As the US venture capital investment activity in India and China races ahead, the VC investments in Pakistan are just beginning to show signs of life with two young Pakistani companies receiving funding in late 2006 and middle of 2007.
Venture capital investment in China was up to $719m across 39 deals during the first quarter of 2008 from $492m in the first quarter of 2007, with media and advertising companies accounting for the bulk of deal activity and investment, according to the China Quarterly Venture Capital Report released by Dow Jones VentureSource. China has seen some very high-profile IPOs and exits recently that have firmly established China's value to the US VCs as a desirable destination.
IT and IT enabled services sectors have emerged on top for VC investments in India in the first three months in 2008, attracting over two-third of the total deals worth 144 million dollar. Venture capitalists invested $928 million in 80 India-based companies last year, a significant 166% jump compared to 2006, according to Down Jones. The Dow Jones report found nearly 48% of all venture financing deals in India were for Information Technology (IT) companies, as 38 rounds were completed, accounting for $384 million, more than India’s entire 2006 venture investment total. The most popular recipients of venture capital in the IT industry were companies in the Web-heavy “information services” sector, which accounted for 22 deals and nearly $141 million in investment. Among the deals in this area was the $10 million second round for Bangalore-based Four Interactive, an online provider of local information on food, events, lifestyle, shopping and more.
Overall, from 2006 to 2007, the number of VC and private equity deals in India increased from 299 to 387. The value of the deals increased from $7.5b to over $14b year-over-year, according to IVCA, the Indian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (IVCA) which has all the big-name Silicon Valley VCs represented in India. Only a quarter of the funds accounted for VC deals. In terms of exits, there were 65 M&As and 16 IPOs in 2007.
While China is flying about 5-10 years ahead of India which is gaining altitude in terms of venture capital investing with high-profile exits, Pakistan is just trying to get off the ground in this space.
Naseeb Networks, a Pakistani online recruitment, social networking, and classifieds company, has received an undisclosed amount of venture investment from two Silicon Valley VC firms, ePlanet Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Earlier in December, 2006, PixSense received $5.4 million in equity funding, led by ATA Ventures and Innovacom.
While there is a history of US VC investments in Silicon Valley technology companies founded by Pakistani founders, none of these VCs have previously funded companies such as Naseeb and PixSense which have significant R&D centers and operations in Pakistan.
At the OPEN Forum 2008 in Silicon Valley, Mike Moritz, Senior Partner at Sequoia Capital, said that Sequoia is currently not looking to go into another geography but it may consider other geographies such as Pakistan if their portfolio companies chose to open offices there. What took Sequoia to China, India and Israel were the founders of Silicon Valley companies who made a decision to locate R&D facilities in these geographies.
Speaking in a panel discussion at OPEN Forum 2008 recently organized by the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, Faraz Hoodbhoy, the CTO 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. However, Hoodbhoy's company PixSense has taken this path. PixSense currently has a sizable presence in Pakistan and prides itself in what Pakistani engineers have done for it to make it successful on very low budget. Naseeb.com, the only other 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 that has produced great results.
Faruq Ahmad, a Pakistani-American VC in Silicon Valley, wrote recently: "In my field of expertise, venture capital, Pakistan's success is particularly hard to predict. My investment experience includes India and China, and I saw how long it took these countries to get to critical mass as attractive investment destinations for US institutional investors. Pakistan is assembling a $50 million fund to help kick-start venture capital support for local companies. How the government structures and selects managers for this fund will determine whether future funds attract institutional investors and sponsorship support from top Silicon Valley firms, assuming attractive deal flow."
A public-private partnership is working with US experts to develop venture capital and private equity sectors in Pakistan. Venture capital is being promoted by the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF), a joint initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan which is working closely with the Pakistan Business Council (PBC). To support the innovation economy and spur entrepreneurial economic growth in Pakistan; CSF has a special window on business incubator/ venture capital for which CSF will be working closely with relevant stakeholders in the public and private sector along with the academia and the media. This facility will lead to the creation of business incubators and provide funding for them. Support for CSF is part of the US$ 1.5 billion in aid that the US Government is providing to Pakistan over five years to improve economic growth, education, health and governance.
