OPEN Forum Attracts 600 Pakistani Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

OPEN Forum 2010 in Silicon Valley, California attracted nearly 600 people, including entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, engineers, lawyers, physicians and others on June 5, 2010. It was an all day conference organized by the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN) in Silicon Valley featuring 5 plenary sessions, and over a dozen break-out sessions addressed by 58 speakers and panelists on special topics of interest to various groups of attendees. The conference had a large number of sponsors, including dozens of Silicon Valley companies founded or managed by Pakistani-Americans.



This post is based on partial coverage of the event. For more details, please view the conference video recordings on facebook available via Vpype, a startup founder by Pakistani-American entrepreneur Shoieb Younus.

The conference was opened by Naeem Zafar, President of OPEN Silicon Valley, who briefly described the conference agenda and the organization's objectives and its various events and activities for the audience. It was followed by a morning keynote featuring Faysal Sohail who manages energy, materials and IT portfolios for CMEA Capital with over a billion dollars in venture investments.

Morning Keynote:

Keynote speaker Faysal Sohail described the last decade of 2000-2009 as "zero decade" in terms of returns for the US venture capital industry. He then went on to explain the massive impact of small start-ups as the employment engine of the nation's economy, citing Kauffman Foundation's data that virtually all of the net new jobs from 1980 to 2005 were created by companies less than 5 years old.

Faysal sounded an optimistic note about opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship that lie ahead for his audience at OPEN Forum 2010. Emphasizing the fact that the United States remains #1 in innovation, he picked energy, healthcare and information technology sectors for tremendous opportunities for researchers and entrepreneurs.

In energy sector, Faysal said that the nearly 2 billion people in Asia coming out of poverty will need energy to drive their productivity. He specifically mentioned the areas of energy production (solar, wind, bio fuels), energy storage (grid scale storage) and efficiency (LEDs, Sensors).

In healthcare, Faysal mentioned new drugs (cancer, diabetes, pain management) and new devices (hearing aids, optical, surgical equipment).

In information technology, he brought up web 2.x (social web, mobile), strategic outsourcing (tech platform, outsourcing), and software as service (enterprise solutions).

In closing, Faysal declared that "the best is yet to come", and the opportunities for entrepreneurship are vast with large global markets and capital-efficient startups relying on outsourcing of infrastructure and tools.

Social Entrepreneurs Panel:

Moderated by Saad Khan, a partner at CMEA Capital, this panel featured Salman Khan of Khan Academy, Leila Janah of Samasource, Tabreez Verjee of Kiva, and Misbah Naqvi of Acumen Fund.

The panelists described what they do as social entrepreneurs and what led them to it. Salman Khan started at a hedge fund before he was inspired by a cousin and her friends to create Khan Academy for tutoring math and science via his Youtube channel.

Leila Janah of Samasource went to work for the World Bank in Washington to fight poverty, but she was soon soured by the bank bureaucracy whose focus was on self-interest rather than the interest of the world's poor which it is supposed to serve. Her first day at the World Bank was spent at a seminar advising bank employees on financing a second home. She quit her job to found Samasource, which is a non-profit service that seeks contracts from companies in the West, and slices large contracts into microwork tasks like data entry, software testing, transcription and research outsourced to the poor, but educated, workers abroad.

Tabreez Verjee serves on the board of Kiva, a Silicon valley startup that combines microfinance with the Internet to create a global community of people connected through lending. The company allows lenders to lend amounts as small as $25 and choose who to lend to via the Internet. The funds are disbursed to small entrepreneurs and loans repaid using existing microfiance companies operating in different parts of the world. Kiva is working with Asasah microfinance in Pakistan.

Misabah Naqvi is the business development manager of Acumen fund which invests in social enterprises. She was originally a banker in Pakistan before joining the Acumen Fund. The fund is a business rather than a charity, and puts all of its returns back into the fund to support more social efforts based on sustainability, scale and social impact. In addition to investing in microfinance, the Acumen fund has invested in Saiban which is building low-cost housing in Pakistan.

