Pakistani startups raised $23.1 million in disclosed funding across six deals in the first quarter of 2023.
That’s 87% less than the $172 million raised in Q1 of 2022 but 53% more than the $15 million raised in Q4 of 2022. Deals decreased by 50% compared to Q1 of 2022 but remained flat compared to the previous quarter.
Q1 2023 Startup Funding Highlights
- Number of startups that raised funding: 6
- The sector with the most funding: Transportation, $10.1 million.
- Startup with the biggest round of funding: AdalFi; $7.5 million Seed.
The new normal
It was a forgettable quarter. Funding almost disappeared in January, only to catch up to 2021 levels in March. And when that happened, the deals were mostly hangover deals from 2022.
72% of all funding ($16.6 million) announced during the quarter can be attributed to 2022 – deals closed in 2022 but announced in 2023. So what’s going on?
Nothing, really. Welcome to the new normal.
A ZERO-Interest-Rate-Policy, or ZIRP, caused the funding boom, while an increase in the Federal Funds Rate has slowed things down.
Sure, other factors are at play, such as Pakistan’s struggling economy and volatile political climate. However, Pakistan has never had a booming economy or sustained political stability. So you can’t explain away the funding boom in 2021 and 2022 by silly things like 230 million population and English-speaking youth bulge.
But looking at the Fed Funds Rate, you can make some sense of the funding boom.
ZIRP encouraged investors to look for higher returns in frontier markets like Pakistan, once the markets they operated in became overvalued. In large part, this contributed to the boom in funding.
The next few quarters will reveal whether the startup ecosystem in Pakistan was largely a ZIRP phenomenon.
Let’s do the numbers.
List of startups that raised funding in Q1 2023
AdalFi, a Lahore-based fintech building a credit-scoring platform for digital lending, raised $7.5 million in seed funding from COTU Ventures, Chimera Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, and Zayn Capital.
Trukkr, a Karachi-based startup managing logistics and finances for trucking companies, raised $6.4 million in seed funding from Accion Venture Lab, Sturgeon Capital, Haitou Global, and Al Zayani Venture Capital.
All the funding went towards Seed. The transportation category led with $10.1 million, followed by FinTech with $9 million, EdTech with $2.8 million, and e-commerce with $1.2 million.
A startup in a country without a capital market can only exit through acquisition. Since startup funding started eleven years ago, there have been very few exits.
But that can’t be said about non-VC-funded tech companies.
Last year proved to be great for bootstrapped founders. And this year so far is no different.
Portugal-based S4 Digital acquired a 70% stake in Lahore-based Bramerz for an undisclosed amount. It also acquired an undisclosed majority stake in Karachi-based HR Ways.
Texas-based Edly, a product of Lahore-based Arbisoft, acquired France-based Overhang.IO for an undisclosed amount.
And Karachi-based Abhi acquired an undisclosed equity stake in Karachi-based BlueEx.
If you think I missed a startup, please DM me on Twitter with the link to the startup funding announcement.
If you want to access the entire database that includes all startup funding transactions since 2014, you can purchase it here.
Criteria: Active VC or Angel-funded startups founded by a Pakistani and headquartered in Pakistan with the majority of employees and at least one founder in Pakistan and a product created for the global and Pakistani market. If not headquartered in Pakistan, the majority of employees and at least one founder is in Pakistan. It does not include rounds with funding amounts less than $250,000.
Data sources: internal tracker.
*Some numbers are rounded up/down for clarity.