10 opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs and startups in Pakistan
If you have an idea and want to take it to the next level, you don’t have a room for an excuse now. In the past few years, we have seen Pakistani entrepreneurship ecosystem grow tremendously. Which is why, bringing an idea to the market is not really very difficult, as it used to be two years ago. In Pakistan, there are plenty of opportunities available for aspiring entrepreneurs.
There are countless chances for those, who want to shine. Check out our top picks here.
When talking about technology startups, Plan9 is the first name which comes to our mind. Plan9 is Pakistan’s premier technology incubator, which has given the country plenty of success stories. Some of the successful startups include Eyedeus Labs, Patari, BookMe, Vivid Technologies, Markhor etc. Anyone with an idea or a product in prototype phase can apply at Plan9.
Plan9 inducts two batches of startups every year, each incubation cycle is of 6 months, in which you are provided a stipend, office space, laptops and plenty of advice from seasoned mentors from Pakistan and abroad. If equity is a deciding factor for you, you can breathe a sigh of relief because Plan9 is a government organization and it doesn’t take away any equity.
For incubation, you should keep an eye on the launchpad dates which happens at the start or mid of the year.
2. LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship
LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) as the name suggests is a center housed at LUMS offering different programs for entrepreneurs. The most renowned program, The Foundation, offers in-house incubation and acceleration facilities for a period of 4 months. LCE incubation program incubates 2 batches per year. The acceleration program enrolls on a rolling basis which means you can apply for acceleration any time of the year. Some great startups of LCE include interacta, beautyhooked, Maro Tandoors, AutoGenie etc.
Like Plan9, LCE also offers stipend, mentors, and office space but they also take a small amount of equity in return of the services. Likewise, acceleration program also takes as much as 3 percent equity in the startup.
Invest2Innovate is an acceleration program for impact-based social ventures in Pakistan. If your startup will create social or environmental impact, then this might be the go-to place for you. Invest2Innovate accelerates one batch of 5 to 6 startups per year for a 4-month acceleration program. At the end of the program, startups are in a position to pitch properly and raise investments. Some of the renowned startups of i2i include Popinjay, Amal Academy, Dheere Bolo etc.
Invest2Innovate takes sweat equity in startups which can be 0.5 to 1% and a small amount of money at the start of acceleration program. i2i requires you to focus full time on your venture, if you want to continue with your day job and focus on venture by night, this is not the place for you.
The program ends with a Demo Day where startups pitch to investors and one thing to note here is that i2i is the only entrepreneurship program in Pakistan which has been persistently doing demo days every year. i2i is currently taking applications for their 2015-16 batch, you can apply here before June 30.
PlanX is an acceleration program and a sister project of Plan9. In Pakistan, incubators and acceleration programs are a bit different from the rest of the world. Acceleration program in Pakistan target startups who have initial customer validation and is a market fit. They act as a catalyst for these startups to help them grow.
PlanX inducts startups on a rolling basis, which means you can apply any time of the year. Just like its sister initiative Plan9, PlanX is not taking any equity in startups. Usually, startups are assigned advisors and mentors who help take the startups to next level by working on business model, marketing and growth strategies. Also, these advisors help startups in raising funding by making introductions to the relevant investors.
5. Founders Institute
Founders institute’s Karachi Chapter is a part of world’s largest entrepreneur training and startup launch program. Unlike other entrepreneurship program, you can take these courses while continuing with your nine to five. This 4 month training program is devised to help you understand the structure, processes and intricacies involved in starting a company from scratch. If you have an idea and don’t know how to take it forward, we’d strongly urge you to take this course before applying to any of the incubation programs.
The program’s first batch concluded a few months ago and applications for the second batch are currently open.
6. Social Innovation Lab
If you are a social entrepreneur then another option for you is Social Innovation Lab (SIL). They will help you find your ground and help you get off on the right foot, SIL has been working closely with social entrepreneurs in the past and have forged partnerships with plenty of local and international social organizations. The incubator has some noteworthy mentors who will ensure the highest quality of upbringing for your startup and its team.
Primarily targeted towards innovators and people who are looking to make a social change, SIL is looking to empower people who are looking to make a better future for Pakistan by addressing social issues and startups willing to address them. If you have a great idea for a social cause, SIL can be your place to go.
7. NEST I/O
NEST is a technology incubator of Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) based out of Karachi. The incubation center was founded earlier this year and has completed first incubation cycle. NEST incubates three batches for a four-month program every year. Some main highlights of the program include mentorship sessions, access to 30 Google Entrepreneurial Hubs worldwide, and access to investors.
NEST is also not taking any equity in startups, the incubator is offering two types of programs for startups; internal and external incubation, the differentiating factor between these two types is an office space which the internal incubatees has access to along with high-speed internet.
WeCreate is Pakistan’s first entrepreneurial community center for Women entrepreneurs. If you are an aspiring woman entrepreneur or you are already running something of your own, you should get in touch with the folks at WeCreate. WeCreate like any other incubation center in Pakistan provides mentoring, networking opportunities, media attention along with some capital and technical support to take things to the next level.
You can apply for the program here.
9. OPEN/ TiE
OPEN or the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs is a non-profit organization that is dedicated towards the growth of entrepreneurship in the Pakistani-American community. Having chapters in Boston, Silicon Valley, New York, Washington DC, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, London, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It was only recently that OPEN has opened its Pakistan chapters with Karachi being opened in 2011.
The intention of OPEN is to connect entrepreneurs from Pakistan and America and bring them together for the combination of ideas since the founders were Pakistani-Americans. OPEN also provides investment opportunities through angel investors and mentorship programs to help guide startups. OPEN has had great luck in finding talent in Pakistani entrepreneurs in the fields of finance, technology, telecommunications and biotechnology.
Partnered up with P@SHA, Plan9, PITB, LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and PlanX. TiE is a non-profit community for entrepreneurs that has chapters operating in various universities by the name of TiE4Youth, to encourage and recognize talented individuals or entrepreneurs within educational institutes.
TiE offers its startups the benefits of networking, mentoring, education and funding through angel investors across the world once they feel your startup is ready for that step.
10. NUST Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
This university-based incubator is the first technology incubator of Pakistan, housed at one of the most prestigious universities of Pakistan. While also offering the same facilities as an incubator, What makes NUST unique are its offering of extra services that aim to help entrepreneurs and their startups learn lessons along the journey.
Some of the unique features offered by NUST are; Career Development Center, This is a wing that will help turn you from casual into professional by imparting professional knowledge and business life lessons onto the people. Industry Relations are another benefit which makes it easier for your startup to approach companies with ease through NUST. These are only two of the many benefits offered by NUST.
If you are a technology based startup that is looking for a good incubator to take guidance from and are located in Pakistan (With preference to Islamabad or Rawalpindi) Then NUST is definitely your ideal target destination.