Inside Google’s plan to take Pakistan’s startup industry to a global scale

By Asma Abbas on
June 11, 2016
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Google, as an organization, is known to be one of the most innovative ones. From being a technology giant to its most recent initiative to discover and preserve exhibits and collections from museums and archives all around the world, the organization has covered every extreme to make this world a better place. Talking about Pakistan in particular, the team of South Asia Emerging Markets over at the Asian headquarters of Google is proving to be Godsend. More recently, the team overlooking Pakistan, headed by Tania Aidrus and Khurram Jamali, came up with an amazing initiative – the Pakistan Startup Summit 2016.

The Purpose Behind Pakistan Startup Summit

Pakistan Startup Summit was a four-day program by Google, designed in partnership with LUMS, where selected startups from the top 4 incubators/accelerators of Pakistan were sent on a visit to Singapore. And while Google for Entrepreneurs also promotes entrepreneurship globally by bringing together startup communities and creating spaces for them to learn and grow, this program was designed exclusively to bring a much-needed exposure of the global market to Pakistani startups.

The Startups Selected From Pakistan

The basic agenda of the trip was for the startups to meet the Google team, visit incubators and accelerators in Singapore, pitch in front of venture capitalists brought in by Google and to discover and explore business opportunities for startups in Singapore. The selected group comprised of nine startup founders with six entrepreneurs from LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and one each from Invest2Innovate, NestI/O and Plan9. The basic criterion of selection of the startups was for them to have a global aspect to their businesses so that they could benefit from an international program like this one. The cohort was comprised of the founders of BeautyHooked, Treble, Interacta, RepairDesk, Dockit, Vanilla Arcade, EzPz Sehat, Makistra and Hireonic. And it so happens that I was the administrative representative of the cohort, silently observing the proceedings, pitching in wherever needed and making sure the trip goes smoothly.

The Inspiring Atmosphere

The proceedings of the four-day program were a compact version of a complete incubation cycle of a typical business incubator. There was mentoring, networking, access to venture capitalists and the promise of helping a startup in any way possible for the sole purpose of empowering it further.

The program took the participants to Google’s office in Singapore which is everything which you ever hear about Google offices and more. The smell of freshly brewed coffee follows you everywhere, giving you a reassurance that you are never too far from your caffeine. From themed rooms, nap pods and game rooms to the in-house masseuse; and from different cultures co-existing in one organization to the vibrancy it creates, makes it all an amazing workplace.

Pakistan Startup Summit 2016

The Pakistani delegate group comprising of 9 startup founders with 6 of them from LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship and one from Invest2Innovate, NestI/O and Plan9 each. Credits: LCE

The Massive Impact

The Google team had planned everything on point. What followed over the next few days were sessions on how to raise funds for your startup, introduction of the entrepreneurial landscape of Singapore, an account of hands-on experience of running a business in Southeast Asia from an ex-Googler, pitch practice with a kick-ass duo of entrepreneurship professors of INSEAD Singapore campus, networking with high net worth overseas Pakistanis, visits to local incubators/accelerators and meetings and mentoring sessions arranged on-request there and then. The organizing team was also mindful to let us have some free time so that we could explore Singapore, and oh the exploration we did! Singapore is a beautiful city and all ten of us fell in love with its brilliant skyscrapers, its cleanliness and its cultural diversity.

The impact that this four-day program had on the nine fortunate startups is huge and surely long-lasting. And while there are successful entrepreneurs and investors coming to Pakistan to explore the startup ecosystem from all parts of the world, including Silicon Valley, the exposure that these select startups gained in Singapore was unlike any other experience. In just four days, there was a visible change in their perspective, with some even considering incorporating their startup in Singapore or launching a beta version of their product there. It showed them that there is a world of opportunities outside Pakistan, outside Silicon Valley, and it is totally reachable.

The Road Ahead

The selfless commitment of the team at Google working for the Pakistani market to make it more global is commendable and the success of Pakistan Startup Summit is one proof of that. Through this program, Google made an impact not only on these nine startup founders but on a number of people with whom these entrepreneurs shared the knowledge and experience gained from their trip to Singapore. At the end of the program, the team bid farewell to the startup founders with a promise to bring high net-worth venture capitalists to Pakistan to introduce them to a bigger market. Here’s hoping, for the ultimate benefit of Pakistani startups, that this happens soon.

 
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