The following is a guest post written by Usman Raza, who recently won first place at SW Peshawar in December.
Being born to the typical Pakistani parents usually means that your path in life is rather well defined. Turning yourself into a medic or engineer is your predetermined goal and venturing too far outside the norm is considered unwise. The result – a saturation of the few favorite professions, with the rest accommodating those who apparently ‘didn’t make it’. Although I ‘successfully’ made it through the regular system of education here, I never really had the opportunity to realize any of my entrepreneurial ideas. Later, having had the opportunity to study and live in the US, I found it to be one of the most open and entrepreneur-friendly country on the planet. Since I returned to Pakistan, I have been dreaming of having the same rich and lively environment in Peshawar.
Peshawar being the capital of North-Western Pakistan, represents a confluence of cultures and subcultures. Such a mix contains the potential for generating novel ideas and building them into robust businesses. What was missing until now was an instrument that would bring together young and bright minds from various disciplines and provide them with an environment that promotes problem solving, creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset.
What was missing until now was an instrument that would bring together young and bright minds from various disciplines and provide them with an environment that promotes problem solving, creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset.
Startup Weekend Peshawar has begun to fill this gap. This was the first of its kind event in Peshawar. We had people from technology, engineering, business, information technology and medicine. It’s a no brainer that these people who decided to give up a peaceful weekend, were brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity. Many of them got together to form teams right there, pitched their ideas and then worked crazy hours till Sunday evening to refine their ideas and business models. The organizers made a great effort to make available experienced mentors from various disciplines, to guide and coach the teams in their projects. This alone was a rare opportunity for many of the participants to interact with and learn from some of the most experienced and successful entrepreneurs of the country.
An interesting assortment of ideas was presented by the teams. These ranged from traffic management solutions and women’s empowerment through online platforms to virtual classrooms and online market access for craftswomen in villages. The winning startup was a SMS-based drug prescription system, which by the way, was pitched by my team. Beyond all, it was amazing to see a glimpse of the untapped potential this city holds in its brain.
This is only a start and we need a lot more of such activities in Peshawar. In fact, I imagine how much more effective it would be if creativity and entrepreneurship are woven into our education. If our young minds are groomed to become problem solvers, who should be creating jobs rather than looking for jobs.
I am absolutely convinced that with sustained effort, we are bound to see solid start-ups coming out of Peshawar.