleet industry, which can use the product to better manage their vehicles.
X-Gear was recently selected to participate at TNW’s startup boost event in Europe. While the team didn’t win, it was a chance to gain some traction and attract influencers in the industry.
Startups in Asia – or any other developed country, for that matter – often complain of a lack of talent in their respective countries. Yet Pakistan boasts of a massive freelancing population. In 2013, there were reportedly 2 million Pakistani freelancers on oDesk, making it the fifth largest contributor globally. oDesk vice president Matt Cooper told The Express Tribune that the “quality of projects delivered by Pakistani freelancers is at par with our top freelancer countries from around the globe.”
Pakistan is slowly but surely joining the high-speed internet world as well. It was late to the game with 3G and 4G mobile services. The latter arrived only in April last year, but ended 2014 with close to 8 million subscribers – slightly more than Singapore, who first got 4G in early-2013. Meanwhile, another 15 million people access the internet from their mobile phones – that’s half of the total number of internet users in the country. It is expected that the number of broadband subscribers will rise to 45 million by 2020.
There are a number of local startups who have made a name for themselves on the world stage, too. Enterprise social network Convo, who raised US$5 million from a US-based VC firm Morgenthaler Ventures in 2013, is widely hailed as an example of Pakistani ingenuity. Morgenthaler Ventures has invested in big names such as Apple and Evernote.
Fashion-with-a-mission startup Popinjay has produced a series of high-end handbags that have received rave reviews from several national and international media platforms, and even in fashion shows. Online car portal PakWheels also recently grabbed US$3.5 million from Malaysia-based VC Frontier Digital Ventures.
See: Popinjay dreams of making poverty a thing of the past for Pakistani women
More importantly, the high-flying founders of these startups constantly mentor and give advice to the next generation in local startup programs and competitions, of which there are many.
The pieces are in place
Tech in Asia held its first meetup event in Lahore at Arfa Software Technology Park, a grey mass of buildings that we would end up spending most of our time in. Security here is tight – my colleagues and I passed through a grand total of four checks before getting the all-clear, and were asked where we were from multiple times.
Jazib Zahir, founder of games studio Tintash, tells us that it is generally the case for establishments that the government considers to be of national importance. Despite being a regular in the premises, Zahir himself had to show his identification card along for verification purposes, as did other locals.
Much like Singapore’s Block 71, these buildings are home to many local startups, many of which are housed in the resident accelerators and incubators. These organizations account for many of the current batch of budding Pakistani startups, and hence quite literally hold up the local startup ecosystem.
The Punjab Information Technology Board – a governmental body – is responsible for the development of two key programs located here: PlanX and Plan9. As the names suggest, the two are close relatives – PlanX is an accelerator born out of Plan9’s incubation program. While the latter focuses on idea-stage startups, only those who have a product and are looking to expand further can join the former.
A round of introductions at PlanX’s quaint working space reveals startups with raw but fascinating products. Several of them have in fact gone on show and won accolades at international startup events, such as Startup Turkey and Startup Asia – these trips are fully sponsored by the government. PlanX’s BookMe, for example, was one of the finalists at Tech in Asia’s Arena competition in Jakarta last year.
Popinjay dreams of making poverty a thing of the past for Pakistani women
As a student fortunate enough to be studying in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and so geographically separated from these realities – the story deeply impacted her. Even though she managed to land a six-figure engineering job after graduation, Saba couldn’t get the story out of her mind.
“In addition, I had always carried within me a deep love for the beautiful craft techniques I saw in Pakistan, where I grew up, as well as in my travels around the world – India, Bhutan, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka,” she recounts. “I felt that this talent was stunted due to a lack of opportunities and connections to larger markets.”
So in 2011 – when America was still recovering from the effects of a terrible recession – Saba decided to return to her homeland and try to make a difference. She unwittingly stumbled upon her life’s mission in the process.
“I started a pilot in Pakistan to provide young women access to basic education and livelihoods. As it started gaining traction in the local community, I realized that it lit my fire like nothing had before,” she says. “Quitting my job after that was a no-brainer.”
The pilot program – which evolved into a full-fledged non-profit organization called BLISS – involved after-school classes in which girls learnt embroidery and needlework. Their embroidered fabric would then be sent to local producers to be finished into high-quality handbags, which were sold in boutiques. The proceeds would be used to fund the girls’ education, as well as recruit other students.
Their handiwork soon became extremely popular with customers not just locally, but from all over the world. In an article on Medium, Saba recalls an encouraging note from a customer from Canada:
I’ve never loved a thing as much as I love my BLISS bag. You make bags that change the world! People ask about it because it is so unusual, so lovely; it is embroidered art. When I tell them the story of families lifted economically, the bag becomes so much more beautiful.
In addition, the handbags were featured in several national and international media platforms, and even in fashion shows. On the surface, it seemed like a success, but there was a deeper issue that had Saba worrying behind closed doors – how the team was going to go about “scaling up our model after the initial proof of concept.” At that time, the BLISS team had a grand total of two people, with just 40 artisan women under its wings.
A massive overhaul of both business model and mindsets was what came next as BLISS was re-branded into the for-profit Popinjay, and came online in late 2013. The name is a Middle English word that means parrot.
“We chose a parrot because it is an animal that is associated with a voice,” Saba explains. “Our parrot stands for the voice of good fashion, the voice of the artisan women whose skills and stories we spread, and the voice of the consumer who wants to create positive impact with their purchase.” https://www.techinasia.com/popinjay-make-poverty-history-pakistani-women/
Has the plan X, planned investment in food sector?
Khan: " Has the plan X, planned investment in food sector?"
You can ask Umar Saif direcly via his twitter account: @umarsaif
Mariam Adil, a young entrepreneur, is making waves in the Pakistani gaming industry.
According to recent data, Pakistan's software industry employs more than 24,000 people, including many startups like Mindstorm Studios by Ahmed, We R Play by Mohsin Ali Afzal and Waqar Azim, and the now famous Caramel Tech Studios in Lahore. Pakistan's developers have achieved new renown thanks to games like “Whacksy Taxi”, which has become one of the most downloaded App Store games in 25 different countries, and other projects like “Stick Cricket”. Firms hold regular “game jams” in Lahore to attract innovators with competitions between young would-be game developers. Jobs at these companies are highly coveted by young people: the workday ends around 4pm, and employees often hang out together afterwards, literally playing games!
Mariam Adil is one of the dynamic women leading this new era of entrepreneurialism in Pakistan, perhaps the country's best-kept secret. While most of the world probably thinks of all Pakistani women as oppressed and chained down by society, there are dozens of bright women entrepreneurs managing incubators and programs in Pakistan today.
Adil is the founder of the Gaming Revolution for International Development (“GRID”), a game development startup that designs low-cost video games to simulate common issues in development fieldwork and teach development skills. Its game “Randomania” serves up scenarios that any development-sector professional can relate to and encourages policy decisions, showing the results of those decisions. Stereowiped, on the other hand, is a boundary-breaker when it comes to race and barriers of prejudice and is a great example of what social impact games can achieve.
Faisal Kapadia recently spoke to Adil about her work and much more.
Faisal Kapadia (FK): Why did you think of forming a company like the grid to solve issues when there is plenty of opportunity available for game developers commercially?
Mariam Adil (MA): Born out of pure inspiration, GRID hits at a niche market and gives me the flexibility to think creatively about pushing the boundaries of technology innovations for creating development solutions. It was less driven by a need to earn money and more by my passion for the idea.
FK: While developing Randomania did you do a lot of research on different situations faced by professionals in the development sector?
MA: My day job at the World Bank allows me to have my hand on the pulse. Having designed and implemented several Impact Evaluations, I am familiar with the challenges that practitioners face while designing randomized control trials. This perspective, put together with feedback from some very supportive colleagues at the World Bank allowed us to make sure Randomania could do justice to the challenges of rigorously evaluating development projects.
FK: What kind of impact do you think a game like Randomania can have? Does it lead to as a test case more cohesive thought or efficiency?
MA: In my opinion, there is a gap between the science of International Development taught to students and development practitioners, and the art of development practiced by professionals in the field. Until now, there have been few tools to bridge that gap – to provide the experiential learning required to practice complex decision-making, at a scale well beyond one to one interaction.
Games like Randomania offer a safe environment to simulate the effects of policies and understand the trade-offs involved in the decision-making process. With a push towards innovative use of technology in international development, and the effectiveness of games as learning tools, the stage is set for development games to be introduced as learning tools for development practitioners and students.
If you have ever doubted that the mother of invention is necessity, then look no further than Pakistan.
Pakistan has struggled to provide opportunities to its people for decades. But the country is turning the tide.
People in Pakistan are determined to define their destiny. They are using all of the resources at their disposal to tackle their challenges..
When Madeeha Hassan, a young entrepreneur from a small town found herself in Lahore, one of the largest Pakistani cities, she was a bit scared. She thought everyone was smarter than her. At times, she wanted to run back to her home town.
After completing her studies, she started to work as a user interface designer. Her office was far from where she lived. It was hard to find a reliable mode of transportation. So she and few of her friends, created Savaree, Pakistan's first ridesharing app. The app resolved her carpooling problems and those of many others too.
It's just not young people who are innovating. Public administrators are doing it too.
In 2011, dengue fever engulfed Pakistan and killing hundreds of people. By 2012, Pakistanis had created an app to ensure people were treated rapidly and resources to combat dengue were mobilized efficiently. In 2012, there were 80 times fewer cases of dengue fever in Lahore than in 2011.
In Pakistan, there has been remarkable progress in rebuilding trust between citizens and public administrators. Pakistan's Punjab Citizen Feedback Model is leveraging the power of mobile phones, SMS and personal phone calls.
Let's say, for example, you went to a government office in Punjab to register your property. An official "records your mobile number, along with other details of the transaction." This information is sent to "local call officers" and to a call center.
Later, a local officer will call you asking about your experience registering your property. And there are call centers that call thousands of people who use public services. As of April 2014, "more than 4 million citizens of Pakistan had been contacted" and asked about their experiences with "the departments of revenue, health, and education."
These responses are entered into the system to make public services better.
This progress comes in contrast with how Pakistan is viewed as a place of conflict. But as evidence shows, we are witnessing how public administrators and youth are taking steps towards realizing Pakistan 2.0: where people can fulfil their dreams and have the opportunity to reach their potential.
Technology is not only serving as a tool for the government to leapfrog the way it conducts its business, but, as you might have guessed, it's also helping youth become job creators and problem solvers.
In 2013, more than 70% of the population had mobile phones, most of them costing under $60.
Today more than 60% of Pakistanis are under the age of 30. Unemployment, especially, among youth remains high. With no jobs, and lack of opportunities youth are taking it upon themselves to create opportunities, as Hassan did.
