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|
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
PAKISTAN’s FIRST VC FIRM
Published on June 6, 2017
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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.
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.
#Startup culture flourishing in #Pakistan, says US tech executive. #entrepreneurship
BUILDING start-ups is a risky business. Seven to eight out of 10 don’t end up being successful. That’s how it works in a healthy, functioning economy.
But a country needs an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs who try and fail.
The good thing is that this culture is flourishing in Pakistan, according to Andrew Scheuermann, co-founder and CEO of US sensing automation company Arch Systems.
Though a lack of financing is a big issue in the country, Andrew Scheuermann believes good entrepreneurs can use whatever they have to start creating value and multiply
“There are many parts of a functioning ecosystem. Some of those are clearly happening in Pakistan,” Mr Scheuermann told Dawn in a recent interview.
Mr Scheuermann, 28, is a recent PhD from Stanford University and was one of the early team members who built StartX, considered one of the top start-up accelerators in the world.
He believes Pakistan is going in the right direction as far as the start-up culture is concerned, saying that he has been “very impressed” with the entrepreneurial spirit in the country.
“At the end of the day entrepreneurship is driven, more than anything else, by the entrepreneurs, not by the investors. It’s driven by entrepreneurs who create opportunity and who find needs that they want to satisfy,” he says. “The competition from great ideas and energetic people drives the ecosystem. And that is the part that is going best in Pakistan.”
Mr Scheuermann is on a visit to Pakistan under the US Embassy’s Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. He has been meeting young entrepreneurs in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, giving them tips about raising and managing funds for their ventures.
Emphasising on the qualities of a good entrepreneur, he says two common values are persistence and resourcefulness. Good entrepreneurs know the problem they want to solve, and they don’t give up even if the current solution is not the right one. They keep trying until they solve the problem.
In Pakistan, a lack of access to finance is a major issue for young entrepreneurs. Most commercial banks prefer to invest in risk-free government notes and bonds and avoid loans to the private sector.
However, Mr Scheuermann says good entrepreneurs know how to create value with little resources. “You don’t need million-dollar financing to build a company. You can have $50. Whatever you have available to you, you can use it to start creating value and multiply,” Mr Scheuermann says.
Another issue is that though a lot of young people want to try their hand at entrepreneurship, they don’t know how to get started. Nearly 23pc (or around 12 million) young Pakistanis want to start their own business but “are clueless on the procedures and requirements”, says a 2016 report of by start-up accelerator Invest2Innovate quoting the data of United Nations Development Programme.
However, incubators like The Nest i/o, Plan9 and Seed Ventures, and accelerators such as Invest2Innovate, Telenor Velocity and PlanX are trying to change that by helping start-ups grow.
Another key trait of an entrepreneur, Mr Scheuermann says, is self-learning. The biggest thing you can do to advance your career is to start figuring out how to teach yourself, how to use internet, books, mentors and the people around you to learn what you need to know. “We are born self-learners. You have to remember and foster it,” he says.
He is optimistic about the start-up scene in Pakistan and believes the country can certainly produce a unicorn — a term that refers to a start-up valued at over $1 billion (think of Uber, Airbnb and Pinterest). “There are 200 million people in Pakistan. It’s a very good size. Less than one per cent of them have a PC internet, but now 42m, almost a quarter, have mobile broadband and [the number is] growing fast,” he says.
#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.
#Lahore based #Pakistani #American founder of #AI #unicorn Afiniti takes investors helicopter skiing in #Pakistan. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-02/tycoon-takes-investors-heli-skiing-to-show-them-pakistan-s-safe
AI firm Afiniti employs three-quarter of employees in Pakistan
Company may list next year with more than $2 billion valuation
In the northern snow-capped peaks of Pakistan, Zia Chishti disembarked off a helicopter and skied downhill on a mission to convince investors, clients and company executives that the nation once called by The Economist “the world’s most dangerous place” is now safe for business.
Chishti, who grew up in Lahore, gathered a group from more than a dozen countries including Alessandro Benetton, a heir to the billionaire family that owns the iconic namesake Italian clothing company, and Huawei Technologies Co. rotating Chief Executive Officer Guo Ping earlier this year to Pakistan, the back-end base for some of his businesses. Last month, his artificial intelligence company signed a deal with Huawei, which will help its push into Eastern markets including China, Japan and Australia.