Reasons to Believe in Pakistan:

Mir Ibrahim Rahman, the young CEO of Pakistan's private TV channel Geo TV, previewed his planned media campaign "Reason to Believe" or RTB in Pakistan. It is designed to offer "reason to believe" to build a solid foundation for progress. Mir articulated a whole series of reasons to believe in Pakistan's future ranging from its young population, its vast energy resources in form of coal deposits, its great potential as a food basket, and its long coastline, to its strategic location in terms of world trade in energy, goods and services.

He said Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear assets required a great deal of hard work and tenacity, great qualities that can also be put to use in developing Pakistan's industrial and technology sectors. Mir said Pakistanis should celebrate their dual heritage from the great Indus civilization and their Islamic ancestors in Baghdad.

He lauded the role of Pakistani expatriates in funding Pakistan to the tune of $10 billion a year, and suggested there was a lot of room for growth in investments from overseas Pakistanis.

He expressed optimism that the birth pangs of democracy will start to pay dividends in Pakistan in the near future. He pointed to the successful passage of the 18th amendment, the consensus on the NFC award for allocation of federal funds to various provinces, and the assertive judiciary as good signs for the nation.

Electric Vehicles Panel:

The panel included Richard Lowenthal, Founder and CEO of Coulomb Technologies and Maurice Gunderson, senior partner at CMEA Capital. It was moderated by Faysal Sohail, MD of CMEA.

Lowenthal, who said he drives BMW's MINI-E all-electric car, outlined the benefits of electric vehicles in terms of "no tail-pipe" and low cost of "2 cents a mile". He was immediately challenged by Gunderson on both counts, and responded as follows:

1. The 2 cents a mile cost does not reflect the true cost of electricity generated by burning coal. A lot of the cost of coal-burning is externalized by power companies in terms of the dead and sick coal miners and environmental pollution and other costs to society.

2. The little tail-pipes in cars are simply replaced by huge smokestacks at coal-burning power plants.

3. Policy drives economics; Economics does not drive policy. Putting price on carbon by taxing CO2 emissions can fundamentally alter the cost calculations to make renewables more competitive.

Both panelists agreed that there is a need for a comprehensive energy policy that reflects the true costs of various fuels for optimal mix of energy sources in the United States. Electric cars make sense if they result in overall environmental improvements at reasonable costs. In addition to solar, wind and biofuels options, Gunderson argued for more nuclear power as well.

Assuming that the earth is a hollow sphere filled with oil, Gunderson said he did a calculation back in the 1970s on how long the oil would last at the rate of increase in the 1970s. He concluded that the oil would last 86 years. Although the rate of increase in oil consumption has declined since the 1970s because of significant improvements in the internal combustion engine efficiency, the fact remains that the earth is not a hollow sphere filled with oil. Eventually, the oil and other fossil fuels will run out, and new energy sources will be needed to sustain reasonable standards of living.

Lowenthal discussed the key issues in electric vehicles adoption ranging from the size and capacities of new batteries to the frequency and duration of charging and the need for recharge infrastructure for it. Silicon Valley's Tesla Motors is solving the problem by putting in a very large battery pack to have a range of 300 miles. Shai Agassi's Better Place in Israel is pushing battery swap-out stations along the highways.

Birds of Feather Sessions:

There were a number of BoF sessions at the conference. Three such sessions were offered to alumni from NED University in Karachi, University of Engineering and Technology (UET) Lahore and Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK) Institute in Topi, KPK. Among these, I attended the NED BoF which attracted about 40 NEDians, more than the other two. Several NEDians could not attend because they were speakers or panelists at other session that conflicted in time with the NEDians BoF.