As administrators, and public, especially youth, commit to innovating and improving Pakistan, we are bound to see Pakistan 2.0 in the near future.
The digital youth summit happening in May in Peshawar, a diverse and dynamic city of Pakistan, is just one more step towards the quest to make Pakistan more prosperous and stable. At the summit, participants will focus on technology entrepreneurship, on-line work and 'tech for social' innovation.
Why #technology entrepreneurs are setting up shop in #Karachi #Pakistan #SiliconValley
http://to.pbs.org/1EtWSwR via @NewsHour
The country (Pakistan) is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of young people.
Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro met with some innovators in the capital, Karachi, who are hoping that generation will fuel Pakistan’s rise to becoming a high-tech powerhouse.
The story is part of our Agents for Change series.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s one of Asia’s fastest growing tech start-up companies. This team of Web site developers is on a project for Coca-Cola.
UMAIR AZIZ, Tech Entrepreneur: So, this is going to go up in 27, 28 different markets.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Umair Aziz, the founder, can name-drop other blue-chip American clients.
UMAIR AZIZ: Sears. We have worked with Amazon in the past. We have worked with Microsoft. We worked with Intel.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: One secret to his success — actually, it’s pretty much a secret, period — is where this company, called Creative Chaos, is located, Karachi, the teeming and indeed chaotic commercial capital of Pakistan, a country beset by terrorist violence and political instability, a city that ranks as one of the world’s most violent.
UMAIR AZIZ: We don’t want to be out of the race by advertising that we’re based in Pakistan. There’s a very negative stigma associated with the country.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: So, prospective customers see nothing on Creative Chaos’ Web site about its location. Technically, it’s headquartered in San Francisco. They soon learn that almost all workers are in Pakistan. Once hired, Aziz says, his company has never been removed from a job.
UMAIR AZIZ: People in the U.S. really don’t know that there’s a world outside of Talibans, and there’s a world outside of, you know, everything that they hear on CNN and BBC all the time.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It’s in that world that Aziz carved out a profitable niche. Back in 2000, he was fresh out of college in Ohio and working for a Boston tech firm when he decided to return to his native Karachi.
UMAIR AZIZ: I knew there were hundreds and thousands of people like me who could join, you know, my organization. It was a risk, but I was betting on the talent. I was betting on people just like me.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: His is one of a handful of thriving Pakistani start-ups, designing Web sites, databases and applications for global clients. The tech sector is seeing a healthy 35 percent annual growth and Aziz expects his firm to grow fivefold by 2020.
In raw numbers, though, that talent pool could be a lot larger, says Jehan Ara, herself a tech entrepreneur.
JEHAN ARA, President, The Nest: The country is about 200 million people, and 70 percent of them below the age of 30. So it’s a very young population. So, the potential is amazing. How to channel that potential is something that we are all sort of thinking about.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Ara is leading an effort to scout that talent, trying to create what the technology business calls an ecosystem to foster creativity and new business.
This is The Nest. It’s one of a handful of so-called incubators that have been built in Pakistan. Here, 13 teams of techies chosen from more than a hundred applicants are working on what a panel of judges decided were promising business ideas.
JEHAN ARA: We are looking for young people who’ve developed a minimum viable product themselves while at home or at university and we know that they are committed to doing this. And then, once they get here, then we can help them further.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For Pakistan, this is a rare work environment, and not just because it’s offered for free to these would-be tech titans. They have reliable power, broadband and hardware many could not afford on their own, plus a connection to global resources from donors to the facility, including Google and Samsung
Bookme.pk, a young Pakistani startup, has raised the first round of investment at a valuation of 4 million dollars. Bookme is the fastest and most convenient way, available in Pakistan, to book cinema or bus tickets online from a website or a mobile application. The startup has gained several accolades and has been in the news for all the great reasons. Just last year, it managed to secure seed funding at Startup Turkey event.
Now Bookme has raised the investment from Element Ventures as well. Faizan, Founder & CEO of Bookme, didn’t disclose the amount but has given a hint that the investment is in 6 digits.
See also: Young Startup, Interacta raises 220K USD as seed funding
Meanwhile, Faisal Sherjan, Director Jang Group (GEO TV) has resigned GEO to join Bookme as Director. Faisal has been associated with media industry for more than 30 years and has also been actively mentoring Bookme and several other startups since the very beginning. Faizan believes that the experience, network and guidance of Faisal will take Bookme a long way. Since the team is planning to launch the services and expand operations in several other cities of Pakistan. Faisal, as the director, will be of great help and support.
Bookme has pursued several big targets in a matter of few months. The startup has made partnerships will all major media groups in Pakistan such as GEO, ARY, Hum TV. All these channels have been airing Bookme application advertisements with every upcoming movie promotion. These media groups are also using Bookme application as back end which is helping the startup generate more sales without spending too much on the marketing end.
See also:Rozee.pk raises $6.5 million in Series C venture funding from Vostok Nafta and Piton Capital
This update is the latest addition to the achievement list of Bookme, the startup also partnered with Microsoft Pakistan recently. According to the contract, all the upcoming Windows Phones by Microsoft will have Bookme application pre-installed thereby, increasing the reach and audience of the application. Moreover, Bookme has also dispersed its widgets in almost all the popular websites, thus, helping people buy tickets without navigating out of the website.
This news comes at a time when we’re seeing several local and intl. investors finally taking interest in the technology and startup industry of Pakistan. Here is a quick timeline of the major achievements of Bookme in the past months.
Integrated Biometrics Tech To Track Teachers Attendance in #Pakistan. #Education
Integrated Biometrics technology is helping the Pakistan Education Department to identify teachers in remote villages, the company has announced. Pakistani authorities are using the company’s Columbo fingerprint scanner to match the identities of 150,000 teachers in rural and remote areas against its own database.
The project is funded by the World Bank, with the Integrated Biometrics technology having been selected by contractor Intellitech, which is said to have considered multiple options before settling on the Columbo scanner.
The Columbo fingerprint scanner is FBI-compliant and uses light emitting sensor (LES) technology allowing it to function well in a range of environments. Its technology has proven appealing in a range of applications, with the scanner having been integrated into BETHCOM access control systems and Mobizent’s Intermec CN70e mobile device.
The case of the Pakistan Education Department is a little different, of course. The aim of the project is to develop real-time attendance monitoring in schools in remote villages, which of course could have very positive impacts in the country’s education system. Speaking in a press release, Integrated Biometrics CEO Steve Thies commented, “The fact that our products are being used to improve education for hundreds of thousands of children is incredibly humbling and rewarding.”
Investors pledge over $4 million in startups at LUMS Investors’ Summit in #Lahore #Pakistan http://bit.ly/1PRqITM via @techjuicepk
A total of 10 startups presented their businesses to local and international investors in an exclusive event arranged at LUMS
LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE), the university’s flagship experiential development platform for entrepreneurs held an exclusive investor event to mark the graduation of their third cohort of startups graduating from The Foundation incubator.
It is to be noted here that LCE also arranged an investors summit after the completion of their first cycle. Which was attended by the big names of business industry of Pakistan. Interacta of the same batch has raised 220,000 dollars as investment.
These startups went through an intense, 4-months-long, startup development bootcamp at LUMS and have been mentored by some of the best in the industry. The startups were selected by an elite, independent panel of business leaders 4 months ago after a nation-wide search.
The Foundation Investors Summit, which was held at the Rausing Executive Development Center in LUMS was the annual investor event organized by the LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship. The event included a mix of both local and international investors who came to show support to these businesses including Salman Amin of Jhonson and Sons, Ali Mukhtar of Fatima Group, Aezaz Hussain of Systems Limited, Farooq Nasim of Gree Pak and Syed Babar Ali amongst others.
Startups that pitched their businesses at the summit included
Jewelry Design Pro, a startup that provides a virtual global jewelry marketplace for trading any digitally downloadable design,
Repair Desk, a cloud based ERP for mobile phone repair,
HealthWire, an e-commerce startup that is increasing the accessibility of doctors and patients,
BeautyHooked, an online platform to connect women to beauty services,
Wedding Graphers, a branded, economical wedding graphing facility in Lahore.
Chinyot.com, the first of its kind online furniture and home décor retail brand in Pakistan,
AliffIqra, Pakistan’s first online Quran assistance program,
King Kashmiri Tea, a revolution in the traditional Kashmiri tea in the form of teabags,
Teachus.pk, an online portal to provide home tuition services by connecting students and tutors
Technician.pk, platform to provide repair and maintenance of electric appliances.
The LUMS Investors Summit opened with an introduction of LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) and the impact that it has created in the past one year.
#MIT #technology review to be published in #Pakistan. https://shar.es/17UNoT via @SciDevNet_SA
The launch of a Pakistani edition of the MIT Technology Review is expected to boost peer-reviewed research on science and technology as well as entrepreneurship in this country.
“Pakistan needs a credible publication for science and technology — one that talks about real technology issues, publishes actual science and informs tech-savvy youth in Pakistan about the latest technology trends and innovations around the world,” says Umar Saif, vice chancellor of the Information Technology University (ITU), Lahore.
Saif, a former alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge USA, was instrumental in winning affiliation for the Pakistan edition that was officially launched on 19 September by ITU, the publisher.
Saif says he expects the publication to help discourage false claims such as the one made by a Pakistani scientist in 2012 that he had invented a car capable of running on water — which had officials lauding it as something that had ‘brought about a revolution in the world of science.’
“I felt it was my responsibility to give Pakistan a credible forum to talk about real science. I immediately took steps to get in conversation with MIT Technology Review – it took a couple of years to get here…”
The launching team hopes the publication will benefit researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs of Pakistan who needed a credible, internationally recognised forum to showcase their work to a broader audience.
“The main areas of focus are energy, ICT4D, and entrepreneurship, however, these are to begin with…we will diversify as we go steadily in print and build our team’s capacity to focus on more areas that concern Pakistan,” explains Saif.
The inaugural edition highlights Pakistan’s energy woes of Pakistan in a cover story by leading journalist Jawwad Rizvi. “We are hoping the project becomes self-sustainable within a couple of years of its operation (via ads and subscription fee) and is no longer dependent on research grants,” Saif says.
Prof. Sarmad Hussain, who heads the Centre of Language Engineering, University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, says that apart from providing credibility to creative work done in the country and encouraging researchers to showcase their work, the new publication will help the “formation of linkages with international research organisations.”
I’m waiting for my interview with Dr Umar Saif, chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), outside his offices on the 11th floor of a glistening building in the heart of Lahore.
