Are you building the world’s next billion dollar startup from Pakistan? Well then you’ll probably need to know these things!
Over the past couple of years, entrepreneurship has picked up pace in the country. For those looking to start their own companies we’re now at an exciting point, evolving and growing as an eco-system that supports such opportunity and encourages new ideas, solutions and nature of employment.
What is our eco-system though? It’s actually a mix of everything from accelerators to venture capitalists to universities: all working towards one goal and that is building an environment that enables founders to build great companies!
Here’s a run down of all you need to know about the eco-system:
Incubators and Accelerators
To start with, they’re two different things!
Incubators take in companies that are well, not really companies yet. These have founders with big, disruptive ideas that have the potential to scale. An incubator provides office space, early stage mentoring, starting tools etc that take an initial idea to its execution stage. Founders Institute, NEST I/O, National Incubation Centre, Plan9, TIC NUST etc are a few incubators to look out for even though there are several! Your choice of incubator will really depend on the kind of environment and expertise you’re looking for as well as your location. A really great advantage for young founders who’ve recently graduated or are graduating are university based accelerators: NUST, LUMS, COMSATS, IBA, IMSciences etc all have one!
When you’ve gone through an incubator and are now in the process of growing that’s where accelerators will come in. To get into an accelerator you’ll need to show more than just an idea: you’ll need traction! Customers, sales figures, future projections etc. You need to prove that your product has a market need. An accelerators job is to help you scale up i.e give you the resources to grow your company at an exponential rate. Telenor Velocity, Invest2Innovate, PlanX are some of Pakistan’s leading accelerators. If you’re a female founder you may specifically want to learn more about i2i.
“We’re a product of this eco-system and we’re very thankful to it for being so enabling. We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are without the support of the incubators and accelerators in the country.” says Fahad Awan, founder and CEO of EasyInsurance a fin-tech startup that has been through National Incubation Center and i2i cohorts.
Idea competitions, startup events, conferences etc, happen year round all over the country and mostly focus on giving startups a platform to raise financing, gain visibility or receive initial market validation. While these activities can be great for ideation, networking, marketing yourself and your company, founders are usually advised to not consider these as metrics for success. If you’re an early stage founder these events will give you the initial push you need, the exposure is a great beginning but if you’re a late stage founder you can always pick and choose events that you attend and that will add value to your business.
“Big events and competitions are good for startups if you fall in either of these two categories: If you’re a founder who’s completely unaware of the existing stakeholders in the system and want to get to know about them or if your startup already has traction, active users and recurring revenue etc and are ready to raise funding” advises Haris Naeem, Founder and CEO of “Snap That” an AI-powered search engine that provides a personalized experience for fashion consumers.
Still reading? This blog is a two part series that covers the startup ecosystem of Pakistan. Stay tuned for part 2!