A wonderful Coffee Session

January 18, 2008 at 1:04 pm 20 comments

table tennis

No this didn’t happen at the at the Startup Insiders session but it just seemed like the right photo to start with – actually some of the discourse reminded me of a ping-pong session 🙂 – for those who don’t know these two clowns, allow me to introduce Ali Sabzwari of Si3 and Jawwad Farid of Alchemy.

The Startup Insiders session (our version of the Silicon Valley BarCamp) was set for 6 pm yesterday. Imagine my amazement at seeing some of the CEOs starting to show up at 5:30 pm (this in a country not really famous for its punctuality), and youngsters started to trickle in soon after. All day Jawwad, Osama, Adnan and I had this feeling of anticipation of something thrilling and exciting that was about to happen. And boy were we right!

adnanThe atmosphere was electric. There was a buzz. Everyone seemed to be on a high (no liquor and drugs were not on the menu). Around 70 entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs together in one room, popping questions, sharing experiences, expressing doubts and concerns, dishing out advice, some agreeing, some not – all in good humour. Faisal Qureshi being controversial yet speaking from the heart, Jawwad Farid trying not to offend as he passionately talked about flexible working hours and styles and Pakistan being the place where opportunities abound, Adnan Agboatwalla talking about having to make that final leap from a well-paid day job to not getting a salary for a year so that he could chase that dream, Osama bringing in the pains of those first weeks and months of developing a product forgetting to eat and sleep for much of the past 3 years.

naumanThe session started at 6.15 pm. By then the room was full- standing room only. Everyone had been given a sticker with their name on it for easy recognition during the networking break. The proceedings began with the laying down of just a couple of basic ground rules – all phones on silent (with the threat that any phone that rang was going to be mine since my phone is on the blink and i desperately need a new one); the panel of entrepreneurs would stick to responses that were not too long so that discourse could take place (I had said 2 minutes but didn’t have the heart to stop passionate outpourings of experiences that were crying out to be shared).

Questions included things like:faisal and Jawwad
1. How do i know i am cut out to be an entrepreneur?
2. How much money do i need to start up?
3. Is it easy to raise capital?
4. How do i put together a team?
5. How do i sell my product or service?
6. What kind of support structures exist?
7. Should I seek VC funding – when is the right time?
8. Is a Business Plan necessary and how do i put one together?
9. Should I develop a product for which I know there is no market right now because it is ahead of its time?

….. and a whole load more.

Answers included:

some of the people1. To be an entrepreneur you need passion, you need drive, you need to be prepared to take a risk, you need to believe in yourself… and so on and so forth
2. How much money did they start with? Jawwad said US$15 loans from wife, mother, father, uncle, friend. Adnan said US$10,000 which they got from their savings. Others said just a laptop and a roof over your head, some food, coffee and an Internet connection.
3. It is not easy to raise capital until you have a proof of concept, your first customer.
4. Putting together a team is difficult – if you can find people who are as crazy about the idea as you are and have different strengths, and will stay with you because they have a stake – financial or otherwise, that would be ideal. Otherwise do what we do – hire, train, lose them, hire again – just don’t let it break your heart and DON’T GIVE UP!
5. Use networking opportunities like the events P@SHA has, Green & White, Startup Insider sessions like these
6. VC funding – Stay away if you can for as long as you can
7. Business Plans are not always necessary. Sometimes you put one together for an investor, at other times you do it to focus your own thoughts. Templates are available, come to P@SHA and mentors for help, bring a friend who is a business graduate onto your tech team.
8. Selling your product requires knowing your customers pains, his problems and the money and time your solution can save for him. You need to think on your feet, be able to switch stories that fit a certain scenario (or in Faisal Qureshi’s words ‘be a bit of a con-artist’)

another sectionSo there it is – only a sampling of what was discussed at this extremely energized session. The Mulazzamat.tv guys were there too to share their experience. We had Faisal Khan CEO of Netxs who came forth with invaluable ideas as did Nauman Sheikh, Dr. Zahir Syed and Azhar Rizvi. We also had the Dawn News team there, the Editor of Spider Magazine Reba Shahid, Rabia Garib Editor in Chief of Netxpress and Asif Qayyum of Si3. Everyone added energy to the discussions. And let us not forget some of the perspectives put forward by Imtiaz Noor who walked in late because he had meetings he couldn’t get out of.

mulazamatCoffee flowed as did tea and there were chips, samosas, cookies and kulfi – thanks Adnan! The networking break had people huddling up in groups, getting to know each other and sharing ideas on a one-to-one and one-to-many basis. I loved it and can’t wait for the Lahore and Islamabad ones to happen. Thanks to everyone who showed up and special thanks to Jawwad, Osama, Adnan and the two Faisals. For more on the session, do visit Desi Back to Desh and Green & White.

We forgot to take people’s email addresses yesterday so if you were there, and you are reading this, send us an email and let us know so we maintain the contact and we can also let you know about the next event.

