Monday, June 16, 2008

Silicon Valley Summit of Pakistani Entrepreneurs

On June 14, the SAP campus in Palo Alto was the venue for OPEN Forum 2008, probably the world's largest gathering of Pakistani entrepreneurs outside of Pakistan with over 500 attendees. Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) describes itself as "a voluntary, not-for profit organization dedicated to the promotion of entrepreneurship and leadership in the Pakistani-American business community". Only a stone-throw away from Sandhill Road, the home of the big Silicon Valley venture capitalists, and located next to the legendary Xerox PARC, OPEN Forum this year naturally brought together a large number of VCs, high-tech executives, technologists, political leaders, diplomats, recruiters and the media.

The conference was opened by Dilawar Syed, the current president of OPEN, who welcomed the attendees and explained what OPEN Silicon Valley is about.

It was immediately followed by Adam Lashinsky of Fortune Magazine in conversation with Mike Moritz, Manging Director of Sequoia Capital, who came in via live satellite link from his hotel room in Beijing, China. It was 2AM Beijing time and Moritz confessed he was dressed only from the waist up.

Mike Moritz, a prominent partner at Sequoia Capital,made a keynote speech at OPEN Forum 2008. Mike Moritz discussed Sequoia's investment strategy and key areas such as information technology, clean technology, energy being targeted by the biggest VC partnership known for its successful investments in Yahoo, Google, PayPal, Apple Computer, Cisco, and YouTube. In terms of its international investments, Moritz said the Sequoia started investing in Israel, India and China when the founders of their portfolio companies opened R&D facilities there. Although Sequoia is currently not looking to go into another geography, it may consider other geographies such as Pakistan if their portfolio companies chose to open offices there. It should be noted that Sequoia has invested in several Silicon Valley startups with Pakistani-American founders. The chances of that happening are fairly low unless the Pakistani expatriates in the valley make a case for it.

In one of several panel discussions that followed Moritz at OPEN Forum 2008, Faraz Hoodbhoy, the CEO of PixSense, argued that Pakistani expatriates in Silicon Valley are the harshest critics of Pakistan. They are not immediately likely to ask US VCs to invest in Pakistan. PixSense currently has a big presence in Pakistan and prides itself in what Pakistani engineers have done for it to make it successful at a very low budget., the only Pakistani company to get US VC funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and ePlanet Ventures, accomplished it because its founders are from Silicon Valley who set up a development center in Pakistan. Please read this post for more on venture investments in Pakistan.

It was heartening to see that three of the five participants in the entrepreneurs panel on "Secrets of Success" were fellow NEDians, alumni of Karachi's NED University now settled in Silicon Valley. Naveed Sherwani is the founder and CEO of OpenSilicon funded by Sequoia Capital, Raghib Husain is the founder and CTO of Cavium, a VC funded company with over $1 billion valuation, that had a successful IPO on NASDAQ last year and Safwan Shah, the CEO of Infonox, which he bootstrapped into a successful, private held business. While the secrets each shared varied, the common themes were risk-taking, burning desire, serendipity, perseverance and good preparation to seize the opportunities.

The conference was an all day affair capped by an evening keynote by Howard Dean, the Chairman of the National Democratic Party. Howard Dean was clearly upbeat about the Democrats' prospects in November elections and talked about the recent successes in congressional elections where Republicans have been defeated in traditionally Republicans district. He highlighted a 50-state strategy to make gains for Democrats in all parts of the country from coast to coast.

Dilawar Syed and his team deserve a lot of credit for pulling off a very successful OPEN Forum 2008, an event that will bring positive focus on the Pakistani expatriate community in the United States and present a side of Pakistan that is too often ignored by the US and Pakistani media. If OPEN Silicon Valley continues to showcase Pakistani expats in the same way as TIE presents Indians, it is quite possible, even probable that, in the foreseeable future, we can develop Pakistan as a great brand name destination that attracts business and investment to Pakistan and helps its people become part of the modern, successful and globalized world at par with India and China and other emerging economies of the world.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani IT companies win recognition in Malaysia, according to The Express Tribune:

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani information technology (IT) companies won seven awards at the 10th International Asia Pacific ICT Awards (APICTA) held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Pakistani companies secured the highest number of total awards.

