Posts tagged ‘Startups’
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.
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!!!
- A new startup?
- Do you have a new product that you want to launch?
- Do you have an idea for a product or service that you want to pitch?
The vision behind P@SHA LaunchPad is simple – find the best technology ideas and start-ups and bring them in front of the Pakistan IT industry’s most experienced and influential professionals and entrepreneurs, get feedback and win a cash prize.
The purpose of P@SHA LaunchPad is to create a platform where young people with great ideas, and 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.
Experts will be brought in to mentor and judge startups on product development, business models, identifying markets, design, SEO/SEM and usability. Startups and Idea pitches will be put in the hot seat where some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business executives will grill them in front of the audience.
There is bound to be one idea and one product that stands out – these will be the P@SHA LaunchPad Stars and will be given a small cash award and highlighted on as many platforms as possible.
We plan to have a Demo Pit where young innovators can showcase their idea and talk to experts, potential investors and professionals in much more detail. The idea is to generate excitement and energy around ICT innovation and motivate more young people into starting their own companies and making them successful.
Last year the panel of experts brought a lot of value to the event and sparked lively discussion and debate. We are hoping that with each additional event, the group will energize further.
Dates to watch:
P@SHA LaunchPad: Sept 20, 2011 at 2.15 pm at ITCN Asia, Expor Center Karachi
Last date for Nominations: September 15, 2011
Nominate your startup, product or service idea at http://goo.gl/2dfmS NOW and win a cash prize of Rs. 100,000 and be attached to a mentor who will help you shell out your idea and guide you on how to take it forward.
Submissions will be assessed and shortlisted candidates will be asked to present to a panel of judges at the event on September 20. See you there!
We certainly could do with some good news at a time when everything seems to be doom and gloom. And Dr. Umar Saif has provided us with the opportunity to celebrate. MIT has named Umar Saif as one of the world’s top young innovators for 2011. We are all extremely proud of Umar who has brought glory to Pakistan several times in the past as well.
By appearing on the TR35 list, he joins an elite group of researchers and technologists. MIT has in previous years recognized the likes of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page & Sergey Brin of Google and Jonathan Ive, Chief Designer of Apple. Umar is the first Pakistanis to have received this recognition. Check out this link:
LUMS today released the announcement making this news public. I am sharing it with you below.
Lahore, Pakistan – August 23, 2011 – Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) today announced that Dr. Umar Saif, Associate Professor at the School of Science of Engineering, has been recognized by MIT Technology Review as one of the top 35 innovators (TR35) in the world. In the last decade, this is the first time a Pakistani has been selected for the prestigious TR35 award.
“The TR35 recognizes the world’s top 35 young innovators that are radically transforming technology as we know it. Their work – spanning medicine, computing, communications, energy, electronics and nanotechnology — is changing our world”, according to MIT Technology Review.
Dr. Umar Saif has been honored for his work on technologies for the developing-world. Technologies developed by Dr. Saif’s research group and startups are used by Millions of people in the developing-world, especially BitMate, that enhances the speed of Internet in the developing-world using peer-to-peer technology, and SMSall.pk, Pakistan’s largest SMS Social Network which has sent close to 4 Billion SMS for users in Pakistan.
Dr. Umar Saif joins an elite group of researchers and entrepreneurs selected over the last decade. Previous winners include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google; Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook; Jonathan Ive, the chief designer at Apple; David Karp, founder of Tumbler; Harvard Professor Alán Aspuru-Guzik for his work on Quantum computers; and MIT Neuroscientist Ed Boyden, one of the inventors of the emerging field of optogenetics, which makes it possible to control neurons with light.
MIT Technology Review selects the top innovators after a rigorous evaluation process. The judges, who are leading experts in their fields from universities such as MIT, Stanford and Harvard, consider hundreds of high-impact researchers and entrepreneurs from all over the world, out of which top 35 are chosen for the award.
“This year’s group of TR35 recipients is driving the next wave of transformative technology and making an impact on the way we live, work and interact”, said Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief and publisher of the MIT Technology Review.
Dr. Saif has won numerous awards for his innovative technology solutions for the developing-world. He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2009. He is a recipient of the MIT Technovator Award, Mark Weiser Award, Digital Inclusion Award from Microsoft Research and the IDG Technology Pioneer Award. Before moving to Pakistan, Saif worked at MIT and received a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust.
“We are immensely proud of this recognition for Dr. Saif and of how it reflects on the cutting edge work being done at our young School of Science and Engineering,” said Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor of LUMS. “Dr. Saif’s work demonstrates not only the potential for innovation in technology for development but also the level of enterprise and expertise that already exists within Pakistan and the larger developing world.”
Shahjahan Chaudhary, Sabeen Mahmud, Jawwad Ahmed Farid and I had been discussing initiating the “Startup Sunday” activity for several weeks but schedules and travel kept getting in the way. Finally, we decided enough was enough. It was important to fix a date and launch this event with whoever was available.
So the event was set for 5th December at T2F. It was a Sunday so we weren’t really sure how many people would turn up. The idea was a simple one. There was a need for tech startups and people with ideas for starting tech companies or creating tech solutions, to be able to meet on a regular basis, network, share ideas, successes and failures and learn from each other.
And so it was. The day dawned and at 4 pm people started to roll in. In all 40+ people showed up. Quite a substantial number! There was a bit of huddling and networking before proceedings began. Everyone introduced themselves, talked about what they were doing or wanted to do, why they were there.
There was a workshop type session whereby people were broken up into groups of 3, each group comprising of 3 individuals who hadn’t previously met. They were given some time to come up with an idea for a new startup and then each group presented their idea. Some interesting ideas came up – nothing earth-shattering of course given the short amount of time allocated. However, it got people thinking, sharing, getting to know each other, strategizing. Great activity. I am so sorry I wasn’t able to make it but I will certainly be there next time.
Startup Sunday will be held every month in Karachi. Have spoken to friends in Lahore and Islamabad to work with us on organizing a similar activity in those cities. Naturally the format will change each time and new things will be added to so that the meeting continues to provide value to participants. Join the Facebook page that has been set up for this activity.