2015 was a breakout year for startups in Pakistan. One company was accepted into YCombinator, two raised multi-million dollar investment rounds, and a local competitor was acquired by German juggernaut Rocket Internet.
Add that to the mushroom growth of startup incubators and accelerators across the country, as well as much more hype and buzz around tech entrepreneurship in general. The future seems bright.
Of course there are still challenges to overcome. Payments is a niggling problem – unwieldy financial regulations mean fintech startups aren’t able to address this need and ecommerce as a whole suffers.
High-speed internet connectivity is still not a guaranteed right; it’s been just over a year since Pakistan introduced 3G/4G LTE services, and there’s still a long way to go before most of the country jumps on the bandwagon.
On the upside, several promising companies secured investor cash this year. Here’s our list, in no particular order.
1. Zamzama Property Group
Zamzama Property Group, which is the parent company of real estate sites Zameen and Bayut, raised US$9 million in series B financing, marking the largest investment in a Pakistan-based startup this year.
Zameen’s rival in Pakistan is Rocket Internet-backed Lamudi but word on the street is that there’s a massive gap between the two. The portal has been around since 2006 and counts Patrick Grove’s Catcha Group as one of its investors.
2. Naseeb Networks
Naseeb Networks is the holding company of job portals Rozee and Mihnati, concentrating on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, respectively. The startup raised a US$6.5 million series C round, bringing its total funding to US$8.5 million.
Acceleration of growth in target markets of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia was said to be the primary reason behind the sizable investment.
Wifigen, a startup that provides wifi solutions for businesses in exchange for social media logins, raised an undisclosed amount of seed investment valuing the company at US$1 million. The angel investor behind this round is John Russell Patrick – a former executive at IBM and an early-stage investor in Uber.
Bookme, an online platform for booking bus, cinema, and event tickets, secured an undisclosed amount of seed investment from Element Ventures, which valued the company at US$4 million. The startup was previously one of the Startup Arena finalists at Tech in Asia Jakarta 2014.
EatOye, an online food delivery service, was acquired by Rocket Internet’s Foodpanda as part of a regional acquisition spree to assert its dominance in the sector. The startup was a late entrant to the online delivery space in Pakistan, but had started to seriously threaten Foodpanda’s position at the top of the perch – hence the buyout.
Delivery and logistics startup Forrun was acquired by technology services companyArpatech. The acquisition was made in line with a concentration on ecommerce, logistics, and technology verticals.
Arpatech is well-known in Pakistan startup circles, after funding and successfully exiting from EatOye.
Markhor, which makes handcrafted artisanal shoes, stole the show this year when it became the first startup from Pakistan to be accepted into Y Combinator, thus receiving US$120,000 in seed capital.
Waqas Ali, founder of Markhor, had told Tech in Asia that the acceleration was aimed at strengthening Markhor’s position as a luxury lifestyle brand.
Interacta, a startup which is trying to redefine conventional broadcasting by making television shows interactive, raised US$220,000 in seed funding from Fatima Ventures.
The startup’s app, which is similar to music detection service Shazam, analyzes sound coming from television channels and pushes content accordingly. For example, in cooking shows, users can view the recipe directly on their phones. Broadcasters can also use the app for targeted advertisements.
Sportskot is a marketplace for sporting goods manufactured in Pakistan. There’s a large, fragmented industry of sports apparel and equipment, and the startup is trying to bring them all under one umbrella to assist in visibility and appeal to international clientele. Sportskot raised US$140,000 in seed funding to expand its operations.
MySmacED, a startup in the edtech space, is a communication platform that enables real-time information sharing between parents, teachers, students, and administrators.
It creates a “moderated social network,” while also assisting with feedback on child performance and easier information sharing between teachers and students. The startup raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding valuing the company at US$2 million.
Autogenie is Pakistan’s first on-demand car service and maintenance startup. Other than these basic services, it also offers premium members things like roadside assistance, regulatory and tax compliance, and car analytics. The startup raised US$100,000 in seed investment from PakWheels.
Mezaaj is a platform for fashion designers to showcase their work and get noticed in the digital sphere. The startup works with local universities and schools to hunt down promising talent, and encourages them to work on their own original designs.
These are then either sold online on the marketplace, or through large retail stores in the country. The startup secured an undisclosed amount of seed investment, valuing the company at US$500,000.
This article originally appeared on Tech In Asia.