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 a little bit of everything and is funded by the Government.
It’s been a year, and I can now make some observations and suggestions for 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, nor 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 the “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.
The “About Us” page either doesn’t exist, or it’s a generic copy if it does. It won’t hurt to tell the end user a little bit about yourself, your roots, any press coverage, etc. You don’t need to have an exceptional “About Us” page like MeriTaleem, something minimal like Savaree will do.
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 is, respond with class and show ’em you mean business. If you are short on people, dedicate different people to dealing 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 the 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 the backing of an organization, is trying to make a mark.
I firmly believe that in the future, Pakistani startups will flourish not because of Government but despite 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.