Young entrepreneurs offered seed money, mentorship

Published: August 14, 2014
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NEW-G and INJAZ Pakistan build platform for startups. CREATIVE COMMONS

NEW-G and INJAZ Pakistan build platform for startups. CREATIVE COMMONS

KARACHI: In a development that would help entrepreneurs convert their ideas into successful business models – without worrying about funding, the National Entrepreneurship Working Group (NEW-G) and INJAZ Pakistan inaugurated a programme titled Business Startup Launch (BSL) at Aman Foundation’s head office on Wednesday.

BSL is a platform for startups, seeking angel investors for further expansion and young entrepreneurs who have progressive business ideas but face a dearth of funds.

Unlike most incubators, the platform is open to a variety of businesses and not just internet-based startups. In fact, half the teams that competed in the inaugural edition were running conventional businesses.

Once shortlisted for the BSL, the participants are allowed to pitch for funding, guidance and mentorships before a panel of judges – the most shortlisted participants or finalists are then eligible for a grant worth Rs1 million and 24 weeks of mentorship.

“Entrepreneurship is the biggest agent for economic progress, which is why NEW-G is working on Pakistan’s entrepreneurship ecosystem,” NEW-G President Rizwan Razvi told the audience in the inaugural speech.

Razvi said there was no infrastructure in the country for startup capital, making it difficult for entrepreneurs to execute their business plans. “Having a brilliant idea is one thing but converting it into a successful business model is the biggest challenge for any entrepreneur.”

These participants have made it to this round and the funding is available to them but they really have to earn it, Razvi said.

All the participating teams were instructed to sell their respective business plans to convince the judges and angel investors to justify why and how their project would be a success.

“For the first-ever edition, we received 10 applications,” said Faizan Rafi Hashmi, Academic Coordinator of INJAZ Pakistan – an initiative and incubate of Aman Foundation.

After assessing their executive summaries, the organisers shortlisted seven teams for the elevator pitch round, in which the participants had to pitch their projects before judges and angel investors.

The first edition saw a very interactive session as each of the six presentations – as the seventh team withdrew – was followed by questions from investors and judges, testing the participants’ ability to defend their projects.

During the first edition, contestants belonging to various business sectors – laptop retailer based in Sajawal and Badin, Quail farmer based between Karachi and DG Khan, MBA students from LUMS and civil engineers from NED University – compete for a common goal.

However, only four of these six teams will be selected by the judges and these will be further shortlisted to two finalists, according to Hashmi, who will be eligible for funding and training.

“After completing the mentorship programme, the finalists will work as independent entities,” he said.

Giving details about the focus of the programmes, NEW-G President Razvi said they would work to identify weaknesses and strengths of the country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem in the next couple of years. They also plan to create a director and a web portal for entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneur’s education, regulatory framework, access to finance, women entrepreneurship and overcoming barriers to entrepreneurship are some of the areas they would focus, Razvi said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2014.

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