The second semester of Founder Institute Islamabad has successfully graduated. The graduation ceremony for the current cohort was held at the spanking new premises of National Incubation Center, a joint enterprise of Teamup and Jazz, funded by the National ICT R&D Fund.
FI started its operations in Islamabad in 2015 and the first cohort graduated in 2016. What started with 17 entrepreneurs testing their mettle as entrepreneurs, has concluded with 5 entrepreneurs representing 5 startups finally emerging triumphant from the grueling 4 month program. The low success ratio (29%) is not out of the ordinary for Founder Institute semesters. FI takes pride in the challenging nature of the program, and the global ratio of graduation to enrollment stands fractionally higher at 30%.
About the Founder Institute
Founder Institute is a Silicon Valley based early stage startup accelerator with chapters across 60 countries, with a mission is to “Globalize Silicon Valley” and build sustainable startup ecosystems worldwide. The program consists of a highly structured, learning-by-doing curriculum that covers all aspects necessary for startups to survive, compete, and scale. FI Graduates usually have a high chance of enduring success, with almost half obtaining funding that has valued them at over $ 15 billion.
The challenge starts with the time commitment the program expects. Even as the program welcomes founders who may still be working a full time job, it expects more than 25 hours of work per week, including attending the weekly sessions, working on the real-world business-building assignments and meeting with their peer groups twice a week.
Like any startup accelerator program however, Founder Institute equips the founders with the tools and information they need to succeed, it’s up to founders themselves to apply these to succeed. With the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan quickly gathering steam, the odds are stacked in favor of this outgoing batch and we hope to see at least a couple of them hit it big.
This short ceremony was opened by Sayyed Ahmad Masud, one of the three co-directors at Founders Institute Islamabad. He outlined how FI tried to recreate the ruthless environment that a startup founder would face in the real world while simultaneously giving them the tools and inculcating the mental attitude they would need to survive that tough world. He also stressed that while the program is designed to show the founders the path to success, they’re still the ones who have to walk the path.
Talking about his experience, the president of the second batch, Omar Usman Uppal identified helping young aspiring entrepreneurs to test and validate the ideas in the market as the most valuable contribution FI made to the graduates. He also briefly described the startup ideas of his fellow graduates.
Mr. Yusuf Hussain, co-director at Founder Institute Islamabad and CEO ICT R&D Fund took the stage to talk about the funding opportunities available from the ICT R&D fund. He also talked about the fourth industrial wave: Robotics, implantables, blockchain, etc. and how we’re set to witness drastic changes in our lives in just the next few years. He highlighted how at Founder Institute, one topic is drilled down into each weak and how FI teaches founders the value of developing singular focus and becoming the best in the world at one thing, however small that might be.
Mr. Irfan Wahab Khan, co-director at Founder Institute Islamabad and CEO Telenor Pakistan talked about the revolutions occurring not just in Pakistan but globally. He stressed that to be successful, one should be on a mission to make a difference is the customer’s life and not be limited to maximizing revenue / profit.
Mr. Parvez Abbasi, Project Director at the National Incubation Center shared NIC’s goal to connect the new generation blessed with creativity but constrained by connections & experience, with a more mature cadre of experienced professionals who have the experience and knowledge to make scale ventures. He praised the curriculum of Founders Institute, and noted that it is not only rigorous but also grounded in the hard reality. He noted that the quality of FI graduates is substantially higher than others that he’s interacted with.
Shahryar Hydri, expressed satisfaction with the rapid development of the local startup ecosystem. He advised the new graduates to aim high, work together, and most importantly, experiment. He also advised the graduates to fire small bullets and not be waiting for the big cannon. The reason, he said, was that one needs to learn and adapt from one’s own mistakes frequently, instead of waiting until it’s too late.
Humanyun Mazhar, CEO at CresVentures, expressed his view that the local startup ecosystem is in the early stage startups generally lacking domain knowledge and focusing on ‘fluff’. He warned that the startup world is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a lot of courage and conviction to emerge successfully from graveyards filled with doomed startups. The graduates must be prepared to fail, learn from it and move on.
The ceremony ended with the distribution of certificates to the graduating class. Following is the list of the successfully graduating companies and their founders:
GharAsaan is a marketplace that connects house builders with prospective house owners looking to build their own house. It also connects every stakeholder connected to the whole home construction value chain (contractors, material suppliers etc.) and makes all relevant information readily available on the website. It also provides prospective customers with an easy-to-use calculator that can let them estimate how much a project may cost by inputting some basic info. GharAsaan is starting off by connecting prospective house owners and builders, but intend to monetize by providing premium monitoring and escrow services within a year
Founder: Omar Usman Uppal has more than 12 years of strategy, project management, sales and leadership experience and construction is his family business (surprise!)
CodeGini has a catchy tag-phrase (App in a Snap) and is on a paradoxical mission of putting app-developers out of business (or help them do their work quicker… if you’d rather see the glass half-full). The product is a quick prototyping tool for database applications that can churn out Web, iPhone, and Android applications within minutes by literally just pressing a button (after inputting the data models as an Excel files or defining it via their drag-and-drop interface). Such a tool would potentially be invaluable to startups wanting to create an MVP within a couple of days, or for software houses to create a quick and dirty demo for a client.
Founder: Ahmad Hassan has more than 30 years of experience in code optimization, digital signal processing, video codecs, and embedded systems. In the past, he has launched apps that reached the top 10 in AppStore charts. Ahmad also holds two US patents in the field of embedded systems and software tools!
Retailiacs – A mobile–first POS system. POS systems have been around for decades now, but there’s been little innovation to write home about. Until, well… Retailiacs. Retailiacs is a POS that even a small shop owner can afford, because he / she can run it off of the mobile they already own. They don’t need to buy a PC, a screen and a UPS machine for backup! It can send the receipts to the customer by SMS / email and doesn’t need a data plan to operate (the shop owner can sync it to the cloud once a day over his / her home wifi if available).
Founder: Muhammad Saeed has 15 years of dev experience with some of the biggest companies in Pakistan
PakTrips (www.paktrips.com): PakTrips is a travel experience sharing platform with a community twist. The platform will help travelers plan better experiences inside the country with access to relevant information and experiences shared by fellow travelers. PakTrips will also help domestic tourists to more easily discover and compare travel packages offered by travel agencies throughout the country
Founder: Hamza Ahmed is a passionate tourist with experience in building multi-million member communities.
T-Admen: T-Admen is the company behind Mobiup – an application that brings your android mobile lock screen to life by turning it into a media publishing platform. The user can interact with personalized content and advertisement generated from their interests, location, and behavior (yes, privacy is a thing of the past, but hey, at least we get relevant content in return). The user is additionally rewarded with Mobi-points which can be redeemed for mobile credits, in additional to additional incentives offered by advertisers on the platform. Sounds familiar? Watch out SlideApp!
Founder: Habib Afzal has many years of experience driving consumer targeting & marketing initiatives.
Some of these founders have shared their their FI experiences via blogs linked below:
If you’d like to learn more about Founder Institute Islamabad, you may join their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/foundingislamabad. The page would also carry updates about the introductory sessions for the next semester starting in a few months’ time.