As 2015 draws to a close, the Pakistani tech industry is finally experiencing the startup boom or the “rise of the entrepreneurs”. Seeing the incredible success of billion dollar tech companies like WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Uber that were once small startups made up of a handful of people, a lot of people have chosen entrepreneurship as their path and Pakistanis are finally turning to it. Though there is a lack of investors in this country, a lot of new programs and incubators have sprung into existence and are now trying to breath some life into the new startups.
This year was filled with a lot of new ideas and a lot of promise. Several new startups got incubated and many of them managed to convince the investors to part with their money to help the startup go forward, and here are the 19 startups that have managed to raise a considerable amount of investment in the year 2015.
One of the several travelling services, Careem is an app-based car service with an aim to provide affordable and reliable urban transport. Operational in 20 cities around the world, Careem is on the verge of expansion by garnering new investors interest.
In a Series C investment round, the transport-focused startup managed to raise an investment of $60 Million with The Abraaj Group (Abraaj) as lead investor. Through this they will be able to make new hires in order to accelerate their pace of entry into new markets, and ensure the development of new innovative products and services.
Daraz.pk recently managed to secure an investment of $55 Million for its operations in the three countries it functions in today: Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Most of the investment (60%) came from Asia Pacific Internet Group (APACIG), Daraz’s existing investor, while the rest 40% came from CDC Group, Development Finance Institution owned by the UK Government.
The largest property listing online portal in Pakistan, Zameen.com presents a lot of promise in the online way of buying/selling your real estate. It was founded in 2006 by two entrepreneur brothers and has grown exponentially, also receiving an angel investment from French property portal authority, Gilles Blanchard in 2012, and then a successful Series A round in 2014.
In September of this year, Zameen raised $9 Million in international funds from three renowned international funds, the names of which haven’t been disclosed. This money would go to Zameen’s parent company, the Zamzama Property Group.
Rozee.pk has been around for quite a while and currently stands as the number one job portal in Pakistan. Initially started as a way for Monis Rehman, the founder, to advertise a few of jobs, it went viral and fast forward a few years, it has now become the best place in Pakistan to look for jobs. Before this year, Rozee.pk had pulled in a total of $2 Million in two funding rounds.
In May of this year, Naseeb parent company of Rozee.pk raised $6.5 Million in a Series C funding round with Vostok Nafta and Piton Capital Lead Investment as the main investors. The startup, Rozee.pk, has been massively profitable, with the investors seeing a return of 680% and overall, the company has also increased their revenues by 115X since 2008.
5. Inov8 Limited
Inov8 Limited is currently one of the fastest growing and the most dominant mobile payment solution in Pakistan. With an aim to become the number one mobile payments company in the world by 2020, Inov8 has been actively working to bring digital and mobile payment solutions to Pakistan. They are also responsible for introducing internet payments in Pakistan recently.
In a Series A investing round, Inov8 Limited attracted a mammoth sum of $5.4 Million in funding from Sheikh Al Nahayan at a total valuation of $100 Million. Sheikh, who also serves as the Minister of Culture, Youth, and Social Development of UAE, was the sole investor in this funding round.
A unique startup that uses data science to do predictive analytics, PredictifyMe has made headlines around the world for creating a tool to predict school bombings as well as creating a highly accurate bomb injury model called Usmani-Kirk model. This startup is the brain-child of Zeeshan-Ul-Hassan Usmani, a Pakistani data scientist, writer, entrepreneur, and scholar.
Headquartered in North Carolina, PredictifyMe closed $1.25M in funding in an oversubscribed round in June of this year. The funding would be utilized in expanding their technology team and developing a client acquisition team.
7. Vivid Technologies
Vivid Technologies, a former incubatee at Plan9, PlanX and LUMS, is a startup focused on voice technologies. The startup provides two products, Vivodo and Fibrax, that aim to drastically improve the customer service experience by providing an interactive, easier and much faster service.
This startup raised a hefty $350,000 in seed investment from Conrad Labs, Telefonica, Rosemont Group Capital Partner LLC, and SunBridge Global Ventures. This funding will go a long way in helping them in their mission to turn Interactive Voice Response(IVR) system into an interactive, visual and touch experience.
Interacta, a graduate of LUMS Center of Entrepreneurship (LCE) program, is another innovative little startup that has managed to attract a lot of people’s attention with an an application that can potentially change the way we view our television. Their app allows users to not only give feedback on advertisements, but also provides them with a medium to let them participate in live channel shows.
Interacta managed to pull in a total of $220,000 in seed funding from Fatima Ventures, a South Asian Resources Group.
Aptly named “Sportskot”, this startup acts as a middle-man between the excellent sports goods-sellers of Sialkot and international as well as local buyers of these goods. Pakistan produces some of the world’s best sports goods and Sportskot wants to address the gap between the sports industry and the online community.
Sportskot recently raised £ 90,000 of seed funding from a UK-based investor and supermarts owner, Waqas.
A Pakistani fashion startup with an aim to make high-quality artisanal shoes, Markhor has gained international stardom for their hand-made leather shoes and their initiative to bring this age-old skill to an international level.
After exceeding their $92,000 funding goal on Kickstarter with $107,286 in funds last year, Markhor managed to get enrolled in YCombinator this year, one of the world’s most coveted seed accelerators. YCombinator invests in startups in exchange for equity and as of yet, Markhor has received $120,000 in funding from the program.