While the efforts of the Pakistani government and CSF are laudable, the real impetus will come from the successful outcome of VC investments in companies such as PixSense and Naseeb. The other factor that will influence US VCs to do deals in Pakistan is the willingness of Pakistani-American entrepreneurs in the US to set up presence in Pakistan and demonstrate the value of Pakistani talent to the Americans and the rest of the world. Events such as OPEN Forum 2008 will also help bring Pakistan as a VC destination into the consciousness of the US VCs. And, of course, a measure of political stability and security will make a big difference to Pakistan's perception as investment-friendly.
Start-ups Drive a Boom in Pakistan
Last month another Pakistani company Vopium secured a USD 6.8M financing round. You can read more about that at www.vopium.com
Does his VC-backed company have significant operations in Pakistan? I'm only counting companies which have R&D centers or other operations in Pakistan staffed by Pakistanis.
Vopium has a major Pakistani setup. Please check www.vopium.com for more information, or do a simple google search.
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.
US AID promoting private equity investment in Pakistan's SME sector, reports Express Trib:
..$80 million, earmarked by the Obama administration under the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act for the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative
Crowding-out of the private sector from credit channels due to reckless government borrowing has provided a unique public relations opportunity to the US. The US has said it will offer loans ranging from $500,000 to $5 million to small and medium sized business in Pakistan, to help the latter expand and create jobs.
In total, $80 million, earmarked by the Obama administration under the Kerry-Lugar-Brahman Act for the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, will go towards providing cheaper financing and equity to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Pakistan.
“The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide up to $24 million for an equity fund, and fund managers will be required to match the requested funding to take the size of each equity fund to at least $45 million,” said Theodore Heisler, the project manager and senior economic growth advisor to USAID.
Heisler said that co-investment was essential in bringing the size of each fund to a level where it can cover operating expenses. The US intends to create at least three funds, but is, as yet, noncommittal to the total number. US authorities are on the lookout for good fund managers, and the availability of quality managers will determine the numbers of the funds, officials have said. During the last fiscal year, the federal government borrowed Rs1.77 trillion to finance the budget deficit. The State Bank of Pakistan has already warned that due to increasing government borrowing, there is little credit available for the private sector to grow.
“Having access to finances is a challenge for SMEs, as there is little equity and debt available for the sector,” said Heisler. “The longer term goal is to help expand the market for private equity investment and provide money that is not available through banks and other international lending agencies,” he added. He said the real job growth potential lies in the SME sector, as the corporate and public sectors cannot create unlimited jobs.
Heisler said each fund will have a 10-12 year lifespan. Individual investment sizes will range from $500,000 to $5 million, but could vary depending upon requirements. The initiative has been modelled on the Polish American Enterprise Fund, which was started with $140 million and has now grown to a multi-billion dollar fund.
Heisler said the US is looking to create a private equity industry in line with global standards, as there is hardly any private equity investment fund in Pakistan. He said the other purpose was fetching foreign investment through co-investment, as investment in Pakistan is dwindling.
The US is currently looking for fund managers who have a successful history, and Heisler said that both local and international fund managers have expressed interest in the project.
To a question whether Pakistani fund managers have expressed reluctance due to doubts over long-term commitment issues with the US, the US embassy replied “we believe there will be substantial interest from local, regional and international investors”.
It further said that “the US government designed the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative after a year of research and consultations with numerous stakeholders, including the Pakistani private sector and regulatory authorities.” It added that USAID will structure the funding to ensure that it is sustainable.
Here's an excerpt of a piece from Venturebeat.com on venture capital in Pakistan:
Naseeb.com was definitely the example that led DFJ and EPlanet to back Rahman’s next venture, the Lahore-based online job portal, rozee.pk, in 2007. That was a time “when everything was turning upside down in Pakistan,” Rahman said. The constitution had been suspended, bomb blasts were a daily occurrence and Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. That did not scare the investors who Rahman had bombarded with data on the robustness of Pakistan’s market and the growth projections of his enterprise.
Venture capital has always been anchored in taking a risk on an individual and an idea, where the probability for success, as Rahman noted, is “super, super low.” And risk is exactly what Pakistan needs to encourage in order to jumpstart investments and the flow of capital.
