Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Afiniti and Careem: Tech Unicorns Made in Pakistan

Afiniti and Careem are two technology unicorns engineered in Pakistan by Pakistanis. AI (artificial intelligence) startup Afiniti software has largely been engineered in Lahore while taxi hailing service Careem's technology has mostly been developed in Karachi. Here's more about these unicorns:

Careem:

Careem is a taxi hailing app that is giving its American competitor Uber a run for its money in a region stretching from Pakistan to the Middle East and North Africa. The company cofounded by Mudassir Sheika, a Pakistani national, is headquartered in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Careem's last round  was valued at over a billion dollars when it raised $350 million from Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten and Saudi Telecom Company (STC) at the end of 2016, according to Tech Crunch.

Careem's software has been developed by its technology partner VentureDive based in Karachi, Pakistan.  VentureDive was started by serial Pakistani entrepreneur Atif Azim who sold his earlier startup Perfigo to network equipment giant Cisco for $74 million in 2004, according to a report in Tech in Asia.

Atif launched VentureDive in 2011 and  took a small equity stake in Careem in exchange for building its entire tech stack – including the app, the website, and other digital platforms. That small stake has now grown to $50 million.

In 2016, Careem acquired VentureDive's engineering team working on its technology to give the engineers more ownership of the product – now they are getting equity stake in Careem and larger bonuses.

Afiniti Development Team in Lahore, Pakistan. Source: Afiniti.com


Afiniti:

Washington D.C. based AI technology firm Afiniti, founded by serial Pakistani-American entrepreneur Zia Chishti, has filed for initial public offering (IPO) at $1.6 billion valuation, according to VentureBeat. The company has grown out of the technology used in the Pakistan-based call center business of The Resource Group (TRG) also founded by Zia Chishti.

Bulk of the Afiniti development team is located in Thokar Niaz Baig, Lahore. In addition, the company has development team members in Islamabad and Karachi.

Chishti founded his first company Align Technology in 1997 in Silicon Valley. It creates clear plastic braces for straightening teeth by using advanced 3-D computer imaging. The technology now trademarked as Invisalign has helped millions of people straighten their teeth for a beautiful smile without enduring the pain and unsightly looks of the traditional steel brackets and wires used in orthodontics. Align Technology is now valued at $10 billion.

Afiniti uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to enable real-time, optimized pairing of individual call center agents with individual customers in large enterprises for best results. When a customer contacts a call center, Afiniti matches his or her phone number with any information related to it from up to 100 databases, according to VentureBeat. These databases carry purchase history, income, credit history, social media profiles and other demographic information. Based on this information, Afiniti routes the call directly to an agent who has been determined, based on their own history, to be most effective in closing deals with customers who have similar characteristics.

Summary:

Pakistan is an emerging center of technology with at least two unicorns, Afiniti and Careem, engineered by Pakistanis in Pakistan.  With growing numbers of young homegrown Pakistani technologists, a highly skilled diaspora and an evolving startup ecosystem with incubators, accelerators and investors, the country is beginning to demonstrate its vast potential as a vibrant technology hub of the future. Provincial governments, particularly those in Punjab and KP, are showing leadership in encouraging this trend. The main ingredients are all coming together to make things happen in Pakistan.

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3 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > TECHNOLOGY
10 Pakistani startups that made a mark in 2016

Here’s a list of 10 local startups that made a mark in 2016.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1261169/10-pakistani-startups-made-mark-2016/

1. Slide

Slide is an android based lock screen app that entices users to read content and click on ads by rewarding them with free internet and mobile recharge. What makes the app standout among other similar apps is that it allows users to select content of their interest. The app features a simple design that is seamlessly integrated in the smartphone’s lock screen. Users can choose content from an array of topics that include current affairs, sports, entertainment and fashion among others.

With Slide, Pakistan gets its first lockscreen app

The startup quickly tasted success, with downloads ranging between one to five million. It is worth mentioning that the app also secured $3.6 million in series A funding from South Korean VC firm Songhyun Investment, bringing its total investment to $4.6 million.

2. BeautyHooked

BeautyHooked is Pakistan’s first woman-funded, woman-run startup which provides a one-stop destination for females to browse salon and spa services, review prices and book appointments online. The startup also provides local industry players with a platform at a subscription.

BeautyHooked’s innovative idea led it to secure $280,000 in funding from Fatima Ventures within a year of its launch. The startup has now set its sight on capturing new markets.

3. Finja

Founded by tech and banking veterans, Finja is a Fin-tech startup that aims to digitise financial services in the country. The Lahore-based startup capitalises on rapidly growing smartphone penetration and a digitally literate population by offering financial services through its mobile wallet products.

Finja was successful in raising $1 million from Swedish investment firm Vostok Emerging Finance earlier this year and expects to raise the remaining $500k of it $1.5 million bridge-seeding soon.

4. Smart Devices

Smart Devices is among the first few Pakistani startups to employ IoT (internet of things) systems. The award-winning startup offers products that allow people to control home appliances from smartphones and computers.

This Pakistani startup offers solutions to differently-abled people

The Lahore-based startup offers electronic devices featuring WiFi functionality to replace the conventional plug and socket set up. The startup also has dedicated Android and Chrome apps as well as a cloud service, allowing its products to be in sync with different devices.

Smart Devices was nominated for the World Summit Award (WSA) this year. The startup also won the first ever IoT award in the Smart Home Category at Telenor’s IoT expo last year.

5. Find My Adventure

Find My Adventure is Pakistan’s first online end-to-end tourism portal that provides a one-stop shop for travelers where they can search, compare, select and book trips across the country. The startup allows travelers to choose from an array of pre-planned trips or plan one of their own.

