Headed by Nabeel A Qadeer, an experienced entrepreneur himself, Plan9 is Pakistan’s first technology startup incubation program, and it’s being run by the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). Like many other incubators, Plan9 provides space, mentorship, electricity (yes, electricity), and legal support for startups who are incubated. Plus there’s financial support.
How much money exactly?
Instead of getting a lump sum of funding, Plan9 told us that each startup team member receives a monthly stipend of PKR 20,000 (US$204) for six months. A Plan9 representative told me that in Pakistan power outages can last for 12 hours a day, so the reliable electricity is just as enticing as the money. Plan9’s office provides a conducive work environment where founders can code and work all night.
Plan9 also has a pretty extensive list of advisors, including Zafar Khan (CEO of Sofizar), Khurram Zafar (CIO, Lahore Stock Exchange), Jehan Ara (president of Pakistan Software Houses Association), and Badar Khushnood (Pakistan country consultant for Google). Plan9 also told me:
In addition to [our advisors], Plan9 is building a network of early-stage investors, and mentors from around the world. Hussein Kanji (angel investor), Shoaib Makani (Khosla Venture), Russell Smith (partner, SmithDehn) and Jawwad Farid (founder, Alchemy Technologies) are just some of the people who visited Plan9 in first cycle.
10 Pakistani startups to watch in 2013
Plan9 kick-started its first chapter in September 2012. 14 teams were selected from four launchpad competitions held in Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore (again). The teams officially joined the Plan9 incubator in November 2012 with the caveat that each team had to reach certain milestones during the first two months. That resulted in four teams exiting the program early, with the 10 startups below currently still in the program:
Eyedeus Labs: Making smartphones smarter by giving them eyes. The team develops ‘computer vision’ technologies for mobile devices, particularly enabling technologies for augmented reality and human-computer interaction.
Nosh Genie: Local businesses reviews and social recommendation engine.
Piclome: An app to upload event pictures on a single repository data storage to help involved users interact with each other.
LAMP: It stands for ‘Location Aware Management Platform’ and helps collect location field data. Provides business tools for user-driven analytics as well as customizable management dashboard.
Hybrid Signals: Digital and social media marketing company to assist brands in calculating the ROI from campaigns.
Peercloud: Peercloud is building Pagify. Pagify provides a web-based visual designer enabling documents to be designed completely within the browser.
Geniu: Working on system integration and technology products.
Travel Distribution Network: This startup claims to be Pakistan’s first B2C and B2B tourism platform, providing information and travel booking services domestically and internationally.
Roxcial: A Facebook store to handle orders and collect payments on your business’ Facebook page.
Plan9 has two incubation cycles each year and 15 teams are selected for each cycle. Teams for the next cycle are scheduled to start in March. To be eligible for Plan9’s program, founders have to be a Pakistani national with a team of two to five people. The applicants’ business ideas will go through a pitch test at one of Plan9’s launchpads held in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad.
When asked why the Punjab Government is involved in a technology startup incubator, the Plan9 representative explained that the vision is to build a conducive startup ecosystem for tech entrepreneurs all over Pakistan. Umar Saif, the chairman of PITB added:
Plan9 is very close to my heart, I hope to see some, if not all, teams make a mark on the international arena.
Today, Pakistan has over 30 million internet users which represents about 16 percent of its entire population. 15 million Pakistani are using mobile internet.