For Chishti, ensuring his clients understand that Pakistan, which has struggled against internal militant groups, has changed since The Economist report a decade ago is critical because many of his employees who provide customer solutions, sales support and marketing to clients including Sprint Corp. and Caesars Entertainment Corp. are based in the South Asian nation. Chishti has added more people in Pakistan, a move that will also help him keep costs under control as his AI unit prepares for an initial public offering in the U.S.
“Pakistan by any reasonable and adaptive measure is an extremely safe place to do business,” said Chishti, whose office oversees the White House, said in an interview by phone. “All in all it’s a very favorable place to do business and the world perception just has to catch up.”
Despite a widespread negative perception over the country’s security record, multiple military operations have curbed domestic insurgents after a Pakistani Taliban massacre at a school three years ago shocked the nation. Last year, civilian deaths from terrorism dropped to the lowest in more than a decade.
The army’s drive has boosted the confidence of companies, including TRG, and foreign investment is up 155 percent to $457 million in the first two months of the business year started July. Chishti’s company has moved into a larger building this year that will fit 3,000 staff in the previously tumultuous port city of Karachi, which has been secured by paramilitary forces against gangsters, militants and political militias since 2013.
125 #IT Jobs Just Moved From #Noida #Delhi #India To #Islamabad, #Pakistan. #Tech
On the night of November 1, stretching into early next morning, close to half the workforce at the Noida office of a US-based IT service provider was informed that their services were no longer needed. A former employee says salaries for the staff at the Noida office were declared delayed by a day on October 31. The official explanation was that the servers were not working. “They weren’t clear about how many people were going to be laid off,” he says. The next night, they “axed 125 people in half-an-hour.” They all got a severance package—a cheque for October and another two months of salary—and a termination letter. Rumours of layoffs had started doing the rounds four to five months ago. The talk was that the company was opening offices in a neighbouring country.
Curiously, the day the workforce in Noida was sacked, almost the same number of employees for the same low-level IT-enabled jobs logged into their systems, 676 kilometres away, in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Job cuts have plagued the Indian IT sector for about two years now and have begun to get pretty serious from the start of this year. “Bloodbath in Bangalore” has been the recurring headline. But the trend of these jobs going to techies in Pakistan is more recent. Away from all the noise of ceasefire violations and surgical strikes, where Pakistan could really hurt India is in taking away low-end IT jobs. The neighbour has a budding IT industry, growing in its own space, looking to emulate the Indian IT success story where right now data operators and BPO callers come much cheaper.
Last week, the Planning Commission approved the PKR 1.1 billion National Center for Artificial Intelligence (NCAI) - one of four upcoming multi-university research centers to help move Pakistan forward into the 21st Century and help create the foundation for future growth and prosperity.
This is the culmination of Minister Ahsan Iqbal's vision who not only initiated and championed but also guided the process for over a year. These Centers will support nationally relevant research in the cutting-edge and emerging areas of science and technology where a little bit of investment by countries like Pakistan can provide us with a credible capability and a foothold in the global race towards prosperity.
NCAI would be headquartered at NUST but will have labs across the country working on a range of AI applications in security, factory automation and motion planning, medical diagnostics, brain machine interface, agriculture, and the like. It was a pleasure working with people involved, Drs. Arshad Ali, Yasar Ayaz Muhammad Khurram Gul Muhammad Khan and others across the country.
Not a single brick of infrastructure! Pure investment in Human Capital, Collaborative Networks, and Equipment for Labs. It took a bit of time to do this. But now that the model is set, we can quickly move on other Centers too. If we can do this right - and the next 3 years will tell - we could have set a unique model of merit based competitive research for rest of the Universities to follow.
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.
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.”
National Incubation Center Karachi inaugurated at NED University by PM
Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has inaugurated the National Incubation Center (NIC) Karachi at the launch ceremony held at NED University of Engineering & Technology on 11th May.
