STARTUP GUIDE ISSUE 3
SAEED The Making of Khan Meter
Entrepreneurial Venture Mashion
KHALID’S Aurat Raaj Wins Big
INVESTORS WANT? RABEEL WARRAICH KALSOOM LAKHANI NADEEM HUSSAIN
t Editor Shehab Farrukh Niazi
Finance Ahad Wazir Art Directors Aleeza Javed Mahnoor Haroon Niazi Operations & Outreach Abbas Khan Video Content Producer Rayyan Toru
EDITOR’S NOTE For this issue, we explore various perspectives – from investors’ and startups’ to an influencer-turned-entrepreneur, touching upon what motivates them; what drives them to do what they do and excel at it. We all know her as a multi-faceted artist and influencer; with the launch of Mashion, being an entrepreneur is the most recent feather in her cap. In an exclusive to Startup Guide, Mahira Khan and her co-founder Hassaan Khan talk about their mission to create the largest online community for women. For entrepreneurs and startups, getting investment is a major milestone - we ask an important question - what do investors want in entrepreneurs and startups? We ask ace investors Rabeel Warraich (Sarmayacar), Kalsoom Lakhani (i2i Ventures) and Nadeem Hussain (Planet N Group) about their views regarding the entrepreneurial ecosystem; the re trends they see emerging; things they look for before investing; the kinds of startups and industries they’re looking at and a lot more! Saba Khalid of Aurat Raaj talks about her innovative startup and how she feels about all the attention. Salman Saeed, creator of Khan Meter shares the inspiration behind the idea. “What was the biggest challenge you overcame in 2018”, a few entrepreneurs respond. Khurram Zuberi, CEO of Jumpstart talks about LIFT Pakistan. We present the highlights from LIF Jazz SDG Hakathon and GDG DevFest 2018. Till the next one – happy reading!
SHEHAB FARRUKH NIAZI
News and Events
05 08 10 11 12 14
EDITOR’S NOTE SDG HACKATHON JAZZXlr8 AND CODE OF PAKISTAN
DEVFEST GDG ISLAMABAD
GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK CELEBRATING ENTREPRENEURSHIP
UPCOMING EVENTS MARK YOUR CALENDERS
CHALLANGES 2018 READY TO FACE 2019
18 22 28 42 46 50
SALMAN SAEED ON THE MAKING OF KHAN METER
MAHIRA KHAN AND HASSAN KHAN
ON CHANGING THE GAME WITH
INVESTORS’ PERSPECTIVE WHAT INVESTORS WANT
GEN-NEXT AURAT RAJ
THE COVERSATION KHURRAM ZUBERI
FEATURING “Dive into something you are passionate about, something that keeps you awake at night and stick to listening to your instincts, but also be patient”
Mahira Khan & Hassaan Khan Cover Story
“What we actively look for is the scalability of the company”
Rabeel Warraich Sarmayacar
“We’re seeing more startups that might reach a 100 million dollar valuation and achieve scale”
Nadeem Hussain Planet N Group of Companies
“As an investor, I don’t care what awards you’ve won, I want to know people are willing to pay for your product and it has validation in the market”
Kalsoom Lakhani Invest to Innovate
ISLAMABAD — The Jazz SDG Hackathon, in partnership with Code for Pakistan and OPEN Islamabad, concluded on 9th December at the National Incubation Center, Islamabad. At the Jazz SDG Hackathon — a two-and-a-half day event encouraging young entrepreneurs, coders and innovators to use technology for civic solutions and social impact — participants learned design thinking, and open-source hacking for social good. They received mentoring from domain experts in government and local organizations, and had many opportunities
to network throughout the event. Jazz is at the forefront of private sector initiatives to foster the digital eco-system of Pakistan, by providing an enabling environment and platforms to young entrepreneurs who are creating innovative solutions to civic and social problems. Code for Pakistan is a non-profit focused on leveraging tech for civic and social good. Code for Pakistan has conducted numerous civic hackathons in major cities in Pakistan, including Pakistan’s first ever hackathon focused on SDGs in 2017. OPEN Islamabad provides a platform for entrepreneurs and
professionals to connect, network, collaborate, mentor and support each other. Ove 100 participants formed Over teams to create prototypes that addressed civic and social problems in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) initiative of the United Nations, with the 29 participating teams focusing participatin on five SDGs at the his event: Good Health and Well Being; Quality Education; Gender Equality; Sustainable Cities and Communities; and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Participants worked on their projects over the course of two-and-a-half days, and then pitched to the judges’ panel on Sunday afternoon. Th first prize went to The Team Vixen’s Smart Bra, an undergarment equipped with sensors to detect symptoms of breast cancer at early stages; second prize went to FideTech and their water impurity testing solution; impurit and third prize went to Dost,
