To speak of the Pakistani tech and startup ecosystem is to completely throw away all preconceived notions from what you have been previously told.
The tech and startup scene in Pakistan is one that combines home-grown ingenuity with thousands of Pakistani entrepreneurs who studied and developed their own companies abroad and who are now returning home, bringing all of their knowledge and experience towards hyper-revolutionizing innovation at home.
Here at the Momentum Tech Conference in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city located near the shores of the Arabian Sea, there is a pulsating, electrically-charged atmosphere that brings together the biggest names in Silicon Valley such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, with the well-established and up-and-coming Pakistani startups who are pushing for change.
I spoke with representatives from Google and Facebook, and the collective buzz around the conference all point towards one consistent conclusion: Pakistan is ready to take off exponentially, and the belief is that this will manifest in the coming three years.
And I believe it as well based on what I have witnessed. I have never seen a more enthusiastic and passionate group of entrepreneurs all working towards a common goal. The Momentum Tech Conference, which is an enormous conference and expo, has brought some 15,000 people, including every major player in Pakistan, together to make the ascension of Pakistan a reality.
There are CEOs who gave up their high-paying jobs to join the government in order to implement policy change from within. Others are returning from Europe, Australia, and the United States after 10 years.
An incredible passion unites them all, and there is no sign of ego in the building. Every talk, every panel discussion, every startup pitch is not concentrated on founder personality nor money, but rather all towards building not only local solutions, but scalable ones to bring them onto the global stage.
Ecommerce platform Fishry, for example, partnered with Microsoft, and is now seeing 30% growth month-on-month.
The Microsoft Cloud Society helps entrepreneurs connect with peers and industry leaders while updating cloud computing skills.
Abacus – a consulting company, is the only platform in Pakistan to partner with Amazon Web Services.
Since the launch of Pakistan’s first and largest incubator, Plan 9, in 2012, the startup scene has been slowly rumbling, and now it is reaching a tipping a point.
Other incubators, accelerators, and universities quickly followed suit and now they are popping up everywhere. These include the National Incubation Centre (NIC), 10xC, the Technology Incubation Centre through the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), TechValley, and MUET, to name a few.
The Pakistani government is also coming around with plans “to make 3G, 4G like air,” according to the prime minister.
The fact that I, an American, was able to come to Karachi for Momentum just two weeks after being invited with the new ‘business visa on-arrival’ program, speaks volumes to how the country is looking to attract foreigners to come and check out what Pakistan has to offer.
And boy! have they delivered, and with a warm hospitality unlike anywhere else in the world. In the airport, I was offered chai by the immigration officer, the Momentum organizers, including its Founder, Eocean CEO Syed Amir Jafri, personally picked me up and brought me to my hotel, and everyone is ready to help without being overbearing.
In some places one travels, there is a false sense of courtesy hiding behind clenched smiles that lets you know that they are expecting something.
There is none of that that I have encountered here; only genuine generosity and concerns of comfort.
Pakistan is on the cusp of rising. Its ascension is powered by its own ingenuity, powerful partnerships, government iniatives, and those returning home after years abroad to empower their brothers and sisters towards a better life and a digital future.
Tim traveled to Karachi courtesy of Momentum.