Pakistani startups rake in millions of dollars

Updated November 05, 2019

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Pakistani tech startups have raked in millions of dollars from local and foreign investors as a number of deals were announced over the weekend. — Shutterstock/File
Pakistani tech startups have raked in millions of dollars from local and foreign investors as a number of deals were announced over the weekend. — Shutterstock/File

KARACHI: Pakistani tech startups have raked in millions of dollars from local and foreign investors as a number of deals were announced over the weekend.

Around half a dozen startups disclosed their investment rounds at 021Disrupt, a major tech and entrepreneurship conference.

This year marks the watershed moment for Pakistani startups, especially in terms of funding, claimed major investors and entrepreneurs at a two-day tech conference in Karachi.

On the sidelines of the event, Airlift — a smart bus service operating in major Pakistani cities — announced its Series A investment at a massive $12 million, the largest in the country at this stage. The round was led by a major US-based venture capital firm, First Round Capital that has/had stakes/exits in the likes of 9GAG and Uber, with particpation from Fatima Gobi Ventures and Indus Valley Capital.

Within the same industry, the Egyptian headquartered Swvl shared its plans of investing $25m in Pakistan over a period of two years to help solve commutation issues and create 10,000 jobs. The startup already has designated Karachi as one of its engineering hubs.

Tellotalk – a home-grown messaging app – also made public the news of its seed funding by a consortium of investors including SparkLabs, ALM Holdings, Cocoon Ignite Ventures and One Capital as foreign partners, and TPL and i2i Ventures among local ones. The money is to be deployed for marketing and advertising, infrastructure expansion and product development. The list doesn’t end here as PriceOye — an e-commerce aggregator based out of Islamabad — announced a seed round worth $450,000, led by Fatima Ventures with participation from Artistic Ventures and Kinetico. The company hints at competing in the international market, as per the press release.

Queno — an edtech offering enterprise resource planning software for schools — disclosed seed money worth $100,000 from the Oman Technology Fund.

The event also saw an acquisition as Find My Adventure — a tour discovery and booking platform — disclosed it has bought KTown Rooms. Another major development was Habib Bank Ltd sharing its plans to set up a fund for startups soon. Meanwhile, Rabeel Warraich of Sarmayacar — Pakistan-focused firm – announced the establishment of Venture Capital Association of Pakistan, in collaboration with 12 institutional investors.

The event closed with an interesting talk from the Pakistani founder of Careem, Mudassir Sheikha, who shared his journey from an apartment in Karachi to building the biggest tech company in the region.

Jehan Ara, the brainchild behind this event, concluded with “this will create many more entrepreneurs and spur a culture of innovation and when we are here next year, this day will be the turning point.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2019