CIRCLE, a social enterprise focused on economic empowerment of women, is bringing back She Loves Tech, a women-centric global technology startup competition to Pakistan.
The previous year, CIRCLE hosted She Loves Tech for the first time in Pakistan. The initial screening of the applicants were done by the respective teams of She Loves Tech and CIRCLE and there was only one local round that took place in Karachi with 10 finalists. TrashIt, a tech startup focused on solving waste management challenges emerged victorious at the national winner. CEO TrashIt, Anusha Fatima went on to represent Pakistan on a global stage in Beijing.
This year, CIRCLE is taking the competition to three major cities of Pakistan. The 2018 edition of She Loves Tech will be held across 14 locations in Pakistan, Africa, Canada, China, France, German, Indonesia, Phillippines, Singapore and the UAE. The competition is expected to attract over 500 women-centric startups that are either led by a female founder or majorly focus on female consumers.
CIRCLE is bringing key incubators and stakeholders on board to execute the local rounds of the competition. The preliminary rounds will take place in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, however, the competition is not restricted to these cities and is accepting applications from all across Pakistan. The local rounds are scheduled as follows:
- Innovation District 92 will host Lahore Round on July 14th
- WeCREATE will host Islamabad Round on July 17th
- Karachi Round will be hosted on July 31st (venue to be updated)
The top 10 finalists from the preliminary rounds will compete in the final round. Prior to the finale, a pitch training has also been scheduled for August that will take place at The Nest I/O.
Sharing her mentoring experience with TechJuice, Fatima said,
“Each finalist was assigned a mentor, and our mentor was Raza Matin, Marketing & Business Consultant of Google in Pakistan. In three sessions, he helped us refine our business plan and prepared us for the pitch. At that time or startup was not incubated, therefore his mentorship was really meaningful and powerful for us. When we won the finale, he further prepared us for China by guiding through the demo pitch to address global challenges and think beyond Pakistan.”
The finale, which will choose the national winner, is scheduled to take place on August 18th at the National Incubation Center (NIC) Karachi.
The national winner from each country will score a trip to Beijing where they will participate in a high-level entrepreneurial boot camp and pitch their technology startup to an international audience.
We got a lot of visibility with the media. That’s really helpful for a new startup.
The finale winner from Pakistan will be funded by CIRCLE for the Beijing trip. Whereas, the first runner-up and second runner-up will be awarded PKR 100,000 and PKR 50,000 respectively. All the winners of this round will also have the opportunity to network with top investors, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the ecosystem.
Speaking about the Beijing experience, Fatima shares,
“Being surrounded by so many women founders from all across the globe was a totally different and fascinating exposure for me. During the 5-day boot camp, we participated in various field visits and panel discussions, engaging with companies that are empowering women through innovation. We also learned about the VC culture in China which was really helpful.”
Fatima also tells how the competition helped their startup gained a lot of visibility with the media. She believes this is extremely helpful for local startups who need such kind of support.
The competition will review all the entries with local hosts and a panel of industry experts to invite shortlisted participants to pitch at the preliminary rounds of the contest. The panel will review market opportunity, traction, scalability potential, ingenuity, creativity and innovation, founder and team profile, and of course, women impact.
Fatima shared some advice for startups that are applying. She said,
“Initial screening of applicants is based on their business plan. Therefore, the plan should be very convincing and excite the panel. The founders should be clear on the need they are solving, its market size, and the impact their startup will produce. They should have a focused vision for the next few years.”
She also emphasized thinking globally,
“Assess your startup to fit in the market space of China or even South Asia. You might be starting from Pakistan, but you can always think globally.”
Storytelling is essential. Therefore, Anusha believes that you should integrate all the achievements in the application, be it a funding you have raised or a competition you have a win. The plan should be original and portray your true story. The panel should see through the vision you startup is crafting, so it could say, this is the startup we are shortlisting!
Early-stage startups that have a viable product beyond a conceptual stage are eligible to apply. Male entrepreneurs can also apply if their technology startup is impacting women positively or technology startups that have at least one woman entrepreneur in the founding team. A startup can figure out their eligibility by answering the following questions
- Are a significant proportion of end-users or consumers female?
- Are products specifically designed with women users in mind?
- Does the product itself address a problem that disproportionately affects women?
The competition is accepting applications from startups that are focusing on any of the following industries:
- Agri Tech
- Artificial Intelligence & Big Data
- B2B Solutions
- Consumer Tech
- Clean Energy
- Edu Tech
- Internet of Things
- Med Tech
Previous finalists of the national rounds included Aurat Raj, Edvon, Mera Paisa, SheKab, Qayyam, Kafayak, ELM, IoTA, Edvon, DoctHERS, and Sehat Kahani. The experience of competing in the global final helped Anusha to gain inspiration from fellow competing startups. She recalls her experience and how it helped TrashIt to grow,
“We were the youngest startup in Beijing, surrounded by entrepreneurs who on average had given three years to their idea. It was inspiring to see them so passionate and committed to continue fighting for their vision. We all are connected on social media and through a WeChat group. Being young at the moment, we might not have pursued real collaborations, but in the future, there are possibilities that we will leverage this network.”
When TrashIt became a part of She Loves Tech, it was just a proof of concept and had not been rolled out to any customers. A year later, the startup has an on-going pilot, customers are signing up, and a community impact is being produced.
If you want to be a part of this global movement of She Loves Tech, apply here by July 2nd.