National Incubation Center at LUMS, Lahore (NICL) held its capstone Investor Summit held recently, bringing together Pakistan’s most prominent investors to meet with its Lahore and Quetta cohorts of aspiring entrepreneurs.
The event, streamed live to the public via Facebook, was the culmination of a rigorous, months-long Foundation Programme, delivered by esteemed LUMS faculty to equip entrepreneurs with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to ensure success. The Programme directly aligns with NICL’s mission to inspire, enable and facilitate problem-solvers in high impact areas of development such as agriculture, healthcare, finance, education, and the environment.
“We are striving at the grassroots level to feed the pipeline in Pakistan’s rapidly emerging start-up ecosystem,” said Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NICL and NIC Quetta. “Our goal is to also incubate talented youth from diverse socio-economic and demographic backgrounds, ensuring access to those who may otherwise be excluded from such opportunities.”
Mr. Ahmad also highlighted the much-needed socio-cultural solutions and indigenous offerings created by this cohort. “I’m personally moved by the mix of start-ups including many conviction-driven social ventures catering to physical disabilities and psychological wellness issues including abuse,” he said.
Some of these social ventures included eco-friendly and affordable shoes for children born with a clubfoot; an online application for children to encourage and simplify the learning of Urdu through art; a mobile application that keeps track of the socio-emotional learning of children; a software that converts books in multiple languages into braille for visually impaired individuals; an eco-friendly and sustainable packaging service for e-commerce enterprises;a prosthetic bionic hand that will facilitate amputees to complete their tasks with ease; and a safe space where young women/girls are taught their rights through art therapy.
The 23 judges attending the Investor Summit included top venture capitalists and seasoned angel investors, as well as successful start-up founders who have themselves raised significant capital in Pakistan.
Speaking during the Summit about social impact in entrepreneurship, AatifAwan, Founder and Managing Partner at Indus Valley Capital and member of NICL’s Foundation Council, commented, “There’s a false dichotomy where people think that either you’re a social impact start-up, which means you cannot raise VC money or scale fast enough, or a company just for profit. I don’t believe that dichotomy needs to exist. I feel you have maximum impact when you can figure out self-sustainable motives. The ‘why’ founders are doing something determines how much impact it will have.”
Interested investors and venture capitalists can view all 24 pitches on the NICL Facebook page (@NICLSolveTogether) and get in touch at Invest.NICL@lums.edu.pk for more information on the start-ups.
Graduates from Cohort Six have already started garnering investor interest, reflecting the recent interest in start-up investment in Pakistan.
NICL is set to welcome Cohort Eight in September and is also collaborating with Stanford Seed to offer Stanford Seed Spark, a four-month online programme for early-stage entrepreneurs.