a data-driven community awareness and support platform geared towards improved mental health. “Pakista ranks behind most “Pakistan countries in South Asia when it comes to Human Development Indicators and attaining SDGs. The an idea of such initiatives is to support the government in solving these challenges,” said Ali Naseer, Chief Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Officer at Jazz. “We are looking towards young, ar innovative minds to come together through the Jazz SDG Hackathon and showcase how technology can be used for the greater good.” “The idea behind CFP’s various activities is to promote a culture of innovation to solve problems that are faced by us – the citizens. We have played around with various themes for our events, to bring various communities together. variou For the past couple of years we have settled on SDGs as the common thread between diverse communities such as
civic hackers, CSOs, private sector and governments. “I am pleased to see that our civic hackathons are getting more and more traction every year. Every year, we have more partners, we have more supporters and, above all we supporter have more civic hackers,” said Asim Ghaffar, President, Code for Pakistan. Other partner organizations and supporters for the Jazz SDG Hackathon included Ignite, NIC Islamabad, UNDP, Center of Social Entrepreneurship, World Bank, NITB, TIE Islamabad, NIC Peshawar, IGDA, Startup NI Guide, Internet Society, The Dayspring, P@SHA, IDG, GEN Pakistan, Pakistan Alliance for Maths and Science, Sybrid, Teradata, and Ilm Association.
BizFest 2018 is an annual conference that offers Google product trainings, startup workshops and entrepreneurship talks. Participants can learn how to use Google products and technologies to start and scale their businesses, and develop themselves through capacity building workshops from top experts and entrepreneurs. #BizFest18, taking place in Lahore on 22nd December, is powered by Fatima Ventures. Ventu
Islamabad.AI is going to organize its meetup at National Incubation Center (NIC) Islamabad on 22nd December from 2 pm to 5 pm. The meetup is going to touch upon topics like artificial intelligence and its applications and data science.
The one and only startup event in Pakistan you need to attend. TechJuice Circle is a close-knit exclusive event for entrepreneurs and startup founders to network with the leaders in the business, technology and telecom industry of Pakistan. TechJuice Circle provides an immersive experience to all participating startup founders and gives them a chance to open up and share their personal and professional challenges with the relevant experts from the industry.
Ali Khan Swati, Co-Founder Awaami Th biggest challenge for me was defining success. Around 46% The of small business leaders don’t know if their digital marketing strategies are working. This means that the majority of small businesses are spending their marketing budget on strategies they aren’t certain are working. How I solved this challenge? There were two keys: Took time to determine my goals, and identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that drove me towards that goal. Fo example, if I wanted to generate more leads in 2018 for one For of our biggest clients, we set a goal, then found a way to measure things like inbound traffic, new potential leads, qualified leads, conversion rates, etc. For me, taking time to do the hard work of setting goals and KPIs before you get in the day-to-day grind of managing your digital marketing campaigns is essential for defining success.
Maria Umar, Founder Women’s Digital League I was dead scared of the fashion industry and I went ahead and pulled off a fashion runway!
Saad Hamid, Co-Founder Demo One of the biggest challenges for me in 2018 was to not burn myself out – I realized this because I burned myself out multiple times. That’s one of the things entrepreneurs and innovators do – they don’t consider that their family life or business is affected. The solution I have come up with is that I give time to family and actively try not to burn out. Considering that we live in a digital world, we at DEMO are also working on starting a digital wellbeing master class to help people maintain their wellbeing in a digital world.
Fajer Rabia Pasha, Executive Director Pakistan Alliance for Girls Education The biggest challenge I overcame in 2018 was to ensure sustainability of PAGE through smart strategic planning around engagement of key stakeholders, finance, systems and visibility.
