Have you heard of Airlift, Zameen.com, and Bykea? These successful tech startups were primarily funded by venture capitalist in Pakistan. In our state, banks are useless for business loans, young entrepreneurs are looking for investors and venture capitalists.
Venture Capitalists consist of people or firms looking to invest in your startup against some equity share. International investors consider Pakistan as “an untapped market.” We are characterized as a state with vast talent and a considerable level of growth with very limited opportunities. Hence, these firms and investors make it easy for startups to flourish by providing the required resources.
Zameen.com is the highest-ranked property portal in Pakistan, founded in 2006. It is the most well-funded startup with a total of $29 million. It allows users to sell, buy, and rent properties in the top cities of Pakistan. Thus Zameen.com stands with a current value of $80 million.
Airlift comes next in the list—one application that solved all commute issues in Pakistan by providing public transport services through an application. Commuters travel on fixed routes at fixed times in luxury buses at affordable rates. Founded in 2018 by Usman Gul and Ahmed Ayub, Airlift raised $14.2 billion in just one year through venture capitalist and angel investors. Rozee.pk, Cheetay, and Bykea are next in line with more than $5million raised to date. These are only a few names from the cluster of tech startups that exist in Pakistan.
People are actively working to improve startup ecosystem through venture capitalist culture in Pakistan. Expats are gathering funds and setting up incubation centers. Their efforts can help young people with the guidance and funds that they require to launch their idea. The most well-known names are Atif Awan, Rabeel Warriach, and Kalsoom Lakhani.
The MIT graduate who used to work as an investment banker at Morgan & Stanley has changed startups in Pakistan. Investors inject money directly to startups since no one solely dedicates to managing and collecting funds. Warriach founded Sarmayacar; a multi-million dollar seed fund syndicate dedicated to Pakistani startups. This institution built more on the $30 million already raised by Warriach. Sarmaycar’s ventures include Patari, Bykea, ProCheck, Dawaai, SimPaisa, and Revolving games. It brings in foreign direct investment to Pakistan. Moreover, it gives international investors a platform where they can safely invest – as they are usually unaware of the local opportunities.
Hailing from a multicultural family, Kalsoom Lakhani is one talented woman. She has worked in the defense industry, research, and philanthropy in the past. All of which led her to her true calling in Pakistan, which was activating entrepreneurship. She is the founder of Invest2Innovate, located in Islamabad. I2I has been working since 2011 with startups. It provides them the space to grow through their incubation and accelerator programs. It has worked with 46 startups, which have raised over $6 million in the capital. I2I has organically grown over the years. Furthermore, it is also funding the startups through their program with 55+ mentors and 40+ investors present in their network. Apply to their programs to become a part of i2i.
LinkedIn to launching his venture capitalist fund in Silicon Valley, Aatif Awan is a Gurus in the startup ecosystem. After his bachelor’s from a local university and successful regime at LinkedIn, he now sits on the board of directors of Airlift and Atoms. Aatif launched his venture capitalist firm in 2020 called Indus Valley Capital. The investors of IVC include Arbisoft, Venture Drive, and international angel investors.
These are just a few top-notch names that come to mind when talking about Pakistan’s venture capitalist culture. There are many more out there who are actively working for the growth of the startup ecosystem.
While the industry is flourishing, and our mentors are doing a lot for the Pakistani market, there are still some hurdles that come in startup investment.
International media depicts Pakistan as a dangerous country. Pakistan is only known for bombings, extremism and instability. We need more exposure and an improved image on international media about our achievements and development. We are slowly changing our position, but there is still a long time to go before we can be known for our achievements.
It is refreshing to see so many incubation centers open up all over the country. Consequently, we are seeing an increase in the number of startups. This hassle to incubate many startups at once is compromising on the quality or impact they have. Incubation centers need to have mentors experienced in fields close to the startup’s working to fair selection.
After the launch, startup teams are often pushed out into the jungle to fight for themselves. These incubation and accelerator programs need to be more tailored to sustain startups in the crowded market. The
Local investment is as essential as international investment. Other countries like China more recognize Pakistan’s potential than its citizens. It is vital to spread awareness about investing in local startups and keeping money inside the economy. However, local investment can only be pursued if proper protection is given to local companies similar to international investments that we come across.
Nonetheless it is sufficient to say that the market is hot right now despite the challenges Pakistan faces. If you have a solution to Pakistan’s problems, now is the time to come forward with it. Venture Capitalists are on the hunt for potential, and maybe you are the lucky one.