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The Plan9 Effect: How One Incubator is Shaping a Nation
Last week Plan9 began its selection process for its biannual incubation cycle. The 4th batch saw 1,800 teams apply out of whom 87 have been shortlisted to take part during their Launchpad event out of which just 20 teams will be invited to join the incubator. In addition to holding selection events in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, Plan9 also partnered with Acumen Fund to hold a joint selection program for 2 startups that focus solely on social entrepreneurship.
Plan9 is the brainchild of Umar Saif an Entrepreneur, Technologist and Innovator, whose work on grassroots technologies earned him the title of Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and was named amongst the top 35 young innovators in the world by MIT Technology Review in 2011. Now at the age of 35 his dream is for Pakistan’s first global startup to come through Plan9’s rapidly expanding doors.
Under the watchful eye of its Program Manager, Nabeel Qadeer, Plan9 which originally started as an incubator now also features a co-working space for freelancers by the name of TechHub, has a wide range of mentors and is now embarking on launching an accelerator by the name of PlanX.
As Pakistan continues to find ways to grow its economy and reduce its public debt, finding good investment opportunities that are not in big infrastructure projects is a challenge. To promote local entrepreneurs Plan9 is creating the country’s first Angel Investors Club to help support locals startups in raising much needed early stage funding. In a country where early stage capital is primarily available through an entrepreneur’s own family and friends network, Plan9 aims to act as a bridging point for angel investors and sway them towards investing in early stage companies that demonstrate a claim on cutting edge innovation or social inclusion.
Having begun in August 2012 with their first incubation cycle starting in November 2012, we recently looked at how some of Plan9’s graduating batch was doing. 44 startups have been incubated in the first 3 batches and as a group have been able to raise funding of over $500,000 with startups such as Groopic, XGear, Appography and KickStoro being selected to join accelerator’s across the US, Europe and Asia.
Plan9’s success has also attracted others to start incubators in Pakistan. The Centre of Entrepreneurship at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) will be launching a new incubator, called The Foundation, also based in Lahore this summer. They will be following the launch of the incubator with a network of Plug ’N’ Play Business Centre’s around LUMS and a seed stage fund to invest in promising local startups.
Effects on the Ecosystem
With the launch of their 4th batch Plan9 is setting a trail for all others in Pakistan to follow. Their partnership with Acumen Fund shows their ability to connect with a local investment group and creating partnerships that bring forward technological advances and create social and economic opportunities in Pakistan. They also signed an agreement with Blackbox to send two Pakistani startups each year to be hosted in Silicon Valley at their Connect immersion program.
For Pakistan this can be seen as a very positive trend denoting the continuous development of its entrepreneurial ecosystem. With competition for places tougher than ever before certifying the fact that Pakistan as a nation hosts an extremely lucrative breeding ground for entrepreneurial ventures. Incubators such as Plan9 are playing a vital role in fostering an environment that nurtures the growth and development of young entrepreneurs.
For better or worse, Plan9 efforts have reshaped the entire startup ecosystem in Pakistan and might even help overhaul the shape of Pakistan’s economy into a more entrepreneurial one.