The event kicked off with a panel discussion moderated by Murtaza Zaidi, Director NIC Peshawar. The panelists included Jehan Ara – President at P@SHA, Faisal Sherjan – Program Director at NIC Lahore, Neelam Azman – Innovation Intervention Specialist at Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), and Adnan Shahid, Chief Commercial Officer at PTCL. The panel discussion explored the potential of NICs to ignite and strengthen the local entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country.
Jehan Ara believes that successful exit stories will help attract investors to inject more finance in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. While sharing success stories of their respective incubators, Jehan and Sherjan identified that Pakistani millennials are passionate to solve social problems with entrepreneurship. Be it education, healthcare or social inclusion, young entrepreneurs of the country relate to grassroots problems and are driven to solve them.
With incubators being the guiding force, these startups are smart enough to figure out the right way. Sherjan highlighted that it is essential to expose “Generation Z” to the driving factors behind fourth industrial revolution such as machine learning and AI. Summer programs launched by NIC Lahore and The Nest I/O are putting rigorous efforts to provide that tech entrepreneurial exposure to teenagers.
#PTI's 14-Point for #Digital #Pakistan. #Elections2018 #ImranKhan https://www.techjuice.pk/pti-unveils-digital-policy-naya-pakistan/ PTI’s 14 Points for Digital Pakistan:
$2 billion set aside for National digital transformations & provision of different services to citizens through mobile.
Using technology to open government data to increase transparency
IT education of 50,000 students
Establishment of 120 new campuses to produce 100,000 technology graduates/year
Mathematics and Science teacher training and certification program
Five new major technology clusters (Special Economic Zones)
A focus will be on creating enabling environment for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
50,000 call center seats available on a turn-key basis
One window operation to register a new company
A global PR campaign involving expat community
Visa issuance on green passport for Businessmen and professionals
Simplification of processes for foreign ownership of companies
Public-Private Partnership on projects
Target will be set to increase the global ranking of Pakistan in ease of doing business
#Pakistan #Information #Technology #exports reached US$1,064,540, exceeding US$1 billion in Fiscal Year 2018, according to data from the State Bank of Pakistan. #Telecommunications #Software #computers http://www.sbp.org.pk/ecodata/index2.asp
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.
#Pakistan graduates about 22,000 #computer-#science majors each year. Significant numbers of these graduates can be groomed into a small army of highly-skilled professionals to develop #AI products and earn billions of dollars in #tech #exports. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/404748-gateway-to-knowledge
By Dr. Ata ur Rahman
The advantage of investing in areas such as artificial intelligence is that no major investments are needed in terms of infrastructure or heavy machinery and the results can become visible within a few years. There is now a huge international demand for well-trained professionals in this field. Most advanced countries are searching for young trained professionals so that they can benefit from development taking place across the globe. Visa restrictions have been relaxed for these professionals. Artificial intelligence will find applications in almost every sphere of activity, ranging from industrial automation to defence, from surgical robots to stock-market assessment, and from driverless cars to agricultural sensors controlling fertilisers and pesticide inputs.
Pakistan churns out about 22,000 computer-science graduates each year. With additional high-quality training, a significant portion of these graduates could be transformed into a small army of highly-skilled professionals who could develop a range of AI products and earn billions of dollars in exports.
Another important step in developing a knowledge economy is to uplift our technical and vocational training centres while being mindful of the needs of industrial hubs that are to be set up under CPEC. There are over a thousand such centres, but they are in a bad state. If some of these centres are converted into high-quality technical training institutes for teachers in collaboration with Germany, China or other advanced countries, well-trained teachers can then be absorbed in the thousand or so technical training centres. This could contribute to industrial development. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us with all of its challenges. We live in a world where truth has become far stranger than fiction. Each day brings thousands of new discoveries. Many of these discoveries are transforming our lives in numerous ways. The blind can now see using their tongue. Molecular scissors have been developed that allow genes to be cut from one species and transferred to another, resulting in new plant and animal species. Genes have been transferred from deep-sea jelly fishes to orchids to make flowers that glow in the dark.
