Guest Post by Yusuf Husain
The mandate of Ignite, formerly National ICT R&D Fund, a Government owned non profit company, affiliated with the Ministry of IT, Government of Pakistan, is to fund innovative projects that solve local problems or target global opportunities. Since early 2017 we are focusing on startups based on 4th Industrial Wave technology – like AI, IoT, Robotics and AR – whose technology risk is beyond the appetite of private sector investors, with the expectation that investors and corporates will participate in subsequent rounds or else purchase or license the technology. With about ten deals a quarter, with average size of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, we also fund academia and industry projects with strong, well-articulated commercial potential and intent. This year projects include a smart stent, which detects slippage, clotting and re-stenosis, an IoT based water management system that detects moisture in the air and fluid in the ground, an AR remedial system that improves motor, cognitive and functional skills in neurologically challenged children, and AI based bovine disease diagnostic that improves dairy production and life of cows.
Many countries in the world from USA and UK to Israel and India support innovation and entrepreneurship through the award of Government projects, funding, incubators, and incentives. Agile regulation and targeted incentives are essential to unleashing the power of innovation and entrepreneurship. Through studies and engagement with experts in industry and academia, Ignite seeks to develop the thought leadership required to support the Government in designing such regulation and incentive packages. A three-year tax break and credit for Startups was introduced last year. More incentives for startups, incubators, VC, Angels and Corporate Innovation are on the anvil.
Waves of innovation have changed the course of history, elevating innovative societies and marginalizing laggards. Through its outreach program, Ignite seeks to inform key stakeholders and change agents in media, government, academia, corporates, the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the professional community about Ignite initiatives, and the opportunities, threats and tradeoffs offered by the 4th Industrial Wave innovation.
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A national innovation policy
By Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman
In Pakistan, the National ICT R&D Fund – which is to be renamed ‘Ignite’ – was approved when I was the federal minister of science and technology. It is now the premier national institution dedicated toward promoting an innovation and research commercialisation ecosystem across the country. It aims to make Pakistan a strong player in the knowledge economy by transforming into a Venture Capital (VC) fund that focuses on industrial technologies connected to The Fourth Industrial Revolution’. These include Big Data, Internet of Things, Cloud/Cyber security, robotics, 3D/4D printing, neuro technology and wearable implants. The company is setting up a series of incubation centres across the country that could impact the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan by unleashing creativity. Its latest initiative is to set up a centre within Karachi University under the umbrella of the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences.
Mr. Yusuf Husain's and Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman's contributions to Pakistan are highly appreciated, specially hr latter's. Nevertheless I am disheartened by the low ranking of Pakistan on The Ease of Doing Business Index. Its ranking has steadily slipped from 60/? in 2006 down to 147/190 in 2018 (that's the year of the latest ranking). That means that regardless of how much innovation is made, it is very hard for anyone in Pakistan to start a business. The corrupt bureaucracy and red tape is killing most if not all entrepreneurship.
The NIC Lahore picks up from its previous manifestation as the LUMS Centre for Entrepreneurship (LCE), established in May 2014 with the mission to discover, groom, and develop high-growth, high-impact companies. Till date, LCE has incubated 78 companies, 17 of which have raised close to US$4 million in seed funding and are currently valued at US$20 million. It has also created 1,500 direct employment opportunities and another 5,000 jobs were created through vendors and suppliers.
The National Incubation Center (NIC) Lahore was inaugurated by Minister of State for Information Technology and Telecommunications, Ms. Anusha Rahman Khan at a ceremony held at Lahore University of Management Sciences on December 23, 2017.
The event began with a welcome address by the Vice Chancellor of LUMS, Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, who welcomed the esteemed guests and shared his immense delight at the launch of this state-of-the-art facility.
With justifiable pride, he said “The establishment of NIC at LUMS is a tremendous milestone on a journey we at LUMS embarked on when the LUMS Center of Entrepreneurship (LCE) was established in 2014. At that, we dared to set a vision for ourselves to become the largest breeding ground for sustainable, high-growth commercial and high-impact social ventures in Pakistan. The establishment of the NIC allows us an accelerated implementation of this vision. Building on the success of LCE, we are extremely excited to provide young Pakistani entrepreneurs an enhanced and expanded opportunity to nurture their business ambitions.”
Addressing the audience, Mr. Yusuf Hussain, CEO Ignite, spoke of the role of National Incubation Centres in the knowledge economy of Pakistan and how these would become breeding grounds for sustainable growth and drive Pakistan’s economy forward with 4th Industrial wave technologies. Sharing his thoughts, he said,
“For corporations, this is a singular opportunity to transform and thrive in this age of global competition and change by partnering with and invest in start-ups that solve meaningful problems. With the track record of its management team, Makerspace, Design Lab, deep R&D resources, and organic VC linkages, NIC Lahore is poised to graduate true 10x start-ups and become one of the best incubators in Asia.”