Afternoon Keynote:

The keynote speaker was Iqbal Quader, the founder of Grameephone in Bangladesh and currently the head of MIT's Legatum Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He shared the story of how he persuaded Dr. Muhammad Younus of Grameen Bank to invest in Grameenphone. He used the analogy of Grameen's cow loans to poor villagers in Bangladesh to describe how the mobile phone could be a thought of as a cow that produces revenue by enabling people in remote villages to communicate with others to stay connected and improve productivity. The revenue from the phone calls would enable better livelihood for small entrepreneurs and help repay the loans to expand access and empower villagers. Younus was persuaded, and the rest is history.

Quader believes that the proliferation of mobile phones offered by private telecom companies as a communication tool has empowered Bangladeshi people to improve their lives in many ways...something that was unimaginable under the government owned phone monopoly which concentrated power with 67% of the phones in the capital city of Dhaka. The proliferation of cell phones means devolution of power to the people, and it has far reaching positive impact for society at large in developing nations. The dramatic improvements in ordinary people's ability to communicate, organize and do business anytime, anywhere will have positive results in terms of economics and politics of the nations experiencing the mobile communications revolution.

Summary:

I think OPEN Forum 2010 was well worth the time and the energy that was put into it by the organizers and the attendees alike. I believe the conference clearly succeeded in its immediate objective of bringing aspiring entrepreneurs of Pakistani origin together with many investors and mentors in Silicon Valley, informing the audience and stimulating discussion of new ideas and opportunities, and educating the speakers and the attendees. But its real impact won't be apparent until there is a significant critical mass with many more successful Pakistani entrepreneurs inspired by what they saw and heard at OPEN Forum 2010.

Related Links:

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Thorium Energy to Save Planet Earth?

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance in Pakistan

Silicon Valley Summit of Pakistani Entrepreneurs

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Pakistan's Middle Class Growth in 1999-2009

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
A big donor is giving $50 million to Stanford to help promote innovation and entrepreneurship for alleviating poverty in the developing world. Here are some excerpts from a Mercury News story:



A Silicon Valley venture capitalist has donated $100 million to Stanford University's Graduate School of Business to establish a new institute to promote entrepreneurship in developing countries and eventually alleviate poverty.



Robert King, along with his wife, Dorothy, also gave a second gift to the entire university, $50 million in matching funds to encourage more donations to Stanford. The couple's gift is the second-largest publicly disclosed single donation to the school, behind a $400 million donation in 2001 by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.



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"The institute will be about sponsoring and creating entrepreneurial activity in developing economies," said Robert King, 76, who founded Peninsula Capital in Menlo Park. "Stanford is in an absolutely leading position to do that."



The Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies will be devoted to research, education and on-the-ground support to help entrepreneurs innovate and grow their businesses. Students and faculty will travel abroad to help businesses overcome obstacles to growth. The institute also will provide formal courses for entrepreneurs and nonprofit employees overseas.

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The Kings say the inspiration for their philanthropy grew from hosting foreign students while they attended Stanford, a more than four-decade experience that underscored the importance of the link between education and entrepreneurship. It also led to a successful investment by Robert King, who provided seed money for China's giant search engine, Baidu, after he met the company's co-founders, Eric Xu and Robin Li, through one of the couple's home-stay students more than a decade ago.



"If anyone knows the value of encouraging entrepreneurship in the developing world, it's Bob King," Li said in an email statement. "Bob took a big chance on Baidu in our earliest days, investing in a Chinese search engine at a time when China's Internet was still in its infancy. I'm sure that this generous endowment will help create some great business leaders in the developing world."



The institute will build on work Stanford students and faculty already are engaged in through a collaboration of the business school and the university's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design in which products and business models are created for the developing world.



One venture to emerge from this work is d.light, a company creating products for people without access to reliable electricity. The institute will dispatch students and faculty members to work with overseas businesses and NGOs, or nongovernment organizations, identified as having great promise by other organizations.



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"If their research is focused on Guatemala, we will send them there," Lee said.



The university is beginning the process to hire three tenure-track professors to fill research positions in the institute. They will join four current Stanford professors, Saloner said.



The Kings, who are active philanthropists, also founded the Thrive Foundation for Youth, which supports research on youth development and organizations that work with young people.