There is an air of nervous trepidation – it is my first time interviewing someone associated with the government, and the common stereotype suggests it will be difficult to have a relaxed and comfortable talk. While I am aware of Dr Saif’s credentials – he received his doctorate in computer science from Cambridge at the age of 22 and then taught at MIT before moving back to Pakistan – I am unsure of what to expect. I hope for the best.
Read: Success story: Local property venture raises $9m in funding
As I am ushered into the office by his secretary, Dr Saif greets me with a firm handshake and indicates that I should take a seat and wait a few minutes longer. He has a beautiful, sprawling office with a mesmerizing view of the city and I take the opportunity to cater to my amateur photography hobby. Dr Saif remains hunkered down on his desk, typing away furiously on a computer and attending to calls.
After what seems like an eternity, but in reality is only about ten minutes, Dr Saif gets up from his chair and makes his way towards me. I am immediately caught off guard; there’s a smile on his face and he seems warm, welcoming, and jovial.
I try my usual tactic of asking a few ice-breaking questions to lighten the atmosphere and make the interviewee feel at ease. However, he is having none of it. Dr Saif is first interested in finding out more about myself. He wants to know where I went to college, my career trajectory so far, and my passions in life. I am taken aback – it is very rare for people to exhibit genuine interest. Most are obsessed with their own or their company’s publicity and leave no stone unturned to elaborate how they are the next big thing.
MIT and beyond
Frankly speaking, it wouldn’t have been much of an exaggeration if Dr Saif claimed that about himself. He is a perennial overachiever, finishing high school at 16, graduating from college at 19, and eventually completing his doctorate at an age when most are still struggling to understand which line of work to enter. At MIT, where he started his postdoc, he was part of Project Oxygen, a visionary project trying to fundamentally redesign the way mankind interacts with machines. Dr Saif’s work on the project focused on ubiquitous computing, building embedded operating systems for mobile platforms.
Read: Pakistan-based real estate portal raises $9 million in series B financing
After several years teaching and researching at MIT, Dr Saif moved back to Pakistan. He tells me it was not an easy decision at all – up until that time he had been solely focused on an academic career and that requires a “certain type of lifestyle.” Nevertheless, it was a combination of his desire to assist his country of birth and pressing family commitments which resulted in the decision. This was in 2005.
Later that year, Dr Saif accepted a faculty position at his alma mater – the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). He was eager to replicate some of the things he had learned during his time at MIT and started working with some of his brightest students to develop scalable, innovative solutions. One of these was SMSall, a text message-based social network that he claims has sent billions of messages since it was first rolled out. Another was BitMate, a bittorrent client specifically engineered for people in countries with low bandwidth. As a result of his work, in 2011, the MIT Technology Review named him as one of their ‘World’s Top Young Innovators’ – the first Pakistani to be bestowed this honour.
13 #technology #startup incubators, accelerators and workspaces in #Pakistan http://techin.asia/1k1TBSX via @techinasia
ttitudes towards entrepreneurship have changed drastically in Pakistan in the past few years, partly fueled by the success of startups in the region as well as broadening access to the internet.
Just a couple of years ago, budding entrepreneurs in Pakistan would have found it difficult to gain access to mentors, business training, and investors due to the lack of interest in encouraging disruptive startups. Now, however, the landscape has changed and startup founders have a choice when determining which incubator to reach out to.
In no particular order, here are some incubators and accelerators making an impact in Pakistan.
Plan9, The Nest I/O, LUMS Center For Entrepreneurship, i2i, PlanX, Microsoft Innovation Center, Technology Incubation Center, DotZero, BaseCamp, Founders Institute, NSpire, Tech Incubator and WeCreate Pakistan
UAE Sheikh Al-Nahyan invests $5.4 million in #Pakistan-based Mobile Payments start-up Inov8 http://tribune.com.pk/story/981926/dubai-sheikh-invests-5-4-million-in-pakistan-based-start-up/ …
A Sheikh from the UAE has invested $5.4 million in Pakistan’s fastest-growing mobile payments company, Inov8 Limited.
His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, is the sole investor in the company’s Series A round, investing $5.4 million in the company which has achieved a valuation in excess of $100 million.
“I have invested in multiple mobile payments and commerce initiatives, and I find the depth of the management, the product platform, and the vision of the founders to be the best I have come across. I look forward to being an integral part of their success story,” Al Nahayan said.
Inov8 Limited is the region’s fastest growing mobile payments company and a dominant player in Pakistan’s market. With its award winning products and services, the company is set to expand to Africa and the Middle East.
“Sheikh Al Nahayan is an avid investor in the industry and understands it quite well,” CEO and co-Founder of the company, Hasnain A Sheikh said while speaking to The Express Tribune, adding that “we are in a strong partnership with Wateen Telecom (owned by Al Nahayan) which is how the investment came about.”
“This round of funding is testament to the massive upsurge in the demand for Inov8 products and services across the region, which has been phenomenal over the last 18 months,” he said.
Meanwhile, co-founder and president, Bashir Sheikh said,”We will be utilising our funds for our growth across the Middle East and Africa region with an expectation to raise a much larger Series B round in the near future. We will be looking to grow organically and via acquisition, for businesses, products and teams.”
ommenting on the future goals of the company, Hasnain said there is one simple goal, adding that “the company aims to become the number one mobile payments company in the world by 2020.”
“Inov8 has been working to grow the mobile payments industry in Pakistan since 2004. Today we have one of the largest offerings of products and services as well as one of the biggest client portfolios in the region,” he said earlier.
With Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak being the sole investor in the company, Inov8′s headquarters have moved to the UAE, while maintaining some of its presence in the UK.
The region’s leading mobile commerce and payments provider has partnered with a leading aggregator operating in North America and the region, Monami, to offer internet payments in Pakistan. The funding received, along with the post money valuation should pave way for further investment in the country’s burgeoning technology industry.
This is the first time that leading names including Google Play Store, Apple, AppStore, iTunes and Skype, among 50 others, are being made available locally to Pakistani consumers; under this large portfolio of investments.
#Urdu and #English language versions of MIT #Technology review launched online in #Pakistan http://disq.us/8rqepu
Karachi—MIT Technology has launched technology review in Pakistan to spread science & technology awareness to a wider local audience in the aims to foster entrepreneurship and Innovation in Pakistan. This is the latest initiative in a series to create impact in Pakistan. Mr. Jason Pontin, CEO, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of MIT Tech Review, Ken Morse, Founding MD of MIT Entrepreneurship Center and Farrokh Captain, Chairman, MIT Enterprise Forum of Pakistan and . Umar Saif, chairman PITB, Vice chancellor ITU and Editor of Tech Review Pakistan addressed the press at a local hotel in Karachi recently about MIT’s role as a technology leader and its initiative to impart latest knowledge of technology to accelerate adoption of innovation and development of entrepreneurial culture in Pakistan.
The latest initiative in this is to launch MIT Technology Review (TR) in Urdu and English language with the intent to create a new tech generation in Pakistan fully aware of what is happening around the world in technology and innovation. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Pontin noted, “Whenever I visited Pakistan, I realized that here was lack of realism, technology based content that could provide guidance to the local technologists, academia, researchers, scientists and journalism analysis.
“In 2013, I had promised that I will bring the world famous MIT Technology Review (TR) to Pakistan, I am extremely happy to note that after almost two years of extremely hard work we have been able to launch the English & Urdu version of MIT Technology Review Pakistan (TR). With the Pakistan edition the educated and tech-savvy youth of this country can know about the latest technology trends and innovations around the world.
Equally, researchers and innovators and entrepreneurs of Pakistan can show case their work to the international community through this world famous technical magazine.” Mr. Morse, founding father of MIT Entrepreneurship Center, indicated that technology entrepreneurship can be a game changer for Pakistan.
Quoting Economist Intelligence Unit he said, “Waves of technically trained young people — steeped in the latest theories and techniques, and honed by some of the smartest minds in science and technology — do more for raising a country’s industrial competitiveness than all the tax breaks, development aid, and government initiatives put together.” Adding to this he said,” we need to be infected with entrepreneurship virus to gain success. If you have a lot up startups, it’s logical to have a lot of failures.”
Team #Pakistan wins 3 Gold, 1 Silver at #technology awards at #APICTA2015 in #Colombo #SriLanka http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/23-Nov-2015/team-pakistan-picks-3-gold-1-silver-at-technology-awards-in-colombo …
The Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES delegation comprised of 50 members with 22 technology products, competing for the prestigious APICTA Awards against 197 products from 17 countries of the region.
Sri Lankan Minister for Telecom and Digital Infrastructure Harin Fernando was the chief guest at the awards ceremony, which was also graced by the High Commissioner of Pakistan in Sri Lanka Major General (retired) Syed Shakeel Hussain. Leading the way with the Gold were the teams from Eyedeus Labs for their new product “Ingrain”, Evamp & Sanga for their product Mobile Audio Streaming Service and students from the NUST College of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering for their research project Active and Intelligent Powered Ankle Foot Prosthesis for Trans-tibial Amputees.
The Silver Award was taken by a very young team from The Nest Technology Incubator in Karachi for their project Teddict. The winners from the Asia Pacific compete in this three-day regional event were judged by industry professionals, technology veterans and thought leaders from the APAC region.
International APICTA Judges from 17 countries who evaluated the categories in which Pakistan participated spoke about the consistently high standard of technology products presented by Pakistan, year after year. This year Team Pakistan performed superbly, with young people once again taking the lead. With the support of Samsung and Google for Entrepreneurs, P@SHA was able to take to Colombo, a number of young teams of Pakistani IT professionals under the banner of Team Pakistan.
The objective was to bring them face-to-face with the best technology companies, professionals and students in the Asia Pacific, to provide an opportunity to meet and form potential partnerships with each other and to attract business and possible investment.
Dressed in their green Team Pakistan t-shirts, the team from Pakistan created impact by putting up a great show. The international judges commended the members of team Pakistan for displaying high caliber of work which truly represented Pakistan’s booming tech sector. They were absolutely blown away by the younger members that took part in the Tertiary Student Category and the Secondary School Project category.
While speaking on the occasion, P@SHA President Jehan Ara said, “The P@SHA ICT Awards – a P@SHA signature event for the past 12 years, has provided a platform to show the world what technology companies and young people in Pakistan are capable of. This year we have once again proven that our products can be benchmarked against the best in the region.”
12 #startups from #Pakistan that raised funding in 2015. #technology https://www.techinasia.com/12-startups-pakistan-raised-funding-2015/#.VnLYJej4wBk.twitter …
1. Zamzama Property Group
Zamzama Property Group, which is the parent company of real estate sites Zameen and Bayut, raised US$9 million in series B financing, marking the largest investment in a Pakistan-based startup this year.
