i2i Ventures, an early-stage investment fund with a focus on Pakistan-based technology enabled companies, is announcing the launch of a new $15 million fund and their first investment in Pakistani startup Mauqa Online. i2i Ventures builds on the experience of Invest2Innovate, an accelerator which has worked in the startup ecosystem in Pakistan since 2011, and operates with a similar vision, to unleash the potential of innovative entrepreneurs in frontier markets.
Co-founded by Pakistani-American social entrepreneur, Kalsoom Lakhani and fintech and impact investing professional, Misbah Naqvi, i2i Ventures is the first female-founded institutional fund to invest exclusively in Pakistani entrepreneurs. i2i Ventures sets out to challenge the traditional power dynamics of a fund, taking an impact and gender-lens approach to investing and allowing for its portfolio founders to have as much power at the negotiating table as the investor.
“As the 5th largest market in the world, with a young population, a rising consumer class and increasing smartphone penetration, Pakistan presents tremendous investment opportunities,” said Kalsoom Lakhani, Co-founder and Partner of i2i Ventures and the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate. “Having operated in the region and industry for more than 8 years, it’s clear that the market is ripe for a founder-focused fund like i2i Ventures, where shared goals, trust and open communication are deeply embedded into the investment strategy.”
i2i Ventures takes a smart investing approach, engaging with early-stage founders and their teams to help build ventures positioned for scale. “We have seen many startups in this market struggle with scale as they haven’t had the right partners and investors at the outset,” said Misbah Naqvi, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of i2i Ventures. “We are committed to investing in Pakistani tech entrepreneurs at the seed level and supporting them as they grow their business and raise funding for post-seed and Series A rounds.”
As its first investment, i2i Ventures is leading a six-figure (USD) seed round in Mauqa Online, an Islamabad-based startup providing an on-demand digital platform for domestic services. Other investors in the round include UAE-based Karavan Partners. Mauqa Online is co-founded by husband-wife duo, Muhammad Mustafa and Suniya Saadullah who are passionate about leveraging technology to create long-lasting social impact in Pakistan.
“Mauqa is focused on building a high-growth business that’s also providing our community of domestic-helpers with the opportunity to improve their quality of life. We are fortunate to have had Kalsoom as a mentor and we’re excited to have the financial support of a values driven fund like i2i Ventures, which will help us scale our business across Pakistan and engage additional partners.“ said Suniya Sadullah Khan, co-founder of Mauqa Online.
Lakhani said of the investment, “We are excited to make our first investment in Mauqa Online, a business with tremendous market potential, an innovative business approach and incredibly dynamic co-founders, Suniya and Mustafa. We look forward to supporting them as they expand their offering throughout Pakistan.”
The first phase of the fund is supported by the The Dutch Good Growth Fund “Investment Fund Local SMEs” (DGGF), a Dutch government fund-of-funds supporting frontier markets such as South Sudan, Nepal and Afghanistan. i2i Ventures is also supported by high net-worth individuals from across the United States, East Asia and the Middle East.
“Since 2011, i2i has been a vital force in driving the Pakistani start-up ecosystem through their acceleration activities. Their move to investing comes as a natural and much-needed initiative to address a persistent lack of funding for early-stage ventures. We are proud to be supporting the team with seed capital to launch this initiative.” said Davide Loriggiola, Investment Manager Seed Capital of the DGGF.
“We are grateful for DGGF’s support from the very start of our journey and we look forward to learning from them and their partners’ experience in similar frontier markets,” said Misbah Naqvi, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of i2i Ventures.
i2i Ventures is focused on technology-enabled companies with an impact and gender lens approach and is largely sector agnostic. The fund is $15 million and they are already looking at a range of deals. Investment sizes will range from $50,000 to $3 million in seed, post-seed and growth capital categories. The fund will be co-investing in deals with like-minded investors to diversify the risk and bring a broad range of skills, experience and contacts to the table for the startup or business they invest in.
The co-founders of the fund understand why there is still some uncertainty around Pakistan and they hear from international investment funds that they’re uncertain about the region and its stability. These funds also lack cultural understanding of the market. i2i Ventures is committed to lead by example through their investments and to be a partner to international funds who are looking for ways to enter the Pakistani ecosystem through a fund that is deeply embedded in the community and has the depth of knowledge needed to make smart investment decisions.