Find My Adventure has facilitated 750 unique travelers in just over four months of its launch. It receives an average of 400 daily users on its website.

6. WonderTree

This startup is redefining the concept of special education by facilitating learning and therapy using games. WonderTree employs Microsoft’s Kinect technology and augmented reality to design interactive games that help encourage the mental and physical development of differently-abled children.

This Pakistani beauty startup just raised $280k seed round

WoderTree’s ground-breaking concept has earned it much recognition around the world with the startup wining an award at the GIST TECH-I startup competition at Stanford University. It also secured second place at P@sha ICT Awards in the e-Inclusion and e-Community category and recently won gold at the Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards (APICTA).

Riaz Haq said...

PAKISTAN’s FIRST VC FIRM
Published on June 6, 2017
LikePAKISTAN’s FIRST VC FIRM22Comment4ShareShare PAKISTAN’s FIRST VC FIRM6
Babar Lakhani
Babar Lakhani
FollowBabar Lakhani
CEO @ Lakson Investments


I am excited to announce that Lakson Investments (“LI”) has been awarded the first VC license in Pakistan.

LI is one of the largest private sector asset managers in Pakistan with over US$300mn under management with a rating of AM2+.

In Q4 2016, LI launched Lakson Investment Private Equity (“LI PE”) , which is led by a senior team of partners who were previously Directors at Goldman Sachs and Abraaj. This PE Fund is currently in pre-launch and expects to be investing by the fall of 2017.

LI is actively seeking to build another high-calibre investment team for Lakson Investments VC (”LI VC”) combining local knowledge with international experience. The Fund will invest alongside entrepreneurs and local businesses to build new enterprises and through investing seed capital, take ideas to the next stage. LI VC will work with LI’s team of over 50 experienced professionals while at the same time, leverage the operational experience of the Lakson Group. Over 14,000 people are employed by Lakson in Pakistan in businesses across sectors such as: Technology (CyberNet & Sybrid), Broadcast and Print Media (Express Media Group), FMCG (Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan), Insurance, and QSR (McDonald’s Pakistan).

Pakistan today has incredible opportunities in the IT space and LI VC is excited to announce that Sybrid will be their key technology partner to review both the IT capabilities of the firms that the Funds invest in and as well, evaluate how IT will create scalable opportunities. Teams and offices will be based around Pakistan in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/pakistans-first-vc-firm-babar-lakhani

Riaz Haq said...

Uber rival Careem closes $500M raise at $1B+ valuation as Daimler steps in

https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/14/uber-rival-careem-closes-500m-raise-at-1b-valuation-as-daimler-steps-in/

Amid ongoing struggles at Uber, one of its stronger regional rivals in transportation on demand has raised a significant round of funding, picking up a significant strategic investor in the process. Careem, a transportation startup currently in 80 cities across the Middle East, has raised another $150 million — closing out a $500 million Series E round that it confirmed in December when it announced the first $350 million tranche. With the new funds, Mudassir Sheikha, Careem’s co-founder and CEO, confirmed that Careem’s valuation is now over $1 billion. A separate source tells us more precisely that the funding is now $1.2 billion.

This latest tranche is being led by Saudi-based Kingdom Holding, the VC that also backs Lyft and invested in Twitter and Snap before they went public. German automaker Daimler (which itself has acquired Hailo in the UK, Taxibeat in Greece and MyTaxi in Germany), and VCs DCM Ventures and Coatue Management also participated. (A source confirms to us that the overall $500 million is being led by Rakuten, which invested in the first tranche.)

“With our investment in Careem, we are now taking the strategic step to becoming the world’s leading provider of mobility services,” Klaus Entenmann, CEO, Daimler Financial Services AG, said in a statement. “Careem has quickly leapt to the leadership of ridesharing within the MENA regions by delivering rapid innovation and customer growth, and it is spearheading new ways to transport people from point A to point B.”

This is a significant Series E for Careem — previously, the company had only raised $72 million. The size of the round speaks of the opportunity that investors see right now to grow more regional transportation services — both in direct competition with Uber and incumbent forms of transportation, as well as to tap a very big opportunity.

In the case of Careem, the latter is actually the stronger force at the moment. Sheikha — who co-founded the company with Magnus Olsson (who is the MD) — estimates that Careem plus Uber account for only around 1 percent of the potential market for transportation services in the region.

“When it comes to ride hailing, Uber is the primary competitor, but between us we’re serving just 1 percent of the opportunity,” he said, “so the biggest challenge is just growing.

“Dubai is a truly global city, but as soon as you leave Dubai for places like Oman or Cairo or many other cities, you realise that public transport infrastructure is not extensive. Plus, in our markets, if you look at the numbers, car ownership is also very low. Transportation is supply-constrained.”

Indeed, while half the world is railing about how Uber has treated women over the years, the challenges are of a decidedly different nature in Careem’s neck of the woods.

While women can drive in some places, in many they cannot, and many simply do not. “Women want to go out to school, college and work but cannot go because there is no car available,” he said. Many rely on fathers, brothers and husbands to get them around. “Transportation and lack of public transport what we are trying to address and reliably remove that constraint.”

Another issue that is perhaps more specific to Careem’s place as a startup mostly focused on emerging markets: payments. The vast majority of consumers either do not have credit or debit cards, or simply prefer to pay in cash, so Careem has had to adjust accordingly.

The company has come up with a mix of interesting solutions, including a network of people in its cities who act as collection managers, taking funds and then paying out drivers. And it also has developed an in-app wallet, where your change can be deposited after a ride if your driver doesn’t have it to hand, and then used for a future trip. The wallet also acts as a credit account for the highest-rated passengers.