2. Naseeb Networks
Naseeb Networks is the holding company of job portals Rozee and Mihnati, concentrating on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, respectively. The startup raised a US$6.5 million series C round, bringing its total funding to US$8.5 million.
Wifigen, a startup that provides wifi solutions for businesses in exchange for social media logins, raised an undisclosed amount of seed investment valuing the company at US$1 million. The angel investor behind this round is John Russell Patrick – a former executive at IBM and an early-stage investor in Uber.
Bookme, an online platform for booking bus, cinema, and event tickets, secured an undisclosed amount of seed investment from Element Ventures, which valued the company at US$4 million. The startup was previously one of the Startup Arena finalists at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2014.
EatOye, an online food delivery service, was acquired by Rocket Internet’s Foodpanda as part of a regional acquisition spree to assert its dominance in the sector. The startup was a late entrant to the online delivery space in Pakistan, but had started to seriously threaten Foodpanda’s position at the top of the perch – hence the buyout.
Delivery and logistics startup Forrun was acquired by technology services company Arpatech. The acquisition was made in line with a concentration on ecommerce, logistics, and technology verticals.
Markhor, which makes handcrafted artisanal shoes, stole the show this year when it became the first startup from Pakistan to be accepted into Y Combinator, thus receiving US$120,000 in seed capital. Waqas Ali, founder of Markhor, had told Tech in Asia that the acceleration was aimed at strengthening Markhor’s position as a luxury lifestyle brand.
Interacta, a startup which is trying to redefine conventional broadcasting by making television shows interactive, raised US$220,000 in seed funding from Fatima Ventures. The startup’s app, which is similar to music detection service Shazam, analyzes sound coming from television channels and pushes content accordingly. For example, in cooking shows, users can view the recipe directly on their phones. Broadcasters can also use the app for targeted advertisements.
Sportskot is a marketplace for sporting goods manufactured in Pakistan. There’s a large, fragmented industry of sports apparel and equipment, and the startup is trying to bring them all under one umbrella to assist in visibility and appeal to international clientele. Sportskot raised US$140,000 in seed funding to expand its operations.
MySmacED, a startup in the edtech space, is a communication platform that enables real-time information sharing between parents, teachers, students, and administrators. It creates a “moderated social network,” while also assisting with feedback on child performance and easier information sharing between teachers and students. The startup raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding valuing the company at US$2 million.
Autogenie is Pakistan’s first on-demand car service and maintenance startup. Other than these basic services, it also offers premium members things like roadside assistance, regulatory and tax compliance, and car analytics. The startup raised US$100,000 in seed investment from PakWheels.
Mezaaj is a platform for fashion designers to showcase their work and get noticed in the digital sphere. .... The startup secured an undisclosed amount of seed investment, valuing the company at US$500,000.
#Lahore's #Pakistani developer’s Wordpress theme Avada is top seller at $10m in sales. #Pakistan #technology http://bit.ly/1YApswO
Avada theme available at Envato marketplace, has become the top selling theme while the developer, Themefusion, has now crossed a milestone of 10 million dollars.
This theme is developed by Haris Zulfiqar and Luke Beck under the company name of “Themefusion”. The two met at Envato, a digital marketplace for creative assets by web designers. In the year 2013, we told our readers that their theme hit a 1 million dollar sale number. Fast forward a couple of years and Avada has continued to show immense growth in terms of new purchases and now, Themefusion has managed to cross the $10 Million milestone on the platform.
Themefusion is also the first ever seller to cross the $10 Million sales mark on Envato Market. When asked if they had any idea they would be so successful by Envato, Luke said that “neither of us had any idea that three years later we’d have achieved this level of success. It’s quite amazing and completely surreal.”
Started as just a two person team, developing themes on the Envato Marketplace, they have now grown to a group of 20+ people.
When asked about a tip Haris would give to other creatives in 2016, he said,
“Always take time to be your best and do what you know is right. Take risks and build up the people around you, listen to your customers and strive to grow in every way possible.”
Freelancing is one of the fastest growing professions around the world and especially in Pakistan, where more and more people are turning to their computers in search of employment. Just a while back, a Pakistani MBBS student made the news for earning half a million dollars through freelancing and now, Haris Zulfiqar along with his other companions, has also proved the potential that lies in freelancing.
#Technology #Startup funding in #Pakistan up 600% in 2015: A banner year for nation's tech #entrepreneurs.
Though start-ups in Pakistan have been on and about their tasks for several years now, it was 2015 that really put them on the venture-capital-funding map. In 2014, Pakistani start-ups managed to raise a mere $4 million, but the funding jumped to $23 million in 2015. Despite the fact many firms who secured funding chose not to disclose their numbers, the collective $23 million still represented close to 600% increase in investment.
Analysing the prevalent trends, the buzz and hype around online businesses, one can expect a bright future for Pakistan’s technology industry and international companies and investors have started noticing the advancement.
Though slowly, the idea of taking the business online is becoming an evident realisation and companies are scrambling to develop online platforms that help their businesses grow. Consumers are taking to the idea and ease of shopping online, although there remains a massive room for improvement (and hence window of opportunity) in the quality of services up on offer.
Still the country’s tech scene has its knights. Companies like Rozee.com, Pakwheels.com and Zameen.com have not only made a name for themselves for being the pioneers in their respective fields, they have also upped the antes time and again by reinvigorating their portals and providing improved facilities to their users over and over again.
Efforts of The Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) have also been quite instrumental in Pakistan’s technology industry’s growth in 2015. Apart from raising awareness regarding the uses of IT among the public and automation of the Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education and the Citizen Feedback Monitoring Program, PITB also laid strong foundations for tech-entrepreneurship by establishing Plan9, the largest technology incubator in Pakistan distinguished by its zero-equity model.
Since its inception in 2012, Plan9 has graduated 66 start-ups, created roughly 500 jobs and over $2 million in funding. Commenting on Pakistani start-ups, Blackbox.vc Founder & CEO Fadi Bishara said Pakistani start-ups were more hard-core tech than Silicon Valley start-ups.
Currently, academic institutions are also playing a supportive role in increasing awareness about online entrepreneurship. LUMS Centre of Entrepreneurship, Information Technology University and National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences are now offering courses on entrepreneurship. While these courses are merely theoretical, they provide students with the much needed confidence to pursue unexplored professions.
With Pakistan’s technology sector becoming more vibrant than ever, one can expect the current year to be bring even gladder tidings for the country’s tech-preneurs, as well as the start-ups mushrooming across the country. Here’s to another year of change and progress.
How to become a #digital innovator in #Pakistan. #technology http://blogs.worldbank.org/endpovertyinsouthasia/how-become-digital-innovator-pakistan?cid=EXT_WBBlogSocialShare_D_EXT … via @WorldBank
Pakistan also has some great and active freelancing communities on Facebook. With some of the top rated freelancers in the world, many Pakistani freelancers have put their advice out there for free here and here.
Pakistan is also seeing a number of co-working spaces cropping up in major cities, including Basecamp in Peshawar, IVY in Islamabad, Tech Hub in Lahore and Dotzero in Karachi. Becoming a part of these communities can help freelancers and budding digital entrepreneurs build networks that can be really critical to finding the right support systems.
Tech entrepreneurs who want to move beyond freelancing and want to launch the next big disruptive innovation will also find a growing support system to nurture, refine and propel their ideas to market incubators and accelerator programs. These programs all provide a mix of training, mentorship and support to help get those ideas to a point of being able to launch as businesses. And while financing for these early stage startups is still nascent, there are several initiatives to get angel investment networks formalized, bringing an important element to business development, but also help to strengthen the tech community as a whole, building support systems for future innovators.
All of these pieces make up the innovation ecosystem that has the potential to help drive Pakistan’s growth over the coming decade. And it will be the participation of young people in this digital economy that will lead to socio-economic change in Pakistan, changing the way that traffic tickets are issued, music is curated, houses are purchased, and ridesharing is done.
All of these changes also draw on the creativity, ingenuity, passion, and dedication of Pakistan’s youth to envision their country in a better place.
t’s No #SiliconValley, but #Pakistan is Building Its Own Startup Scene. #Technology http://www.newsweek.com/pakistan-building-silicon-valley-scene-426408 …
In the past five years, Pakistan’s startup ecosystem has grown from a nascent colony to a self-sustaining environment. Zameen, an online real estate startup based in Lahore, has ridden that startup wave in developing a Zillow-like app and website that allows users to search and buy real estate listings in Pakistan’s largest cities.
Like many famous U.S. internet companies, Zameen started with a gamble. In 2006, Zeeshan Ali Khan and his brother left their e-commerce business in the United Kingdom to move to Pakistan and started Zameen in their bedrooms. Back then, online-only services in Pakistan were rare, but Ali Khan followed the money coming into Pakistani real estate from expats living abroad—a million of whom lived in the United Kingdom. Now Zameen employees 500 people and has offices in nearly all major cities in Pakistan.
“Zameen.com came into being when we realised there was a desperate need for a trustworthy online real estate enterprise in Pakistan, especially given the importance the average Pakistani attaches to property,” Ali Khan tells Newsweek in an email. “Back then the state of internet infrastructure in Pakistan was extremely poor but the offline property market was exploding. Facilitated by large investments from the Pakistani diaspora, people found that investing in real estate would earn them significant returns.”
Pakistan’s fast-growing economy and, perhaps more importantly, large English-speaking population has provided a backbone to encourage startups to form and work with foreign companies.
The country has seen startup hubs form around elite universities in cities like Lahore and Karachi—similar to Boston and San Francisco—in the last few years. The Punjab province, where Lahore is located, has been the major hotspot for startups in Pakistan. Plan9, the Punjab provincial government-run technology incubator, hosts over 80 startups. Ali Khan believes there are 140 startups in Lahore, a city of 5 million people.
But Pakistani startups are still minnows compared to those in Silicon Valley. Cultural and economic norms, like being predominantly reliant on cash for transactions, are big obstacles for startups. Despite leading the South Asian region in consumers using mobile payments, only 9 percent of Pakistani men and 2 percent of women have used mobile phones for money transfers. Around 39 percent of Americans have used mobile banking in 2015, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.
To accommodate its cash-based users, Zameen employs motorcycle riders to collect payments from Zameen agents across 30 Pakistani cities in person. “The situation is improving, and a lot of people are beginning to feel more comfortable with online payments and even mobile transactions,” says Ali Khan.
Earning public trust for a little-known startup—a concept now just becoming understood in Pakistan—was a big challenge as well. When Zameen began, it discovered most of the Pakistani property market undocumented, and reliable data was nearly non-existent.