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http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_19262908
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistanis have less favorable attitude towards entrepreneurship than the people living in other countries under similar economic conditions, according to a report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) released here on Saturday.

GEM is an international research consortium, which measures entrepreneurial activity of individuals in 59 countries.

The GEM report on Pakistan for 2010, which was sponsored in the country by the Centre for Entrepreneurial Development of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), divides 59 countries into three categories: Factor-driven economies, efficiency-driven economies and innovation-driven economies. Pakistan falls into the category of factor-driven economies.

Explaining the objectives of the research, Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Associate Director Dr Shahid Qureshi said it measured entrepreneurial attitudes, activity and aspirations through in-depth review of individual entrepreneurial characteristics of the adult (18-64) population in all parts of the country.

“It also lists factors that affect the level of entrepreneurial activity in society besides making suggestions to promote entrepreneurship,” Qureshi said.

According to the report, the new business ownership rate, which is the percentage of owner-managers of a business that is three to 42 months old, is 2.7% in Pakistan. It is ‘considerably less’ than the average rate for factor-driven economies (11.8%).

The established business ownership rate in Pakistan is 4.7%, according to the study, which is less than the average rate for factor-driven economies (12.6%).

The report’s key measure of entrepreneurship in a society is total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA) rate, which is the sum of the nascent entrepreneurship rate and the new business-manager rate. According to the study, the TEA rate for Pakistan is 9.08%, which is lower than the average TEA rate for the factor-driven economies (11.7%).

The report says that early-stage entrepreneurs and business managers in Pakistan have low aspirations to grow as compared to most GEM participating countries. Besides, the report says that 27.73% of the total working-age population, including those who are entrepreneurially active, was of the view that fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business. However, the fear of failure in Pakistani population is less than the average of the factor-driven economies.

Speaking on the occasion, IBA Director and Dean Dr Ishrat Husain said the cost of IBA’s affiliation with Babson College of the United States was $1 million a year. “Despite all financial constraints, we’re not going to give up the affiliation.” Husain said that out of the national workforce of 50 million people, the large-scale manufacturing sector employed only one million people. He said a majority of the 49 million people was employed by the agricultural sector and small and medium-size enterprises.

Addressing the ceremony, Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said he dropped out of IBA after taking one semester many years ago. In contrast to the findings of the report, which emphasised the importance of entrepreneurship education, Shah said it was more about the urge within oneself. “Don’t count on others. Follow your gut feeling and do what you want,” he said.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/311603/global-entrepreneurship-monitor-pakistanis-less-enthusiastic-about-entrepreneurship/
Riaz Haq said…
Khan Academy.org is the 6485th most popular site in Pakistan based on a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews. 1.3% of the Khan Academy.org users come from Pakistan and they generate 0.6% of the pageviews on Khan Academy.org, according to Alexa.

http://www.appappeal.com/maps/khan-academy-org/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Guardian report on social entrepreneurship in Pakistan:

The social enterprise landscape in Pakistan is nascent but fast-growing. From diverse sectors ranging from dairy farms to educational hubs to micro drip irrigation, early-stage enterprises have the potential of achieving hybrid financial return and social impact. Crucially, they are attracting interest from impact investors and business angels alike.

But how can these entrepreneurs be better financed, nurtured and trained?

Crucially, funding for small enterprises should meet the specific needs of the entrepreneur from seed financing to venture capital to growth equity. Social entrepreneurs need financial, but also non-financial, support such as mentoring, implementation guidance, and skills training development. Business school 'accelerator' programs and incubator hubs, which aim to accelerate the development of successful enterprises through such support mechanisms, combined with strong policy frameworks, can help create a long-term, self-sustaining ecosystem.

A report launched today by the Economic Policy Group (EPG) explores how incubator hubs can unlock the innovation potential of Pakistan's social entrepreneurs.

Successful incubator models already exist in some of Pakistan's premier business schools. The country's top business school, the IBA in Karachi, has in fact launched a partnership with Invest2Innovate (i2i), a social impact intermediary, to fast track the best entrepreneurs through its i2i Accelerator, a four-month program providing access to quality entrepreneurship education, skills, and opportunities.