Pakistan’s first on-demand car maintenance service, AutoGenie started as a very small four-person startup in 2014 and has come a long way. It has also been incubated by LCE and is currently a part of PlanX’s startup acceleration program.
In the September of this year, AutoGenie received $100,000 in funding from PakWheels, Pakistan’s biggest online car portal. PakWheels itself raised an impressive $3.5 Million last year, making this the company’s first investment since then.
A Plan9 incubatee and a ticket-booking startup, BookMe.Pk provides a really efficient way of booking tickets for movies or buses. Just last year, they managed to score a handsome seed investment from a Istanbul-based startup company, Etohum, and have since partnered with big Pakistani names like GEO, ARY and Hum TV to air advertisements for their app alongside upcoming movie ads.
In June of this year, Bookme also received considerable investment from Element Ventures at a valuation of $4 Million. Although they didn’t reveal the exact amount, it is said to have been in six-figures.
MySmacEd, another incubatee of Punjab Government’s Plan9, is an education-focused startup that aims to bridge the gap between teachers and parents by giving the parents access to real-time updates on their child’s performance via an app. It works on a subscription-based model and as of June, 11 schools had signed up to be a part of MySmacEd.
MySmaced raised an undisclosed amount of funding with a valuation of $2 Million in June, 2015. This funding will enable them to streamline their operations, and formulate a future growth strategy.
Wifigen, a next-generation Wi-Fi analytics tool, is a new innovative startup that provides wifi solutions for both the customers, and businesses. Their chief purpose is to provide free public wifi in exchange for some customer information, which can also be in the form of social media check-ins.
Also incubated at Plan9, Wifigen scored an investment from John Russell Patrick, a former VP at IBM and a Silicon Valley investor, at a valuation of $1 Million. The funding amount is being used for an aggressive marketing strategy in Pakistan.
Mezaaj is a virtual fashion startup that provides fashion designers, including student designers and indie brands, to showcase their works and talents using the facilities offered by them. Mezaaj offers a way to reach a massive audience through their social media presence and also offer a 3-month incubation program to receive mentoring from business and fashion executives.
With a total valuation of $500,000, Mezaaj raised an undisclosed amount of investment in June of this year. They plan to use this money to market their brand and expand their incubation program all over Pakistan.
One of the first startups to graduate from the Nest I/O, P@SHA’s Tech incubator, Sheops is an online peer-to-peer marketplace for women for buying and selling various products. The marketplace also doubles up as an online community for women and allows them to pursue a business initiative a wide market of clients while sitting in their homes. It is a women-only marketplace that has been running as a group on Facebook.
The startup recently signed a deal to become a part of Arpatech Technology ventures, securing a decent investment from them to propel the startup further and launch it as a secure online website for women.
The creator of an emergency responders app, Messiah is a startup that lets the users of the app send distress signal to friends, family or fellow users of the app in the case of an accident or an emergency.
At the Digital Youth Summit (DYS) 2015, Messiah was offered an undisclosed amount of funding from two Pakistani-American investors, Shubber Ali & Kash Rehman and from a Jordan-based investment company, Oasis 500. However, no official investment agreements were signed at that point.
Forrun is a unique small errands and delivery service that can do tasks like deliver food or flowers, buy movie tickets, pay bills, even deliver documents or parcels. Mainly though, it uses location data to match a potential delivery order to the closest available courier and then notifies the nearest rider via SMS.
In April of this year, Forrun got acquired by Arpatech but will remain as an independent unit under the software company for the foreseeable future.
19. H&O Services
Another graduate of LCE, H&O Services is a placement and management company that provides a portal for hiring maids, cooks, helpers, drivers, etc. The startup maintains a strict background check policy solving the issue of finding reliable people for household chores.
H&O Services closed its seed funding round with a six figures(US dollars) investment in a straight equity deal in April. The exact amount wasn’t disclosed at the time. The investment would be instrumental in expanding the operations of H&O Services.
Sporting a tagline of “The Mechanic that comes to you”, AutoExpert provides door-to-door car care service for all kinds of automotive works, including a workshop on wheel service.
AutoExpert has managed to raise an investment of nearly $1 Million from different business tycoons under the banner of DotZero Ventures.
Cleanry, a Karachi-based startup, is the first of its kind in offering Pakistan’s first home laundry services through an online portal. They provide high-quality laundry services to the upper class and their major focus is on reliability and customer-satisfaction.
Cleanry raised an undisclosed amount of funding in their seeding round through DotZero Ventures(DZV) back in November.
Artsy is a platform for artists to share their work online and reach fans through the digital medium. It hasn’t been officially launched yet and is scheduled to go online on the 1st of January.
Artsy raised an undisclosed amount of funding through DotZero Ventures in 2015.
Honourable Mentions — Travly, a commuting app that lets people book rikshaws, buses, taxies and cargo services, is currently in their seed funding round and cannot disclose investment data until the round is closed. We will update this article once the investment figures are revealed. EatOye, the Pakistani online food startup, got acquired by FoodPanda, the German-backed company, for a substantial sum(exact figures not revealed).
Overall, it has been a really illustrious year for startups in Pakistan, for which a lot of credit goes to the numerous incubators that have sprung up in the country. Some notable ones include Plan9, the Punjab Government-backed startup incubation program; LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship(LCE), the university’s very own startup program; and P@SHA’s Nest I/O. The privately-funded DotZero is another incubator program that deserves a mention: they recently launched an Angel Investment fund for Pakistani startups and has already invested in 6 startups as of September.
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