Monday, December 18, 2017

Ignite: Pakistan Federal Government Fund to Promote Tech R&D

Guest Post by Yusuf Husain
CEO, Ignite

The mandate of Ignite, formerly National ICT R&D Fund, a Government owned non profit company, affiliated with the Ministry of IT, Government of Pakistan, is to fund innovative projects that solve local problems or target global opportunities. Since early 2017 we are focusing on startups based on 4th Industrial Wave technology – like AI, IoT, Robotics and AR – whose technology risk is beyond the appetite of private sector investors, with the expectation that investors and corporates will participate in subsequent rounds or else purchase or license the technology. With about ten deals a quarter, with average size of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, we also fund academia and industry projects with strong, well-articulated commercial potential and intent. This year projects include a smart stent, which detects slippage, clotting and re-stenosis, an IoT based water management system that detects moisture in the air and fluid in the ground, an AR remedial system that improves motor, cognitive and functional skills in neurologically challenged children, and AI based bovine disease diagnostic that improves dairy production and life of cows.

Startups are the building blocks of the knowledge economy, and Ignite is funding world-class incubators across the country. National Incubators in Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawer are operational, with Karachi and Quetta expected to launch in early 2018. Together, these incubators will cover a hundred thousand feet, including Makerspaces and design labs, and incubate a couple of hundred startups every year. Human resource development is the key driver of economic and job growth. Ignite will be launching an ambitious plan to train one million people in marketable digital skills, also in early 2018. Designed like a startup, and driven by data based AI decision-making, the program is expected to iterate to match supply with demand and achieve high completion rates on training courses. Included is a learn-by-doing soft skills component that will develop aptitude in communication, meeting commitments, initiative, and perseverance.

Many countries in the world from USA and UK to Israel and India support innovation and entrepreneurship through the award of Government projects, funding, incubators, and incentives. Agile regulation and targeted incentives are essential to unleashing the power of innovation and entrepreneurship. Through studies and engagement with experts in industry and academia, Ignite seeks to develop the thought leadership required to support the Government in designing such regulation and incentive packages. A three-year tax break and credit for Startups was introduced last year. More incentives for startups, incubators, VC, Angels and Corporate Innovation are on the anvil.

Waves of innovation have changed the course of history, elevating innovative societies and marginalizing laggards. Through its outreach program, Ignite seeks to inform key stakeholders and change agents in media, government, academia, corporates, the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the professional community about Ignite initiatives, and the opportunities, threats and tradeoffs offered by the 4th Industrial Wave innovation.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Tech Investing Opportunities in Pakistan

Pakistani Tech Unicorns

Promoting Culture of Innovation in Pakistan

IT Jobs Moving From India to Pakistan

E-Commerce in Pakistan: The Party Has Started

Pakistan Mobile Broadband Speed Fastest in South Asia

Data Usage Soaring in Pakistan

Fiber Connectivity in Pakistan

Mobile Apps in Pakistan Public Sector

Armed Drones Outrage and Inspire Pakistanis


Ata R. said...

A national innovation policy

By Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman

In Pakistan, the National ICT R&D Fund – which is to be renamed ‘Ignite’ – was approved when I was the federal minister of science and technology. It is now the premier national institution dedicated toward promoting an innovation and research commercialisation ecosystem across the country. It aims to make Pakistan a strong player in the knowledge economy by transforming into a Venture Capital (VC) fund that focuses on industrial technologies connected to The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. These include Big Data, Internet of Things, Cloud/Cyber security, robotics, 3D/4D printing, neuro technology and wearable implants. The company is setting up a series of incubation centres across the country that could impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan by unleashing creativity. Its latest initiative is to set up a centre within Karachi University under the umbrella of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences.

Rizwan said...

Mr. Yusuf Husain's and Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman's contributions to Pakistan are highly appreciated, specially hr latter's. Nevertheless I am disheartened by the low ranking of Pakistan on The Ease of Doing Business Index. Its ranking has steadily slipped from 60/? in 2006 down to 147/190 in 2018 (that's the year of the latest ranking). That means that regardless of how much innovation is made, it is very hard for anyone in Pakistan to start a business. The corrupt bureaucracy and red tape is killing most if not all entrepreneurship.

Riaz Haq said...

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.

Riaz Haq said...

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 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 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 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 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.

Riaz Haq said...

Ideas meet investments: Momentum Pakistan 2018 kicks off in Karachi

Startups, entrepreneurs, tech giants, social media stars, musicians; Momentum’18, one of Pakistan’s biggest tech conference, had it all covered under one roof.

Pakistan’s most awaited tech conference, Momentum Pakistan 2018 initiated yesterday, February 19 and will also continue today, February 20. The annual event attracted numerous startups, entrepreneurs, incubators, and national and international investors. The conference also hosted number of global companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and many others, of which’s delegates along with setting up their stalls, gave inspirational speeches too.

“I think this is a great platform where tech startups, investors, and IT vendors can meet and get support. My aim is to help these startups grow in Pakistan and abroad by giving them a platform,” expressed Chrystele Dumont from Microsoft.

The conference was a home for 250+ startups. Ranging from e-commerce and marketing based, to incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into everyday products and turning them into smart technology, the conference contained all.

Ignite, Qubolt, Fori Mazdoori, Botsify etc. were among the many names promoting their various products such as chat bots, holograms, robots, smart courier services and more.

The conference proved to be a great platform for women too who showcased their products. Developing smart technology such as ‘Rough Road Detection’, brain-driven ‘Intellectual Wheel Chair’, ‘Vision Detector’ for visually impaired, and ‘iSecure’ smart watches for eradicating child abduction etc. proved that women are no less than men.

“It’s time for us women to have a ripple effect and be positive,” expressed Gia Farooqui, CEO of Roshni Rides.

The Pakistani Indian, Asha Jadeja from Dot Edu Ventures also said, “Pakistan has the most exciting ecosystem that is growing. Technology is at its beginning phase here and it is developing more.”

Moreover, the conference also consisted of amazing speakers and panels from startups and from renowned firms all across the world. Asha Jadeja from Dot Edu Ventures, CEO of Foodpanda, Telenor, Careem etc., USAID representatives, Lashley Pulcifer from Hashoo Groups, Chrystele Dumont from Microsoft, were a few of the esteemed speakers that spoke on different topics regarding investments, women empowerment, Pakistani entrepreneurial ecosystem, tech startups and much more.

“Events like these are very important, they bring together everyone to inspire,” said Lashley Pulcifer, Chief Marketing Officer of Hashoo Group.

Lastly, the day was not all about speeches and promotional stalls. The event’s first day ended with a standup comedy by the popular social media star Junaid Akram where he left the audience laughing. It was followed by a concert from the ‘Call’ that marked a perfect ending to the first day of Momentum Pakistan 2018.

Talking about the event, Junaid Akram said, “This is a platform to bring startups together. Things like these are not highlighted in Pakistan, and events like these bring everyone under one roof, bridging investors and creators.”