The Valley is always a unique experience. But this time around it is proving to be a fairly eye opening one. There is more capital than opportunities, for VCs to put money in. LATAM to Central Europe to China to India, to South East Asia there is a VC gold rush. No one wants to miss out and be fired in the process.
The level of fake BS is also on the up and up. Every VC I’ve met so far is focused on AI, ML in emerging markets. A vast majority of these guys are lip servicing because one or more of their peers are operating in this new space.
Frankly it sucks to see this over abundance of capital in these markets whilst there is little to none in ours. Interestingly enough the reason for this capital or the ecosystem is due to the fact that the startups of yesteryears are now the VCs. Thus solidifying the belief that we need to promote startups as best as we can to grow and scale. Plus these countries are well represented in the valley and one common thread amongst the markets where these startups come from, Google pretty much has a presence every where locally i.e an office.
Pakistan not as much. There is representation, there is interest, but some how the needle is stuck as us being a sales destination or net consumer of Google tech /service as opposed to a net producer destination. Google isn’t to blame for any of this, if any thing they are the net positive contributor to Pakistan even getting a seat at the table. Not because we don’t have interesting companies but because there is a lot to be desired with the optics. Every one I’ve met this week, was surprised that I hail from Pakistan, that there are tech startups in Pakistan, that my last Company IPOd at LSE , that we have built technology featured across Google I/O and that there is a Google supported incubator in Karachi. So far so good. The thing missing is a large scale disruptive story out of Pakistan and I do not mean political, I mean a startup story of success.
The thing is, after multiple mentorship sessions and interacting with diverse startups from across the world, the one theme that is clear, startups every where want one thing , “they want to change the game” and it starts and ends with the team at play. Ideas come and go, the people who can execute them are the real game changes, so we need to promote the right teams and enable people to think big.
An other notable thing here is camaraderie, there are clusters of close relationships, people help each other and we must borrow a page from that manual. The other not so surprising thing is the age of the founders and companies. Compared to both our ecosystem and the typical businesses heroes we celebrate in Pakistan, we need a wholesale change. Tech, really is the only thing that can create Displacement Capital and empower gains larger than the cost of input. Till we start displacing old money and old capital by creating new money and new capital at scale we are doomed. We need to think big and dream big.
(To get started with this exercise I will run “DCC- Displacement Capital Camp” in Karachi in August and get the ball rolling on this).
Our startups are no less smart and no less driven, but we need to think about solving global problems as a starting point. I met some one on the sidelines who told me they wanted to build a 5b$ company. Call it crazy talk but he got my attention, you cant build billion dollar companies if you are looking to raise 50k$. The scale has to change. The thinking has to change. Most of all the mentors and role models need to change. The ecosystem needs to get more examples of actual doers rather than self promoters, don’t get me wrong plenty of those around in the valley too. No shortage any where in the world of those types.
The thing is, resources are scarce competition is tough, for our startups to scale and grow we need to bring our ‘A’ game to the table else we will be irrelevant in the business of Unicorns.