There are times when I wish I had lots of money
Money has never meant too much to me. Of course all of us need a certain amount to live but I have never yearned for too much of it. As my father used to say: No matter how much money you have, you can only eat 3 meals a day and sleep in one bed at a time. These days you also need some form of transport, a mobile phone and a couple of gadgets … but that’s it!
My parents came from middle class families and they worked hard to bring up 5 kids. As we were growing up, I remember that our home was modest. We ate simple food and wore simple clothes. My mother was a woman who was easily content. She never made any demands. She was happy as long as she had her family around her. Both my parents worked extremely hard to make sure we had a happy childhood and a comfortable life.
Even when we moved to Hong Kong, initially we lived in a small flat – all five of us kids shared a room. As my father climbed up the corporate ladder, we moved into a larger apartment and began to have more conveniences. But throughout the period we were growing up, we were never allowed to take our blessings for granted; we were taught to value what we had, to work hard for anything we needed. And we did!
As we grew older and started our own careers, these values stayed with us and served us well. However, of late, I have been wishing that I had more money – lots of it! I was speaking to a few friends about it the other day and trying to explain this apparent sudden ‘greed’ for wealth.
It isn’t really greed. As we carry on our work with young people who want to experiment with ideas for creating businesses involving innovative products and services, we are happy that P@SHA’s Tech incubator The Nest i/o has provided an oasis for them, has given them access to mentors and a network that they couldn’t have otherwise dreamt of. Yet there is one thing that is still missing … that is the cause of of a lot of frustration and many sleepless nights.
As these kids prove what they can do, as they create their startups and look for investment, we can see how frustrated they are at the lack of a proper angel investment network in the country. There are a growing number of angel investors popping up but, because they haven’t seen much of a deal flow yet, they are rather risk averse.
Some of them feel the need to take a large chunk of the equity and to take control. A few of the startup entrepreneurs have been lucky and have found great investors who have given them valuations that are fair and they have had to part with only a reasonable amount of equity. But there are others who want majority stake. I have watched helplessly as these young entrepreneurs have struggled with the decision to part with a larger stake of a company that they have invested their sweat and tears in to build. I have even advised some of them that bootstrapping is the best bet.. Generate some revenue, get traction and then talk to investors. What is the point of giving away a large share of your company, begin to feel like employees and lose the passion that drove you to start the venture in the first place, is my question to them.
I know it is easy for me to give this kind of advice because I am not in their shoes. Some of them desperately need the funds to take their companies in the direction that they want to. I shouldn’t really interfere. They are, after all, more than capable of making these decisions themselves. Most of them are very smart, have interacted with VCs, Angel Investors, seasoned entrepreneurs, legal experts and peers so they understand what it all means.
But I can’t help it. My heart goes out to them as I see them struggling with these decisions, as I see them engaging with lawyers and investors and discussing all the pros and cons amongst themselves ad nauseum. It doesn’t seem fair that at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, instead of being full of excitement and passion, they are instead having to make compromises.
If only I had a lot of money, I would invest adequate funds in all the startups who show potential – asking in return for only a minimum equity of maybe 4-5% which could be used for a rollover fund to continue investing in more startups. It is a dream I have that appears to be far-fetched at the moment but hey you never know. It could happen.
I believe that if free flow of funds were available to tech startups in Pakistan, it would result in creating the momentum we need to take entrepreneurship to an entirely new level in this country.