According to a report published by McKinsey & Co on the Pakistani ecosystem, in the decade leading up to the year 2020, an incredible 720 startups have been created in the country, 67 percent of which were still running up until earlier this year. Pakistanis have embraced words like entrepreneurship, innovation, and startups, and the nation has an excitement to speak to digitization, e-commerce, and social media.
As one of the most promising emerging economies in the APAC region, Pakistan is a global force for technological innovation. As the country embraces startups and future technologies, we at Facebook want to continue to help foster future talent and build Pakistan's innovation ecosystem.
Innovation is not driven by a brilliant individual or a team running experiments in a lab. It is driven by the global community of problem solvers that are coming together to tackle the challenges of the present.
We believe the community of developers building on our platforms or that participate in our programmes is very important to build and encourage a healthy innovation ecosystem. All the programmes we develop, education we enable and innovation happening on our platform is to build a community of developers and entrepreneurs who can achieve their goals and give back to the community.
The developer community has always been one of Facebook’s most important partners. Programmes like our Developer Circles (DevC), enables aspiring and experienced developers to build meaningful communities, learn about Facebook technologies, and collaborate to up-level their skills. In Pakistan, Facebook’s DevC is available in multiple cities and each managed by developer community leaders. This programme has played an important role in connecting local entrepreneurs and peers to participate in trainings and hackathons, which in turn have helped them develop new skills, grow their networks and come up with breakthrough solutions.
Waqas Sheikh is a Community Lead of DevC in Faisalabad. Being part of the programme has allowed him to collaborate with different universities, tech institutions, and local communities, while providing him with a platform to host events, including the first ever Facebook DevC Pakistan Conference in 2019. Together with eight other community leaders from five different DevCs in Pakistan, they were able to connect and inspire over 450 developers, covering a wide range of topics, including embracing digital transformation and local ecosystem challenges, and ways to recruit more women in tech.
Given the many social issues currently arising around COVID-19, it has also been inspiring to see developers come up with a range of projects aimed at addressing some of the challenges people are experiencing as a result of this global pandemic.
Sanan Ali is one such developer that participated in our #BuildforCOVID19 Global Online Hackathon series earlier in March. His winning idea was an application that helps fundraise to provide food and essentials to the poor across Pakistan, especially at a time when it’s not safe for them to be outside. It is also a way to seek help from people who were willing to volunteer their time to help those in need.
We also continue to invest in a range of programmes to provide education and mentorship to developers and startups in order to boost innovation. We launched the first Innovation Lab in Pakistan in 2018, located in the National Incubation Center (NIC) at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), and earlier this year, expanded our Startup Circles programme to Pakistan.
Startup Circles aims to help early-stage startups get to the next level by providing access to blueprints for business growth, opportunities for consultation with experienced advisors and problem solvers, and a whole network of contacts operating in the same space. Since launch, a number of early-stage startups from Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi have benefited from our virtual bootcamps, organised to equip participants with the knowledge and skills on finding product-market fit, fundraising and ways to leverage Facebook for growth from industry veterans and experts. We have also been sharing tips on how startups can formulate their strategy in a time of crisis.
The successes shared above only scratch the surface of the potential that exists. We believe in the importance of investing in innovation, education, and community for building a sustainable tech ecosystem. I am confident that these continued investments will spark more innovation, improve communities, and drive positive social impact around the globe.
The writer is a Director of Platform Partnerships and Programs, APAC at Facebook