Pakistani consumers, including Ali Khan’s family, had a hard time becoming comfortable with Zameen and its Silicon Valley-inspired ideas. “My family was a little apprehensive when I told them I wanted to start a business of my own,” Ali Khan says. “Today however, the attitudes have greatly changed, thanks to the startup ecosystem that is supporting the startup culture in Pakistan.”
The two biggest hurdles Zameen and fellow startups face are the low penetration rates of 3G/4G mobile Internet and the lack of support from its government. In 2015, only 22 million out of 182 million Pakistanis had 3G/4G technology, leaving little room for startups to continue growing and scale upwards with their online services.
Infrastructural issues like 3G/4G technology need the government’s help, but such support has been lacking, according to Ali Khan.
A #crowdfunding platform to solve #Pakistan's #healthcare woes. 200 surgeries funded to date http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/a-crowdfunding-platform-to-solve-pakistan-s-healthcare-woes-116021700452_1.html#.VsS8CO2VdWU.twitter …
Pakistan-based startup Transparent Hands is a crowdfunding platform which looks to address the problem of a lack of access to quality healthcare in the nation. Pakistan has a population of approximately 200 million people, yet its health indicators are abysmal. The government allocates only 0.67% of GDP on the healthcare sector; so the country’s public health infrastructure is almost non-existent.
While patients can receive access to quality healthcare facilities, it is very expensive. With a reported 58.7 million citizens living under the poverty line, this is simply not possible for a vast segment of the populace.
Transparent Hands, which was incubated at Lahore-based Plan9, launched operations in 2014 with the objective of bringing transparency to charitable donations in Pakistan. Founder Rameeza Moin says that the venture is entirely not-for-profit and came about after a thorough analysis of the existing healthcare segment in the country.
“There are many potential donors across the world who want to contribute, but they don’t know where and when to send their money or whether their donations will be utilized in a proper way. This is the main issue we’re trying to overcome,” she adds.
Transparency is at the core of the startup’s processes. Team members visit rural and semi-urban areas to find patients in need of critical medical care. Their cases are verified, both in terms of health and finances. The startup currently only works with patients who require surgery.
Since its launch, Transparent Hands has facilitated over 200 surgeries and has partner hospitals in four cities. Its next step is to expand into other major urban centers, as well as focus on other areas of service delivery – such as education.
Two dozen #Pakistani #tech startups got foreign and domestic #VC funding in 2015, a new record. #Pakistan
Tech startups are doing reasonably well and look set for growth despite a lack of adequate financing from banks and venture capital outfits.
In 2015, about two dozen tech start-ups, old and new, obtained funds from abroad or from local venture capitals (VC). Some of them are now doing good business.
The list of tech start-ups that raised sufficient funds in 2015 include both old and new firms like app-based travelling services Careem, shopping portal Daraz.pk, the real estate’s online listing portal Zameen.com, job portal Rozee.com, entrepreneurship programme Interacta, on-demand car maintenance service AuotGenie and 18 others.
A cursory look at their sources of financing shows that it came from abroad, such as $60m in case of Careem from the UAE-based Abraaj Group, or $22m partial-funding from a UK-based DFI in case of Daraz.pk. In some cases, money flowed in from regional VC like $33m partial funding for Daraz.pk from the Asia-Pacific Internet Group.
But in some cases like $9m foreign funds raised by Zameen.com, specific details of the investors remained unknown.
AutoGenie managed to raise $100,000 from PakWheels.com a big local online car-portal that had itself raised $3.5m a year earlier from a Malaysian venture capital firm. Interacta, an entrepreneurship startup of the Lahore University of Management Science secured $220,000 in seed funding from Lahore-based Fatima Ventures.
A sizable fund-raising of tech startups came under spotlight in 2013 when four entities mobilised funds worth less than $10m. In 2014, 10 tech start-ups came up and raised almost the same amount of funds. But in 2015 no less than 24 startups pulled in an estimated $100m from various sources not just in seed capital but, in some cases, for capacity building and outreach.
However, some borrowers do not share details about the amount and sources of their debt. Information trickles in, though, from individual sources and a couple of websites do the much-needed record-keeping for the benefit of their visitors.
Markhor, a shopping portal that sells hand-made leather shoes has already won a unique recognition at Y Combinatory, a three-month incubation programme at Silicon Valley and has also received $120,000 in seed capital.
Plan9, a local venture capital of the Punjab Information Technology Board boasts of having provided incubation training to over 100 startups so far but except for a few, those startups have got additional funds from foreign sources, industry sources say.
Sometimes, financing tech startups seems just like impact financing, a concept now gaining currency along with the concept of social business. And that is why banks and some, less-resourceful, local VCs shy away from it.
But in a majority of cases, tech startups have also proved to be highly profitable businesses with annual growth rates of 100-400pc, industry sources say. The driving factors include tailor-made, time-saving services that these startups provide, growing use of smart phones and the internet, level of innovation offered and expanding e-commerce.
The potential of tech startups to impact the way large businesses are currently being run is immense. Take, for example, the case of EveryCatalog.com.
This two-year old startup has undertaken to showcase catalogues of businesses in such broad categories like textiles, apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories, interior designs/ furnishing and custom design products/handicrafts. Its mobile applications, it claims, are capable of delivering a full e-commerce platform where sellers can exhibit their products for sale.
Ijarah Capital to launch $100 million #VentureCapital Fund in #Pakistan this year. #Tech #startup http://bit.ly/2dUWSDS via @techjuicepk
Ijara Capital Partners Limited has been granted a license to a private venture capital fund and equity under the newly promoted Private Funds Regulations 2015 by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), reports Dawn Media.
Ijara Capital Partners Limited is the second firm to receive this license. Lakson Investments Ltd. was also granted a similar license a few days ago. The license issued will be valid for a period of three years and the firm will be required to launch the fund within six months of license approval.
CEO of Ijara group Farurukh Ansari told Dawn that the fund will be worth $100 million dollars and is expected to launch in December. The fund will focus on verticals including energy, healthcare, education, infrastructure, fashion and lifestyle.
The fund will be raised by encouraging local and international VCs to invest by sharing insights and information about the business industry and opportunities in Pakistan.
Venture Capital fund shops have started to crop up in the country and deal flow has started too. Just yesterday, while presiding a meeting of information technology leaders in Lahore, Chairman PITB Dr. Umar Saif mentioned that the government is inching close to launching a government-backed venture capital fund in the country. The fund is also expected to be north of $3 million dollars and will be dubbed as ‘Innovation Fund’ because government doesn’t want equity in startups but it wants to accelerate entrepreneurship and encourage local and international investors to put their money in the business industry of Pakistan.
#Pakistan-based lockscreen app #startup closes $3.6m series A from #SouthKorean #VC bringing total raised to $4.6m
Pakistan-based Slide, an Android lockscreen app that rewards users for clicking on ads or reading content, today announced that it’s closed a series A funding round worth US$3.6 million. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The round was led by Songhyun Investment, a South Korean VC firm. Slide has raised a total of US$4.6 million to date.
Slide launched roughly a year ago and claims to have 5 million downloads already. CEO Junaid Malik says the funds will be used to further strengthen the company’s presence in Pakistan and develop more products.
He adds that they’re now live in India and in the midst of closing deals to expand to the Middle Eastern market.
Slide is similar to apps like Candy and Popslide. It incentivizes users to read content that pops up every time they unlock their phones. Readers accumulate points for each click which they can then exchange for mobile phone top-ups.
The team’s blown past an internal target of 1 million downloads in the first year, so it’s clear that the concept is catching on.
“A year ago when I was quitting my job, most people said I shouldn’t do it and even today, I’m not sure where this journey will end but to me what matters the most is that I started from scratch,” beams Junaid.
#Pakistan bags three gold, six silver awards at #apicta2016 2016 #ICT #technology competition in #Taiwan
Pakistan won three gold awards and six silver awards at the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards (APICTA) 2016 ceremony held in Taipei, Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES (P@SHA) announced Monday.
The Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards (APICTA Awards) is an international awards program that aims to increase information and communication technology (ICT) awareness in the community, and provides networking and product benchmarking opportunities to ICT innovators and entrepreneurs in the region.
Leading the way with the golds were a young team of students from National University for Sciences and Technology (NUST), who won the award for their project, 'Clinical Decision Support System for Diagnosis of Movement Disorders'.
Another group of students from NUST, who also bagged a gold award, for its Research and Development project called 'Analysis of Optical Coherence Tomography Image for CDSS'.
The students collaborated with various organisations such as the international non-profit Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
To bring innovation by Pakistani IT companies to the forefront, P@SHA took a delegation of 41 people to Taipei for the 16th annual APICTA Awards, a four-day event.
From Pakistan, 28 teams competed against 236 teams from 17 countries across the Asia Pacific region and were judged by more than 60 tech professionals.
The regional awards ceremony invited applications from 17 economies, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal and Pakistan.
Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA, said, “P@SHA showcases the true potential and diverse talent of the ICT industry in Pakistan time and again".
P@SHA prepares technology professionals from Pakistan "to compete and win against companies and products that are deemed the best in the region",
Ara added that all credit goes to the hard work put in by these teams and the efforts of mentors and judges who have been working with them individually since October.
P@SHA was founded in 1992 and has a large membership, comprising more than 450 of the country’s largest software houses, product development centers, BPO companies, Animation & New Media studios and consulting & system integration companies. The organisation's main objective is to promote and develop the software and services industry in Pakistan and to protect the rights of its members.
To hear about what the #Austin delegation had to say about Pak's startup ecosystem & Plan9 visit the following link:
Dodging Illicit Cash, Pakistan Startups Hunt for Angel Funds
by Chris Kay and Faseeh Mangi
May 8, 2017, 1:31 PM PDT May 8, 2017, 8:47 PM PDT
In an attempt to boost entrepreneurship, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set up a loan program for those under the age of 45 to set up businesses, providing interest free loans to more than 260,000 people since his election in 2013. That’s critical in a country where nearly two-thirds of the population is under 30, according to the Jinnah Institute, a Islamabad-based think tank.
Leila Khan, a lawmaker and chairwoman of the youth loan program, along with other officials at the agency, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Home grown organizations like Seed Ventures and Planet N Pvt. are attempting to change the status quo. Young Pakistanis that Khan meets at university roadshows are often resistant to becoming entrepreneurs.
They say “it’s risky, there’s a chance of failure, there’s a lack of access to finance and we’ve got great expectations from our parents to actually become doctors, engineers, lawyers and that is a safer option,” Khan said, whose firm, Seed Ventures, has invested 78 million rupees ($745,000), supporting 135 startups. “That’s the cultural mindset.”
According to Planet N, of the more than 700 startups that were established since 2010, 67 percent are still active and 68 have managed to raise funding of about $20 million. At least 24 incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces supporting startups have popped up across the country in the past seven years.