Capital in Pakistan is frozen in a different era. Banks balk at extending credit to innovative startups, even where contracts guarantee return.
That is what happened to Shakir Husain, CEO and founder of the technology outsourcer Creative Chaos, when he went in to request a $100,000 loan to expand his business
“Put together collateral for $100,000 and we’ll give you this loan,” he was told. When the entrepreneur replied that he had a $1 million contract from a client based in the United States, he was still refused. “Had I been a textile company where I could produce a letter from my client there would have been no problem. Being a software company, they didn’t know how to collateralize that risk.” He eventually self financed.
He also set out, much like Reid Hoffman, to ensure that other aspiring entrepreneurs have access to risk rather than roadblocks. He, along with Rahman and other established Pakistani entrepreneurs, has become an angel investor. This has resulted in some progress.
The Acumen Fund, a U.S.-based non-profit which uses philanthropic dollars to make venture investments, is one resource for larger amounts of financing. Self-described as a “social venture fund” that promotes “patient capital,” Acumen has invested millions in several Pakistani “social” enterprises, which have proven to effectively serve the social needs of the poorest.
The Kashf Foundation, Pakistan’s second largest private microlender, is Acumen’s best example. Touching nearly 1 million Pakistani women, Kashf has dispensed $100 million in loans and has closed over $36 million in commercial deals with local and international banks.
Pakistan’s “non-social” entrepreneurs require similar and bold backing. They require it, not from the philanthropic or non-profit world, but the private sector. Capital markets cannot be built by anyone else. Nor can Pakistanis build them alone. This is where U.S. venture capitalists can help.
Certainly, firms on Sand Hill Road or Route 128 aren’t in a position to source deals for individual Pakistani entrepreneurs. The levels of financing, which would average around $200,000 to $400,000, would not be worth the exorbitant transaction costs. Pakistan’s weak legal system would require tough term sheets that would be a disadvantage to most Pakistani entrepreneurs. Conducting due diligence, the real value to entrepreneurs, would be a challenge.
What they can do is challenge Pakistani banks and investors to create a Pakistan venture fund that they would then match. There are already several investment firms in Pakistan, such as the Abraaj Capital Group-backed BMA Capital, that could administer the fund. Last year’s announcement by The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a U.S. government agency, approving $455 million in financing to support the establishment of five private equity funds to invest in Middle Eastern companies provides a precedent and model....
Here's an ET article on private equity and debt markets as propellers of economic growth:
Let’s start by asking why are most investors in financial assets only interested in stock and bond markets, to the extent that even the premier CFA institute examinations and most university programmes almost solely focus on these two.
Here is why. These are the only two saving vehicles (asset classes) that are large, liquid and have visible prices. World public equity market capitalisation at $50 trillion (Bloomberg) and bond market debt outstanding at $95 trillion (CityUK), provides decent saving depth for global GDP (annual income) of $65 trillion.
The tangible asset market, mostly real estate (but including under/over-ground commodities and personal property), is even larger at $150 trillion, but is illiquid, due to relatively large ticket deal sizes and non-standardisation and hence is called an ‘alternative asset class’.
Private equity or shares of unlisted companies are interesting. They are grouped as alternatives due to liquidity constraints and big deal sizes, but otherwise seem the same securities, ie equity.
Before I elaborate, let’s try to ascertain the total size of private equity market. According to Credit Suisse 2011 Global Wealth Report, total net wealth in the world is $231 trillion. From this, we minus the value of ‘real’ assets, stock markets and $5 trillion in cash and demand deposits. The size of bond market is not included in the calculation as one person’s bond asset is another’s liability and it cancels out. Hence, estimated value of private companies comes to $30 trillion, which is smaller than the public equity market but still huge.
Conclusion: Private equity presents a huge universe of opportunities and can certainly add value to High Net Worth (HNW) portfolios containing only stocks and bonds, by both increasing return and lowering true volatility at the same time. It is certainly an alternative investment class, but not only because of low liquidity, but rather because it marries management science with pure investment.