Arzish Azam, Chapter Director Startup Grind Islamabad, Manager Google Business Group Lahore Th biggest challenge in any entrepreneurial ecosystem is that The people donâ€™t like collaborating and work in silos whereas it is pivotal to build a collaborative startup ecosystem to achieve big results. The biggest challenge we overcame was to bring together the biggest ecosystem players from Lahore on the same page.
Ibraheem Ahmad, Training Consultant at Torque I overcame two biggest challenges in 2018. One was getting out of my comfort zone to explore more possibilities, got bigger opportunities and that gave me and my business sustainability. Second was overcoming my emotional state where I had acute depression because I had an emotional burnout (as told by my psychologist) as a result of excessive work and travel. But, I think thatâ€™s a price we must all pay while we get out of our comfort zone, since that is the only way to achieve great things. zone
Sidra Jalil I am a storyteller and 2018 was like a story for me. I got myself into a fast moving train, where my passion was to meet people and network with fellow passengers. However, my job role is to keep an eye on the content that is being constantly popped up on my screen. I missed a couple of stations. However, no regrets. The destination is still unknown, but the journey so far is really amazing :) Looking forward to 2019!
Maryam Arshad This year I started owning my accomplishments, which I would happily shrug under the carpet before this. It is so important to own what we have done as that can allow us to shift the way we do things: bigger and better.
Sadia Bashir I had been in talks with multiple investors in the past, but it never went through, this year I got funded for my dream project.
“From what I’ve seen this government has a vision and they have plans to implement that vision and that includes entrepreneurship”
SALMAN SAEED CREATOR OF KHAN METER
How did you come up with the idea of Khan Meter? Back in 2013, when Imran Khan promised a lot of things and introduced the idea of ‘Naya Pakistan’, I had an idea that we need to come up with a system to hold people accountable and he was someone who wanted to be held accountable. At that time, I bought the domain ptimeter.com, but he didn’t win the election. I also bought a domain to track t PML-N’s performance, but I knew at the time that they
were not interested in being held accountable and I also realized that I couldn’t do the tracking without the help of the government. Now, when the 2018 Election came up and things were looking favorable for Mr. Khan, I got motivated again – I changed the name to khanmeter.com because it sounded better. I got the domain on 26th July, I gathered thee data from the 100 days agenda and the 5-year manifesto.
Imran Khan saying that he wanted to be held accountable for the government’s performance was what motivated me to start working on this idea. We’ve only been hearing politicians answer questions on talk shows. This government encouraged the public to ask the questions openly. I knew it’s going to be interesting inte to work on this because most of the things that Mr. Khan has promised are close to impossible to achieve because of the infrastructure we have and the mindsets of the people. I realized that it was a good time to start tracking the performance of the government and this should be a practice with any a government from now on. As a result, if anyone gets elected who doesn’t intend to fulfill the promises made and someone tracks them, then it would be like policing the police. What is the long-term vision for the platform?
What are your hopes when it comes to the current government and its work for the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
I started this as the 100 days agenda and I didn’t know that they’re going to start their own platform. This was a motivation for me that I’ve set a precedent for the government to track their performance. I study their website as well to track on my platform as well. As opposed to the initial idea of 100 days, I’m now thinking about doing it for 5 da years, keeping in mind milestones after which I publish reports – the plan is to keep tracking. I don’t plan on making this my primary job. People have approached me for gathering a team and getting a grant – this is an organizational structure that I don’t want to go into. I realize that if I work on this myself, the pace would be slow and things will take time. Another idea I had for the long-term was that I would pick up indicators from the international organizations and gauge this government’s performance against those.
I’m an entrepreneur ent – I was in Dubai for a few years. During my visits, I realized that the government is now paying attention towards development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and that prompted me to return. As they say, Rome was not built in a day – it takes time to change the mindset of an entire chan generation. Even if the government has opened up facilities for entrepreneurs, it will take time to develop the talent and build the ecosystem. I was recently at the government’s 100 day event and I was talking to someone about the kind of branding and design that had been done for the event. This shows a progressive mindset. From what I’ve seen this government has a vision and they have plans to implement that vision and that includes entrepreneurship.
