Building a startup is risky business. The odds of failure outweigh those of success. Despite that, every year we see plenty of fresh ideas coming forward. However, there’s always a catch. For startups to flourish in a country like Pakistan, an ecosystem that facilitates the development of innovative ideas is crucial. With 75 million of its 200 million population residing in cities, the demand for new services is ever increasing. 50% of this urban population is under the age of 20. Every year, Pakistan has over 2 million new job seekers entering a market that lacks the necessary infrastructure for the youth to prosper. With challenges like these, startup culture presents itself as the ideal solution: allowing new businesses to flourish while creating employment opportunities.
Exploring Pakistan’s Startup Culture
However, according to a report on Pakistan’s Digital Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, fewer than five of about 300 digital start-ups launched in Pakistan each year are sustainable due to the market for digital services being fragmented and immature. For a budding startup to be sustainable, the most crucial element is the ability to provide solutions that add value. One such startup is Xylexa, led by a team of young entrepreneurs who have developed an AI-powered, cloud-based tool to help in early cancer detection & diagnostics from mammograms.
The startup has so far been successful in achieving 90% accuracy in detecting breast cancer, filling a gap that had previously been left untouched. Xylexa was the winner of UberPitch 2018, a nationwide competition to enable aspiring tech startup professionals to get guidance by experienced trainers and eventually have their ideas judged by investors and mentors. After winning UberPitch, Xylexa went on to connect with a global community of entrepreneurs at the ArabNet startup expo in Beirut, Lebanon on June 2019.
“Building a startup from the ground-up brings with it a multitude of challenges especially in Pakistan where there is a major gap in facilitating budding entrepreneurs,” says Shahrukh Babar, CEO Xylexa. “We’ve been lucky to have had access to platforms like UberPitch that connected us to a global community of entrepreneurs.”
However, many startups are still struggling to find access to not only potential investors, but mentors who can guide them in bringing their business ideas to reality.
The tech industry has only recently started recognizing this gap and has made efforts towards facilitating startup culture in Pakistan. The government’s National Incubation Centre’s have played a major role in this. Initiatives like WeCreate, IdeaGist, Jazz xlr8 and many more have also been pivotal in creating a space for new startups to emerge and pitch their ideas to potential investors.
Despite efforts, concerns still loom that a large number of startups are struggling to find the right kind of mentorship to bring their business ideas into the mainstream. However, with platforms like UberPitch, we are seeing steps in the right direction as young innovators make strides in areas previously left unexplored.