KARACHI: After helping hundreds of Pakistani entrepreneurs successfully expand their businesses to the United States (US) - the world’s largest market for technology-based businesses - the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF)’s Pakistan chapter has expanded its mentorship programme to empower women entrepreneurs, revealed officials in a press conference.
“Operating in Pakistan since 2007, the MITEF’s business acceleration programme (BAP) has mentored between 150 and 200 companies that have received valuations of $50 to $70 million after having gone through this programme,” said the forum’s vice chairman Syed Azhar Rizvi, ahead of the programme’s 2015 contest, beginning on Saturday.
Women empowerment for securing sustainable alternative livelihoods
This year, the MITEF Pakistan has expanded the programme to include ‘Women Led Technology Start-ups.’
The launch of MIT Technology Review (Pakistan chapter) in Urdu and English would create a new tech generation, fully aware of what’s happening around the world in technology and innovation. The latest edition of the magazine covers success stories of Pakistan’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.
BAP’s objective is to help Pakistani IT, telecom and new media companies accelerate their businesses to the next level. Every year, about 15 companies go through a four month training and mentoring period to participate in BAP’s three tracks; existing businesses, women start-ups and researchers’ tracks.
Gender inequality and the country’s lack of progress
The winners get a chance to attend a fully-funded entrepreneurship development programme (EDP) at MIT in Cambridge US, followed by road shows as Pakistani entrepreneurs meet Venture Capitalists, Angel investors and serial entrepreneurs to develop their business on a global scale.
“A $100,000 company mentored by this programme closed their last financial year with $45 million in revenue,” an official said. “Securetech, one of the past winners, was able to take itself from $2 million to $10 million in just a couple years.”
“The best source of funding for start-ups is customers,” said MIT Entrepreneurship Centre Founding MD Ken Morse, adding VCs would not invest in scientific projects and the government should therefore give grants to take innovative ideas (companies) forward to the growth state, where they can sustain on customers’ money.
More power to the women and less to the dupatta
For local entrepreneurs, access to capital remains one of the main obstacles to growth. However, Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) Chairman Umar Saif informed the media that the Punjab government had set aside Rs300 million to be spent on local start-ups over the next three years.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2015.
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