I haven’t blogged for quite a while – Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are to blame. But today I felt the need to write more than just a tweet or a status message and so here we are …
The last few weeks have been hectic. The P@SHA ICT Awards 2014 and then the preparations for APICTA 2014 in Jakarta have kept many of us on our toes.
Some may say that I should have waited until I had news of how Team Pakistan fared at this year’s Asia Pacific ICT Awards APICTA). I think not. The wins are just part of the journey – and that news can wait until after the Gala Dinner tonight. I need to pen this down now before it is coloured by the results.
Every year for the past 11 years we have been bringing teams to APICTA – to capitals across the Asia Pacific … and each year we have been able to hold our heads high at the effort and the performance of tech innovators from Pakistan. Judges from across the region have started to sit up and take notice. They have remarked (with some surprise) on the quality of teams and ideas. They have asked jokingly what we were ‘feeding them’ these days, of how products keep emerging through the cracks from a country that has not been traditionally known as a tech innovation hub.
Each year we continue to impress them with the people we bring to these Awards. Not all the teams win – they can’t because they are competing against the best-of-the-best from the entire region. We at APICTA acknowledge all of them as winners because that is what they all are – winners! Whether they bag an award or not, they are bursting with confidence, with knowledge, with innovation and passion for what they do. They mingle and network and show the world the true face of Pakistan …
Something Hunaid Hameed (our Secondary School Student entry) said during one of the first mentoring sessions in Jakarta this year, has remained in my consciousness for the past few days. He said “Jawwad Farid has been guiding and mentoring me since I won the P@SHA LaunchPad event two years ago, helping me to improve and develop my product. Another few months of this and I may start worshiping him.” Those words touched my heart. It is kids like these who make us continue to do what we do – put in 24 hour days, put our heart and soul into working with the teams, sharing their hopes and dreams, their joys and their heartbreak. We are all one – Team Pakistan!
This year was no different. 21 products from Pakistan were presented at APICTA 2014 in Jakarta. The teams started working tirelessly on improving the presentations they had made at the P@SHA ICT Awards, working with mentors remotely and in the cities they were based – Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.
Chief Mentor Jawwad Ahmed Farid did not travel with us to Jakarta but he worked constantly with many of the teams to assist them in presenting their products in the best possible light. In Jakarta Team Pakistan took over the Executive Floor, lounge and meeting room on 3 consecutive nights where Zafar Khan, Dr. Shoab A. Khan, Badar Khushnood and Sultan Hamdani listened to pitches, mentored, scolded, cajoled and did whatever was necessary to get our bright innovators to put up their best performance.
It is always good to see them all coming together and working towards a common objective – to leave an impression on the minds of hundreds of technology professionals and judges from the region that Pakistan is at par with them in producing cutting edge technology solutions for business and consumers across the globe . It is no doubt exhausting but it is well worth it because in the end, win or not, we are able to hold our heads high and say we gave our best for our country and our industry.
Yes we are back with another edition of the P@SHA LaunchPad series which are now in their sixth year.
The vision behind P@SHA LaunchPad is simple – find the best technology ideas and start-ups, bring them in front of the Pakistan IT industry’s most experienced and influential professionals and entrepreneurs and highlight them through online showcases and social media. The purpose is to create a platform where young people with great ideas, and where early-stage companies with innovative products, can have the opportunity to pitch their ideas in front of people who ask relevant questions, make suggestions to help develop the idea or product, assist with market identification, mentoring and possibly investment. Ideas with the following characteristics are encouraged to participate in P@SHA LaunchPad Events
- A new startup with a product or service that you have been working on and wish to launch
- A young person/team who have an idea for a product or service that you want to pitch
- Anyone who has a product or service idea that uses technology for Social/Community impact
Startup entrepreneurs and young people with Ideas are put in the hot seat where some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business executives will grill them in front of an audience of their peers. Each category will carry a cash award of Rs.100,000/- for the winners in each of the cities. This year we are planning to hold the event in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad on June 24, 25 and 26. The P@SHA LaunchPad event will be held in Peshawar and Faisalabad after Eid. We may add on another city or two if we have the bandwidth to do so. This year we have been fortunate enough to get the Pakistan Software Export Board to provide partial the sponsorship for holding these events. Thank you PSEB. To apply for entry into the P@SHA LaunchPad event, please fill up this form http://goo.gl/XiNWN2 and prepare your presentations. If you are shortlisted you will be informed by the morning of June 23. You will have 5 minutes to present to a panel of judges in your city and there will be 5 minutes for Q&A. Deadline for entries is 6 pm June 21, 2014. The dates, venues and time for the events are as follows: Karachi – June 24 – IBA Main Campus – 1 pm to 5.30 pm Lahore – June 25 – Lahore College for Women University – 1 pm to 5.30 pm Islamabad – June 26 – in partnership with Kuch Khaas – 1 pm to 5:30 pm
The first time I heard about Blackbox Connect was when Mary Grove from Google for Entrepreneurs wrote to me in April 2013 telling me how excited she was to announce that GfE was going to be powering Blackbox Connect‘s Summer 2013 class,. What she said next was even more exciting. She asked if P@SHA would like to invite a startup from our community to participate. As you can imagine, there was only one answer I could give to that question – a resounding YES!
