Your go-to-guide for Startup Funding in Pakistan

Ambition is the way to success and it is your will that will take you places. So as long as you’re following your passion, success must follow, right? 

Well, big dreams and empty pockets don’t bring success, you must be able to pitch your ideas effectively to get the money your big dreams demand. Success is a combination of passion, persistence and money. 

If you’re a passionate aspiring entrepreneur with a million-dollar idea, the first step is to dive deep into researching your consumer market, your competition, manufacturers, finance, revenue model, marketing, development plan – in short, each and every aspect of your product. That will not only help you execute your business better but also get funding easily.

Let’s go over some of the ways you can get funding for your startup in Pakistan.

1. Bootstrap

Most founders don’t need funding in the early stage of the company. If you can manage enough capital to headstart your startup, there is no better option than this. 

It lets you retain full control of your company, avoid paying interest and if things don’t work out, you don’t owe any amount to an investor. This is why most of the founders continue to bootstrap until their business is profitable.

The next option is to raise money from family and friends. This gives you the leverage to start your company on your own terms and pay it back as soon as your product starts to generate revenue without any additional interest costs. 

2. Government Funding Schemes

  • National Business Development Program for SMEs (NBDP) – A project by SMEDA

NBDP is a project of SMEDA (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority), funded through the Public Sector Development Program of the Government of Pakistan.

  • PKR 5,00,000 would be given on a first come first served basis subject to the fulfilment of eligibility and other terms and conditions.
  • It facilitates by equipping the aspirants with machinery and testing apparatus, office space, and required software along with their licenses.
  • For eligibility, the business must have an NTN and should’ve started within 1 year of applying date with at least 4 months of operation. 
  • Ignite – National Technology Fund

The government acknowledges startups being the building blocks of the knowledge economy, thus have been introducing programs and incentives to accelerate growth in this sector.

Through Ignite, the Government provides incentives to address market failures and form regulation that balances risk with innovation. 

Ignite funds companies and startups that aim to solve local problems through creativity and innovation, and that tackle global opportunities in diverse verticals. 

The services offered under this platform are:

  1. Seed Funding: After a careful process of application submission and evaluation, startups that pitch sustainable, profitable and innovative ideas are provided with the required capital. 
  2. FYP Funding: Ignite collaborates with Institutions to look out for disruptive final year projects that show high potential. It provides the students with funds to construct hardware and prototype of their software projects that could later be launched in the market. 
  3. Incubation Centres are discussed in detail in the next section. 
  4. Training through their platform DigiSkills. This program was developed to equip the youth, freelancers, students and professionals with the knowledge, skills, tools & techniques to make them suitable for global or local remote work.
  5. A platform for Investors and Mentors to gather
  • Innovator Seed Fund (ISF) – An initiative by HEC

The HEC has recently launched the Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project to help accelerate the economic engines of the country. Innovator Seed Fund (ISF) is an initiative under HEDP that helps aspiring entrepreneurs put their idea into action.

  1. The grant winners will receive up to $35,000 in seed funding.
  2. It offers the necessary guidance and support through BICs. It provides entrepreneurial training, legal training and support, financial education, business development service provision, and investment readiness training. In addition, successful start-ups will be 
  3. It further connects you to a range of funding sources to raise capital during the scale-up phase post-program.

Refer to this article to find out about all the initiatives by the government that facilitate young entrepreneurs and early-stage startups. 

3. Not-for-Profit Funding Organizations

  • Karandaaz

KARANDAAZ PAKISTAN is a not-for-profit special purpose vehicle that is the implementation partner of the Enterprise and Asset Growth Programme (EAGR) of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

They go by the vision “Financially Included, Economically Empowered Pakistanis!” 

It eases access to financial services for unserved MSMEs and unbanked individuals through a double bottom line investment platform. These technology-enabled solutions will bring the masses toward digitalized money and pace up economic growth. 

Karandaaz primarily focuses on women empowerment, youth employment and innovation. It facilitates growth in these domains by offering 4 products:

  • Karandaaz Capital: Provides wholesale structured cash and equity-linked capital to promising MSMEs.
  • Karandaaz Digital: Works towards financial inclusion by bringing all unbanked individuals and businesses to digital platforms. 
  • Karandaaz Knowledge: Provides personalized insights and solutions to companies to help them better their finances. 
  • Karandaaz Innovation: encourage disruptive approaches to address challenges in the financial inclusion space through the Innovation Challenge Fund.

4. Angel Investors

If you must take funding at the start the best option is angel investors, these are usually established business professionals with high net worths who are looking to invest in promising companies. 

You can reach angel investors with just a solid idea and an implementation plan with no working model. These are the earliest investors. But there sure is a trade-off when taking these “angels”.

Most angel investors require you to give up partial ownership of your company. 

However, every investor works differently, some will actively participate in decision-making while others may have a hands-off approach. 

