Yes, guys, no more complaining that there isnt a formal channel for funding for entrepreneurs in Pakistan – 3 VC funds announced at TES in Lahore their intention to manage Pakistani-specific investments. Here are the details:
Abraaj Capital – Private Buyout fund
Abraaj Capital based out of the UAE are looking to provide private buyout money for publically traded companies – these are strategic funds that help the capital traded company immediately accelerated growth in a new area of opportunity, while the fund usually benefits from getting majority stake in a strategic company. Naturally, this means your company should have already thoroughly dominated a market and would be looking to enter into new lines of business AFTER an IPO – its a very late stage fund.
JS Private Equity – Private Equity and (sometimes) startup fund
Ali J. Siddiqui is the Managing Partner at JS Private Equity, which is a Private Equity fund. Private Equity funds are used for companies who have already raise many series of Venture Capital, and are very stable in operations but want to grow further in an area. Typically these are the large private groups of companies who need capital to expand into newer markets.
While this is also significantly later-stage, Ali did mention that they consider startups working in the Financial industry for investment as well, claiming that they have funded 4 startups thus far.
Their key areas of interest for investments seem to be alternative energy, agricultural optimization, and businesses serving high-volume low-income segments.
Note: Startup here means atleast 4 months of revenue, and given their key areas of interest you should have something that seriously thinks of disrupting society within Pakistan, even if its in some hi-tech way (maybe a high-tech supply management system or GPS-based Agriculture System)
ePlanet Ventures – Venture Capital Fund
ePlanet was the premier VC fund that decided to go global and invest in companies like Skype and Baidu – which have now turned out to be fantastic investments for the firm.
They have announced that they’ll be looking to put some Venture Capital in Pakistan.
A Venture Capital fund usually looks at companies with 6-12 months of revenue, a solid idea of their core customer segments and a plan to take the business to next stage (usually be taking the same business model to other regions or global expansion).
ePlanet is particularly keen about high-tech investments in mobile and web.20 spaces, but again as a VC they may not welcome proposals that dont have income statements to show.
Concordia Ventures – Angel and Venture fundraising advice
While not announcing any formal fund at the moment, Concordia’s Naeem Zafar has been a key supporter and mentor for entrepreneurs from Pakistan raising capital or trying to get the attention of Silicon Valley. All of them have regarded his advice very highly.
I didnt get a chance to speak to him in person but from his session he knows the practical path that goes in between 2 guys in a garage and 300 people in a state-of-the-art office (i.e. Series B VC funds).
Bonus – National ICT R&D Fund – University through Startup innovations
Dr. Qassim Shiekh heads the National ICT R&D Fund. This I mention because these are the only guys I heard who were willing to consider projects coming straight out of universities. So for students with brilliant ideas, they recommend getting a professor on-board for your idea who can build a sustainable model for your company that will be beyond the classroom, and prepare for a thorough evaluation process for the idea
The Bottom Line
Its time to stop sitting around waiting for the money to pour in – dont throw a question at an investor that goes like “I have this great idea but no investors around… otherwise I’d do it”.
Whatever stage of business you’re in and whatever path you take for funds, this will be a very exhaustive lengthy process, so if you’re not fully committed to an idea that can last many many years on its own without any serious dents from competition, dont jump in.
If you have jumped in and dont have an idea like that, try to reorganize your plan repeatedly until you feel that the plan is ready for showcasing to structured investment sources.
In the words of Naeem Zafar:
“When I was raising funds for one of my companies I called over 400 VCs after my entire plan was made, submitted the full plan to 200 of them, got 20 invitations for a first-level meeting, 4 invitations for a followup meeting out of which 1 offered a term-sheet. This process took 6-8 months and consumes every fibre of your body during that time. Unless you have done this or are ready to do this, dont expect VC capital”