The Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication, Syed Amin-ul-Haque, has said that 272 startups have graduated from Ignite’s National Incubation Centre (NIC) with a total investment commitment of Rs. 8 billion and cumulative revenue of Rs. 3 billion.

These nascent companies have created more than 100,000 new jobs in the last three-and-a-half years, as revealed by the minister while speaking as the chief guest at the ‘Accelerator Program for Women Entrepreneurs in Islamabad on Monday. The program was launched by The Indus Entrepreneurs Islamabad office (TiE Islamabad) in partnership with the American Embassy for Women Entrepreneurs, which provides growth stage start-ups with the necessary tools, coaching, and mentoring, and provides its women entrepreneurs access to global investors and venture capitalists.

The core program revolves around networking, mentoring, and investor engagements in leading American ecosystems like San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, Boston, Washington D. C., and New York.

As per the program, the nine women entrepreneurs will leave for America on 10 May 2022 for eight weeks.

Minister Haque said that the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) and its Tech Innovation Arm, Ignite, have recently launched Pakistan’s First National Investment Platform called ‘PakImpactinvest’. He remarked that the pandemic had catalyzed the startup landscape in Pakistan, which had led to a rise in investments from $65 million in 2020 to $350 million in 2021. Extended lockdown and quarantines also provided entrepreneurs the opportunity to create digital products with human impacts.

Minister Haque said that the government has allowed holding shares for startups to be outside Pakistan, which has been helping to push foreign investments.

According to 2018-19 deal flow figures, of the funding raised by female-led companies, 63 percent was via angel investment and 25 percent was from development programs.

One of the key challenges of new technology-based startups is access to early-stage and growth-stage capital.

“I am sure that this initiative will bridge the gap in an efficient manner. Furthermore, there is a dire need to increase the overall funnel of women-led companies, whether by encouraging incubators and accelerators to actively seek more female founders for their programs or providing more hands-on support to women-led companies at the early stages and improving their access to investors operating post-seed stage,” the IT Minister said.

He also told the TiE Islamabad to take the step and added that programs like the Accelerator Program for Women Entrepreneurs, which is funded by the US State Department, address this gap through its innovative design and experimental learning platform which will provide this group of women entrepreneurs access to international incubators and foreign investors.

“I am particularly excited about the role the Pakistani diaspora in the US will play in supporting our women-led enterprises,” Minister Haque remarked.

TiE has its roots in Silicon Valley besides an extensive network of partners in the US and Pakistan, and is ideally placed to provide the much-needed international exposure and linkages to this group of women entrepreneurs.

On the occasion, the Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy, Raymond Castillo, said, “We at the United States Embassy have been impressed by the commitment to excellence that all of the original 500 applicants showed throughout the virtual program. These efforts will lead to a brighter future for Pakistan and the world”.

“As the finalists here today, you should be extremely proud. Your persistence has paid off, and you will now represent Pakistan in the United States. You are the future women entrepreneurs of Pakistan,” he added.

The Accelerator Program for Women Entrepreneurs, a TiE training program and competition for women entrepreneurs that is funded by the U.S. Embassy Islamabad, is an innovative program that connects women-owned Pakistani start-ups with American business tools, coaching, and mentoring. It received an overwhelming response from 450 women-led businesses. Later on, 75 shortlisted startups went through a rigorous process of mentoring workshops and pitching competitions from which the top 12 start-ups were selected for a 15-week Founders Institute Acceleration Program.

During the trip, the women entrepreneurs will attend major conferences and participate in exposure visits to Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and PayPal’s offices. They will also visit US-based incubators such as 9 Mile Labs, Kiwi Tech, Angel Pad, and Alchemist, and will be provided with multiple networking opportunities throughout the eight weeks and will pitch to selected US-based investors on the East and West Coasts.

TiE was founded in Silicon Valley by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals and has since evolved into one of the largest global organizations with the express mission of fostering entrepreneurship. There are currently nearly 11,200 members, including over 2,860 charter members in 57 affiliate chapters across 14 countries.

Launched in 2008, TiE Islamabad is a leading driver of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan. It operates Pakistan’s only self-sustainable co-working space for women.

The ceremony was attended by senior officials from the MoITT, Minister Counsellor for Public Affairs, Public Diplomacy Officer, Paul Giblin, and other officials from the American Embassy and TiE Islamabad.