Searching for Heroes within the Pakistani startup ecosystem | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
Searching for heroes within Pakistani Startup Ecosystem


“There are sixty-two McLarens in the world, and I will own one of them.” This was a young Elon Musk speaking to CNN as his new McLaren F1 was being delivered outside his house in 1999. “There it is children, the fastest car in the world!.” He was not cloaking his excitement. Having just sold his start-up Zip2 for USD $300 million, his share of $22 million was enough to afford the luxury. He went on to create that later became PayPal. He carried on with his success streak through SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity. The list is still ongoing. CNN’s coverage while he was receiving his McLaren may have encouraged an army of entrepreneurs to trek the path of innovation. 

Tales of entrepreneurs and their adventures are common media occurrences in that part of the world. Events like IPOs, mergers, acquisitions, and even successful funding rounds for start-ups are mainstream news. Young CEOs can often be seen sharing their experiences and the lessons that they have learned. Speculations about upcoming products, their prices and design, even recruitment decisions within the start-ups fulfil gossip urges. All the while inspiring new entrants or revitalizing existing ambitions.  

Political talk shows have been ruling Pakistan’s prime time for over a decade now. There seem to be attempts at maintaining the audience base at present. Many regular guests appear to have outlived their healthy contributions. Themes have been cannibalized to near exhaustion. It is time to find some new heroes.  

There can certainly be the question of viewers’ interest and alignment. Ertugrul’s success can be attributed to a taste shift in the entertainment vertical. If the mainstream media can enforce an otherwise sane appearing crowd to spend multiple nights outside a stone building in the anticipated arrival for a blue-blooded child, there should be hope for proportioning a slice of audience towards entrepreneurial success stories within Pakistan.  

Recent months have shown some coverage of Pakistani start-ups in the print media. These have mostly been tech start-ups receiving foreign Venture Capital funding. News of acquisitions and take-overs would surely follow. It would have been interesting to see the young CEOs on prime time sharing their stories. Foreign investment in Pakistani Start-ups was USD $120 million in the first six months of 2021 for 35 deals. This was up from a total of USD $66 million in 2020. Airlift raised USD $85 million in series B round this month. Stories of their CEO’s would be enlightening for other entrepreneurs.  

However, this is not a case for establishing a pound for pound local contestant of The Silicon Valley and Western Media. There would be many entrepreneurs who made it outside the tech horizon without the usual pre-seed, seed and following funding rounds. Stories of ambitious electricians who used to repair them but have now made their fortunes by manufacturing UPS systems. People who made it big by refurbishing car batteries or better yet, introduced their own local brands? Eentrepreneurs who were able to get export orders for masks and other personal protection equipment. Success stories from the recent e-commerce boom in Pakistan. Are there any women who have been successful by using social media to promote their own brands? People may want to hear how Sazgar Rickshaws are set for exports in Ethiopia after local success. 

It would not be a challenge to find these success stories from within our society. Finding FBR friendly entrepreneurs may be a bit harder. Even if such success stories are found that have their books in order, it would be interesting to see how many of them are willing to admit their riches in public media. The entrepreneurs should also be lauded for the number of jobs they created.  

There has been a surge in start-up ecosystem especially within the last two years. Back in May 2020, Program Manager of National Incubation Centre LUMS was highlighting non-existence of local investment avenues for Pakistani start-ups. VC funds like Fatima Ventures and Sarmayacar among others are filling this void. PITB has launched incubation centres in 9 cities of Punjab earlier this year. Coverage of start-ups stories on mainstream media will further strengthen the start-up success base in Pakistan.