Here's PakObserver on US support for entrepreneurship in Pakistan:
Friday, January 11, 2013 - Islamabad—US Ambassador Richard Olson affirmed that the United States will continue to support the development of Pakistan’s entrepreneurs, including through the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund, during a visit to the National University of Sciences and Technology’s (NUST) Technology Incubation Center on Thursday.
“We all know that societies thrive when their people have ample opportunity, and this is why the United States supports young entrepreneurs in Pakistan,” said Ambassador Olson during a tour of NUST’s state-of-the-art Technology Incubation Center.
While at NUST, Ambassador Olson announced that the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund, which supports small-scale, high-impact programs for communities throughout Pakistan, will now also focus on support to Pakistan’s entrepreneurs. The U.S. Embassy also recently unveiled an entrepreneurship program called Khushhali Ka Safar (Journey to Prosperity), which provides support to innovative Pakistani entrepreneurs by connecting them with American investors and mentors, particularly from the Pakistani-American diaspora and academic institutions.
Ambassador Olson highlighted NUST’s future Center for Advanced Studies, which will focus on Pakistan’s energy needs, and is being established together by the Governments of Pakistan and the United States. Three Centers will eventually be established across the country. “These Centers, a five-year, $127 million program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, will promote the development of Pakistan’s water, energy, and agriculture sectors through applied research, training, university linkages, and contributions towards policy formation. We look forward to promoting entrepreneurship and innovation through the strong links each center will have with the private sector,” said the Ambassador.
In addition, the United States recently launched the multi-year Pakistan Private Investment Initiative. Drawing on public-private partnerships, this initiative will spur job growth and economic development by expanding access to capital for Pakistan’s small- to medium-sized companies.Another U.S. program, the Pakistan Firms Project, helps to increase the profitability and incomes of small and medium-sized businesses in vulnerable areas by identifying and removing constraints to private-sector job growth in key areas such as agriculture, livestock, minerals, and tourism.
Here's a PakistanToday report of a Silicon-Valley based Pakistani-American VC Faysal Suhail's Pak visit:
ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has great opportunity to tap the true potential of Venture Capital for job creation and acceleration of economic growth on sustainable grounds. “Pakistan is having potential as well as talent to promote venture capital to strengthen its economy,” Faysal Sohail, Managing Director of CMEA Capital in San Francisco USA told APP in an interview.
The American experts was accompanied by Matthew Boland, Deputy Press Officer-Deputy Spokesman of US Embassy in Islamabad and Ambassador Shahid Kamal and Advisor Science, Technology and Innovation Organization (STIO).
It is pertinent to mention here that Faysal Sohail is currently visiting Pakistan to explore venture capital potential in various fields of economy with special focus on energy sector.
He was of the view that although venture capital was a new idea for Pakistan but it has the potential to boost the country’s economy by utilizing the vast talent of its young generation.
He said that complying with Islamic ideology, Venture Capital is risk-based capital for entrepreneurship with prospects of good returns on investments.
Faysal Sohail said the venture capital sector was investment-friendly as risk was shared by both investor and owner of the project. It provides an opportunity of sharing capital and skills through a mutual venture, he added. Replying to a question, Faysal said in Pakistan the energy sectors, including solar and other alternative energies, web, software and commerce, including e-commerce, and third generation mobile technologies were the major sectors which could boost national economy and create job opportunities.
He said during the last 20 years, 100 per cent new jobs created in the United States were through venture capital, so this sector had great potential for Pakistan also.
“Venture capital is like life-blood for various companies”, he remarked.
Replying to another question, he said Pakistan and the United States have a lot of potential for collaboration in the field of venture capital and in this regard Pak-US Business Council and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) could play an important role.
The venture capital expert stressed the need for highlighting the new idea of venture capital in Pakistan so that people as well as the entrepreneurs take optimum benefit of the important sector.
“Since the economic growth is driven by small and medium size enterprises, the venture capital can play an important role to boost the economy on sustainable grounds,” he added.
We are small entrepreneurial group,with extensive trading experience and have recently expanded to set up a Bio fertilizer unit.
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Here's a Dawn report on Startup Grind launch in Karachi:
Originally founded in California, Startup Grind is an international community with a global presence in more than 40 cities and 20 countries.