The Silver Awards were secured in the Security Applications, E-Inclusion and E-Community, Financial Applications, Communications, E-Government and E-Health categories.

Pakistani companies won in the face of stiff competition from companies from 16 countries including Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. The Center for Advanced Research in Engineering (CARE) won the Silver Award in E-Government, Security and Communications while Avanza won the Silver Award in the highly competitive Financial Category and Cure MD won the Silver Award in the E-Health category. Aerocar and Solotech showed won the Silver Award in the E-nclusion & E-Community category.

Secretary Information Technology Nagib Ullah Malik invited the winners to discuss ways and means to bolster the IT industry in Pakistan and increase the adoption of locally developed IT products. He also praised the winning companies for earning a good name for the country while acknowledging the depth and creativity of the companies.

The chairman of Pakistan Association of Software Houses (PASHA) Ashraf Kapadia, Member IT Tariq Badshah and Managing Director Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) Zia Imran were also present at the occasion.

Malik also said that the wins at APICTA are a solid evidence of the support that the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) has provided to spur innovation in Pakistan. He recommended the PSEB to look into additional IT industry support programs including greater adoption of locally developed products in government and private sectors.

Malik added that minimal regulation and maximum incentives are needed to compete with countries such as Vietnam and Brazil.

Riaz Haq said...

The Lahore-based and Five Rivers Technologies made it to the number one spot across all categories on BlackBerry’s AppWorld on August 3 with their game Ninja Fruit Bash, developed for BlackBerry smartphones, according to a report in Express Tribune:

This was the third BlackBerry app developed by the local company to make it to number one on BlackBerry AppWorld.

Their other apps to reach number one include Photo Editor, an app that allows users to edit photographs from their hand-held devices, and LED Notifier, an app that blinks different colored LED for different contacts.

Mahe Zehra Husain, the Head of Operations and Product Management said “We are thrilled at this achievement. We already have two world number one utilities on BlackBerry AppWorld and adding a game to our family shows that not only can good code be developed for software utilities in Pakistan we can actually make amazing games as well!”

Ninja Fruit Bash Storyline

Ninja Fruit Bash follows the quest of a Ninja as he travels across China slicing tainted and poisoned fruit in order to save humanity.

The fruit is poisoned by the evil spirit of Orochi and is fatal if eaten. Orochi has turned fertile fruit gardens all over China into poisonous wasteland and our Ninja is on a mission – to return all the fruit gardens to their former glory.

Here's more from

There’s a growing trend of taking iOS successes and porting them over to BlackBerry. We believe the trend was started by Smarter-Apps and from a strictly business perspective it makes a lot of sense. Sure, you could spend a long time working on a risky app that may or may not be a success, or you could take something that obviously makes money on another platform and bring it to the 40 million or so BlackBerry users. Considering the huge success of this strategy, as proved by Angry Farm, it makes you realize that a lot of these iOS developers are listening to the analysts more than the users.

Ninja Fruit Bash is the latest in this strategy and they’ve taken the success of Fruit Ninja to BlackBerry users. The app isn’t 100% of the fun you get on the iOS version and there are some limitations on the BlackBerry side such as the fact that not all devices have OpenGL support for 3D graphics. Ninja Fruit Bash on the Torch was a pretty smooth experience and it’s definitely a good start. The company will have to work a little harder to bring more of the user experience and graphics to the game but as a start it’s awesome.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistanis have less favorable attitude towards entrepreneurship than the people living in other countries under similar economic conditions, according to a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) released here on Saturday.

GEM is an international research consortium, which measures entrepreneurial activity of individuals in 59 countries.

The GEM report on Pakistan for 2010, which was sponsored in the country by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), divides 59 countries into three categories: Factor-driven economies, efficiency-driven economies and innovation-driven economies. Pakistan falls into the category of factor-driven economies.

Explaining the objectives of the research, Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Associate Director Dr Shahid Qureshi said it measured entrepreneurial attitudes, activity and aspirations through in-depth review of individual entrepreneurial characteristics of the adult (18-64) population in all parts of the country.