The lessons you’ve learned from creating Khan Meter? When I was launching it, I thought some people would support it and some wouldn’t, given that there are some N-fans and some PTI fans. I got this kind of mixed feedback. The government launching their own initiative initi to track its performance reinforced my vision. I also got a lot of appreciation from the development sector. This made me realize that these organizations appreciate civic participation and people should pa participate more when it comes to feedback, accountability and advisory related to the government. In the past, voting was a passive act – people voted and then waited for the next time to vote without holding the elected people accountable. One thing I learned was that people really appreciated my initiative when they perhaps didn’t have the confidence to do something similar on their own.
COVER STORY Mahira Khan & Hassaan Khan
On Changing the Game with Mashion Tell us more about Mashion? Who does it cater to? What gap did you sense in the market that you would like Mashion to fill? HK HK: Mashion caters to young Pakistani women. When you look at the space being occupied right now by women-centric portals, you notice one glaring thing missing. No one is really trying to hear young Pakistani women out. Everyon is just operating on assumptions and Everyone pre-conceived notions about who they are and what they really need to empower themselves. That’s the gap. We want to give these women a voice and we want them to be heard. MK Mashion is an online portal for women. It’s MK: a space where women can come and spend time discovering several topics. Eventually I’d like it to be a place where women form a community where they can talk openly, discuss issues, indulge in fashion and beauty and most importantly be heard.
“Dive into something you are passionate about, something that keeps you awake at night and stick to listening to your instincts, but also be patient” – Mahira Khan
“When it comes to content creation, the big one for us is user-generated content” – Hassaan Khan
Was it always part of the plan to have your own business? HK: I think both of us wanted something we could call our own, something we could pour our energies in and take full ownership of. MK MK: Not really. Even now I don’t think I really understand business. I always wanted to have a blog when I was in college and I think this is an extension of that.
Wha do you consider the What biggest risk you have ever taken? HK: Leaving a stable job and starting two ventures is by far the riskiest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve learnt so much and I have no doubt that I will continue to learn way more than I would have if I stuck around at my 9-5.
MK: Well, it’s a huge risk. My brother left his job. I am investing in it and even though people think it’s easy to make money, it’s actually not when you are particular about maintaining a certain standard. Another decision we took is to create original content, that in itself is a hard task. However, for me whether this does well or not (hope it does exceedingly well), I do believe that taking risks and chances is essential for growth.
What are the top lessons you learned as an actor that are proving useful for your business? MK Honestly, as an actor I’ve learnt to go MK: by instinct and that is exactly how I deal with Mashion. It has also allowed me to meet people from every walk of life and that in itself gives me a perspective larger than most people.
You have millions of followers on social media. In your opinion, what is the significance of social networks and what role have they played in your personal life and now for your business? MK If you notice I hardly promote Mashion MK: on my own Instagram page. I want it to grow organically and it is. I want people to read the articles, to enjoy the videos, to soak in the information we give. But yes, it helps a lot when I do post or redirect to Mashion, because the reach instantly becomes much bigger. Also, I’m not too well versed with bigger merging business with my social media pages. I wanted to keep them personal, so I decided not to sign up for paid promotions etc. Now I’m getting to understand how it’s a huge business and market.
We want to talk to our readers rather than talk at them, engage them, learn from them and then give them what they’re really looking for
Whe it comes to celebrities, I think we have When a major problem of not celebrating our own talent. At Mashion, we only push local talent. We don’t look across the border for content and cheap clicks because we won’t ever break away from that cycle if we don’t start pushing our own celebrities.
Tell us about the evolution from your previous job to Mashion? HK: It’s been tough to say the least. I think the biggest evolution has been taking on multiple roles – you have to wear multiple hats and you have to be ‘ON’ literally all the time.
A woman you look up to? Why? MK: It sounds cliched but honestly every woman is doing her thing and doing it her way. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by such women.
Give your experience of content Given creation, what are the prominent trends emerging in Pakistan currently, especially when it comes to celebrities? HK Well, I don’t really see any trends locally HK: that I would like to implement at Mashion. When it comes to content creation, the big one for us is user-generated content.
“Eventually I’d like it to be a place where women form a community where they can talk openly, discuss issues, indulge in fashion and beauty and most importantly be heard” – Mahira Khan
Where do you see Mashion in three years? HK: I see it as the biggest HK
community of young Pakistani women. I see it as the biggest influencer when it comes to how these women think, how they shop, how they eat â€“ you probably get the gist.Â MK Inshallah 3 years from now I MK: see Mashion as the largest online community for women where they can inspire, innovate and learn from one another, just be heard.