Some of the CEOs who were there yesterday and are prepared to mentor, to help with ideas, to look at demos are:
Faisal Qureshi – fq@faisalqureshi.com
Jawwad Farid – jawwad@alchemya.com
Adnan Agboatwalla – adnan@pixsense.com
Osama Hashmi – hashmi@coreframeworks.com
Jehan Ara – jehan.ara@gmail.com

Wanna see the action? Here’s a sampling.

Entry filed under: Posts.

Coffee for Startups – and lots more! Startup Insiders Session in Islamabad & Lahore

20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Vic  |  January 18, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Terrific initiative. Good to see so many ceos shrug off their proprietary ‘seth’ attitude, to dig deep into their hearts, and selflessly come forward to help others.

    Of course there is some return too – a shared joy in seeing someone accept that little help and move forward.

    And then one day, hopefully not too far away, the genuine pleasure of being in a place where prosperity and independence are equally valued, appreciated, and shared.

  • […] Update 3: Jehan Ara (President, PASHA) has a lot more details and pictures up here. […]

  • 3. Reba Shahid  |  January 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Umm… I think you have my e-mail address

  • […] are links to Jawwad and Jehan’s blog posts on the session. Great job guys. Lets keep having these […]

  • 5. Osama A.  |  January 18, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Two more email addresses:


  • 6. Rakesh  |  January 18, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    Great consolidating post Jehan.

    The session was something that has converted the idea of entrepreneurship from a nebulous dream in to a realistic and do-able activity for me.

    Thanks to all the CEOs for making the event a perfect mentoring and networking session, we should do this again in Karachi.

    gopchandani – [at] – gmail . com

  • 7. Mohammed Sabzwari  |  January 18, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I have heard of using (or abusing as some would say) pictures of beautiful women to sell products, but never imagined someone would use pictures of fat, old, balding, failed entrepreneurs struggling in a ping pong game to draw analogies about entrepreneurial success sessions!

  • 8. Mohammed Mudassir Azeemi  |  January 19, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Very superb initiative!

    Keep up the good work guys!

    Take care,

    Mudassir Azeemi
    San Francisco, CA

  • 9. Jehan  |  January 19, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Hey Ali, as was pointed out during the sessions, one or two or even three entrepreneurial failures do not prove anything. Look at the success Alchemy is today and look at what you have achieved for yourself and for Si3. The motivation you guys provide to young people is far more than you realize. Beauty is only skin deep 😉

  • 10. Jehan  |  January 19, 2008 at 8:43 am

    @Vic, yes the CEOs really let down their hair (such as it is) and shared failures, successes, struggles – they didn’t mince words and the sincerity shone through. The young people who were at the event found it easy to communicate, to question and to learn. It was an activity that has been long needed and we intend to keep it going, keeping the format loose and informal.

    @Rakesh, glad that you found it useful – it is the feedback we are receiving from you and your peers that will enable us to continue to make this a productive event full of energy.

  • 11. mansoor  |  January 19, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    lovely post jehan.

    i’m sorry i had to miss it, since im now in Islamabad, but will be looking forward to the ISB one to happen. (and may even join the lhr one if possible).


  • 12. Startup Meetup in Karachi - Aleem Bawany  |  January 19, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    […] Jehan Ara, president of P@SHA […]

  • 13. mystic  |  January 19, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Nerds !!!…. just kidding

    You guys are the only hope for Pakistan ! and I mean it..

    Chale chalo ke woh manzil abhi nahi (Faiz)

  • 14. Ali Raza Shaikh  |  January 20, 2008 at 1:56 am

    It was really nice to learn from all the experienced guys around. As you said, we need more productive events like this.

    Thanks you all

  • […] Jehan Ara’s blog In the Line of Wire […]

  • 16. Aleem  |  January 20, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Thank you for the engaging session. I am still finding my way around the IT community in Karachi and seeing a pool of budding entrepreneurs and developers was a great start. I wanted to email you personally to thank you but could not locate your email so this will do just fine.

    I hope we can see more of these events in the future 🙂

  • 17. Fawwad Hashmey  |  January 21, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Amazing!! thats the word that describes this event…Should have more like these for sure


    please do inform me about future events although i would find out from my boss 😉

  • 18. farzal  |  January 21, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Programmers + Entrepreneurs in Karachi requiring:

    • Chai & Paratha (desi equivalent of coffee and pizza)
    • Office space, chairs, bandwidth – essentially a garage
    • Access to some great ideas and experience of 2 successful PK start-ups (I worked at both as an employee)
    • Tons of whiteboard space, live Chundrigar road view (and associated traffic)

    Please contact me via email: farzal@ and then yahoo.com

  • 19. Startup Insiders - the Buzz : Green & White  |  January 24, 2008 at 12:51 am

    […] Jehan Ara (President, PASHA) has a lot more details and pictures up here. […]

  • 20. Arsalan Adam Khatri (NEDian)  |  August 25, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Mam Jahan Ara gave a very nice and informative presentation at the Itech event in NED university, since then i have been looking for such events…

    Do any1 here can guide us (young talents of IT), about what this seminar was for, or how to be a part of one.


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