During the event, Director NIC Lahore, Mr. Faisal Jalil Sherjan shared the vision and mission of NIC Lahore and took the audience through the facilities offered at the new center. He highlighted that NIC Lahore will house the first-ever Makers Lab in Pakistan, a modern facility equipped with the latest technologies and smart equipment to bring ideas to life. He further added that this 23,000 square feet space will not only house the incubator and accelerator but will also provide business acceleration services to incubated companies, a Smart Lab, a Design Thinking Lab, a Usability Lab, various libraries and an in-house auditorium.
“NIC Lahore will be more than just an incubation space. It will foster creativity, design and encourage its selected incubates to develop companies that have high growth potential. We have everything here in terms of physical requirements and when allied with the immense intellectual capital LUMS has on campus, many winners will emerge from this facility,” added Mr.Sherjan.
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.
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.
#Pakistan Launches First National Accelerator On Closing #Skills Gap in Partnership With #WEF. Leaders include #Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood, Shazia Syed, MD Unilever, Mohammed Aurangzeb, CEO, #HBL, Ghias Khan, CEO, Engro https://www.valuewalk.com/2019/07/national-accelerator-closing-skills-gap-pakistan/ via @valuewalk
The Prime Minster met with the visiting President of the World Economic Forum, Mr.BorgeBrende, at the Prime Minister’s office. At the meeting, the Prime Minister announced the establishment of the National Accelerator on Closing the Skills Gapin Pakistan, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, with Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) serving as its national secretariat.
The World Economic Forum is the international organization for public-private cooperation. The Forum engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests. The Forum has established the Centre for New Economy and Society (CNES) to provide leaders with a platform to understand and act on emerging economic and social challenges.The Forum’s Centre for New Economy and Society has partnered with PSDF to work together on the future of education and work by setting up a National Accelerator on Closing the Skills Gap in Pakistan. The Accelerator will aim to increase the employability of the current workforce and increase work-readiness and critical skills in the future workforce.
The National Accelerator will be led and guided by a team of Co-Chairs from the public and private sectors. The Government will be represented by Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister of Education and Professional Training and Mr. Zulfiqar Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development. The Co-Chairs from the private sector include Ms. Shazia Syed, MD Unilever Pakistan, Mr. Mohammed Aurangzeb, President and CEO, Habib Bank Limited, Mr. Ghias Khan, CEO, Engro Corporation. PSDF CEO, Mr. Jawad Khan, will be the National Coordinator.
Focusing on the most strategic sectors in the economy, the Accelerator will also onboard the CEOs of 50 to 100 leading companies in Pakistan as well as academics, policy makers and technical experts from the education and skills development space. The Centre for New Economy and Society has already established 5 such Accelerators in Argentina, Oman, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and India, with 10 more Accelerators expected by 2020.
At the meeting, the Prime Minister shared his Government’s political and financial commitment to reform the skills development sectors in Pakistan and thanked the World Economic Forum for choosing Pakistan as a founding member of the Closing the Skills Gap National Accelerator initiative. Given its global reach, experience and expertise, the Prime Minister expressed his confidence that the Forum’s engagement will help provide new opportunities for Pakistan’s youth and help them develop new skills to fully embrace the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Mr. BorgeBrende, President, World Economic Forum, said: “The launch of the National Accelerator on Closing the Skills Gap is an important milestone in our relationship with Pakistan and it is just the start. Many of Pakistan’s national priorities are the core focus of the Forum’s work. From climate change, water scarcity and connectivity to regional cooperation, the Forum is ready to offer its platform to support Pakistan’s economic transformation.”
Ms. Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director and Head of the Forum’s Centre for New Economy and Society, said: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to significant change in the employment and skills landscape globally over the coming years – and Pakistan is no exception. Through our Accelerator initiative we look forward to supporting Pakistan with an integrated platform for learning and action to proactively manage this change.”
IFC to invest $2.5m to support tech startups in Pakistan
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, will invest $2.5 million in Sarmayacar, one of the first early-stage venture capital funds supporting tech-driven startups in Pakistan, to help boost entrepreneurship and spur economic growth. Of the total amount, $2 million is equity commitments from Startup Catalyst, IFC’s global programme that backs accelerators and seed funds in emerging markets, said IFC press statement, adding that through this initiative, the corporation supports startups that provide innovative solutions to development problems and create quality jobs. The remaining $500,000 is from the Women Entrepreneurship Finance Initiative (We-Fi), a partnership among governments, multilateral development banks and other public and private sector stakeholders, hosted by the World Bank Group. We-Fi supports women entrepreneurs in developing countries by building their capacity, scaling up access to financial products and services, and providing links with domestic and global markets. “Pakistan offers a unique opportunity with its improving stability, large, young population, rising middle class, fast-growing internet and smartphone penetration, and a dearth of venture capital in the ecosystem,” said Rabeel Warraich, Founder of Sarmayacar. Rabeel said that the IFC’s goal at Sarmayacar was to provide value-add early-stage funding to entrepreneurs who are building scalable, market-transforming consumer and enterprise technology businesses in Pakistan. “This marks the first such investment from the World Bank Group in Pakistan and will enable us to back more startups in the country, while also providing access to a global network, new markets and domain expertise to our portfolio companies,” said Rabeel Warraich added.
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