A conversation with Nabeel A. Qadeer
Nabeel is the Joint Director, Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, PITB
Plan9, PITB’s tech incubator derives its name from the futuristic OS, Plan 9 from Bell Labs. We all know Silicon Valley, i.e. based in California, is home to thousands of startups and a number of world’s largest high-tech corporations have rooted from there.
Plan9 incubator started with Dr. Saif’s vision to create a similar ecosystem in Pakistan. Plan9 Tech Incubator, as the name suggests is a place where tech based startups apply with their ideas. Once chosen, the incubator provides them workspace and mentoring in different business domains. In addition, they also provide networking opportunities with local and foreign industry including potential investors.
i. Proactive government in leveraging entrepreneurship
ii. Vision of founding members to replicate a successful international model into the local scenario
iii. Providing a controlled environment to young and passionate entrepreneurs
Plan9, being the pioneer in establishing a successful incubation model which met the needs of the local startups, built a conducive ecosystem for young entrepreneurs which resulted in mushroom growth of several other incubators in Pakistan contributing to Plan9’s success.
The Road to Success Is Paved With Challenges
“The initiation of this program raised a lot of question marks but over time the replication of plan9 model and the attention the incubator has received from both local and international media speaks volumes of our success.” Nabeel explains.
Nabeel further elaborated, how it was an enormous challenge to bring in an entirely new concept based on startups to Pakistan. People here were not so receptive to this new culture at first. However, after untiring efforts directed towards promoting entrepreneurship in universities, the initiative gradually received its rightful place in the academia. Now several universities have introduced entrepreneurship as part of their curriculum and have also established incubators within their premises.
On the other hand, convincing the industry to participate in the entrepreneurial ecosystem was another challenge that we faced. But we kept them engaged in various activities and we are proud of the fact that multinational corporations like Netsol and Telenor have now stepped forward to establish commercial incubators within their business industries.We have reached a point where people are themselves reaching out to us to support Plan9 in different forms such as network partnerships and offering investment and mentorships to startups.
Leading from the Top
With the support of PITB and government the Plan9 team managed to convert Dr. Umar Saif’s vision into a reality. Various government departments are now collaborating with us to facilitate entrepreneurs. This gesture is starting a new wave of entrepreneurship in the country.
We intend to empower the youth to contribute to the development of this country by creating employment opportunities. This can only be done when they form their own ventures and address viable solutions to several socio economic problems prevailing in the country.
We hope to constantly support the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan by not only running our current operations but also by introducing new initiatives which can facilitate startups. We see many successful startups emerging from Pakistan.
“We plan to make Plan9 a household brand in Pakistan.” Nabeel envisions.
Nabeel shared with us his aspiration for the youth of this country: “Pakistan is need of young, local role models and super heroes. In these entrepreneurs I work with at Plan9 & PlanX 24/7, I see reflections of some of them making it to a point where our younger generation will aspire to be like them. What we’ll get in effect, is a nation that breeds entrepreneurs in innumerable numbers – a nation that does not fear failure, or will never downscale their dreams in the fear of failure. That is the Pakistan I aspire to see in years to come”.
We believe in learning from failures. We are working on this philosophy by introducing a novel idea of covering our startups, which have failed, in the form of case studies in universities.
This way we can strategize on the measures a startup needs to take, to ensure their growth and scalability. Everyone highlights success stories but no one talks about the failures. It takes failures to lead us to success.
Plan9 Facts to Remember
- Up till now Plan9 has incubated 83 startups – of these:
- 18 are successfully positioned as established businesses
- 21 have pivoted and are on road to becoming successful enterprises.
- 42 after failing a few times, have gone out of business. But they’ve learnt a great deal in the process.
- Plan9 is proud to share that the success rate is more than 10% which is quite high for technology startups.
- After being incubated at Plan9, Markhor was the first startup from Pakistan to get acceptance into Y-Combinator, an American seed accelerator.
- Our startup Travly, recently launched Uber for TukTuks (Rickshaws) in Pakistan.
- Vivid Technologies, Sportskot, Markhor, Bookme.pk, MySmacEd, Wifigen, Mezaaj are all those plan9 alumni startups who raised investment in 2015.
- Bookme.pk recently launched its e-ticketing services in Myanmar.