Startups need enabling environment to thrive

KARACHI: Pakistan needs a lax regulatory environment for startups and investors alike, in the form of simpler business structures and tax breaks for the former and incentives for the latter, said Invest2Innovate Ventures Managing Partner Misbah Naqvi.

She was addressing the panel discussion ‘Fund raising – the Venture Capital Lens’ at the two-day Momentum Tech Conference, which concluded on Wednesday.

During the session, panellists shared their thoughts on the local ecosystem, impediments, investment approaches among other things. Faisal Aftab of Lakson Investments said that technology is not only facilitating rapid expansion of formal economy, but also helping capture hidden business activity.

Meanwhile, Javed Syed of Invency Capital compared different investment approaches taken by venture capitals and what’s more suited in Pakistan. According to him, the valuation model — where investors put in their money for equity stake in a startup and exit when its market value has multiplied, even if the bottom line is in red — doesn’t work in the country. In order to score funding, startups should have a clear timeline as to when they will be able to become profitable, Syed said.

The event hosted workshops, hackathon, keynote sessions and panel discussions on tech, digital and entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan. Representatives from major organisations like Amazon, Google and McKinsey etc took part as well.

It also featured Startup 100 — a programme showcasing 100 local startups in diverse sectors such as fintech, artificial intelligence and health among other, of which the best 10 made their final pitches at the conference to compete for the top award.

EyeAutomate — a company developing sensors that lets one drive a wheelchair with eyeball movements — came out as the winner while GoGhoom — a travel booking portal — was the first runner-up. There was a tie for the third place between Edvon Robotics — a manufacturer of robotic kits for kids — and Islam 360, a Quran and Hadith searchable application.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2019

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