Its mission is dedicated to celebrate the success stories of founders and innovators of business startups and encourage entrepreneurship.
The monthly interviews and startup mixers provide a great opportunity to entrepreneurs-in-making to network with ambitious people and benefit from the ‘pearls of wisdom’.
The official launch in Pakistan took place on Friday, the 3rd of May at T2F (The Second Floor).
It was hosted by Mr. Fawaad Saleem, the Chapter Director for Startup Grind and chaired Mr. Farzal Ali Dojki as the guest of honour. Mr. Farzal is the CEO of Next Generation Innovations, a consulting company that specializes in customized IT solutions and often partners with startup businesses to support their launch and operations.
The event started off with tea and networking as professionals across different spectrums of the industry engaged in meaningful networking. Before the interview began, Mr. Farzal gathered the prime issues that plagued the audience’s minds regarding startups.
The concerns focused on lack of funding opportunities, successful team-building, and making the choice between entrepreneurship and employment in the early stages of one’s career.
He concluded his talk with three lessons.
Firstly, as a startup you need to work hard and with dedication.
Secondly, it is important to hire carefully and ‘fall in love’ with the people you are hiring.
Thirdly, in order to launch a startup, it is important to work in a startup first. The learning curve of working in a successful small team is extremely high. One gets the opportunity to engage directly with the customers, take decisions, and explore areas of growth.
Here's a ET report on USAID helping lunch a private equity fund in Pakistan:
The United States and the government of Pakistan hosted the ‘US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference’ in Dubai, where USAID in association with the Abraaj Group and JS Private Equity Management (JSPE) announced the creation of the ‘Pakistan Private Investment Initiative’ which will launch two new private equity funds focused solely on Pakistan’s dynamic and fast-growing small- and medium-sized businesses.
USAID Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah announced that USAID will provide a seed investment to capitalise the funds which will be matched by Abraaj Group and JSPE with investments of their own, as well as private funds raised from other limited investors.
“We are seeding individual funds with $24 million each. The Abraaj Group and JSPE will match or exceed our commitment. We fully expect them to exceed that contribution,” said Dr Rajiv Shah. “Pooled funds will initially be $100 million which we expect will grow many fold into hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for small and medium businesses.”
The announcement came at the end of the first day of the conference. “By partnering with Abraaj and JS Private Equity Management, USAID capitalises on these companies’ expertise to make smart investment decisions that will grow the Pakistani economy, create jobs, and generate profits for investors who seize the economic opportunities that Pakistan presents,” Shah said.
Speaking at the conference US Ambassador Richard Olson said, “The United States is one of the largest investors in Pakistan, and the US government supports Pakistani business leaders by offering access to finance, facilitating business deals, and strengthening business education.”
“With 190 million potential customers, Pakistan is a huge emerging market opportunity for US companies,” Ambassador Olson observed.
The conference, sponsored by the US government, was attended by 200 American, Pakistani and Emirati businesses including Gillette, Citibank, General Electric, Procter and Gamble, Abraaj Group, Big Bird Group, Coca-Cola, Conoco Phillips, Engro, Estee Lauder, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Monsanto, Nishat Group, and the Saif Group.
Here's an APP report on US helping promote entrepreneurship in Pakistan:
ISLAMABAD, Nov 17 (APP): The United States is ready to cooperate with Pakistan for entrepreneurship development in the country to put it on the path of sustainable economic growth, said Advisor to US President on Entrepreneurship and Founding Managing Director of MIT Entrepreneurship Center Ken Morse on Sunday. “Entrepreneurship offers best option to Pakistan for engaging its youth in productive activities and to create more jobs,” he said while addressing the business community here.
He said Pakistan should celebrate entrepreneurship day to create awareness in society and motivate its youth for becoming entrepreneurs.
He was of the view that Pakistan should focus on encouraging its youth towards entrepreneurship to help them have respectable jobs and help promote economic growth.
Ken Morse is member of a delegation visiting Pakistan. The other delegation members include Jason Pontin Editor in Chief MIT Technology Review, Ms. Deirdre Coyle Co CEO of All World Network.
The delegation members along with Azhar Rizvi Chairman FPCCI Standing Committee on Innovation visited Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss the importance of entrepreneurship development for Pakistan.