“As an investor, I don’t care what awards you’ve won, I want to know people are willing to pay for your product and it has validation in the market” - Kalsoom Lakhani
“We’re seeing more startups that might reach a 100 million dollar valuation and achieve scale” - Nadeem Hussain
“What we actively look for is the scalability of the company – if that is something that comes through and the target market is large enough and the team is able to execute – this is the set of criteria that we apply when looking at companies to invest in” - Rabeel Warraich
Rabeel Warraich CEO Sarmayacar
What is your take on the current condition of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan?
We’ve made tremendous strides in that regard during the last 3-5 years. Government, donor agencies, universities and other stakeholders have supported this.
While we’re still in the early stages of the ecosystem, we see that the building blocks are very much there. I haven’t come across a single ecosystem that is perfect before different stakeholders get involved. So, we can’t expect the ecosystem to be perfect and that’s an opportunity because there are a lot of things to be fixed as well. The most important building block is inculcating the mindset in the youth that entrepreneurship is a viable career choice
The second big component is the uptake of 3G and 4G and an increasing digital penetration. The final piece is that some of the underlying businesses, as a result of increasing Internet penetration, are seeing increased traction. VCs and capital coming into this asset class is increasing – this will enable startups to grow exponentially. We’re yet to see a flurry of companies emerging, there are some that have already reached that level. One such example is of Zameen, which now has a very decent valuation.
In your view, what are the shortcomings that startups need to overcome if they want to attract investment? The first common misconception has to do with the mindset. One thing that startups need to do is to stop believing that investment is going to solve all their problems. A lot of startups believe that everything will start working when they have funding. Secondly, if the entrepreneur is good and has enough conviction, he or she would go ahead and do the initial work to show that the idea is valid and there is traction. That would lead to investors approaching them.
Which Pakistani startups have you invested in so far? We have invested in Patari, which is a music-streaming platform. We’ve invested in ProCheck, a solution for the pharmaceutical industry; we’ve also invested in SimPaisa, which is a direct carrier billing platform, integrated with over a 100 million SIM cards, enabling people to use the balance in their SIM cards to pay for digital services. There are two more companies that we will be announcing during December.
When looking for investment, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be thinking about finding the missing pieces – it’s really about going out and testing something. If entrepreneurs can show that a business has potential for profit and they’re going after a large enough market, there are investors, local and international, who would be inclined towards investing, even if it were at the seed funding stage. Secondly, the expectation of a lot of entrepreneurs is that they want funding even before they’ve started out. Investors want to see that entrepreneurs have tested their idea in the market and potential customers are willing to pay for their product or service. A common phenomenon in the emerging markets is that startups in these markets are not highly innovative or unique, but are rather local, customized versions of solutions that are already working in developed countries. I don’t think that Pakistan, in its current state is cut out to be the most innovative nation in the world. However, we do have a population of 210 million and there are a lot of local problems that need local solutions. Entrepreneurs need to see if those problems can be resolved using effective solutions. Startups need to understand that funding is required for accelerating growth – to reach a certain point quicker than they would if they were to use funds from bootstrapping.
What do you think are a few misconceptions of startups about investment? They think that a VC is interested only if a large enough market is there and that means that only startups with such a market are successful. This is not the case. VCs look for 10x return on their investment. This doesn’t mean that startups that have a niche market or not very high returns are not successful. The point is that these startups can survive on their own. It is the startups with potential of 10x growth that are of interest to VCs because they can get their return and these businesses would be liquid enough in the event of an exit. Another misconception is assuming that the money investors are putting in is just external money and startups can use that money however they want – this entails stating one thing when initial discussions are taking place and then using the money differently when given funding. I believe that it’s a learning process and startups will learn. It is essential for startups to decide who they want funding from, what they would be using it for and what the investors’ expectations would be regarding that investment.
