As the title reads out, the Nest i/o is P@SHA’s tech incubator. Looking from another angle, it is Karachi’s tech incubator with the current leading spaces for tech incubation located in Lahore and Islamabad. One could say that this was a long time coming, and it is great to see the entrepreneurs and the business community coming together to help startup businesses take off by sharing their experiences, skill sets and networks.
The team consists of 4 people, led by Jehan Ara (President of P@SHA). The small and young team members bring in a diverse range of backgrounds from economics to film, and acts as the centerpiece in terms of connecting a strong advisory board, mentor network and an exciting set of startups.
Advisory Board and Mentor Network
The advisory board is full of well-known professionals in the entrepreneurial and technology space in Pakistan and internationally such Google for Entrepreneurs, Samsung, Zamindar Capital, Cyan Capital, Golden Gate Ventures, Alchemy Technologies and Jaffer Business Systems. This means that there is a wide support network for the incubator and also input into its methodology.
Through P@SHA and Karachi’s business community, the Nest i/o has also amassed a strong network of C-level executives in large corporations as well as technology growth-stage companies who have volunteered to help the program participants take off the ground.
The program cycle is broken down into 5 steps: which is essentially 3 actual steps for the prospective startups looking to join the incubation cycle: apply through the website, pitch to experts on Pitch Day and if you are shortlisted, make a 3-minute pitch to technology and business experts. The online application asks questions about the company, founders, idea, product and intellectual property.
There are three 4-month incubation cycles, starting in March, July and November. The first cycle is already underway and the next cycle would begin in July 2015. Four months is a shorter time period than the usual 6-month/year incubation cycle but it comes with a step by step agenda.
Stage 1: Focus on mentor matching, refining the product/idea, initial market testing
Stage 2: Working on team dynamics, sales processes and startup methodology
Stage 3: Brand development, pricing and costing and product launch
Stage 4: Customer validation and post-launch analysis
This flow of things actually reflects on the incubator’s strategy and the kind of startups, in terms of the product/service and stage of development that they are looking for. It is odd that the Nest i/o is actually making a one-size-fits-all product offering in a market where many of these steps could take longer than a month (and the four stages would then take longer than four months) and launching the product in stage 3 might not make business sense. Additionally, customer validation is at the end of the cycle – the term might be used to mean that customer’s purchases would validate the product/idea, but in terms of incubation cycles the validation process usually comes at the beginning.
This validation is not only done with potential customers but also with experts in the field, industry professionals, academics and potential partners. One way to look at the nest i/o model is that a lot of that validation is happening before the incubation cycle starts in terms of which businesses get through the application steps. However, limiting validation to who you can have on your Pitch Day might be seen as a narrow approach.
Incubated Teams (First Batch)
The first batch of “Nestlings” at the incubator includes a diverse range of products and services ranging from a wedding planning service to an online outsourcing portal. The names, team members and short descriptions of the 13 businesses are as follows:
Capital Valley: Online entrepreneurial and philanthropic ecosytsem (Sennen D’Souza)
Investor Lounge: Fin tech (Baqar Abbas Jafri, Hammad Ali Hashmi, Sennen D’ Souza)
HerMarketplace: Pakistan first secure women peer-to-peer online market place
Contento3: content streamlining (Hammad Afridi)
Knavix: Maps and locations (Amar Makhdoom)
Sukoon.com.pk: Pakistan’s 1st online outsourcing company (Shoaib Iqbal and Qazi Umair)
Ouzel Systems: Software development – RemindApp (for reminders and team collaboration) (Sameer Ahmed Khan, Zohaib Ahmed Shakir, Syed Abrar Ahmed, Shakir Ghani)
The Wedding Planit: Pakistan’s 1st Online Wedding Service Company (Sharjeel Ahmed, Riaz Ahmed, Shahbaz Khan, Nawaz Gabool)
DeliverIt: same day delivery service (Mansoor Jan, Monis Jan)
ErinMail: email marketing tool (Danish Raza, Hamza Siddiqui, Shahrukh Chaudhary)
Vyva Sync: media shoots tech (Safwan Ummar, Pir Faraz Ali, Salman Abedin)
EjaadTech: programmable educational toys (Nasir Aziz Jumani, Zaid Pirwani)
FYP (Final Year Projects): showcase of final year projects from Pakistani universities (Noor Hussain, Nadir Aziz)
Like a responsible private equity investor or startup supporter, the Nest i/o supports its startups through its platform for visual/graphic designers, software engineers, GIS experts and creative writers.
All in all, this is a promising start for a young incubator. A lot rides on the first batch of participants, their experiences and outcomes for their business. The Nest i/o, is a startup on its own, and it needs to deliver a solid product for making it big.