"The IBA-i2i partnership helps start-ups who have passion and ability, but not the resources, to start their own businesses. It is a necessary step for growing and scaling viable businesses in the Pakistani market," says Kalsoom Lakhani, founder of i2i.

Other independent incubators across Pakistan, such as the Pasha Social Innovation Fund and Women's Business Incubation Centre, work with entrepreneurs across demographic segments in both rural and urban areas. The rise in popularity of these players is largely due to their ability to harness technology and digital media as communication platforms to empower entrepreneurs.

In the northern areas of Pakistan, where honey is one of the main agricultural commodities, Hashoo Foundation's Honeybee Project provided women beekeepers with beehives, as well as the associated training programmes to transfer this specialised skill-set to the wider community.
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According to Dr Iman Bibars, regional director of Ashoka Arab World, "creating awareness for the potential of entrepreneurship among policymakers, relevant institutions and the public at large is essential to help establish an enabling environment that social entrepreneurs can flourish in."

On a macro level, the investment in human talent and institutions will raise both investor confidence and entrepreneurial confidence in the country. By changing minsets through incubator hubs, education, mentoring and training programmes, a strong enabling environment for social entrepreneurship can be fostered in Pakistan.


http://socialenterprise.guardian.co.uk/social-enterprise-network/2013/feb/07/pakistan-social-entrepreneurs-innovation-potential
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani-American NEDian Rehan Jalil's Cloud Security Startup Elastica Comes Out Of Stealth With $6.3M From Mayfield

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/18/cloud-security-startup-elastica-comes-out-of-stealth-with-6-3m-from-mayfield/?ncid=twittersocialshare via @techcrunch

Elastica, a cloud security startup launched in 2012, is coming out of stealth mode with $6.3 million in Series A funding from the Mayfield Fund. The startup is also launching its new apps that offer real-time threat detection and even post-incident forensic analysis.

As more enterprises embrace SaaS and other cloud-based services, they are increasingly feeling the need to have a different approach to security beyond just traditional firewalls. This shift means over $2 billion annual market for cloud security vendors like Elastica. As Gartner noted last year, the highest growth is forecast to occur in cloud-based tokenisation and encryption, security information and event management (SIEM), vulnerability assessment and web application firewalls.

Elastica joins a fast growing club of cloud security startups promising to combine data science and in some instances even machine learning tools to help companies and employees secure SaaS data. There’s huge investor interest in the segment and some of the biggest names in the enterprise software world are backing many of these startups.

Elastica was founded in 2012 by Rehan Jalil, former CEO of WiChorus, which was sold to Tellabs for $165 million in 2009.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/18/cloud-security-startup-elastica-comes-out-of-stealth-with-6-3m-from-mayfield/
Riaz Haq said…
Farrukh H Khan is the Country Director & CEO of Acumen Pakistan and one of the leading independent business and financial advisors in the country. With over 25 years of senior management and board level experience, Farrukh is the founding partner and former CEO of BMA Capital Management Limited. Under his stewardship, BMA established itself as the leading investment banking group in Pakistan and received several international awards, including the 2010 Euromoney award for the best investment bank in Pakistan.

He has worked on many landmark transactions, including advising the Privatisation Commission on the US $813 million GDR offering of Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), which was listed on the London Stock Exchange, and successfully advising Etisalat on their $2.6 billion acquisition of PTCL, the largest M&A and foreign direct investment in the history of Pakistan. He has a deep understanding of business and investment environment in Pakistan and has worked with the senior most levels in companies and governments. He also has an excellent network and knowledge of business in the Middle East and South Asia
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BR Research: Please give a brief description about Acumen.

Farrukh H Khan: Acumen began investing in Pakistan in 2002, and pioneered the idea of investing for social impact, which essentially means that we invest in businesses that serve the poor. Acumen itself in not for profit, so any return that we make gets reinvested for such ventures.

