Sometime around last year, I heard about Plan9 and became extremely hopeful about Pakistan’s tech startups. Plan9 is kind of a general incubator that does little bit of everything and is funded by the Government.
It’s been a year and I can now make some observations and suggestions to budding tech entrepreneurs in Pakistan.
It turns out, Pakistani tech startups want investors that believe in “handouts.” During one conversation, I was told that I should be willing to invest without much expectation as I am investing in a startup. Needless to say, that conversation didn’t go anywhere and neither did the startup.
As an investor, I am extremely interested in your success. You need to consider me a partner and not just a bank. If I can put cash on the table, you should be willing to put up equity or at least meet me somewhere in the middle. It’s only fair.
Snap out of “handout” mentality, it won’t take you far.
Surprisingly, it’s extremely difficult and sometimes an ordeal to find out who is behind the startup. “About Us” page either doesn’t exist or if it does, it’s a generic copy. It won’t hurt to tell the end user a little bit about yourself, roots, any press coverage etc. You don’t need to have an exceptional “About Us” page like MeriTaleem, something minimal like Savaree will do.
You have what it takes, flaunt it in a manner that portrays you as confident and bold.
If you have a Twitter/Facebook account, prepare to respond and engage with others. No matter how stupid a question, comment or even brutal criticism, respond with class and show ’em you mean business. If you are short on people, dedicate different personnel to deal with social media platforms. Divide and conquer.
Your first “paid” customer probably won’t come from a TV advertisement, it will come through word of mouth with the help of social media. You need to own it!
Don’t look west for inspiration. Actually do that but not that far. Stop at Iran. You can learn a lot more from Iranian startup scene than you ever will by looking at Silicon Valley. Simply put, Silicon Valley is a mature model trying to do things based on the “cool” factor and the players have been playing the game for a long time. Iran is an emerging model trying to solve native problems and create economic prosperity, similar to Pakistan. That’s apple to apple for you.
I am almost done.
Plan9 is not the only organization involved in creating a tech ecosystem in Pakistan. Everyone, either with or without backing of an organization, is trying to make a mark. I am of the firm belief that in the future, Pakistani startups will flourish not because of Government but in spite of it. Entrepreneurs don’t need incubators, it’s the other way around. Just take charge and hustle, you are writing your own story.
And of course, if you need any help or advice, banda hazir hai.
Update: Since this post, I have launched a blog (Techshaw.com) where I cover Pakistani tech startups.
Photo Credit: Chasin’ Pigeons