The second trend that has not been experienced in the last one or two decades and has become evident in light of the new government and its policies, is the return of the successful diaspora because these people bring not only capital, but also experience of previously building ventures and learnings from other ecosystems. The third trend is relatively less emerging, but is more of a natural effect of entrepreneurs picking up learnings from their previous ventures and coming up with better solutions going forward. The learnings from the ecosystem is resulting in improved companies coming forward. There is no single reason for it – when you look at all the incubators and accelerators – the main trend is that players in the ecosystem are looking at opportunities to work together and also work with investors to collaborate to share common practices that are needed to improve the ecosystem. There would be major standardization in terms of the practices, benchmarks and investment terms as well as how entrepreneurs and investors should be behaving with one another.
The 3 trends you’re seeing emerging in the ecosystem for the upcoming years?
Which industries/kinds of startups are you looking at for investing through your fund?
One is surely that the space is becoming very interesting for venture capitalists. This will also take the form of large international tech companies taking interest in terms of investment, led by the Chinese I believe. As a result, we would also see liquidity events come through – perhaps not in the immediate year or two, but the trend is certainly moving in that direction.
Our fund is quite flexible – we can target any technology or technology-enabled business. What we actively look for is the scalability of the company – if that is something that comes through and the target market is large enough and the team is able to execute – this is the set of criteria that we apply when looking at companies to invest in.
KALSOOM LAKHANI “The poor enabling environment ultimately creates a ceiling for the potential growth of the overall ecosystem”
Which Pakistani startups have you invested in so far?
What is your take on the current condition of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan?
The entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown significantly over the last five years – there are more competitions, startups, support organizations, investors, you name it. I remember when we started i2i, there was maybe an event happening a month around the country – seven years later and there are multiple events happening every ar weekend – that activity is something to be proud of. However, while the increased activity is certainly exciting, and the government’s move of launching National Incubation Centres signaled an investment by the public sector in the startup landscape, the business-enabling landsc environment is still very, very poor, and very debilitating to entrepreneurs and investors alike. The taxation policies still need to be improved significantly, the issue of payments and how money flows in and out of the country are all massive problems – the list goes on. The poor enabling environment ultimately creates a ceiling for the potential growth of the overall ecosystem – we can have all this incredible activity happening on the ground, but it can only grow so far thanks to these regulatory barriers.
i2i Ventures plans to open its doors in January 2019 Inshallah. We’re looking at potential investments right now, but will announce in the new year.
In your view, what are the shortcomings that startups need to overcome if they want to attract investment? A few things: (1) focus on EXECUTION – the fortunate and unfortunate part of all these incredible events and startup competitions is I tend to see a lot of entrepreneurs who care more about winning awards than executing on their business. As an investor, I don’t care what awards you’ve won, I want to know people aw are willing to pay for your product and it has validation in the market. (2) Think about growth and scale – it’s great that you’ve thought about how you’re going to attain your first 100 customers, but how have you thought about growth beyond that? As an investor, i we want to know that you’re thinking big and that you’ve really understood your market and your path to growth better than your competitors.
What do you think are a few misconceptions of startups about investment? I think people think they need investment as a sign of success, and trust me that is not the case. If you don’t need to raise funding and can bootstrap for a while, (or raise funding from family and friends) – do it. When you do raise investment, you’ll be in a better position (power-wise) for investment than when you’re too early. in
“The poor enabling environment ultimately creates a ceiling for the potential growth of the overall ecosystem”
The 3 trends you’re seeing emerging in the ecosystem for the upcoming years?
A lot of on-demand marketplaces are currently in the market and will continue to come up – I find these models tricky on the supply side and worry about paths to scale, but still find it very exciting to come across ex startups in the space that have figured it out.
A lot of new investors (including us!) are entering the ecosystem, and my hope is that better investors offering better terms to founders (as well as investing at different levels) will not only be better for companies, but will hopefully allow for startups in hopeful Pakistan to raise Series B, C (and exit!) in the future)
3 A lot of foreign investors are looking seriously at the Pakistani market, but issues like the currency devaluation and Pakistan on the FATF Grey List will all need to be figured out if we want to see serious market entry (i.e., the government needs to help on go market risk and do some hard work on regulations!.
Which industries/kinds of startups are you looking at for investing through your fund? We’re agnostic – technology-enabled high-growth companies.
