Pakistan Startup Ecosystem
Pakistan Startup Ecosystem
With the ecosystem still in its infancy there are many untapped opportunities still available for local and foreign entrepreneurs.
The most notable startup in Pakistan is Rozee.pk, a careers portal for professional in Pakistan. The founder Monis Rahman was initially on a quest to build a dating site for but found it expensive to find new recruits by advertising in newspapers. Rather than accepting these limitations he built a “quick and dirty” job site to save from paying advertising costs. Other entrepreneur’s then began to notice his job-listing site and started enquiring whether they could list their jobs openings with him. Rozee.pk has since gone on to become the largest jobsite in Pakistan, and has now started to expand into the Middle East with the acquisition of Minhati.com, a Saudi Arabian careers portal, in 2013.
The most visited local website in the country is Tune.pk. Built by Arsalan Hassan and Jahanzeb Hassan in 2006, since the ban on YouTube in 2012, the startup has gone on to become the default method of watching videos for those without VPN. The team, which supports the ban, has gone on to develop a plugin that allows users to watch YouTube videos in Pakistan using their platform thus giving all Pakistani’s access to YouTube’s large content library.
Hamariweb is the second most popular Urdu based website in Pakistan. Started by Abrar Ahmed in 2006, he wanted to give the local Urdu speaking populace a place to find local and international news online.
Groopic is a mobile app for iOS and Android created by a team of students from LUMS. They built an app that uses computer vision technology to allow the photographer to be in every group photo. The app has gone on to be the No 1. Photography app in 3 major markets and a Top 10 app in nearly 50 countries.
Convo is a collaboration tool for professionals created by Faizan Buzdar and his team in Islamabad. With over 6,000 customers in 150 countries, Convo raised $5 million from investors last year to compete with business giants such as Microsoft.
There are not many formal investing vehicles catering to local entrepreneurs. Most local investments are made purely by family and friends or through contacts made within the industry. A network of angel investors and a dedicated seed stage fund are being launched that will focus solely on local startups.
Pakistan’s see’s a lot of local events focused on entrepreneurs and startups. In the last year Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar have all hosted Startup Weekends, then there are also regular OPEN (Organisation of Pakistani Entrepreneur) and TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) events held throughout the country. P@sha a local trade body that represents the IT industry hosts regular events such as its ICT Awards Ceremony for celebrating the best of local companies, Launchpad to help discover startups in Pakistan, and Google events such as GdayX, Entrepreneurs Week, and many more.
Further to this local entrepreneurs also hold Civic Hackathons organised by Code for Pakistan which aims to bring technological innovation to the civil service. Our local Lean Startup chapter is operating in Karachi and Lahore.
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There are a number of Pakistani’s who have gone on to found very successful businesses both within Pakistan and abroad.
● Monis Rahman is the founder of Rozee.pk and a graduate of Stanford University. Having worked intially at Intel, he went on to start Rozee.pk that has recently acquired Minhati.com, Saudi Arabia’s leading jobs portal.
● Salim Ghauri is the founder of Netsol the first Pakistani origin company to get listed on the NASDAQ and is the biggest Pakistani IT company in terms of revenues and infrastructure.
● Ali Rehan is the founder behind Eyedeus Labs which launched its breakthrough product Groopic last year. Groopic is a smartphone app that allows you to take a group picture and insert yourself in it. Since the launch Ali and his team have been selected to attend an incubator in Silicon Valley, and were in the first batch of incubatees at Plan9, Pakistan’s first incubator.
● M. Raza Saeed is the CEO of PakWheels and Confiz. Pakwheels is Pakistan’s largest automobile focused website, with thousands of new and used car listings, and the most active forum for automobile users in Pakistan. Confiz is a web development company with over 200 employees which builds web and mobile apps for users in Pakistan and abroad.
Pakistani Entrepreneurs Abroad
● FireEye is a publically listed cyber security firm that was founded by Ashar Aziz. FireEye builds cyber security products that are able to stop hack attacks that were previously almost impossible to stop.
● Dilawer Syed is the President North American at FreshDesk, and a Board Member at Yonja media group which invests in internet businesses in Turkey.
● A PC World Person of the Year, Riaz Haq was responsible for the team that designed the Intel 80386 CPU processor. He is currently an investor, and a consultant on South Asia and Pakistan.
● Rayid Ghani was the man behind the data in President Obama’s second election. Ghani as chief scientist researched and analysed Obama’s online supporters, helping him land a second term in office.
● Zia Yusuf is the CEO of Streetline, which develops smartphone applications that helps drivers locate vacant parking spots in university, airport, garage and other large private parking lots. The company has raised more than $65 million in capital.
● Umar Saif is the Chairman of the PITB, which is a government run organisation running Plan9, and also developing multiple mobile apps to help local government agencies become more productive in their daily tasks.
● Jehan Ara is the President of P@sha and uses her influence to connect many of the key players in the industry and organise events for local startups to showcase their talent.
● Badar Khushnood is Google’s Country Consultant for Pakistan and is very active in using Google’s influence to help Pakistani startups get recognised.
● Khurram Zafar is the Executive Director of the Centre of Entrepreneurship at LUMS (Pakistan’s leading university) and is heading its brand new incubator “The Foundation”.
● Nabeel Qadeer is the Program Manager at Plan9, PITB’s incubator and co-working space in Lahore.
● Faisal Khan is a local payments expert who has been working with both local and international payment providers to bring in online payment solutions to the Pakistani market.
● Kalsoom Lakhani is the founder of Invest2Innovate a local accelerator/angel network for social businesses in Pakistan.
● Plan9 is Pakistan’s largest tech incubator and co-working space, funded by the PITB, and run by Nabeel Qadeer. It hosts teams of startups for 6 months and offers mentorships and coaching to its incubatees, and for freelancers a coworking space in Lahore.
Private Learning Institutions
● The Foundation at LUMS is the latest incubator to be launched in Pakistan with a 4-month incubator cycle with mentorship and coaching from local and foreign professionals. It is also in the process of creating its own fund that will invest within local startups.
● Dot Zero is a co-working and community space launched in July 2013 by a group of entrepreneurs aiming to create an enabling environment for technology start-ups.
● Basecamp Peshawar is a co-working and community space designed for startups and entrepreneurs.
● Invest2Innovate works to support impact-oriented startups and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem in Pakistan. i2i has graduated 11 companies from its startup accelerator (applications for the third class will open June 2014), and has 10+ members in its angel investor network. i2i is in the process of building out a fund to invest in its companies for the third round of companies.