“It also lists factors that affect the level of entrepreneurial activity in society besides making suggestions to promote entrepreneurship,” Qureshi said.

According to the report, the new business ownership rate, which is the percentage of owner-managers of a business that is three to 42 months old, is 2.7% in Pakistan. It is ‘considerably less’ than the average rate for factor-driven economies (11.8%).

The established business ownership rate in Pakistan is 4.7%, according to the study, which is less than the average rate for factor-driven economies (12.6%).

The report’s key measure of entrepreneurship in a society is total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate, which is the sum of the nascent entrepreneurship rate and the new business-manager rate. According to the study, the TEA rate for Pakistan is 9.08%, which is lower than the average TEA rate for the factor-driven economies (11.7%).

The report says that early-stage entrepreneurs and business managers in Pakistan have low aspirations to grow as compared to most GEM participating countries. Besides, the report says that 27.73% of the total working-age population, including those who are entrepreneurially active, was of the view that fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business. However, the fear of failure in Pakistani population is less than the average of the factor-driven economies.

Speaking on the occasion, IBA Director and Dean Dr Ishrat Husain said the cost of IBA’s affiliation with Babson College of the United States was $1 million a year. “Despite all financial constraints, we’re not going to give up the affiliation.” Husain said that out of the national workforce of 50 million people, the large-scale manufacturing sector employed only one million people. He said a majority of the 49 million people was employed by the agricultural sector and small and medium-size enterprises.

Addressing the ceremony, Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said he dropped out of IBA after taking one semester many years ago. In contrast to the findings of the report, which emphasised the importance of entrepreneurship education, Shah said it was more about the urge within oneself. “Don’t count on others. Follow your gut feeling and do what you want,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Financial Times on Pak entrepreneurs flocking to England:

The number of wealthy entrepreneurs entering the UK on the government’s visa programme has doubled in the past year, boosted by people from China and Pakistan setting up businesses in London.

‘Entrepreneur visas’ allow foreign nationals to start a company and earn a fast track to UK citizenship, as long as strict criteria on access to funding, job creation, or business success are fulfilled.

London’s growing importance as a global tech hub, and the increasing difficulty in obtaining the right to work in the UK by other means, has hugely increased the interest in entrepreneur visas over the past year, say experts.

“Entrepreneurs from around the world are attracted to some of the UK’s fastest growing business sectors, such as the rapidly expanding IT start-up sector, which is centred around ‘Silicon Roundabout’ in London,” said Simon Horsfield, partner in the private wealth team of Pinsent Masons, the international law firm.

Take-up of the visas has increased sharply in recent years, jumping to 462 in the 12 months to the end of June 2012, compared with 199 in the same period a year earlier. In 2008 just 11 were issued, according to figures obtained by Pinsent Masons.

American entrepreneurs represented 22 per cent of successful applicants in the year to end of June. Chinese foreign nationals accounted for 11 per cent of the total – rising by 500 per cent to 54 applications last year – while entrepreneurs from Pakistan accounted for 16 per cent.

Mr Horsfield said unlike investor visas which have been criticised for being used as a quick route into the UK for wealthy investors, entrepreneur visas are not about people ‘buying’ a fast track to UK citizenship.

“To satisfy the visa criteria, applicants have to create jobs and prove that they will make a long-term contribution to the UK economy,” he said. “These entrepreneurs can be hugely beneficial to the UK economy. They’ll bring fresh ideas, create new jobs, and provide a boost just when the economy needs it.”

James Badcock, head of the Geneva office at law firm Collyer Bristow, said increasingly tight rules on immigration had boosted the popularity of specialist visas, such as entrepreneur or investor visas.

“Clients considering an entrepreneur visa are often those who are already entrepreneurs in their home country but are concerned about the stability or state of the political regimes where they live,” said Mr Badcock.

He said the visas were increasingly becoming popular among Asians because of the huge influx of Asian investment to London.

If after three years, holders of entrepreneur visas can demonstrate that they have created 10 permanent jobs in the UK or generated income over that period of at least £5m, they will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK at that time, with no restriction on their right to work, rather than having to wait for the usual five years.

Successful applicants must start their business within six months of being granted the visa.

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