Startup Insiders continues in Islamabad – but mostly for students

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Even though Green & White is officially no longer supporting Startup Insiders, the activities in Islamabad seem to have been taken over by Nust and BrightSpyre who are continuing events under that brand (no we didnt officially give it to them). The 8th Startup Insiders is going to be held at the NIIT / NUST campus in Rawalpindi on April 4 with the theme “Starting Up: The first essential steps”.

Spirits are high on the front of PASHA, the organizers, and also the NIIT students who have been asking for an on-campus SI ever since SI#2, and who would also get to speak to and meet some great panelists hailing from diverse backgrounds in media, telecom, web, CDROM development, and elsewhere.

I was invited to be on the panel as well, so look forward to connecting with students with brilliant products to show to the world. But I do have one thought though that is very likely to get me disinvited from SI events :)

I’ll say it anyway because we earned your respect and support at G&W from being transparent and objective, not by giving into political needs for silence.

sI-logo-smallThe only thought I have here is that based on the theme and expected audience, this is also going to be a “general motivational” session mostly covering the backgrounds and experiences of the panel – much similar to SI #1-3. After NUST this could probably be repeated in many many other universities as well but at some point down the road SI needs to evolve to realize its calling as a platform to help entrepreneurs get to the next stage by giving them practical, immediate support in improving their products, their plans, their network, their access, and more.

To a small degree this is already happening – we’ve had PixSense giving a desk at their firm to another guy with a product in Karachi recently; some of the panelists also helping startups offline after the events; we made some business partners and friends as well through the events. The PASHA group in Karachi also seems to be committed to this somewhat by inviting investors into every one of the Khi events so far.

On the other hand though, I have startups (and I mean people actually in the field starving to death for success and doing this fulltime) telling me they are disinterested in participating in SI because, beyond entertainment and the ability to connect with individuals, to them (and by them I mean those hardcore guys) SI has been evolving into a series of MBA-style lectures merged with snippets of practical advice. To them, the event doesn’t conclude in them finding an immediate answer that helps them tweak and improve their hit ratio for business. Some have even suggested that the bigger focus for SI seems to be becoming self-promotion (I dont think its been that way so far in any of the events that I’ve been to, but this is what I’ve heard from a few folks).

Practical, immediate, support for entrepreneurs would require SI evolving with either more vertical focus — vertical-industry specific sessions where startups from a particular industry are connected and mentored and guided by panelists from that industry — or by horizontal focus — where one event gives the upcoming startups some very achievable homework which can help propel their business forward, which focuses everyone on their future.

Practical homework can include “build a pitch”, “Go demo your thing to XYZ and we’ll figure out the next step from there next time”, “add this feature on your thing this month and we’ll bring ABC to the next event so that you can show this to them and hopefully get going”, “next time we’ll bring HIJK who’s an expert in your particular space so that he can guide you better, but to get the best advice from him it would be good to give him blah.”

Practical support includes focus and relevance in connecting the right people with the right mentees. It involves a global-facing view where the activities from each of the cities shouldn’t been looked at in isolation, but rather all of the participants from all three cities should be able to connect with each other and build upon each others’ shoulders. It requires welcoming everyone as potential experts in a niche space, not just those we know. It requires a roadmap and community buy-in. It requires process.

There is a very big difference between a person who is trying to decide between a job in a bank vs a startup, and a person who has already made that decision, has jumped into it fulltime, but needs to know how to grow and succeed at his startup.

My only thought is that I hope SI continues to focus all their plans and energies on the right person out of those two, because if you lose focus and are unable to help the entrepreneurs get to the next stage, you also lose the community around SI which is spending so much of their energies into supporting this brand.

Feel free to disagree, but dont lose your temper or hold personal grudges against me for speaking out some free advice for SI… business needs to be objective and we should all be able to absorb and respect each others’ perspectives.

Looking forward to seeing you all on the 4th. If nothing else, these panelists are incredibly accomplished individuals and it would be great to meet them.

Facebook comments:


  • (Thanks you Osama for speaking up. I hope this will help the people behind the session to understand what we need and want.)


    This is my situation like many others. When I first heard of Startup Insiders, It seemed a platform that will help us (wana-be entrepreneurs) start. Please guys, decide who is the audience, and address them!

    This is what we were told:

    A lot of bright, energetic and passionate entrepreneurs have great ideas but want to figure out how to take their brilliant idea and convert it into a business – how do they think about product strategy, packaging, distribution, marketing, hiring a multi-disciplinary team?

    We think one of the best ways of mentoring people on these ideas is by meeting very informally and very frequently with mentors and people who can truly help them. REF

  • i kind of agree, for me, the biggest attraction has become the ability to interact with the panelists and network with people i know will becoming..