Nadeem Hussain Planet N Group of Companies
What is your take on the current condition of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan? When you look at the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that when you compare it with the condition that was there 5 years ago, there are at least 25 accelerators and incubators in existence in Pakistan. The locations where people can go and learn lea about being entrepreneurs didn’t exist previously in Pakistan – that’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that we have limited seed capital available. There are hardly any VCs or angel investors available – local or international. The lack of capital is causing a high degree of failure of startups. The natural percentage of startups failing globally is 90% in any case; with the dearth of capital available, our percentage goes up. Unfortunately, our local family offices – individuals of high net worth are not investing in startups at all. Lack of capital, at the moment, is a real showstopper for Pakistan’s ecosystem. The second thing is that the ecosystem does not support startups in the sense that getting a simple bank account is a challenge for startups. There are no significant tax benefits for people who are investing and those people who are receiving the investment. i
Which Pakistani startups have you invested in so far? In the last two and a half hal years, Planet N has invested in as many as 30 startups. Planet N itself has invested in about 12 startups, which also includes 2 in Egypt and it has an accelerator called 10xc, which has invested in 17 startups. Right now, we’re in the phase of consolidation – we instead of making new investments, we’re trying to achieve scale for our existing investments. Planet N now has around 5 companies that are showing very strong growth and between these 5 companies, we have raised about 5 million dollars. dollar We’re able to raise money because of the track record that we have. We need a similar amount of access to capital for other entities as well, which is not happening so far.
In your view, what are the shortcomings that startups need to overcome if they want to attract investment? I’ noticed that our startups have very I’ve high expectations – I get pitched about 20-25 ideas in a month. The expectation for funding is very far off from reality. Our startups need to understand what their needs are in terms of funding – we’re not Silicon Valley. In some cases, I believe that the Vall startups don’t show the commitment required to be considered for funding. They haven’t thought through the business plan; they don’t have a CTO on board. Startups need to be much more serious; they shouldn’t consider it a hobby. hob
Tell us about Aurat Raaj and how it came to be? I started off in 2017 – the whole idea was to find role models for myself and in the process, bring forward female role models for women in Pakistan. The initial idea was to have a blog and write about what’s happening in Pakistan, identify challenges for women. I have a journalist background, but I found that the content I was creating wasn’t gaining that much traction. I was also at NEST in Karachi, so I noticed the latest trends in technology – I started thinking along the lines of blockchain, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to incorporate technology into my idea. Lots of ideas were coming to me – I realized that we need to make these hard subjects fun. That’s when we started our cartoon series called Raaji – this was a story we had come across in rural Sindh. When we started narrating the story, it received great engagement. The immediate thing that happens when we show our cartoon is that young girls start talking about all the stuffed subjects that are not talked about commonly. That’s when we started our chatbot app, games, mentorship sessions that can be scheduled online. Aurat Raaj is all about combining technology with women empowerment.
There have been some major milestones for Aurat Raaj this year. How does it feel? A lot of people know about the milestones, but I don’t often talk about the challenges enough. I don’t come from a fundraising background – I don’t know how to do financing. Since I’ve always worked in a job, I didn’t know how to handle all the details related to organizational structure. I also didn’t or know what acceleration meant, what investment terminology was. I had to learn all these things and much more in a year’s span. There is a lot of learning and work that still needs to be done. There have been a lot of challenges in terms of learning. Due to the challenges te related to funding, there were moments when I thought I would have to close shop. We were also threatened because of the nature of the work that we were doing – my parents weren’t happy about that and the kind of places I had to visit to do my work. We have spoken about some of the biggest societal taboos and challenges because of which we were not supported. I think after all this time, now I’m supported – we’re doing things more openly now. One of the reasons I started working on Raaji was that I could hide behind its character. coul When it comes to the wins, all the media coverage and grants are very new to me and have just started pouring in – I’m a bit confused about it. I just want to say goodbye to the visibility and focus on doing the work. My idea of innovation is that if you’re not doing, you’re not going ahead. The milestones, which are global and very few entrepreneurs have been able to achieve them, are great but this ab is just the beginning – we needed this push to go to the next level.