Nanotechnology is being employed to commercially purify water. Superfast gene-sequencing will allow the entire human genome to be sequenced in minutes. Objects can now be moved by thought control and driverless cars are being developed. We now have anti-ageing compounds that have been known to reduce the signs of ageing among mice. Children being born today are expected to live up to the age of 120 or more.
3D-printing is being used to produce parts of human livers and kidneys. Stem cells promise to cure damaged organs and may change the manner in which medicine will be practised in the future. Our own work on the molecular basis of thought processes has provided exciting insights into the functioning of the human brain – arguably the most complex object in our universe, with 100 billion neurons in a brain, each neuron communicating with some 10,000 other neurons. This work has led to new approaches to treat Parkinson’s disease. A knowledge economy requires a different approach to socioeconomic development than that adopted by Pakistan so far. It needs to rely on carefully crafted policies and the development of knowledge and skills in selected fields for inclusive sustainable socioeconomic development.
The formation of a taskforce to strengthen knowledge economy represents one of the most important developments in the history of Pakistan. The PMmust be congratulated for focusing on this critical area. The challenge now lies in the efficient implementation of the taskforce’s recommendations.
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.
#Uber to Seal $3.1 Billion Deal to Buy #Careem This Week. #Careem was founded by a #Pakistani in #UAE and its engineering was done in #Pakistan
Uber Technologies Inc. is set to announce a $3.1 billion cash-and-share deal to acquire its Dubai-based rival Careem Networks FZ as early as this week, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The U.S. ride-hailing giant will pay $1.4 billion in cash and $1.7 billion in convertible notes for Careem, the people said, asking not to identified because the talks are private. The notes will be convertible into Uber shares at a price equal to $55 per share, according to the term-sheet seen by Bloomberg.
Shareholders in Careem, whose backers include Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s investment firm and Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten Inc., have been asked to agree to the terms of the transaction by Monday evening and a deal could be announced as soon as Tuesday, the people said.
Uber spokesman Matt Kallman declined to comment while a spokesman for Careem wasn’t immediately able to comment.
Read more: Uber Is Said to Pick New York Stock Exchange for 2019 Mega IPO
Uber’s acquisition of Careem would come ahead of its imminent initial public offering, which could be one of the New York Stock Exchange’s biggest-ever listings. Uber is expected to publicly file for an IPO in April, kicking off a listing that could value the company at as much as $120 billion, people familiar with the plans have said previously.
Careem was valued at about $1 billion in a 2016 funding round, making it one of the most valuable technology startups in the Middle East. The company has over a million drivers and operates in more than 90 cities in 15 countries, according to its website.
For Uber, a deal would signal its commitment to the Middle East, where one of its biggest investors -- a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund -- is based.
The acquisition would also be a departure in strategy for Uber, which has used such deals to offload costly overseas operations in exchange for stakes in competitors in the past.
Hundreds of #Careem employees in #Karachi, #Berlin and #Dubai will become millionaires as a result of company's $3.1 billion acquisition by #Uber. #Pakistan #UAE #Germany https://www.thenational.ae/business/technology/hundreds-of-careem-millionaires-after-staff-share-in-3-1-billion-uber-payout-1.841866 via @TheNationalUAE
Almost 300 employees of Careem will become millionaires after Uber acquired the Middle Eastern ride-sharing company. 200 of these employees will become Dirham millionaires, whereas almost 75 will become dollar millionaires for their shares reports The National.
All the employees of Careem had stock options and their company shares will be bought as part of the Uber acquisition deal worth $3.1 billion. This transaction will be completed by the first quarter of 2020 and will be divided into $1.4 billion to be paid in cash and $1.7 billion in convertible notes into Uber stock. Both ride-hailing companies will operate their respective regional services and independent brands. Both companies’ apps will also continue to operate under separate brands
The 4000 Careem employees who had stock options included its pool of executives, developers, and engineers working across all locations of the ride-hailing companies for operations and R&D. The acquisition of the entire company means that these shares will be acquired by Uber as well as creating millionaires.