Morse said 65 per cent of small hotels and single person stores in the US were owned by South Asians, which showed that they had great potential for this profession.
Speaking on the occasion, ICCI President Shaban Khalid briefed the delegation about the ICCI activities for entrepreneurship and youth development.
He said ICCI had formed a Young Entrepreneurs Forum (YEF) to focus on encouraging youth towards entrepreneurship adding YEF organizes workshops, trainings and mentorship programs for youth development as well as promotes the networking of young entrepreneurs at local and international level.
The YEF recently organized an Indo-Pak Young Entrepreneurs Bilateral at Islamabad to promote linkages in youth of both countries, he said adding both the sides signed a joint statement which also declared to establish a Peace University to promote people-to-people relations between the two countries.
Jason Pontin, Editor in Chief of MIT Technology Review, said entrepreneurship had been identified as one of the most important vehicles for economic wellbeing of individuals and communities and added that MIT Enterprise Forum Pakistan (MITEFP) had been established to develop an entrepreneurial eco-system in the country.
He was of the view that fostering entrepreneurship in Pakistan would create greater employment, growth and competitiveness in the country and engage youth in economic activities.
He said,” We are planning to start MIT Technology Review in Pakistan and its publication will highlight Pakistani entrepreneurs’ success stories at international level giving them an international exposure.”
Ms Deirdre Coyle Co, Chief Executive Officer of All World Network, said Pakistan had great potential for entrepreneurship and “we are trying to put Pakistani companies on global stage by announcing the ranking of 100 fastest growing companies of Pakistan.”
This would help Pakistani companies to get international recognition and we want to show the world that Pakistan is very much open to business and help change perception about it, she added.
She hoped that joining the All World ranking, Pakistani companies would get global visibility, attract new customers, investors and talent all over the world and become part of a prestigious group of successful entrepreneurs.
With a country that has been plagued by various negative connotations in recent years and has been notoriously labelled for being the most dangerous place on earth, it is certainly a surprising fact that Plan9 has created a niche for itself as the most reliable gateway of Pakistani tech industry at national and international levels.
Pakistan has bagged itself an incubator which is competing against time to be the greatest and largest tech/ business incubator not only in the country but also in the Asian region. Punjab Information Technology Board took the plunge and Dr. Umar Saif pulled the right strings to drive the creative chaos along the right direction.
It has incubated around 30 startups over the past one year, 20 have survived and 10 have failed. Some have reached milestones while a few reached to the conclusion that entrepreneurship might not be their cup of tea.
“Tech entrepreneurship is such a powerful concept that if inculcated meticulously can totally rebrand Pakistan and Plan9 is just one such stepping stone,” says Nabeel A. Qadeer who heads this initiative and has huge yet promising plans for 2014.
Currently, Plan9 is acting as a haven for early stage startups that are in dire need of a push to get into the market. Its vast network of mentors from all over the world who are fully committed towards the cause and vision of the incubation programme have facilitated the process in numerous ways.
Why the Need for Plan9?
Plan9 envisions to lay foundations of, and developing an entrepreneurial eco-system, to support the staggering economy of Pakistan. A multi-dimensional strategy has been adopted to achieve this.
A significant percentage of the literate population leaves the country as a consequence of ‘Brain Drain’; by providing economic opportunities to them along with mentoring of white-collared employees of the tech industry, Plan9 aims to retain outstanding IT talents in the country.
The long-term goal of investment by the provincial government is to invite job creators instead of job seekers with the intention of bringing equilibrium and stability, even sustainability, to the job market.
The working model of this incubation programme is different than that of top rated business incubators globally; neither incubation fee is charged for the services provided; nor is equity sought for investment. All facilities are given free of cost for a period of 6 months in every cycle.
Meet the Startups
The third cohort of Plan9 is bursting with immense energy and amazing ideas. Here is what they are working on and their products cater to the needs of local and international markets simultaneously:
Apppulp: Measure a video game’s quality by using one major factor: its ability to engage users over and again.
Appography: Mobile app ‘Vivid’ enables users to tackle customer service issues—by “ending the endless wait and annoyance of a customer service call”
Tourplanner.pk: Online travel portal caters to the inbound needs of Pakistani travelers.