    SI is fast loosing traction, and if it continues to repeat the same theme over and over, then they’re going to loose one of their followers in isb atleast.

  • I have not been to a SI event yet. I had the opportunity to visit the one held at LUMS but some how having read the coverage on previous events, I felt it was not something that would help me.

    As some one who has left a corporate career to work on a startup, I feel more practical sessions are required. What about bootstrapping experience? Not every one wants to develop prototypes, killer pitches and find a VC. Some of us want to do things our way, and build a user base by putting in the hard years. Some of us may have a different business plan which does not depend upon spinning off and handing over majority equity to some guy with lots of money.

    We need basic, nitty gritty, balls of steel advice. Any one out there?

  • I think SI might about setting up its own mentorship program a la BAP of MITCEF. But with the difference that, these low key poeple (successful professionals) give practical advice to people to reach the 100K – 3 Million $ figure to be eligible for BAP. I see SI as a supplier of enterprises to BAP. Lets see, how they see themselves.
    Anyway, can’t we have something like SCORE / Incubators here in Pakistan? Funding can / should be made available from the many Govt Agencies.

  • Muhammad Asif

    But isn’t this dilution of the SI platform. There is no room for dilution in focus within enterpreneurship. This way SI shall soon not remain a beacon of direction and support to budding entrepreneurs but more of a literary circle. That is fine but then the positioning should be appropriated as well.

    In case SI actually is taking a different direction I am sure enterpreneurs would want another platform to cater their specific needs.

  • @ Kamram, Muhammad Asif:

    Do you smell “another platform” HERE and HERE.

  • Sohail – are you trying to throw gasoline on an open flame?

    What I said on the SI post still stands – we’re still trying to see what we can do. Whatever is done will have to be done professionally because only that is fair to the expectations of startups here.

  • Its good to know you’re anticipating something though!

  • Oh No No No…

    Ain’t it good if there are more good things in life?

    It was just my analysis. I’m sorry if it is caused any problems. (you said in your comment in the later post that it is an year old. How could I know by reading the post!)

  • Oh No No No…

    Ain’t it good if there are more good things in life?

    It was just my analysis. I’m sorry if it is caused any problems. I wont be anticipating things now. (plz delete the previous comment)

  • Hey no by all means anticipate good things from us :)

    The only thing is that I dont want anyone thinking I only wrote about SI so I could promote somethign else later on… thats no ethical and not true.

  • Ibra Asghar

    I have never attended any SI session before.Looking forward to the one tomorrow…Regarding your concern,I just wanted to say, that unfortunately in Pakistan we have these limited “Professions” and hardly anyone I have met thinks outside the box…

    I understand the need for practicle support you are talking about but encourging more ppl to “think outside the box”…you are actually creating an environment where these things are much more easier to achieve.More ppl starting up…greater the pressure for growth…i hope u get my point..

    with all due respect I dont see any thing is wrong with motivational talk n all.The universities and industry needs to collaborate(on all fronts) for the real growth of IT. industry of Pakistan.

  • True Ibra – there are places and a need for both.

    But if all we do is motivate others to start without also linking it to practical support, we are setting people up for disappointment because they will start with enthusiasm but perhaps with the wrong set of expectations. When realities hit and there is nothing to help them fall back to (just motivation) things can fall apart.

    We’ve been covering interesting startups consistently since August and still every day Im finding new products out on the web built by local entrepreneurs. I think the number of people doing these things fulltime are more than it might seem at the start, but a lot of them have this cool thing that they cant figure out how to make a living out of – they keep falling back into rentacoder or elance projects. The actionable support doesnt just say “well create value and the money will follow” it looks at their specific thing and gives them specific advice.

    One generic panel cannot give specific advice unless they have been trained on analyzing different business models.

    If they’re not, then the best approach is to connect them with the specific mentor from the specific industry who can provide actionable advice – perhaps a bit like what MITCEF BAP does in their process.

  • hummm we both agree on offering motivational speeches and practicle support. I guess the problem comes when we analyse what needs to be done, what is been done , and how it can all be done.

    So according to you de SI sessions are not doing a relatively good job when it comes to providing the much needed support…The question Osama is “who is ready for taking that initiative”…

    I know for a fact that things like these are easier said than done,and the disillusion you pointed out is a hurdle that every “startup” face.But what can be done to carter for that, since connecting the right people to the “startup” isn’t probably the easiest job.

    I don’t think, that you industry ppl(talking generally…) also knw all the right ppl who would be interested in a particular project,bussiness,etc. It’s about contacts…

    I suggest ther should be some sort of forum where people coming up with new ideas can market their brilliance, and who ever from the industry is interested, can contact n provide that break.

    how can that be achieved, I leave that to you smart industry people. 😀

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