Despite the growth of incubators and accelerators, startups will continue to stumble without wider access to seed finance, said Nadeem Hussain, the founder of Planet N. While his firm has invested $8 million in 41 companies, most of them startups, he estimates that at least $1 billion of seed money is needed in Pakistan to help new businesses take the next step.
“They teach you, they mentor you, but when you come out there’s no capital,” said the 61-year-old Hussain, a financier who built Tameer Microfinance Bank Ltd. before selling it to Telenor ASA last year. “Unless we can address that, people are going to turn away from entrepreneurship because of the high failure rate.”
The old way of thinking is being challenged at centers that are popping up across Pakistan. The Nest i/o, which opened in Karachi about two and a half years ago, looks just like the incubators found in Silicon Valley. In a high-rise with views across the city of 20 million, millennials hunch over laptops in a colorful open-plan office littered with foosball tables and beanbags.
Founder, Jehan Ara, took inspiration from visits to incubation centers in Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. Gaining about $1.4 million in grants from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Samsung Electronics Co. and the U.S. State Department, about 100 startups have come through the center’s four-month cycle. About 85 percent of those are continuing to survive.
Among the businesses that have been through The Nest are a provider of flat-pack homes for refugee camps and one that makes engraving machines that are a fraction of the price of imported ones, said Ara. Social Champ, a mobile app which simultaneously posts on different social media platforms, caught the eye of venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, who has invited the founder to Silicon Valley, she said.
“A lot of kids have started thinking startups, which is a good thing,” Ara, who calls herself the Nest’s “Big Bird,” said in her office decorated with soft toys, candy and entrepreneurial and motivational text books. “It’s a shift, it started three to four years ago when kids started taking work online.”
Business Conglomerate Schon Group buys #Pakistan #PSL #Multan #cricket franchise for a hefty $41.6 million
One of the richest families of Pakistan, Schon Group has bought the newly added Multan team in Pakistan Super League after successful bid at Pakistan Cricket Board. The Schon Group will be paying a hefty $41.6 million in a period of 8 years for this contract. This acquisition, of $5.2 million per year, turns out to be the biggest one in the history of Pakistan Super League.
Currently, Schon Group is managed by his two sons who look after day-to-day affairs in Dubai HQ. Khizer Schon has recently made several investments in the YCombinator’s technology startups and aims to invest in Pakistani technology businesses through their investment arm Schon Ventures. Schon Ventures is the group investment vehicle which has invested in fitness, transportation, real estate, and technology start-ups.
While speaking at the PSL auction, Asher Schon said,
“We believe we have all the resources available to make this (investment) a successful venture.”
#Pakistan's #IT industry exports jump 19% last year hit all-time high near $1 Billion. #technology http://bit.ly/2w82sgr via @techjuicepk
Pakistan’s IT exports have hit an all-time high in the outgoing financial year of 2016-2017.
The country is witnessing a growth boom in the IT industry like never before and the government is also taking steps to support the IT infrastructure. And the numbers prove that the positive activity in the IT industry is delivering good results. According to ProPakistani, figures provided by the State Bank of Pakistan(SBP) indicate that the IT industry’s exports – which includes telecom, and computer and information services – in the outgoing financial year were of $938.640 million. The exports made in the previous financial year of 2015-2016 were worth $788.640 million. This indicates a year-on-year growth of 19%.
The Pakistan Software Exchange Board(PSEB), on the other hand, has reported figures that are three times greater than those reported by the SBP. According to the PSEB, the IT exports stand at a whopping $2.8 billion. There is a huge disparity in the numbers that have been reported by the SBP and the PSEB. However, it should be noted here that the SBP and the PSEB calculate the final figure of IT exports in a different manner. The PSEB reports in different sectors such as financial services, healthcare sector, e-commerce, e-health, but to estimate the final figure of total exports it takes into consideration all the exports done by local software houses to international clients.
If Pakistan’s IT industry keeps thriving at this rate, it certainly rings good news for the country’s economy. Could Pakistan hit the target of $6 billion software exports by 2020 or the target of $10 billion IT exports by 2025? We’ll have to wait and see. But the present certainly does look good.
What happened at Google IO Extended 2017 Karachi
By Samrah Syed
Google I/O’17 Extended kicked off in Karachi on August 5 at IBA City Campus. Google I/O is an annual developer conference held by Google in San Francisco, California and brings together developers from around the globe to focus on exploring the next generation of tech.
Seeing the need of the tech community integration in Karachi, GDG Kolachi brought the conference to Karachi whilst delivering rich content through tech talks, code labs and live demos to a diverse audience of techies.
I attended Google I/O for the first time and it was an experience that I won’t forget anytime soon. Being a student from NED University of Engineering and Technology on my path to development, as well as being an organizer at GDG Kolachi, this not only opened doors for me to network with some of the Tech Gurus in Pakistan but also caught me up to date with the Google’s latest technologies.
This year Google announced a ton of stuff such as what’s next for Android and other platforms. Here is a sneak peek of the event with my lens.
The event kicked off with a keynote by Khurram Jamali. Jamali, Country Lead at Google, Pakistan. Jamali motivated the audience by his story and gave the summary of the I/O from the Pakistani market perspective. Going on, Eric Bhatti, Manager GDG Kolachi talked about what’s new in Android.
Bhatti’s session was followed by Asadullah Yousuf, from TPS Worldwide, who made an app in less than 19 minutes using flutter, a mobile app SDK designed to help developers and designers build modern mobile apps for iOS and Android. That was something that gained a huge applause.
The talks continued with Jehan Ara telling the Pakistan Start-Up story and Umair Khan from 10Pearls sharing a talk on Database on fire. Sadaffe Abid, Co-founder CIRCLE brought some diversity by conveying the role of Women Techmakers and She Loves Tech. To add to a little more diversity in the topics, Atyab Tahir, Head of Digital Transformation at HBL talked about financial services Nexus.
More speakers were lined up. Mehdi Raza built a really cool app with Google Assistant that essentially requires no coding! Sohaib Khan gave a talk on designing better voice experiences for Google Assistant. Harris Solangi, co-manager at GDG Kolachi, demonstrated how easy it is to develop intelligent applications using the ML APIs that Google offers.
The long day of talks came to an end with the closing by Junaid Iqbal, MD Careem who talked about the Future of Technology in Pakistan.
The diversity of the tech talks was something that no doubt added to the richness of the conference. As one of the attendees said, “It was a great experience. I was introduced to new technology by Google that I didn’t know about before.”
A few important announcements were also made at the event.
The API.AI challenge by Google, so if you have an up to beat idea, start making an assistant app now to participate in the challenge.
GDG Kolachi will also be setting up a local API.AI challenge. So If you are making an assistant app, also share it with GDG Kolachi by emailing at email@example.com. The best apps will be evaluated and will get a prize at GDG Devfest.
Organizations can support the initiative of GDG Kolachi as well: https://goo.gl/vJDZSp
Google Developers Group are Google sponsored communities of techies and coders who work together to promote learning and development in the tech field, through events like Google I/O.
The DeanBeat: 3 Pakistani brothers ensure mobile game chat isn’t lost in translation
Game developers can grow up anywhere these days.these days, and the latest example of that are the Zaeem brothers from Pakistan. Saad, Ammar, and Shayan have created two startups: one that makes mobile games, and a new venture that is creating a platform for multilingual chat in games.
The startups have created jobs in their hometown in Lahore, Pakistan, and Silicon Valley. Their successes are modest by the valley’s standards. But growing up in their part of the world, they overcame a lot of odds and made a rare successful tech and game startup in a fast-moving industry. I met them at a party at the Seattle Aquarium at the game event Casual Connect USA, and their story intrigued me. I met them again at a coffee house in Palo Alto, California, and I listened.
Their Pakistan company, Caramel Tech Studios, has been making mobile games since 2011, and they are creating a new San Francisco startup, Fizz, that promises to do real-time translation for text chat in mobile games. Saad is heading that effort, and he has moved to Silicon Valley to raise money and build the company’s connections to others.
The brothers credit their entrepreneurial spirit to their father, who’s in textiles and taught them about startups and business. In the late 1990s, when Saad was 14 and Ammar was 12, they learned how to create websites. One company hired them for $700 or so, and that was a lot of money for young Pakistani entrepreneurs. Their parents “acquired” their company and urged them to stay in school.
And that story is replaying everywhere where people grow up playing games, study technology, and try to create their own businesses. Part of the inspiration is Silicon Valley’s fairy tale rags-to-riches stories, and part is the desire to play and learn how to build games.
“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, families wanted their children to become medical doctors,” Ammar said. “Now it’s engineering.”
Their lives have been full of lucky breaks, made more frequent by their dedication. Ammar was interested in investing in stocks. Saad, the oldest, joined a startup without a salary. He helped the business grow and get work for hire. Then the brothers set up their own company, making software and games for hire. Halfbrick Studios, the Australian game company that made Fruit Ninja, gave the Zaeem brothers their lucky break. It hired them to build a version of Fruit Ninja for the Nokia Symbian phone platform.
“The biggest problem we had was having the cash flow to take bigger risks,” Ammar said.
The Halfbrick deal enabled them to boost the company to 22 people in Lahore, which had a good university that produced technical graduates. The Halfbrick job led to more work with Kabam, a mobile game company that made hits such as Kingdoms of Camelot. Andrew Sheppard, then head of studios for Kabam, put Caramel Tech Studios to work on a mobile card strategy game, Order of Elements. The studio then worked for Animoca, a Hong Kong company, to build an Astro Boy mobile game.
Apple liked the idea of a game company in Pakistan, and it featured the title that the brothers made. One of their games, Blades of Battle, has been featured by Apple in 137 countries.
After a while, Caramel Tech Studios started making its own games. That was like moving up the food chain, and it led to more deals. Then Saad stepped down as CEO in 2016 and started the effort to build the chat platform.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > BUSINESS
Pakistan’s freelancing industry is thriving
By Parvez IftikharPublished: October 30, 2017
Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman, together with Ignite CEO Yusuf Hussain, recently announced the ‘DigiSkills’ Program that “would help the youth of the country to earn a reasonable livelihood as freelancers”.
The country-wide programme to train a million freelancers is ambitious and challenging. A somewhat similar endeavour, called ‘eRozgar’, was launched by Punjab IT Board Chairman Dr Umar Saif earlier this year.
The PITB had announced that it would be running a co-working space to train 10,000 young women and men with the help of experienced freelancers in different parts of Punjab. The MoIT’s programme is much larger in scope covering the entire country, albeit with an online, rather than physical, delivery mechanism. Both, however, appear to be great initiatives.
But all these “successes” have so far been achieved without freelancing being recognised as a profession. Enterprising Pakistani young men and women have been doing wonders exclusively on their own – without any opportunities to get trained, or even formally learn from each other.