It is a new way of harnessing philanthropic capital. We do not give out grants or donations but encourage entrepreneurs in six key areas that we focus in: housing, education, health, water and sanitation, alternative energy, agriculture and financial services. We have pioneered the idea of using philanthropic capital to create and encourage sustainable models of development rather than donor driven models. One can also witness here in Pakistan that donor driven models do not suffice to address local issues of development.

This model does not replace traditional philanthropy and charity but we recognise that the poor can be helped with dignity and through sustainable models that are not donor driven. It requires a certain degree of patience because we also understand that establishing a pro-poor business can be time consuming. In our experience, anything between five to seven years is needed until such businesses become s..
......

BRR: How much is your work force in Pakistan?

FHK: We have a workforce of about 14-15 people in Pakistan. We work across all Pakistan while our main office is in Karachi and another office in Lahore.

BRR: Can you please tell something about the Acumen Fellowship program?

FHK: It is a one year full time programme. There were about 1200 applicants from 10 different countries last year. Fellows spend the first 3-4 months in New York going through a world class training programme. And the remaining nine months are spent with one of our portfolio companies on the ground. To scale up this programme we started regional programmes in different countries.

Under these regional programmes, the training is the same but the structure is more like that of an executive MBA. So the fellows continue with their current jobs and get together at intervals of 5-6 weeks over the course of a year to go through the training module.

This year, for 20 fellowships we got about 1000 applications. Our fellows come from diverse backgrounds and from across the country. The idea is that change should be indigenous and should be led by local people. The fellows should be involved in some social sector work and should also have a strong commitment to bring about progressive change.


http://www.brecorder.com/company-news/601:/1230073:philanthropic-capital-should-be-invested-more-strategically-for-poverty-alleviation-country-director-acumen-pakistan/?date=2014-10-03
Riaz Haq said…
The term social enterprise may be relatively new in Pakistan but it is gaining popularity in its areas of development.

While it may be an unfamiliar concept for many engaged in local grassroots businesses they can nevertheless see the potential of engaging in ventures which have a social impact.

According to the Opportunity Pakistan Report – produced by i-genius, an initiative supporting social entrepreneurs worldwide – despite the country’s social and political unrest, it offers opportunities for investment and innovation.

“Countries experiencing transition are fertile places for new ideas to thrive”, said Shivang Patel, commission coordinator of i-genius. “Despite media attention in the west on all things bad in the region we found a country progressing through slow but significant positive reforms. There is considerable untapped potential for social businesses”.

A new wave of creative and confident young entrepreneurs has emerged developing innovative start ups in areas such as environment, health and skills. Scores of young women and men from remote areas of Pakistan are becoming social entrepreneurs.

A longstanding lack of investment in Pakistan’s public sector has prompted local business leaders to invest in ideas which tackle issues such as water and sanitation problems as well as those which can address its energy and environmental concerns.

One such example is Pharmagen Water. Established in 2007,it aims to provide poor communities in Pakistan’s second largest city, Lahore, with affordable clean and purified drinking water. It is supported by the Acumen, which invests in entrepreneurs and creates venture capital which can provide solutions to causes of poverty.

Another business offering a solution to parts of Pakistan’s energy strapped areas is SRE Solutions. Established just last year with Acumen’s support it offers to harness solar energy for off-grid customers in districts of Punjab and Khayber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Similarly a low-cost engineering and construction enterprise, Ghonsla, was set up in the aftermath of Pakistan’s devastating earthquake in 2005. With 73,000 people killed and large parts of its cities and villages destroyed in the north by the disaster, the plight of 2.5 million people left homeless hung in the balance

The initial funding for Ghonsla’s pilot project came from Seed, Social Entrepreneurship and Equity Development, a venture which supports startups and grassroots innovations.

Its incubation centres in Pakistan provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs in their early years of startup.

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/oct/10/social-enterprise-is-an-emerging-force-in-pakistan

http://www.i-genius.org/

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