At Invest2Innovate, we see endless potential, particularly in Pakistan, where 2/3 of the country is under 30 years old. Pakistan may be faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, but those same problems can mean exciting opportunities and solutions, particularly for entrepreneurs.
We just raised over our goal with more than 24 hours left! Thank you!
UPDATE: i2i just got a TechCrunch mention in an article on Pakistan's incubators & accelerators! You can check it out here. Our Founder Kalsoom was also just listed as an rising woman leader in Pakistan's entrepreneurship/tech space in the Express Tribune. Woo!
We just announced the 7 entrepreneurs selected for the i2i Accelerator! So excited to work with these amazing businesses. You can read more about them here. Now let's keep the momentum going on this campaign to make their program all that it can be!
We believe that young entrepreneurs have the power to challenge the status quo, to change the environment around them. But often, they lack the support & resources to truly turn these ideas into reality.
The i2i Accelerator helps bridge that gap. The four-month program is an intensive business bootcamp, designed to grow selected businesses, give them access to amazing mentors & resources, and get them ready for funding from i2i Angels, Invest2Innovate's investor network.
By backing our campaign today, you'll be a part of making the upcoming cycle of the i2i Accelerator - which will run from September 2013 to January 2014 - an awesome reality.
What's the money for?
We are raising $15,000 to run the i2i Accelerator program from September 2013 to January 2014.
During the pilot of the i2i Accelerator, which we completed in January 2013 with 5 entrepreneurs, we ran the entire program on a complete shoestring budget - for under $5000 - because we wanted to prove that our big, crazy idea could work.
Guess what. It did. You can read more about what we learned here.
(Above: Entrepreneurs + i2i Team after the 1st Investor Gathering, January 2013)
While we could continue to run the program on a bootstrapped budget this cycle - we want the i2i Accelerator to be all that it can be for our entrepreneurs. This means:
Running the program with more entrepreneurs. In the pilot, we had five. After a pretty intensive selection process that began in June, we're currently in the process of completing our finalist interviews, and hope to select a class of about seven businesses by the end of August.
Running the program in both Lahore and Karachi. During the pilot, we kept the program centered in Lahore, Pakistan, and were hosted out of one of Pakistan's top universities. This time, we want to kick off the Accelerator with a community-building retreat outside Islamabad, and then alternate our weekend sessions between both Karachi and Lahore. In doing so, we give our businesses access to incredible mentors in both of these major entrepreneurial cities. In Karachi, much of our program will be hosted out of DotZero, an exciting new coworking community in the city, and one of our key partners. We will also be hosting events at the Karachi Institute of Technology & Entrepreneurship (KITE), and Plan9, a Lahore-based technology incubator.
Improving & expanding the curriculum. We learned a lot from our pilot, and realized we need to supplement our Accelerator curriculum so that entrepreneurs receive leadership development skills (via a Harvard adaptive leadership training program), as well as increased financial, accounting & legal support to ensure their survival post-Accelerator and get them ready for our investors at the end of the program. The Accelerator will also grow from four weekend sessions to six weekends. The i2i team will provide hands-on support throughout the four months.
Given these changes, we are still keeping costs down (we believe in being as lean as possible). Around 49% will go towards travel, accommodation & meals within Pakistan during the Accelerator weekends for our entrepreneurs & team, while around 33% will go towards incorporating Harvard's adaptive leadership training program (incl. trainers) - which will equip our entrepreneurs with leadership skills that will allow them to better run their businesses. The last 18% will go towards marketing and will cover any emergency costs.
Who is the i2i Team?
We're currently a small but mighty team of 3, though we aim to add a 4th member to our Pakistan team in October, and will have part-time support from interns & volunteers. We also can't forget our incredible partners & friends in Pakistan who work tirelessly to support the entrepreneurship environment in the country & make our work possible - KITE, DotZero, Plan9, P@SHA Fund for Social Innovation, The Indus Entepreneurs (TiE), Google Pakistan, SEED Ventures, and the Organization for Pakistani Entrepreneurs (OPEN).
(Above: Uzair, our Enterprise Manager & Kalsoom, Founder/CEO, hyped up on caffeine & buzzing with energy during the Accelerator pilot in Lahore.)
Who are some of your mentors?
i2i has developed an extensive mentor network in Pakistan, made up mainly of successful Pakistani entrepreneurs and industry experts. These individuals are not only passionately committed to supporting young entrepreneurs, but they also have a wealth of knowledge in building & growing businesses in the Pakistan context. Some of our mentors include: Zafar Khan (Sofizar & ConstellationCK), Abid Butt (e2e Supply Chain Management), Monis Rahman (Rozee.pk), Jehan Ara (P@SHA), Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (Oscar-winning filmmaker & Sharmeen Obaid Films), Yusuf Jan (MixIt), Noor Ullah (Acumen), Fawzia Naqvi (Soros Economic Development Fund) and Yasser Bashir (Arbisoft). Our session topics range from governance & financials to operations & marketing/branding. Our curriculum also includes sessions on design thinking, team building, pitching & business model development.
(Above: Our entrepreneurs engaging in a session led by mentor Zafar Khan during the pilot of the i2i Accelerator in Lahore.)
We're committed to furthering the entrepreneurship environment in Pakistan, and are deeply passionate about what we do. Even if we have to bootstrap costs, our biggest priority is making sure the entrepreneurs we select receive the resources & support they need for their businesses. We'll figure out a way to make it work!
So many! Here are some photos to get you excited.
The i2i tote bag:
The i2i Mug (modeled by one of our past entrepreneurs, Saba):
The i2i Tshirt (designed by Uth-Oye! Founder Babar Rashid Khan):
d.Light S2 solar light for EcoEnergy Finance (w/a note on EEF & their work in Pakistan):
BLISS clutch (embroidered by low-income girls & women in Pakistan; includes a note on BLISS & their work):
i2i's ImpactThis past January, i2i completed the pilot of the 1st i2i Accelerator in Lahore, Pakistan. We selected five entrepreneurs from across the country who convened for four intensive weekend sessions led by the i2i team and incredible mentors - successful entrepreneurs & industry experts - on topics ranging from marketing & branding to operations. You can watch our video discussing the pilot here.
At the end of the program, our five entrepreneurs pitched for funding at i2i's first Investor Gathering in Lahore, and engaged with members of i2i Angels, Invest2Innovate's investor network. Out of the five startups, four are still operational (i.e., running & growing their businesses), and one of our enterprises - BLISS - recently closed on her first round of seed investment - raised from all Pakistani investors! You can see more about where our entrepreneurs are now in our Google+ Hangout session series (Click here for our session with BLISS & here for our session with EcoEnergy Finance).
Our vision at i2i is to see great ideas turn into successful viable businesses, but also to see tangible & positive change in the entrepreneurship environment, both in Pakistan and in other new markets, where we hope to scale in the future.
i2i Media Coverage:
Other Ways You Can Help
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Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Serena Kefayeh from Creative Ideation for video production & editing, Babar Rashid Khan for t-shirt design, Leone Lakhani for the script, Jay Lovell, Kane Sarhan, Jackie Kingfield, Mesh Lakhani & Bilal Baloch for feedback, and ALL of our family & friends for all the love & support - both for the campaign & generally with i2i. We know we can be cranky start-up people, and your patience & cheerleader attitude keeps us on track! You're amazing.
Photo credits: Khaula Jamil, Danish Farid Khan, Coke Studio, Sabeen Mahmud, Sonya Rehman, Asim Fayaz, Jeremy Higgs, Mashall Chaudhri, Benje Williams.