The term startup has been tossed around with increasing frequency over the last few years to describe young ventures, hip new apps, and huge tech companies. But what is a startup, really?
According to Merriam-Webster, startup means ‘the act or an instance of setting in operation or motion’ or ‘a fledgling business enterprise.’ And like all fledglings, they need to be taken care of and nurtured for growth. That is where incubation centers come into the equation.
Badar Khushnood, former Country Consultant, Google Pakistan, stated that the country is well on its way to becoming a digital country during his recent talk on ‘The Magic Moment of e-Commerce’ at PTCL HQ in Islamabad at the recently launched Talks@PTCL platform. He elaborated that with an economy powered by small and medium-sized startups and a rapidly growing population of mobile users, Pakistan is on its way to becoming one of the largest digital audiences in the world.
During Talks@PTCL, Yusuf Hussain was also one of the distinguished speakers, who gave a scintillating talk on ‘Supporting startups through incubation centers’. He brings quite a lot of experience as he is an entrepreneur, angel investor & tech enthusiast. Currently, he is the CEO of Ignite, a government organization that works on nurturing and developing budding startups.
Defining innovation as an idea or invention transformed into a product or service that impacts society, Yusuf pinpointed that mere out-of-box ideas are not enough as they need to become product or service that can be consumed. It is through innovation that you can drive growth and startups have been the drivers of growth and job creation over the past 30 years, added Yusuf.
During his talk, Yusuf identified a startup as a business with an innovative business model or technology. Along with that, he also explained the process of abstraction and scaling, i.e. coming up with an innovative business model, defining Standard Operating Procedures, standardizing it and expanding. Examples of successful giants, who managed this process flawlessly and changed the face of the world are Facebook, Google, and Apple.
To help facilitate this process, the government has come up with the ‘Ignite National Technology Fund’. Ignite has other programs like seed fund, final year project fund, and digiskills.pk, a website to help people learn digital skills. However, the main program of Ignite is its incubation centers. Ignite has established five incubation centers that are located in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and Quetta. Ignite is a result-oriented organization that focuses on business growth and job creation through the startup ecosystem. The incubation centers focus on mentoring, networking and supporting startups, to the point that for every rupee given by the government, 6.84 rupees are given by the private sector.
The reason behind Ignite’s success is the fact that their incubation centers are run by professionals who have corporate experience and have been part of or have at least helped or invested in great companies. Having built curricula for their startups, they have ensured great mentorship and proper coaching for their successful launch in the corporate world. For these reasons, Ignite has several success stories, from PakVitae, which ensures clean drinking water for 10 million people to AquaAgro, which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) to reduce 50% water consumption by farmers, to a lady who is designing a new jet engine that eliminates chemtrails, those white line-shaped clouds that cause up to 20% of global warming.
Do you know the recent achievement of 14 startups that graduated from the National Incubation Center, Peshawar? They have:
- Created more than 2370 jobs both direct and indirect
- Raised investment to the tune of over PKR 192 Million
- Increased revenue to more than PKR120 Million
Companies like PTCL, who have partnered with Ignite and NIC are providing continuous support by giving them a bigger platform to showcase their products and services that is encouraging to new startups and young entrepreneurs in Pakistan.