In order to provide employment to many more Pakistanis, and to increase their earnings, there are numerous important skills that need to be taught (including soft skills like better English). This is where schemes like DigiSkills and eRozgar come in. One hopes that these initiatives will help turn millions of educated countrymen into productive individuals.
#US-based 1839 Ventures partners with #PTIB to launch $20m #Pakistan-focused #VC fund. #Punjab #Lahore #Technology
Punjab Information and Technology Board (PITB) of Pakistan has partnered with US-based investment firm 1839 Ventures to launch a $20 million venture capital fund for the technology startups in Pakistan. “1839 Ventures announces its international expansion and the start of a $20-million venture capital fund that will be dedicated to investing in technology-oriented startups operated by exceptional entrepreneurs who are based across Pakistan,” the company said, in a social media post. Austin-based 1839 Ventures specialises in Series A, early stage and growth capital investments in technology oriented companies working in commerce, communication and business intelligence. It invests primarily in Texas-based companies. The announcement was made last week by the venture capital firm at the Atx+Pak Launch Entrepreneurship Program launch ceremony in Austin city. Pakistan has been trying to boost its local entrepreneurship base. Earlier in May, Pakistan’s federal government announced that it will set up a $20 million venture capital fund for local startups. The startup programme was to be open to all startups – not just in IT – since Pakistan needs innovative startups in all sectors such as agri, textiles, logistics, and manufacturing, Pakistan’s Planning Commission Member Athar Osama had said in a blog post at the time. In June, Lakson Investment was granted Pakistan’s first venture capital licence in the South Asian nation. Its application for a private equity and venture capital fund had been approved by Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan last year. Lakson had set up Lakson Investment Private Equity (LI PE) in the end of 2014 and is still in its pre-launch phase. It had proposed to start making investments by late 2017.
Read more at: https://www.dealstreetasia.com/stories/1839-ventures-partners-with-ptib-to-launch-20m-fund-84321/
Can Pakistan become Asia’s start-up hub?
Published in Mar-Apr 2017
By Nabeel A. Qadeer
How collaborative efforts by the Government and private sector can help boost Pakistan's entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Dr Umar Saif, who leads the department, has made it his mission to turn Lahore into our own Silicon Valley. As a first step, Plan9, a technology incubator (named after the first free-share operating software by Bell Labs) was launched in 2012. With the completion of its eighth incubation cycle, 130-plus start-ups have come up, some with net valuations ranging between six and $10 million. Collectively, they have made a sizable contribution to the IT job market.
How important has this incubator been in shaping the local scene? More importantly, what role has the State played in this?
To answer this, it is important to first analyse the factors which have hampered entrepreneurial evolution in Pakistan. Firstly, the people of Pakistan are risk-averse. From a young age, children are instructed to opt for mainstream career choices, such as engineering, medicine and teaching; the reason being the social status attached and the income flow these professions promise. Secondly, a typical household has limited capital funds available and these are not enough to allow young people to become involved in activities such as entrepreneurship, which are deemed risky. Therefore, entrepreneurship has not been a career option much experimented with, prior to the setting up of Plan9.
Taking into account these factors, the Government of Punjab decided to provide solutions. At first, through the IT Board and Plan9, the Government introduced the concept of ‘business incubation’. As the initiative was government backed, it was perceived as credible. In contrast, services offered by a new sector or by lesser known agents may be categorised as potential scams. In addition, the Government has a national outreach. As the message was spread, a new narrative was shaped.
Conceptually, entrepreneurship began to be embedded in the minds of young people and incubation became a new buzzword. This was furthered by Plan9’s efforts to encourage universities to replicate the incubation model. As a result, entrepreneurship received attention from academia as well. At present, 20 universities across Pakistan have set up incubators in collaboration with Plan9.
The Plan9 experience brought to the fore the need for yet another platform aimed at further refining graduate start-ups. The six months incubation programme turns a start-up from a business idea to a scalable model. However, it needs to be polished in order to become a company. As a result, PlanX, a technology accelerator was launched to bridge that gap. To date, PlanX has produced 30 start-ups and raised an investment of three million dollars. In a nutshell, the Government has the scope to practise ‘horizontal integration.’
Expanding the playing field to make these efforts more encompassing, the Punjab Government has launched additional initiatives powered by the IT Board. ‘Herself’ is a capacity building platform for aspiring women entrepreneurs that has trained a 100 women over a period of six months. By introducing alternate home-based economic participation models, Herself aims to increase the female labour force participation rate that stands at a low 25% (source: World Bank, 2014). Techhub Connect is a co-working space for freelancers and bridges the gap between academia and industry. Recently the e-Rozgaar scheme has launched 40 training centres across Punjab aimed at providing a three month training programme to 10,000 individuals in one year.
Tech Parks planned in Pakistan:
Turkey has agreed to establish two technological parks in Pakistan for development of industrial and agriculture sectors. One park will be set up in Mardan and the other in Quetta. A spokesman of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government told Radio Pakistan that a memorandum of understanding has been signed recently by a Turkish company.
He said the establishment of Techno Parks will help in the reviving sick industrial units and promote livestock. The government of Pakistan-envisaging its vision to become a top 25 global economy and join the league of upper-middle income countries by 2025 with ‘Pakistan Vision 2025’-is reportedly fully geared up to establish information technology (IT) park in Islamabad. In this connection, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has invited request for proposals (RFP) for procurement of consultancy services for undertaking environmental impact assessment (EIA) for technology park development project Islamabad.
According to the RFP document, the project site is situated in Chak Shahzad, 8km away from Islamabad. The project site includes an area of 60,000m2 while the total size of technology park area would be 190,000m2.—Agencies
The NIC Lahore picks up from its previous manifestation as the LUMS Centre for Entrepreneurship (LCE), established in May 2014 with the mission to discover, groom, and develop high-growth, high-impact companies. Till date, LCE has incubated 78 companies, 17 of which have raised close to US$4 million in seed funding and are currently valued at US$20 million. It has also created 1,500 direct employment opportunities and another 5,000 jobs were created through vendors and suppliers.
The National Incubation Center (NIC) Lahore was inaugurated by Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Ms. Anusha Rahman Khan at a ceremony held at Lahore University of Management Sciences on December 23, 2017.
The event began with a welcome address by the Vice Chancellor of LUMS, Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, who welcomed the esteemed guests and shared his immense delight at the launch of this state-of-the-art facility.
With justifiable pride, he said “The establishment of NIC at LUMS is a tremendous milestone on a journey we at LUMS embarked on when the LUMS Center of Entrepreneurship (LCE) was established in 2014. At that, we dared to set a vision for ourselves to become the largest breeding ground for sustainable, high-growth commercial and high-impact social ventures in Pakistan. The establishment of the NIC allows us an accelerated implementation of this vision. Building on the success of LCE, we are extremely excited to provide young Pakistani entrepreneurs an enhanced and expanded opportunity to nurture their business ambitions.”
Addressing the audience, Mr. Yusuf Hussain, CEO Ignite, spoke of the role of National Incubation Centres in the knowledge economy of Pakistan and how these would become breeding grounds for sustainable growth and drive Pakistan’s economy forward with 4th Industrial wave technologies. Sharing his thoughts, he said,
“For corporations, this is a singular opportunity to transform and thrive in this age of global competition and change by partnering with and invest in start-ups that solve meaningful problems. With the track record of its management team, Makerspace, Design Lab, deep R&D resources, and organic VC linkages, NIC Lahore is poised to graduate true 10x start-ups and become one of the best incubators in Asia.”
During the event, Director NIC Lahore, Mr. Faisal Jalil Sherjan shared the vision and mission of NIC Lahore and took the audience through the facilities offered at the new center. He highlighted that NIC Lahore will house the first-ever Makers Lab in Pakistan, a modern facility equipped with the latest technologies and smart equipment to bring ideas to life. He further added that this 23,000 square feet space will not only house the incubator and accelerator but will also provide business acceleration services to incubated companies, a Smart Lab, a Design Thinking Lab, a Usability Lab, various libraries and an in-house auditorium.
“NIC Lahore will be more than just an incubation space. It will foster creativity, design and encourage its selected incubates to develop companies that have high growth potential. We have everything here in terms of physical requirements and when allied with the immense intellectual capital LUMS has on campus, many winners will emerge from this facility,” added Mr.Sherjan.
Once a struggling startup, now a success story
by Sarfraz Ali | Published on January 25, 2018 ��
The serial entrepreneur, mentor, co-author of “New Success Secrets”, “L.E.G Formula” and the founder of Global Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, Muhammad Siddique, compiled data on such projects, says the Momentum Tech Conference 2018 has even more opportunities for the enterprises from its last year’s edition. He says the enterprise world is ready to help the Pakistani entrepreneurs to say goodbye to their excuses. “This year, Fortune 500 mentors and representatives of world’s top online brands will be in Pakistan to help startups,” he said.
Of the long list of the online startups, there is the Nearpeer.org. This is an online professional courses portal where the users can learn at a self-directed pace. The startup won the second prize at the Momentum Tech Conference 2017. Its co-founder Ammar Ali Ayub who with his friend, tried to be a job provider while graduating from LUMS. Now, he has a team of 25 people and provides jobs to many dozen people. Ammar’s advice to startups is: never give up.
Ali Gohar Wassan is the co-founder of TheUniPedia, an online portal for universities entry test preparations with self-assessment, explanations and dedicated tutors to enhance the learning level of students. Ali Gohar is himself is a university dropout but he saw an opportunity in directing the people to the university education, and in the process now he provides jobs to hundreds of tutors and a full-time seven people team. Ask him about his secret to success, and smiles: have mentors, leave out excuses and be fair to yourself. He says meetups like Momentum Tech Conference are never to be missed. “It is the venue where from we got payment solutions and universities connections.
Also, at the conference will be Sehat.com.pk Marketing Director Bilal Mumtaz. His online medicine supply is a real breakthrough in Pakistan’s health system. The startup came into being when his project won a $150,000 seed money from a Canadian university, and since then the project has achieved many landmarks and has faced and overcome critical issues like fake medicine supplies. His priority is to provide cheap, good quality medicines to the people in rural areas at their doorstep in the quickest possible way. His secret success is: my network is my net-worth.
The online journey has brought Hyder Khan to Hyderabad from his hometown Badin. This under-30 startup star is running two projects: one, software development and two, accounting consultancy. Just one year ago, he had invested Rs5,000 in his online business and now, he has a team of six people for both businesses.