Some of the Careem executives other than Mudassir Sheikha, Magnus Olsson, and Abdulla Elyas whose net worth will skyrocket after this transaction are likely to include:
Ankur Shah, Chief Finance and Strategy Officer
Hadeer Shalaby, Regional Director of Careem Bus
Junaid Iqbal, Managing Director for Pakistan
Ibrahim Manna, Managing Director for Emerging Markets
Bassel Al Nahlaoui, Managing Director for Gulf
The employees who will create wealth are not only the executives and operational team who have been associated with the company since its early days but also those who left after serving for a time period and earned company stock. Startup founders whose companies were acquired by Careem will also gain considerable wealth with this acquisition. However, Careem captains are not part of the transaction.
Exclusive: #Pakistani transport #startup Airlift raises $2.2 million seed for its app-based bus service, eyes expansion to #Kenya and #Bangladesh https://www.menabytes.com/airlift-2-2-million/ via @MENAbytes
Lahore-based eight-month-old transportation startup Airlift has raised $2.2 million in a seed round, Airlift’s co-founder and CEO Usman Gul, revealed in a conversation with MENAbytes on Monday, saying that the round was co-led by one of Pakistan’s largest conglomerates Fatima Group (through its VC arm). Fatima Gobi Ventures, a $20 million joint-fund recently established by the Fatima Group and China’s Gobi Partners, co-led the round with Indus Valley Capital, a Pakistan-focused VC founded by former LinkedIn executive Aatif Awan. It is the first disclosed investment by both Fatima Gobi Partners and Indus Valley Capital, and according to our data, is the largest-ever seed round raised by a startup in Pakistan.
The round that was also joined by many leading local individual investors including Yasser Bashir, Abbas Yousafzai, Shoaib Malik, Yusuf Jan, Jamil Goheer, Adil Ajmal, Ali Cheema, Saurav Ray, was initiated by Tony Xu, the founder and CEO of DoorDash, one of the largest food delivery companies in the world that was valued at $12.6 billion in its most recent funding round.
Usman, who previously worked with DoorDash, dropped out of his MBA program (at Insead) to start Airlift earlier this year with Awaab Khaakwany, Meher Farrukh, Muhammad Owais, Zohaib Ali and Ahmed Ayub, a Pakistani entrepreneur who has previously founded and led different local and international companies in Pakistan.
Airlift labels itself as an alternative to Uber, Careem and public transportation, allowing 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 bu
In their own words, Airlift is building mass transit infrastructure for the developing world, “With a marketplace model, our technology helps organize private bus operators to run fixed routes at fixed timings. For transporters, Airlift offers a way to increase asset utilization by running their buses during idle time. For consumers, Airlift reduces both commute time and cost. Airlift’s proprietary dynamic stops technology lies at the heart of our marketplace.”
Usman told us that they’re currently doing tens of thousands of riders per week and have a network of hundreds of buses that are currently operating with them.
The startup now faces competition from Cairo-headquartered Swvl that recently expanded to Lahore and has plans to expand to Karachi as well. Airlift is clearly the market leader (for now at least) with tens of routes and hundreds of buses in Lahore and Karachi. Swvl until last week had three routes in Lahore.
The Egyptian startup that’s backed by some of the leading global and regional investors has all the resources to change things but Airlift is not worried about the competition. They’re, in fact, already thinking about their international expansion.
Usman told MENAbytes that they’re currently looking at different markets for potential expansion including Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Nairobi (Kenya). Coincidentally, Nairobi was that first city (outside of Egypt) that Swvl had expanded to.
#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.
Afiniti founder Zia Chishti on his third billion-dollar company
"We're on our third billion-dollar company right now. The first was Align Technology, which today is trading over $US20 billion, and then I founded a private equity shop called TRG, which is arguably over a billion now, and then the third is Afiniti, the company that you've probably heard of most recently, with Wyatt."
He says Afiniti has just raised $US20 million in Australia as part of a $US70 million funding round to finance expansion.
Having done my homework, I ask why he was ejected from the management and board of the first company he started, Align Technology, which made teeth straighteners for adults.
"If you rewind the timeline in 9/11/2001, a bunch of loonies struck the World Trade Centre, and there was a view that Osama Bin Laden was the originator of these loonies," he says.
"Osama Bin Laden at the time was in Afghanistan, and Afghanistan was hard to distinguish from Pakistan in the minds of US equity investors. Our share price went down 90 per cent in two days. We had, at the time out of 1000 employees, 750 in Pakistan and the equity markets perceived our operations to be at risk.