Blackbox Connect is a 2-week immersion program for founders who are based outside the US. Founders will come to Silicon Valley and live at the Blackbox Mansion where they have the opportunity to live and collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs from all around the world and partake in an intense agenda of meetings and workshops with entrepreneurs, investors, experts and executives.
Google for Entrepreneurs covers the cost of the Blackbox Connect program (including airfare, tuition, room & board) for one founding team from each country.
Criteria for eligible startups are as follows:
– Must be based outside the US
– Only founders (not employees) may attend; up to 2 of the founders can attend
– Founder attending must be proficient in English
– Start up must have launched a technology based MVP (minimum viable product) and gathered feedback from early adopter customers. If product is B2B, then feedback from prospective customers is acceptable.
This was how P@SHA became the official partner for the Blackbox Connect Google for Entrepreneurs funded program in Pakistan.
The first participants selected to go from Pakistan were Groopic and Tunacode (yes I know I said that only one team from each country would be sponsored but the Blackbox team was so impressed with the quality of applications that we sent that they selected two). The second time around the same thing happened – Appography and SMSAll were selected by Fadi Bishara – the founder of Blackbox Connect.
-Ideally, but NOT required: startup should have raised some investment capital, have a team between 2-20, and have a product or service that can be launched globally.
Last week P@SHA put out a call for applications for the next program which will be in the fall. Have you applied? Many of your peers have. If this is the first time you are hearing about this program, and you are interested in applying and expanding your business globally, please go to theApplication Link: http://goo.gl/wqWNS0.
Benefits of participation in Blackbox Connect two week program:
- Blackbox Connect speakers mentor, inspire and impart their knowledge and experience with the participants in a genuine Silicon Valley Way
- You live and work within a comfortable environment that is conducive to learning and sharing
- There are Network events to gain access to Silicon Valley’s best resources of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors
- Membership of the Blackbox global community
- By Demo Day, Blackbox Connect Entrepreneurs deliver a refined and compelling presentation, conveying clarity of their vision and direction, understanding what it takes to get funded by experienced US and global investors and realizing goals for the long term success of their startup
To catch a glimpse of what Entrepreneurs took away from the Blackbox Connect program, have a look at this video https://vimeo.com/86613312
For the last two programs we received about 60 applications. Our local panel of judges went through them and selected the top 10 – 12. This shorter list was sent to the Blackbox Connect team who then interviewed all the shortlisted candidates and finally selected the participants. So who will be the lucky ones for this program? It could be you!!!
She was an angel sent down from heaven to make sure that we had an absolutely amazing childhood and she left no stone unturned in ensuring that, as we were growing up, our lives were filled with love and laughter. She taught us what it meant to be gentle, compassionate, loving and generous human beings. Even her silence was comfortine; her smile made all our pain and worries disappear. Her life centered around us – her family. She was the best mother in the world and all of us adored her.
On April 1 eleven years ago Ammi breathed her last and left a gap in our lives that no-one can ever fill. Her physical presence, her voice, her lovely smile, her subtle sense of humour are all things that each of us misses acutely. In spirit though she never really left us. It is like she continues to watch over us every second of every day – celebrating each achievement, smiling with us through our happy moments and being comfortingly close through every difficult period of our lives.
Even now after eleven years, whenever I go home from a day at work or return from a trip, intuitively I look towards what used to be her room expecting her to be sitting there on the lookout for me, ready to welcome me home and listen to my so-called ‘adventures’, hear about the people I had met and the things I had done during the day. She was such a good listener and always knew exactly what to say. She was our confidante, our friend, our mentor and sometimes even our partner-in-crime especially when we were trying to get out of doing something that Abbaji wanted us to do. She covered up for us whenever it looked as if we might get into trouble for some minor mischief that we had gotten into and she was always there to protect and defend us whenever we needed her to.
Ammi was ill for many many years. She suffered from high blood pressure, systemic lupus, pulmonary embolisms and various complications. She spent a lot of days and nights in hospitals in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Karachi … but never through her worst suffering did she lose her ability to smile and comfort the rest of us. We marvelled at her patience, her ability to bear suffering without ever uttering a word of complaint. At times when she should just have been thinking about herself, she continued to worry about what Abbaji and the rest of us were going through. She didn’t want to put us through any discomfort or be the cause for worry. Whenever anyone asked how she was, she always smiled broadly and responded “I am fine.” She was the most amazing person in the world. We were so lucky to have her in our lives for as long as we did.
