COLABS, the Lahore-based startup that enables SMEs, entrepreneurs and freelancers to build and grow their businesses through its spaces and tech platform, has raised $3 million in a seed round.
The round was led by Indus Valley Capital, Zayn Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures. It is the first time these three leading Pakistan focused VCs are investing together in a startup. The round was also joined by Shorooq Partners, Kinnow Capital, Muir Capital, Sai Ventures, and some key angels, including Turner Novak, William Hockey, and Teddy Himler.
COLABS was founded in 2019 by Omar Shah, a former private equity and venture investor, and his twin brother Ali Shah, who operates long established family-run real estate and development firm SABCON, which designs and builds out COLABS facilities. Its leadership team also includes Fatima Mazhar (COO) who was one of the early executives at Careem and had helped the company scale in many international markets. COLABS started as a coworking platform with a state-of-the-art facility in Lahore but has since evolved to offer several additional services and tools to entrepreneurs and freelancers, including educational bootcamps and a SaaS platform for back-office solutions such as business incorporation, talent sourcing and management, payroll processing and legal and tax compliance.
Aatif Awan, Founder and Managing Partner of Indus Valley Capital, said, “The first time I visited COLABS, I found the community and energy to be a microcosm of the fast-growing Pakistani tech ecosystem. We’re thrilled to partner with the COLABS team to help them build the leading platform and community that will power the growth of Pakistani tech across startups, freelancers and global companies expanding into Pakistan.”
From the very beginning, COLABS has taken a different direction from conventional coworking spaces by creating a unique proposition in the market. Today, COLABS has a partner network of 100+ organizations involved in taking initiatives to boost the Pakistani startup ecosystem’s growth. COLABS has placed itself at the heart of the startup agenda in Pakistan through its events, networking forums and startup facilitations. One of the many ways COLABS creates impact is by hosting 250+ startup community-relevant events annually with an aggregate attendance of over 200,000 significant visitors to date. The facility has seen community members grow, hire the right talent, raise investment and thrive with the support provided by COLABS.
Omar Shah, co-founder, and CEO of COLABS, said, “We had founded COLABS to help accelerate the Pakistani startup ecosystem and we’re very proud of what we have achieved in a little over three years. Even though we’re mainly seen as a coworking operator, what we have built is a solid foundation to make it easy for freelancers, startups, and even international companies entering Pakistan, start and manage their businesses. Today anyone looking to start a company in Pakistan could use COLABS not only as a place where they work but also as a partner that manages their different back-office functions.”
“With the capital we have raised from leading investors today, we’re now looking to turn our offerings into software-based solutions and productized services that could also be extended to people and institutions outside of our network, in addition to bringing on world-class talent to our existing team of rockstars” he added.
Faisal Aftab, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Zayn Capital said, “I have closely watched COLABS grow into one of the key players in Pakistan’s startup ecosystem. We were fortunate enough to have met some of the startup we invested in, at their spaces. Omar and his team continue to do excellent work to accelerate the growth of the startup ecosystem here and we are excited to join their journey in serving tens of thousands of founders and freelancers across Pakistan.”
Over the last few years, diverse, equitable, and inclusive policies have become prominent in many companies; however, there is still much to be done. Different perspectives equip diverse teams with better problem-solving abilities, resulting in better employee engagement and productivity. “We lead by example in terms of inclusiveness and diversity, and we’re promoting the same in the community that we’ve created at COLABS,” said Fatima Mazhar (COO, COLABS, former head of expansion at Careem) when asked about the culture at COLABS.
With this investment, COLABS aims to knit together a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs and freelancers in Pakistan, starting with 10,000 members within the next two years. This ambition will be realized through the national expansion across major cities in Pakistan like Karachi and Islamabad. The strong foundation built over the last two years will enable COLABS to reach their envisioned goal.