"That triggered a very tense relationship with my board because their view was just get out of the country, why would you stay there? My view was a little more long term, which was we owe it to the employees and just because the equity markets are making a poor short-term decision, doesn't mean that we should.
"We had a different set of views as directors and in one of those cases where both sides were right, the dialogue became a little bit bitter. The way we concluded it was that I bought out the entire operations in Pakistan, all 700 plus people, who actually had nothing to do."
Chishti bought a call centre company in the US called Alert Communications for $US2 million and shifted its operations to Pakistan.
"The profitability went from minus $US1.5 million to $US3 million in six months. On the back of a $US2 million investment that was a darned good return."
This marked the beginnings of Afiniti with its combination of labour arbitrage between developing and developed countries and artificial intelligence to make call centres more efficient.
I decide to delve into the connection with Pakistan.
"My father was American with German descent," he says. "His forefathers arrived in the Americas in the early 1800s. They were a Pennsylvanian Dutch family. I was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, to an American father and a Pakistani mother who at the time was getting her PhD at Cornell. My father at the time was getting his PhD in philosophy and she in education.
"My father died when I was two years old and my mother moved back to Pakistan where she raised me until I returned from college in 1988. So, I've kind of grown up bi-national, if you will, between the United States and Pakistan. I have an affiliation with both."
Chishti was born Wilson Lear but his mother changed his name when they moved to Lahore so he wouldn't stand out.
He is clearly proud of his company's contribution to the Pakistan economy: companies in the TRG portfolio employ 7000 people.
"Today, across the TRG portfolio, we are the largest technology services sector investor, largest employer, largest exporter," he says.
Chishti hates what he sees as widespread misrepresentation of Pakistan as a renegade state rife with terrorism and violence.
"The Economist ran a very unfortunate article many years ago calling Pakistan the most dangerous country in the world," he says.
"It's laughable. It's completely false. If you look at the actual rate of violent crime in Karachi, which is the most violent city in Pakistan, the homicide rate per 100,000 is below Chicago, to give you a loose order of approximation. Lahore is comparable to Seattle for example."
Afiniti founder Zia Chishti on his third billion-dollar company
Chishti admits there is a porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan along the so-called Durand line but once you get 60kms inland it's a different story.
"Then from that point forward you have to look at the actual incidents of violence and the actual incidents of terrorism in the broader country and I believe it's essentially close to zero when you divide it by the broader population," he says.
By now the nearby table of 20 people have become a little raucous but our food has arrived.
I push him on the fact that Osama Bin Laden was living within walking distance of a military barracks when he was killed by the Americans.
"The popular description of Osama Bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad, which is the town you were thinking of, is it could only reflect one of two things, that either the Pakistani government was somehow complicit in maintaining him in the country or they were incompetent in not being able to determine that he was in the country," he says.
"And so which one was it? Are you guys stupid or are you guys evil? My typical rejoinder to that is it's a false choice. Imagine for a moment that you looked at the FBI's most-wanted list and you find the guy at the top of the list five miles outside of Washington DC. Would you say that the US government was hiding him outside of Washington DC or that the FBI was incompetent?
"You'd conclude neither, you'd just say that an intelligent person who has reasonable resources, who wants to hide, is hard to find.
"If they found him outside of Washington DC, I don't think it would have implied that the US government was harbouring him or that the FBI was incompetent."
'America is diminished'
On the subject of US President Donald Trump, Chishti says Trump is 20 per cent good and 80 per cent bad. He says the good part is that Trump is an entrepreneur who is business friendly and trying to drive positive change in the American economy.
"The 80 per cent bad bit is the bigotry, the racially charged views, the overbearing stance on other countries around the world, including threats to bomb them or threats of economic sanctions," he says.
"That's the stuff that gets America into trouble and it tears at the fabric of society when we encourage racial division. It sets us back 30, 50, 100 years in our efforts to establish harmony and build a society that really has dropped perceptions based on colour or background or religion, from its analysis of individuals that he comes into contact with.
