A few years ago, starting my own company was only a very distant dream. It seemed a daunting task, one that required years of experience and boatloads of capital.
Living in Boston altered my reality. Being at the center of innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration made me realize what was possible- and also, how siloed we are in own disciplinary cocoons. The desire that I always had, to build and create something, bubbled up and I believed the possibilities.
My first start-up was targeted at the print publishing industry. Our pitch: We provide market data and analytics about how consumers respond to content, to allow the publishers to make more informed decisions about publishing and marketing. This was new, it was innovative and we had a great ride.
Starting a company- even though we weren’t able to take it to scale- taught me more than any other experience I have had. The people who you pick for your team make or break you. You need to put yourself on the line to motivate others. Ego can kill you. Everyone has ideas: It is about how you implement them that matters.
As an entrepreneur, you cannot do it alone. You need the support structure, the mentors, the funding and most importantly the belief within yourself that you can do this.
Taking these lessons, a group of Pakistanis in Boston got together to launch Pakathon. We want to connected entrepreneurs across the world to create companies in Pakistan that can make an impact. Pakistan is full of inspiring individuals- with game changing ideas. We need more of a support structure to grow and scale these ideas. Slowly, we can see that shift occurring. Organizations in Pakistan are working to develop the mentors, the community, the funding and the employees.
But what is lacking, and what is most important, is a cultural shift. We need to stop worrying about working at a multinational. We need to stop caring about what people will think. We need to stop being afraid of failure. If we have ideas and dreams, we need to be confident and empowered to take them forward.
Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world. That is huge. If you consider only our population under the age of 30, we would be the 10th most populous country in the world. That has enormous implications. Sooner or later, young people are going to need to create their own opportunities. The technology sector, with lower barriers to entry, is a great place to start.
This year, Pakathon will be in 8 cities in the US and Pakistan. We will have 1500+ people come together in September 2014 to work on the most ambitious ideas for Pakistan. We will continue to support the most high potential entrepreneurs to create companies that can scale and make an impact.
All of us have the power to change our lives and the lives of those around us. Through pursuing our ideas and building companies that solve important problems we can create prosperity.
Let’s get started now.
Are you Asia’s top entrepreneur? Then apply to Commonwealth’s Annual Young Entrepreneur Challenge 2015