The Rise of Tech Incubators in Pakistan

Credit: ati.utexas.edu/

Credit: ati.utexas.edu/

Many rising tech entrepreneurs in Pakistan have solid business plans, a growing customer base and enjoy increased attention from companies worldwide. But what they have in tech savvy and ideas, they may lack in startup funding and access to capital, support and the critical business resources they need – especially in the country’s emerging tech economy.

That’s where Invest2Innovate (i2i) comes in. It joins nearly 30 accelerator programs and incubators up and running in Pakistan, all helping to launch and support the burgeoning tech community in the sixth most populated country in the world.

Pakistan is quickly becoming a fierce contender in its own right in the tech world in Asia.  It rivals India in terms of talent and opportunity. In the country, 10 percent of the population is online and 50% use mobile phones, according to a recent study.

A Civic Touch at i2i

i2i is the brainchild of Kalsoom Lakhani. She started i2i in September 2011, as a four-month accelerator program for startups with budgets of less than $5,000. But interest in the class swelled and Lakhani knew she was onto something big.

Today, it is of one of more than two dozen such incubators in Pakistan that are helping to create a hotbed of activity. i2i hand picks entrepreneurs with the best ideas for a yearly program that prepares them for seed investment opportunities and growing their businesses.

The incubator says it has a community of investors “committed to supporting young entrepreneurs in Pakistan.” It also offers consulting services to strengthen entrepreneurial ventures in developing countries, and eventually hopes to act as a holding company.

The incubator has several tracts:

The i2i Accelerator is a four-month program that acts as a business boot camp. Judges select civic-minded startups to get business support, there are more than 35 mentors, and access to the company’s angel investor network.

i2i Angels – Entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs is the goal of i2i Angels. It is made up of successful Pakistani entrepreneurs who want to help other new businesses. This group serves as an investment opportunity, but also as a learning environment.

Consulting – The i2i team helps achieve the entrepreneurial vision in Pakistan by building a stronger breeding ground for entrepreneurs. It customizes curriculums for incubators and accelerators, designs training programs for entrepreneurs, and builds strategy in developing markets.

The Results

i2i graduated its first class in 2013. With the goal of tackling local issues in civic ways, it recently graduated a second round of prospects in January. Though some companies were in the early founding stages, here are some that were in the i2i Accelerator program:

OddJobber: A startup called IdeaCentricity created this platform to assist low-income workers. Its goal is to create a local marketplace for laborers with practical skills, similar to crowd sourcing, and connect buyers with sellers. A wide variety of jobs are listed, including positions for domestic workers.

3Restart: Gamifying early childhood education is the goal of 3Restart. With plans to have a memory retention product available over the next coming months, it would be more than just something for kids to play, but would also provide progress reports to parents. 3Restart has also partnered

The Reading Room Project:  Access to education is a huge issue in Pakistan, with millions of children unable to read. The Reading Room Project hopes to do something about that by giving low-income Pakistani kids access to learning resources they need to reduce illiteracy.

The program will give books and provide computer instruction to students. The project reportedly is already teaching computer science to students at a school in Karachi.

Raise D’Bar: Borrowing from the country’s agricultural roots, Raise D’Bar is an organic energy bar made from fair trade ingredients sourced from farmers in Pakistan. Available in mulberry black currant and walnut and strawberry apricot and almond, the products will be marketed as high-end products to the health conscious.