"In terms of geopolitical stature, I think America is diminished when we make bombastic statements that are not supported in fact and in which we caricature others to an unfair degree."
Trump, he says, is a logical product of the US electorate.
"I may be off by a few percentage points but my recollection is that 56 per cent of Americans believe that God created the universe less than 10,000 years ago," he says. "When you start from that position of bias, many geopolitical views become hard to swallow."
Sunny growth rates
It is impossible to avoid discussing the upcoming elections in Pakistan, especially when I learn he is a close friend of Imran Khan, the former international cricketer and Pakistani politician who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party or the PTI.
"I was one of the early financiers of Imran Khan's election campaign two iterations ago," Chishti says.
"Imran stands as being around accountability, transparency in government, and focus on reforming the judicial system and reforming the electoral system. To the extent that he has moved in that direction heavily, he has actually resulted in some significant positive change in the country.
#Pakistan's #tech ecosystem is finally taking off. In 2021, Pakistani #startups are on track to raise more money than the previous 5 years combined. This capital is coming from investors from #Asia, #MiddleEast & top #SiliconValley VCs.
https://tcrn.ch/2TEwRR0 via @techcrunch
Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country, has been slow to adapt to the internet economy. Unlike other emerging economies such as China, India and Indonesia, which have embraced digitization and technology, Pakistan has trailed the region in the adoption of technology and startup formation.
Despite this, investors have dreamed for years of the huge opportunities in unlocking Pakistan’s potential as a digital economy. As a country of 220 million people, almost two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30, Pakistan draws natural comparisons to Indonesia — which has rapidly emerged as one of the most vibrant technology ecosystems outside the U.S. and China.
After years of lagging behind, over the course of the past 18 months, Pakistan’s technology ecosystem has come to life in unprecedented fashion. In 2021, Pakistani startups are on track to raise more money than the previous five years combined. Even more excitingly, a large portion of this capital is coming from international investors from across Asia, the Middle East and even famed investors from Silicon Valley.
The rapid emergence of Pakistan’s technology ecosystem on the international stage has been no accident — it’s the result of a confluence of changing facts on the ground and shifting dynamics in the startup and investing world as a result of the pandemic.
The sudden emergence of Pakistan’s tech ecosystem on the international stage has been driven by three major factors: an improving security situation, quickly growing mobile connectivity, and critical legal changes and deregulation.
As a frontline state and coalition partner in the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan saw fatalities from terrorist violence soar from 295 in 2001 to a peak of over 11,000 in 2009. This climate of instability and violence scared away international business and investors from Pakistan for much of the first two decades of the 21st century.
The startup boom in Pakistan
Record levels of funding are pouring into Pakistan-based startups, boosting hopes for a brighter economic outlook for the world’s fifth-most populous country.
Startups have received $85 million in venture capital (VC) funding so far this year, outpacing the $66 million raised in 2020, and venture firms continue to build their war chest.
“A surge in venture capital investment in 2021 augurs well for innovation in the country,” said HBL COO Sagheer Mufti while talking to The Express Tribune.
“In particular, the focus on fintech and partnerships with banks provide immense opportunity for driving consumer choice and ease, employment, financial inclusion and economic growth. HBL’s investment in Finja was in this spirit,” he added.
Fintech companies have received about a fourth of the total VC investment so far this year. They are finding plenty of overseas investors eager to tap the world’s third-largest unbanked population in what is being called a “fintech revolution”.
In Pakistan, 71% of adults do not have a bank account, one of the highest rates in the world.
Islamabad-based fintech SadaPay raised $7.2 million - reportedly the largest seed round ever in the country - for a personal debit card and e-wallet that still awaits regulatory approval.
Trading app KTrade - dubbed the “Robinhood of Pakistan” - raised $4.5 million after amassing 200,000 users since its launch in 2019.
US-based mega-firm Kleiner Perkins made its first investment in the country - a $17 million round for Tajir, a B2B marketplace based in Lahore that enables small business owners to buy from manufacturers and wholesalers.
Another B2B marketplace, Bazaar, raised $6.5 million in seed capital. Abhi raised $2.1 million for its early wage access platform and is headed to Y-Combinator (along with TAG).
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