Angel Investor Network

You, an aspiring entrepreneur want the right angel investor for your startup, and an investor looking for an early-stage startup investment needs promising companies. Angel Investor Network is a platform that connects both parties. 

It asks you if you’re looking for a fundraise or wish to invest. Register in your selected mode, search to find the right partner, and finally invest or get funded!

The homepage displays pitches of startups, what they do, what is the innovation they need funding for, the minimum required funding in total and per investor, all the basics are mentioned and detailed information can also be shared. 

Angel investing groups sometimes host events or competitions that can help provide new entrepreneurs with additional networking opportunities.

5. Venture Capitalists

Once your startup has proven worthy of large investments, shown profitable revenues and large consumer demand, it is only then you pitch your idea to Venture Capital. You must have an airtight business plan and an in-depth knowledge of the consumer market before opting for VC funds. 

VCs are looking for a return anywhere from 3-10 times their original investment, usually within the next 5-7 years, so be sure of who you get on board, the terms and conditions and the strategy shift given the company doesn’t generate the expected revenue. 

Venture capitalists tend to invest only in high-growth companies since there’s a significant amount of risk involved. In response to the huge funds primarily in the early stages, some VCs ask for a seat on the board of directors of the company they’re financing or a share in the ownership. 

The later you reach out to a VC, the more command you’d have over your company. 

We’ve mentioned some renowned VC firms successfully operating in Pakistan.

Sarmayacar backs daring entrepreneurs building market-transforming technology startups in Pakistan. It is the proud investor of exceptionally successful startups like Bykea, Jugnu, Dot&Line, Abhi, Dawaai and a few other great ones. 

DotZero is a team of founders that have gone through their share of fundraising struggles. They claim to know what the founders need and offer just the right services. 

Dotzero Ventures is an early-stage VC. It backs startups that have successfully demonstrated their sustainability, mass appeal, and business model through successful pilots. 

i2i Ventures invests in early-stage technology-enabled startups solving big problems in Pakistan. The team believes providing capital is not enough to back their portfolio startups instead they facilitate companies with technical assistance, an insightful team of mentors and access to local and international experts.

The companies under their portfolio are insanely successful both in terms of popularity and funding. Creditbook, Edkasa, Truck it in, Abhi and Taza being a few of them. I’m sure you’ve heard these startups making headlines last year and in the past few months. 

EDF aims to be Pakistan’s leading Fund supporting Entrepreneurs through Coaching/Mentorship and Funding. It is an early-stage VC that invests in passionate founders with a diverse range of companies from tech to agriculture. 

EDF has previously invested in companies based in Pakistan, Canada and the GCC region. 

6. Incubation Centres

An incubation centre is a set of all the facilities a nascent company and a first-time founder requires. The space, services, mentorship, access to potential partners, investors, and customers and foremost the capital all come as a package in Incubation centres.

The boom of Incubation centres across all universities and institutes followed by the widespread network of National Incubation centres throughout Pakistan uplifted many great companies that have now been receiving phenomenal global funding. 

It’s a community hub that is home to nearly 200 startups and thousands of entrepreneurs, students and professionals. It has been operating successfully for half a decade. In addition to all the facilities, you get to learn from a network of mentors and industry experts and other fellow startups.

Invest2Innovate has been supporting startup communities in growth markets for up to a decade. It provides support through the flagship program the i2i Accelerator, which has graduated 47 startups that have gone on to raise over $7.5M and create over 2000 jobs since 2012. 

Ignite startup portal has a network of NICs in 5 major cities of Pakistan. Up to date, it has committed to funds worth PKR 8.28 billion, admitted 846 startups, graduated 317 startups and have generated total revenue of PKR 2.95 billion. 

A great number of successful startups originated from this program. Additionally various seminars, workshops and conferences are arranged by Ignite all over the country to spread awareness, knowledge and skills. 

7. Loans to MSMEs

Landing traditional bank loans is pretty much impossible for low scale early-stage businesses. Most traditional lenders will lend only to established companies with strong financials.

If you can show that you’ve started gaining traction and making money which could be accelerated by a loan, only then will you qualify for a traditional bank loan.

Here is the list of some microfinance organizations and banks that give loans to small businesses in Pakistan:

  • U-Microfinance Bank Limited
  • Mobilink Microfinance Bank Limited
  • Pak Oman Microfinance Bank
  • FINCA Microfinance Bank Limited
  • NRSP Microfinance Bank Limited
  • Tameer Microfinance Bank
  • Khushhali Microfinance Bank
  • Apna Microfinance Bank Limited
  • First Microfinance Bank Limited

The mindboggling boom of the startup ecosystem is followed by an exponential increase in Investors dedicated to tech startups. Many Pakistan-based giants have received early funding from these platforms and later went on to raise millions of dollars bringing the most renowned investors to Pakistan. 

Raising money for your startup is no doubt a vigorously tiring process, but having so many fundraising opportunities at home makes it a lot easier. If you have experience with any of these platforms, we’d love to know your views and experiences. 

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