Bu Bio Tech: Develops prosthetic hands that work on neural networks of the human body.
OneStep Solutions: Reinvents driving around smartphone to unlock real-time vehicle information.
Multiplex Pakistan: Develops online specialty stores focusing primarily on baby products.
404 Solutions: Develops a GPS enabled bus tracking system.
edakhla.com: A communication portal between students and universities.
Nutrionize: Developing an online directory helping people identify, connect and review local doctors in their areas.
Court Piece: Development of online versions of Pakistan’s traditional social games.
Pak CNC: CNC Water Jet cutting-machine for industrial purposes.
FANZ Solution: Online ticketing of bus travel.
ServeMe: An online service to connect blue-collar workers to clients.
- See more at: http://plan9.pitb.gov.pk/blog/detail/33#sthash.IFjutNJy.dpuf
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.
#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/
Why Pakistani Startups Are The Next Big Thing
Published on December 1, 2019
Founder & Managing Partner at Indus Valley Capital
Last 18 months saw more acquisition & fundraising activity for Pakistani startups than the previous 10 years combined. That's a clear sign of the Pakistani startup market having hit an inflection point.
Firstly, the acquisition of Daraz by Alibaba for somewhere between $150M-200M highlighted the potential of ecommerce in the country. Six months later, EasyPaisa getting valued at $410M+ in the 45% buyout by ANT Financial, showed how valuable the fintech sector was. Both Daraz and EasyPaisa had only captured a fraction of these markets at the time of these deals.
At the same time, three unicorns with Pakistani founders and a significant team presence in Pakistan, all hit massive new milestones. Afiniti, a startup developing artificial intelligence for use in customer call centers, was valued at $1.6B in its series D round late last year. KeepTruckin, building trucking fleet management solutions, raised $149M in its series D round, valuing at $1.25B in Apr 2019. And the most exciting development was Careem's $3.1 Billion acquisition by Uber in March 2019. Careem's early tech and product was developed in Pakistan, the CEO Mudassir Sheikha is a Pakistani and Pakistan is one of its largest markets. One of the largest tech acquisitions of all time, slightly ahead of Apple's acquisition of Beats, this was a seminal event that has galvanized the Pakistani startup ecosystem. Ex-Careem employees are already out there starting new companies and joining high-growth startups.
Zameen/EPMG, one of the earliest and largest Pakistani startup success stories, raised a massive $100M series D round in February 2019. They have now expand to 40 cities across the UAE, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Morocco, Spain and Romania, and have over 2,000 employees.
Finally, what's most exciting is that Pakistani startups have crossed the seed to series A chasm. Three of the largest series A rounds in Pakistan have all happened in the last 8 months: Bykea's $5.7M series A in April, Cheetay's $7.8M series A in September, and Airlift securing $12M in series A funding in November. Airlift's large series A is particularly amazing because the startup only launched 8 months ago. This would be remarkable even for a Silicon Valley startup and is illustrative of how quickly startups can capture share in the completely untapped Pakistani market.
Airlift series A round is led by First Round Capital, a leading Silicon Valley VC, known for early bets on Uber and Square. First Round has not invested in Asia in more than a decade, not in China nor in India nor in Indonesia. Yet they chose to invest in a Pakistani startup given the opportunity they saw. I believe this is not a one-off event and is reflective of how primed Pakistani startup ecosystem is to take off after a long time of slow build-up.
What's Ahead: Wapistanis and VC Dollars flowing to Pakistan
To sum it up, Pakistan is the largest market untapped by startups and venture capital today. Pakistanis form one of the biggest tech talent pools in the world and have done well across the globe, founding several unicorns (at least six by my count) and having played a leading role in many others. With this talent advantage, Pakistani startups are well positioned to dominate all major industries in Pakistan and also expand to MENA, a $3.6 trillion economy that's also relatively early in the startup cycle.
What took Indonesia a decade, Pakistan will do it faster because the broadband penetration is at a much higher baseline, because capital moves faster to global opportunities today than it did a decade ago and because Pakistan has a larger talent base both at home and among the diaspora.
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