Pakistani Entrepreneurs: This is why you should be considering knowledge based startups

By Hammad Tariq on
May 11, 2017
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Let me start by saying that “Pakistanis are real entrepreneurs” and same is true for the entrepreneurs from other third world countries. What we call a “jugad” is the synonym of fixing a problem right there and then, yes, a more long term solution to the problem will be better in all cases but probably that would need more resources which are always in short supply in countries like us.

Lack of resources force “doers” with “bottom line approach” to think about short, do-able ideas, they work, no doubt, but they simultaneously fail to create a long term benefit for the society.


The problems our startups are trying to solve are very real and some of these companies will eventually become multi-million dollar businesses. The point I want to argue today is that why Pakistani entrepreneurs are shy of creating intellectual property based businesses and what’s wrong with going global instead of only focusing on Pakistan?


Let’s go back to where it all started, the Silicon Valley! There has to be some magic in there? Why a 45 mile stretch enjoys the biggest concentration of tech workers and world’s biggest companies? How did it became like this? I always thought it’s due to the investment by DARPA in the U.S missile program followed by investment through NASA. The question is that it could have happened anywhere, why in the bay area? The answer is in following documentary (it is mandatory to watch this documentary, if you are reading this article on the go, save the page and come back to it later)

The documentary provides a blueprint of the steps and design to make a company great! No wonder, it happened over the years, there would have been setbacks, tears, fights, sweats, everything.. but the outcome was nothing short than the giant we have in the form of Intel today!

The World Class Team

The team is the most fundamental element of an innovation based company. The team William Shockley assembled in 1956 was young, ambitious, best in their class, cherry picked from around the country. He couldn’t keep them together, however, you gather 10–12 brilliant minds under one roof and give them someone like Robert Noyce as a leader, the ROI you get is a hive mind, working together, producing innovative breakthroughs one after the other.

I have developed an interesting analogy recently on the subject of team:

Think of a team as an enclosed AI processing box (AWS, IBM Watson?), now you need:

  • clean and fine quality data to process (market knowledge)
  • top-notch processing power (collective minds of brilliant people)
  • the algorithms (the innovative process that you put together)

If you have all of the above, you get the solutions of the problems with high accuracy.

When you are doing a startup, just like lean methodology where you gather customer insights and validation first, you also need to come up with a process to recruit, groom and lock together a team of great minds!

Right Innovation + Right Time

To understand the value of timing, you need to understand how technological advancements work. If you have seen “Every things is a remix” , you know how we mix two things to come up with a new thing.

The technology works on the same principle, the advancements in transistor technology gave birth to the ALU, the IC and finally the microprocessor. Combine that with the American ambition of going to the moon and you get the requirement, the technology, the solution, together!

Robert Noyce and his company was right there at the right time doing the right thing.

Similar stuff is happening now, let’s see the latest Gartner Hype Cycle:

Source: Gartner Hype Cycle 2016 of Emerging Technologies

See the smart dust at the bottom? VR assistants in the middle? Autonomous vehicles? NLP questioning answering? All of them? They are happening because the background technologies have reached a focal point, the cloud processing, the machine learning, the AR/VR headsets, the penetration of IoT devices in our homes and my favourite, the Amazon Alexa..

Let’s take Amazon Alexa for a minute, remember the movie HER? Can we call Alexa a remix of cloud computing, machine learning, NLP, IoT? Do we now know what Alexa is going to become? HER?

I would not say these are the only technologies whose time has come as there can be more, the point is, identifying the right time to do right things and doing them with an open, innovative, inquisitive mind is what forms the basis of a great company that can go on to benefit the larger society as well.

Developing the Knowledge War chest (IP)

A very important play is of IP. We all know them as patents and in today’s market you will get different kinds of advice when it comes to registering and protecting IP. Lawyers would want you to register it as soon as possible, the veterans will tell you that you can’t win a lawsuit based on your own patent unless you have a lot of money.

All of that is subjective and is unique to your own condition. My point is, from Fairchild Semiconductor to the Intel and to this date, they registered the IP and then licensed it to others, safeguarding their own business while allowing partners and ecosystem to prosper.

From the point of view of this article, it will be enough to say that you should be developing “something worth protecting”, something that was not there before and that is critical to solve a Tier 1 problem.

Only then you will have “some-stick” for global defensibility and the growth element necessary for a knowledge based startup.

The Mechanics of Mafia

I am copying this title directly from the Peter Thiel’s book Zero to One. Peter explains how the success of PayPal gave birth to the PayPal Mafia and how they went on to create Palantir, Hyperloop, The Solar City, Tesla, Youtube, LinkedIn, Yelp and a lot of other successful companies after PayPal.

Similar stuff happened with the likes of Bell Laboratories, Fairchild Semiconductor and Xerox Parc. Once, you have a successful company that has brilliant minds working in it, they go about and create their own startups, usually in the same vicinity and usually replicating the original blueprint over and over again. The end result is what you call the Silicon Valley, a 45 miles stretch famous for its orchards, now ranks second in wealth accumulation in all of US.

Service based startups can also produce this mafia but my argument is that they will only do so for other service based startups. The global defensibility can only come from innovative breakthroughs which can be licensed, sold or built upon for future innovations.

Full Disclosure: I am doing such a startup and I am looking for brilliant minds to come together. The skills, the education, the approach has their own value but if you have an open and inquisitive mind and if you have an unfathomable desire to learn and grow everyday, if you know the value of a “hive mind” and can understand it’s meaning, let’s come together to make this world a better place! Please reach out to me through my twitter account @hammadtariq

Reproduced with permission from here.


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