What’s next? When people ask me what’s next, I get really excited and a bit carried away – I want
to do a feminist film festival, make a game where the players tell what Raaji does next, like ‘choose your adventure’ games. I’m also thinking about sponsoring girls, mentoring girls – if I’ve been able to break the glass ceiling, other girls can also do it and I can help them get there – ca I take that responsibility very seriously. One of our recent campaigns is ‘Raaji Baji’. I realized that the AI was taking longer than expected to learn from the interactions that have been inte happening organically. So, we’re recruiting girls to take over conversations related to health, hygiene and safety that the AI cannot handle right now. The conversations that the ‘Raaji Bajis’ have with people will teach the AI. This will also tea teach empathy to girls – there is so much judgment
and shame and we need to overcome that. I’m learning that empathy myself and also teaching it to the girls that we recruit. Wh role do you see Aurat What Raaj playing in the lives of women? For Aurat Raaj, I feel I want to launch a lot of projects, some online and some offline. I want to represent Pakistan globally. I have quite a few speaking engagements that I’m looking forward to, which lookin will help make valuable partnerships with various stakeholders. I look forward to being a public speaker to highlight all the great work that can be done for women. We’ve had some amazing male champions in Pakistan and abroad along with our amazing team, all of which has helped us come this far.
Tell us about your background and your vision for Jumpstart Pakistan When we launched 5 years ago, the whole vision was to add to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We truly believe that the right ecosystem in Pakistan would not be based on the incubation model so that startups can take their businesses to the next level. In the emerging markets, fresh graduates are not ready to set up their own startups
and companies. That is why we work with the greenhouse model, in which there is a shepherd who works with startups and assists them in taking their businesses to the next level. In the Jumpstart model, the shepherd is the key player. Under this model, we’ve been able to grow between model 1000 to 1500 startups. During the last 5 years, we’ve been to different cities in Pakistan – in 2018, we went to 10 cities.
LIFT Pakistan was a one-of-a-kind event in Pakistan. What was the vision behind it? For LIFT Pakistan, the vision was to include primarily SMEs because they’re looking at growth more than startups, as startups need more time to reach scale. For SMEs, there are certain pain points. The first is capacity building, even if they want to scale, they can’t find the right talent. To address this challenge, we’ve been collaborating with universities to we’
provide the skilled workforce. Secondly, SMEs don’t have the reach globally, which makes expansion a problem. Pakistan has a bad name globally at present, which is another challenge in global expansion. We’re working with different companies where there is a Pakistani diaspora – we’re actually encouraging them to work with Pakistani encou SMEs. Another pain point is the lack of a payment solution. We’re working with organizations that can take care of this issue.
With LIFT Pakistan, other than lifting Pakistan, there is also another greater meaning, which is Learning, Innovation, Funding, and Technology. I think these are the four key elements that need to be taken care of in the local industry in collaboration with international players. A good benchmark would be to raise USD 100 billion in the next 5-7 years. Although it’s a big number, but if everyone comes together to work on this, we would be able to resolve a lot of problems.
You managed to bring some key stakeholders from the international sphere to the event. What was their interest and feedback about our ecosystem? The feedback was amazing – the number of people who were able to come was overwhelming. We were able to pull people from overseas. The key takeaway was that we were able to show key international players that Pakistan is not just another emerging
country, but has great potential for development and for collaborations to gain from its growing economy. Although they were advised against visiting Pakistan, they were able to travel with us to various locations and walk freely and safely, which changed their perception tremendously about Pakistan. They got to interact with people throughout the conference – they took the impressions back to their imp respective countries. The technology they saw, the presentation of the content during the conference, the layout and everything else was a surprising element for them. We managed to get them visa-free entry, which made the experience seamless for them.
When is the next LIFT Pakistan event happening? It will most likely happen during November 2019. We will also have a smaller event mid-year to look more deeply into the workings of SMEs and gauge their needs. By then, we will have learning from this then experience and we would be able to do a better event. There is a lot of feedback coming in and we would be able to put together a more productive and an even better show next year.
What is Jumpstart’s vision for the future? The vision for the next five years is very straightforward – we want to put together a USD 100 billion fund for Pakistan, starting with identifying 200 SMEs that are progressing quickly and how to scale them. Before LIFT, it was difficult to explain the vision. Now that we’ve done the event, it has become more realistic in th terms of bringing stakeholders together and engaging them. We were also able to engage universities at the level that they realized that they would have to make certain changes to their curriculum to achieve the goal of building the 100 billion dollar wealth. This would create billio wealth for the government of Pakistan and would also create jobs – the ultimate goal is for the youth to play an active role by working with SMEs and setting up startups that become SMEs in 3-5 years and then SMEs becoming corporations and going global. an
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