Qasim Asad Salam’s TheCampusFeed.com is also a new rage among the university students. The idea emerged when this LUMS student was in the final year and had been finding very hard to connect with other students. He thought of connecting with other students through a social network where everyone could speak on any issue maintaining anonymity. The idea was realized into a reality when it won a Rs300,000 prize at the Momentum Tech Conference 2017. That was a great push, and now the project is being run by six people. His advice to the struggling enterprises: be passionate, do not chase money and be extremely hardworking.
Last but not least stands Sameer Ahmed Khan whose application SocialChamp.io won the first prize at Momentum Tech Conference 2017. This application caters to need all social media users. His story and struggle are very inspirational. A spate of failures did not deter him from working again and again and at the end of the day, he met with success. Such success stories and connections are learned and earned at the events like Momentum Tech Conference. This year, the event is going to be held on February 19 and 20 in Karachi.
Sarmayacar ready to back #Pakistani #tech #startups with $30m #VC fund. International partner Dr Klemen described #Pakistan as "one of the last remaining untapped markets of an attractive scale". #technology https://www.dawn.com/news/1444552
Sarmayacar, a Netherlands-based early stage seed fund, announced on Friday the close of Sarmayacar Ventures, a $30 million venture capital fund geared towards supporting Pakistani startups.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Rabeel Warraich and international partner Dr Bernhard Klemen will lead the fund's investment of $100,000-$2m into companies focused on the technology and technology-enabled sectors, a press release issued by the company said.
Warraich explained that the objective of Sarmayacar Ventures is to "invest in the future of Pakistan".
"We are excited about the emerging opportunities in the country, particularly in the venture space, underpinned by attractive demographics and a strong digitisation push across many segments of the economy," said Warraich.
He added that the company looks to combine its expertise with the "financial firepower" of the fund to "back the most promising entrepreneurs building the next iconic Pakistani companies."
The CEO expressed hope that more investors, both local and international, follow "these small initial steps" and direct more risk capital towards the budding entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan.
International partner Dr Klemen described Pakistan as "one of the last remaining untapped markets of an attractive scale".
"The stage of development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan allows us to build bridges and bring learning and expertise from international ecosystems."
Sarmayacar aims to provide value-added capital to recipients by giving them access to a diverse and experienced base of investors and international domain experts led by former Electronic Arts board member Jan Bolz, Dr Klemen said, in order to support local talent in company building and mitigate the scarcity of "smart capital" in Pakistan.
Pakistani start-ups: The next innovation district
Pakistan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has made immense strides, but this is only the beginning, writes Nabeel Qadeer.
The evolution of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan has been impressive to say the least. It has grown from a state of non-existence 15 years ago to a multi-stakeholder industry that is fast being validated globally.
The ecosystem – a snapshot
A 2017 report by Planet N and supported by Karandaaz Pakistan and the Lahore University of Management Sciences examined the challenges of the start-up ecosystem. It estimated that the number of start-ups launched after 2010 increased to 723, with 68 raising funding, of which six secured an investment greater than $500,000. An accumulated $20 million was raised by start-ups and $49 million by mid-stage companies. This growth has been supported both by infrastructural and policy measures. Over the past six years, start-up facilitation centres, including business incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces, have emerged across Pakistan, some backed by the Federal Government’s National R&D Fund. International business competitions are held all year round, thereby providing young entrepreneurs with the opportunity to have their business idea validated at an early stage. The year-round activity of the industry culminates into two large-scale international platforms, 021Disrupt and Momentum. Not only do they bring the entire ecosystem together, the sector is pitched in a holistic manner on a global level.
Policy and the ecosystem
On the policy front, measures have been taken by the Government to promote high-growth firms, thereby strengthening the ecosystem. As a result of the orientation towards one-window operations for legal paperwork, Pakistan now stands at 136 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, a jump of 11 places from last year. This compares to India’s 77th position and Bangladesh’s 176. To tackle the issue of seed capital, an entrepreneurial loan scheme for young people was launched by the Federal Government in 2014. This provided subsidised financing on an eight percent annual service charge basis. In the FY18-19, it is expected to benefit 2,800 applicants with Rs 3.7 billion. (A similar policy, Arabuma, was launched in Sri Lanka under the ‘Enterprise Sri Lanka’ programme in which a tax exemption was introduced for start-ups in 2017, acting as a financial incentive to scale; in Pakistan, start-ups are still struggling for such exemptions). The National IT Policy was launched in Pakistan in 2016 and if implemented in its true spirit, it will further level the playing field for start-ups. The digital policy presented by the incoming government makes mention of creating Knowledge Economy Authorities across Pakistan, ensuring standardisation of enterprise systems to improve governance, with an emphasis on ensuring the integrity and security of national databases.
As a result of the orientation towards one-window operations for legal paperwork, Pakistan now stands at 136 on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, a jump of 11 places from last year. This compares to India’s 77th position and Bangladesh’s 176.
Although the Government aspires to create special economic zones (SEZs) to increase the ease of doing business, the focus should rather be on building IT parks and innovation cities like those created in China and Malaysia for example. This will create massive opportunities for start-ups to grow into SMEs (traditional SMEs in Pakistan create over 80% of the jobs in Pakistan).
So are we there yet? Nurturing infrastructure and supporting policies are in place for entrepreneurship to thrive and the private sector is contributing to the ecosystem as well. The numbers are showing an encouraging trend. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done.
#Pakistan's Airlift raises $12 million in country's largest Series A to build a mass transit system. It offers #rideshare system using higher capacity vehicles enabling urban commute. #Transportation #VentureCapital #startups #Uber #Lyft https://www.menabytes.com/airlift-series-a/ via @MENAbytes
Airlift, a Pakistan-based eleven-month-old decentralized mass transit startup, has secured $12M in Series A financing, it announced in a statement today.
The round is led by First Round Capital, a leading US venture capital firm with notable investments in Uber, Square, Roblox, Looker, and Notion. The round which is the largest Series A ever raised by a Pakistani startup also marks one of the largest financings in South Asia this year and the first time that a US-based VC has led a round in Pakistan. The round was also joined by Fatima Gobi Ventures, a joint venture between one of Pakistan’s leading conglomerates Fatima Group and Gobi Partners, and Indus Valley Capital.
Founded by Usman Gul, Ahmed Ayub, Awaab Khaakwany, Meher Farrukh, Muhammad Owais, and Zohaib Ali earlier this year, Airlift enables users to book rides on premium quality (air-conditioned) buses (and vans) that have fixed routes, stops and times, in Lahore and Karachi.
The users after signing up and logging in, can reserve their seats by selecting their pick up and drop off locations or browsing the routes. Airlift’s mobile app that’s available for both Android and iOS allows users to track the buses in real-time and make payments as well using their credit or debit cards (the users have the option to pay by cash too when they board the bus).
“Airlift is spearheading the third wave of ride-sharing, in which higher capacity vehicles are playing an increasing role in enabling urban commute. With this financing, Airlift is looking to invest in technology and operations to scale its vision for a decentralized mass transit system, initially focusing on the developing world,” the startup
“In the future, mass transit systems will be dynamic in nature, catering and adapting to the changing needs of the urban population. Our vision for a decentralized mass transit system is a new concept, one that will fundamentally redefine how people commute in urban centers,” says Usman Gul, Airlift’s co-founder and CEO.
Prior to moving to Pakistan, Gul previously worked at DoorDash, the largest food delivery platform in the US. Tony Xu, Founder/CEO at DoorDash, which was valued at $12.6 billion in the last round, was among the first few angel investors to support Airlift. In August, just five months after launching operations, Airlift closed seed financing of $2.2M with Indus Valley Capital and the Fatima Gobi Ventures co-leading the round. In October, only two months later, the Company has secured Series A financing, increasing its total capital to $14.1M and setting a new precedent for startups based in Asia.
#startups ecosystem in #Pakistan is taking shape with 24 incubators and accelerators, 20 formal funders and #investors and 80 co-working spaces across the country. The domains vary from #edtech, #health, #fintech and #ecommerce to on-demand. #technology https://aurora.dawn.com/news/1143578
The last three years have seen a significant rise in venture financing and investments. The most recent are Airlift, TelloTalk and SastaTicket.pk (which raised $1.5 million in Series A funding by Gobi Partners). Airlift, a decentralised mass transit system, has raised $12 million Series A funding, the largest by any start-up from Pakistan and one of the largest in the South Asian region this year. The funding round was led by Round Capital, a US-based VC that has previously invested in start-ups including Uber and Square. Earlier this year, Airlift secured seed financing amount of $2.2 million from Indus Valley Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures and TelloTalk, a local instant messaging application, raised $1.6 million from i2i Ventures.
This brings us to the other side of the table – investors. i2i is a Pakistan-based early-stage investment fund with Kalsoom Lakhani and Misbah Naqvi as partners. Other examples are Sarmayacar and Fatima Gobi Ventures. Zamindar Capital has also made investments via Idea Croron Ka, a business reality TV show that over a series of four seasons has connected 100+ start-ups with 25 potential investors, resulting in Rs 510 million committed investments. Oman Technology Fund has invested in six start-ups – including $100,000 each in Smartchoice, a financial comparison platform, and Queno, an edtech offering ERP solutions for schools – in a short span of 18 months. Most recently, SparkLabs Global Ventures, the world’s third-biggest early-stage investment firm, has announced the launch of SparkLabs Pakistan in this year.
Sarmayacar, for example, has been set up with an initial $30 million and will invest $100,000 to two million into companies in technology and technology-enabled sectors. So far it has made investments in Bykea, with a funding amount of $5.7 million that was co-led by investors from South Asia. (Bykea, Zameen.com and PakWheels are set to be unicorns from Pakistan.) Bykea is scalable, local yet replicable and has a forward-looking team of co-founders. Add Jonas Eichhorst’s experience on the board, and you will not find an element stopping them from growing as a million dollar unicorn.
Muneeb Maayr, founder and CEO of Bykea, was previously a co-founder at Rocket Internet’s Daraz, the largest e-commerce setup in Pakistan and the largest in South Asia after the Indian market. The acquisition of Daraz by Ali Baba presents multiple facets; firstly, the entrance of an e-commerce giant in the local market is promising and a positive sign for other large companies and start-ups to enter and secondly, setting the scene for other, early stage start-ups by showing a possible trajectory.
There is another perspective too. Atoms, a New York based footwear brand, traces itself to Markhor and HomeTown of 2011-2012. Atom’s journey was not easy – it required passion, dedication and self-belief. Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali, the co-founders, have all three. Persistence has been key and multiple pivots later, they landed a position at Y-Combinator, one of the top business accelerators in the world. Atoms have successfully raised $8.1 million in Series A rounds led by Initialized Capital, along with other investors including Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novograts, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and TED curator Chris Anderson. A completely home-grown startup has set an overarching way for others to acquire global exposure and rebase internationally.
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