Today as we mark her 11th death anniversary, all any of us can do is to honour her memory by continuing to be the kind of human beings she wanted us to be – to care about each other, to love life and live it to the fullest, to work with integrity and dedication and to be humane, kind and compassionate to all those around us. Ammi, we miss you so very much. You were the best mother in the world and we will always love you. May God keep you in his care and bestow upon you all the wonderful bounties of heaven which you so richly deserve.
As I drove into the Metro carpark, I intuitively parked in the spot closest to the entrance. But as I got out of the car, I noticed this sign. A couple of ‘d’s’ missing no doubt but the message was clear so I got back into the car and looked around for alternative parking.
The guard who was stationed in the carpark stopped me and said it was okay for me to park there and asked why I was looking for a new spot. I explained to him that those two parking spots were for people with disabilities. He looked at me as if I was some strange phenomenon; shrugged and said “That’s okay. No-one pays attention to the sign”. I didn’t really want to argue with him but I did say to him that signs such as this were placed there for a reason and that we should abide by them.
As I parked my car in another location and headed for the entrance of Metro, I noticed that two other families had parked their cars in those spaces reserved for people with disabilities.
Why am I ranting about this? Because it is not an isolated incident. I have noticed many times that at airports where there are numerous announcements stating that smoking is not allowed, people stand below No Smoking signs and smoke. At times I have gone up to such people and indicated to them that they were smoking in a No Smoking area. They shrug, grin and look the other way. Similarly, counters at immigration which are meant for unaccompanied women and children more often than not are populated by long queues of men. I am one of the troublemakers who goes up to such people and asks “Which one are you – an unaccompanied woman or a child?” . I also take it up with immigration staff – why are the signs put up if they are not going to be adhered to, I ask. They are temporarily embarrassed and some of them move away but only until troublemakers like me are no longer in the vicinity.
Strangely these same people will follow rules and signs put up at airports in other countries so why not here? Is it because they know they can get away with it? Whatever the reason, I find it extremely irritating …
Midnight on the night of January 5 and 6 had always been a special occasion for me. It was celebration time. Abbaji’s birthday falls on January 5; Ammi was born on January 6 … they always cut a cake together at midnight. There were smiles all round; exchange of gifts and cards; all of us singing ‘Happy birthday’ slightly off-tune. Those were magical and happy times for our family. I remember how as they grew old together, they still continued the tradition of exchanging birthday cards and gifts – Abbaji still bought for Ammi pieces of jewelery and some of the loveliest silk and chiffon sarees I have ever seen – things he hadn’t been able to give her in the early years of their marriage while he was building his career. It was so sweet to see.
Yesterday was Abbaji’s birthday. He has been feeling rather poorly of late. He suffers from Pulmonary Fibrosis and has withdrawn into himself little by little since Ammi passed away over 10 years ago. A companionship spanning decades had come to an end and I think he has just not been able to accept that Ammi is no longer physically amongst us although her spirit and her love continue to live in each one of us. We cut a cake yesterday as we always do and I sang Happy birthday a little off-tune as I always do; there were gifts as there always are, phone calls from all my siblings to convey special wishes … but none of it was quite the same. It hasn’t been quite the same since Ammi went away. We miss her every moment. She was the most precious person in our lives.
This morning I missed Ammi’s special smile, her unaffected and genuine laughter, her amazing sense of humour, her gentleness, her warmth, her kindness, her love. I wanted so much to wish her Happy Birthday, to give her flowers, to see the delight on her face when I gave her the suits that I had had made for her, to spoil her as much as I could, to make her feel like the most important person in all the world which she was. But I couldn’t. I went instead to visit her grave, to lay on it a bed of fresh rose petals, to pray that she was blessed with everything her heart desired.
Happy birthday my dearest Ammi. You were the very best mother in the world. We love you … we always have and we always will.
For the past few days I had been wondering what New Year Resolutions I should make. The more I thought about it the more convinced I became that there was no point to the exercise. Thousands of people around the world make these resolutions every year only to break them a few days into the New Year. Better not to make them at all.
However, there was one resolution I was bent on making and keeping. I was going to start blogging again. There has been too much of a break. Friends, colleagues and youngsters from universities have been messaging me for months to ask why I don’t write anymore. They say they miss my posts. And, to be honest, I miss writing them.
I used to find so much pleasure in writing about all sorts of things – from posts about innovation in Pakistan, about entrepreneurship, about all sorts of P@SHA activities, about things I had seen and done, about different types of food, about people I met who amazed me … you name it … I wrote about it.
So here I am again on the first day of 2014 putting together my first brief post hoping that it will be the stepping stone to many pieces this year. Watch for them.
Happy New Year to you all. May it be a peaceful and joyous one for us all.