Little over a year ago, Silicon Valley-based organisation World Startup Report’s local chapter called Pakistan the next destination for entrepreneurs and investors. No wonder 2015 kicked off with calls from local tech gurus stating that the “time is ripe for investing in the country’s start-up ecosystem”.
For those who are still sceptical over the predictions, a careful review of the country’s start-up community over the last 12 months would offer a good explanation. For Pakistani entrepreneurs, 2015 was a stellar year. More than $100 million were raised by start-ups operating in the country – a significant amount given the start-up culture in Pakistan is still in its infancy.
A significant number of start-ups, some with global appeal, were launched last year offering solutions to a wide array of local problems.
Since entrepreneurship remains at the forefront of innovation and socio-economic development, The Express Tribune takes a look at some of the most promising start-ups to emerge out of Pakistan in 2015 and those, which are likely to do well this year. However, the list excludes the likes of Zameen, PakWheels and Homeshopping since they have been around for some time.
The following lists were compiled after input from independent experts, the Pakistan Software Export Board, Punjab Information Technology Board and Pakistan Software Houses Association.
The selection was made on the following criteria – economic potential, social impact and innovation.
Impressive start-ups of 2015
Mandi Express: One of the best start-ups of 2015, it connects farmers directly to consumers who can buy fresh produce straight from the Mandi. Within eight months of its launch, Mandi Express has added over 350 household customers and 12 major restaurants in Karachi.
Autogenie: Autogenie is Pakistan’s first on-demand car service and maintenance start-up. The start-up raised $100,000 in seed investment from PakWheels. After doing well in Lahore, it is launching in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Trequant: It is a tremor quantifier and wearable device designed specifically for tracking and assessing tremor based movement disorders. With results and data recorded by the device, physicians can better understand a patient’s condition, see the effect of the prescribed medicine and customise the type and dosage of the medicine for individual patients.
It was one of the winners at P@SHA ICT Awards 2014 and Asia Pacific ICT Awards 2014. Trequant is the only Pakistani start-up selected for black box, a two-week residential programme in Silicon Valley.
Patari: A new music streaming website, Patari has an impressive collection of Pakistani melodies ranging over decades and showcases talents of fresh artists. It has nearly 30,000 songs and more than 600 artists offering a taste of the rich and varied music of Pakistan. It is said to be in the process of receiving funds.
Sukoon: Sukoon.com.pk is an online platform meant to connect individuals looking for household services with pre-screened, independent workers: electricians, painters, plumbers and carpenters for example. It has already served over 2,000 customers in Karachi in less than a year.
Interacta: A start-up trying to redefine conventional broadcasting by making television shows interactive, it has raised $220,000 in seed funding from Fatima Ventures. Similar to the music detection service Shazam, it analyses sound coming from television channels and pushes content accordingly. Broadcasters can also use the app for targeted advertisements.
Start-ups to watch in 2016
Autogenie and Patari, already featured in the aforementioned list, are also our pick for start-ups that are likely to do well in 2016. Besides these two, we think the following start-ups will make a notable impact in the upcoming year.
doctHERs: DoctHERs is a novel healthcare system that allows home-based female doctors to remotely treat millions of under-served and unserved patients with the help of internet-enabled technologies and on ground nurses – community healthcare workers. It is the winner of MIT Enterprise Forum of Pakistan’s Business Acceleration Program 2015 (Women-led start-up category).
Markhor: Markhor sells hand-made, premium-quality leather shoes. It became the first start-up from Pakistan to be accepted into Y Combinator – a three month incubation program based in Silicon Valley – earlier this year thus receiving $120,000 in seed capital.
Travly: The app is like Uber for rickshaws, offering an alternate to the country’s poor transportation system. They have already served thousands of customers and managed to make a revenue of over Rs500,000 for their fleet of 700 plus drivers in Lahore. In 2016, they aim to complete their expansion in both Lahore and Karachi and want to extend their services in all the major cities of Pakistan.
Wifigen: A start-up that provides WiFi solutions for businesses in exchange for social media logins, it raised an undisclosed amount of seed investment valuing the company at $1 million. The angel investor behind this round is John Russell Patrick – a former executive at IBM and an early-stage investor in Uber.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2016.