The First Ever MENA Summit is This October!

We’re happy to announce that Techstars Community Programs [Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Week and Startup Digest ] is hosting its first ever MENA Summit this October at Startup Istanbul.

The summit is going to be a grassroots gathering of Startup Weekend Organizers, Facilitators, StartupDigest Curators and Startup Next Instructors from all across the MENA region to build ideas, discuss future visions, and celebrate startup community.

The event will consist of 3 days of workshops, knowledge sharing around startup community building, and immersive fun experiences in Istanbul. In addition, the Startup Istanbul program will include mentorship, a demo day, networking, and various keynote speakers.   

Startup Istanbul is a leading Startup Conference in Eurasia, gathering 2000+ participants composed of startups, investors, VCs and tech companies from 40+ countries around Middle East, West Asia, East Europe and the US.








How to Become a Leader in Your Startup Community: Webinar 8/27 with David Cohen

If you are interested in helping build your local startup community, you may want to check out this webinar the Founder Institute is hosting on August 27th.

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On this “How to Become a Leader in Your Startup Community” webinar, they will outline the different resources needed to bolster your local ecosystem, and provide tips on how you can help startups and become a better startup mentor and advisor.

This event will feature David Cohen (Founder and Managing Partner of Techstars), Sergio Escobar (Managing Director of The Founder Institute Montreal), and Adeo Ressi (Founder & CEO of the Founder Institute, 9X entrepreneur, and Managing Director of Expansive Ventures).

It will take place on Thursday, August 27th at 8:00am PT (see local time here).

 RSVP to the Webinar here.

– The importance of mentorship in the startup landscape.
– How you can best help startups in your community.
– The types of programs and tools making a difference in communities across the globe.
– The steps you should take to become a leader in your startup community.

Learn more and RSVP here.

 








10 Keys To A Successful Business Plan (Infographic)

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Why Making Tech More Inclusive is All About Education

This post originally appeared on Galvanize.

Lorien Smyer had been a bookkeeper for more than 20 years, but when the record store chain she worked for relocated to Santa Cruz, she decided to explore a new career path.

“I’ve loved everything to do with computers since, I don’t know, 1993,” Smyer said, “but because I’m older, I didn’t want to age out of the industry completely by trying to do the whole four-year thing.”

Smyer began looking into immersive coding programs as an alternative to a traditional university experience. Along the way, she signed up for Women Who Code’s weekly newsletter the Code Review.

“Women Who Code happened to send an email that encouraged me to apply for a scholarship toGalvanize Full Stack,” Smyer said. “I applied, got the scholarship, and here I am.”

Founded as a community group in 2011, Women Who Code is a nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 community members, dedicated to helping women excel in the tech industry.

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Women aren’t a minority. They represent 50 percent of the population, but women are notoriously underrepresented in the tech industry. 57 percent of professional occupations in the 2013 U.S. workforce were held by women, but the number shrinks to only 26 percent for professional computing jobs.

“I see a future where all industries are going to be technology industries,” said Women Who Code CEO Alaina Percival. “Right now we’re looking at the number of engineers the market needs, and that number’s not being met. If women are leaving the tech industry at a rate of 56 percent, then we’re losing women at the point in their careers when they would be able to provide the most value to the industry, the most value to their companies, and most importantly, when they could be a mentor and role model for other women getting started in their careers.”

Take Nike, one of Women Who Code’s sponsors—it’s hiring more than 200 digital positions this year, and that’s a shoe company. So fashion, sports, media, healthcare—all of these industries are now technology industries.

“I think in the coming decade what we’re going to see is that the executives at these organizations will have technical backgrounds,” Percival said. “If women aren’t representative in the tech industry, not only will the tech industry alone need more engineers, women will fall behind in those leadership roles.”

Women Who Code has two main arms of operation. The first organizes technical-focused in-person events such as hackathons, speaking events, and technical trainings aimed at expanding the skillsets of women who are already technically-inclined. These trainings take the form of unstructured study groups, making it easy for participants to practice a new programming language, work on a personal project, or join others’ existing projects.

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The second arm is Women Who Code’s weekly publication the Code Review, aimed at encouraging women to participate in the broader tech community. Through the Code Review, WWCode provides tickets to events such as conferences and hackathons—things that help women build their resumes, connections, and greater network. WWCode gave away more than $100,000 worth of conference tickets in 2014, and has already surpassed that number in this first half of 2015.

The Unknown Unknowns

A few years ago, if you asked Wayne Sutton what the biggest challenge facing minorities in the tech space is, he would have given the same answer most people probably would give—that it’s an uphill battle fighting against the conscious and unconscious biases held by the primarily white, male tech workforce. These are still huge issues, but today Sutton’s answer is different.

“I’ve come to realize that the biggest challenge facing underrepresented entrepreneurs in tech,” Sutton said, “is not knowing what they don’t know.”

What this means is that for someone not familiar with the process of building a product or company, it’s more than just not understanding what a market is in terms of investment opportunities; not understanding the whole language and ecosystem of Silicon Valley; not knowing how to connect with possible co-founders and pitch investors—it’s not even realizing these are things a successful entrepreneur needs to know.

Sutton is the co-founder and general partner of BuildUp, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission of creating more successful underrepresented entrepreneur tech founders. It does this through educational workshops, fireside chats and events with investors, a curriculum focus, an online and offline accelerator, and simply by connecting underrepresented entrepreneurs with the greater tech ecosystem.

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“We look at underrepresented entrepreneurs as women, African American, Latino, lgbt, veterans, and those over the age of 35,” Sutton said. “I’ve found the most successful thing that really helps create more successful underrepresented entrepreneurs,” Sutton said, “is education.”

That education breaks down to things like explaining cap tables and convertible notes; learning how to pitch—how to build relationships with individuals and businesses that could help you find co-founders or investors; building and marketing a minimum viable product; and so on—all the things an entrepreneur needs to know in order to bring a company from idea to a successful seed round. In addition to its core pre-accelerator program, which focuses on early-stage, pre-seed companies, Buildup also hosts a series of five-week workshops at Galvanize covering topics such as understanding Uber’s API, design thinking, and how to manage diversity and online abuse.

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Buildup’s community is 60 percent women, mostly African American and Latino. And despite focusing on helping promote underrepresented entrepreneurs, its events and opportunities are open to anyone. Interestingly, Buildup has almost the opposite problem of most tech events—it actually wants more white men to attend.

“We don’t want to say that what we’re teaching is ‘the black way,’ or ‘the minority way,’” Sutton said. “When Steve Blank comes to talk, his information is for every entrepreneur, regardless of color or gender. When DFJ operating partner Heidi Roizen comes to talk—she has the experience as a woman, but she’s giving advice to any entrepreneur.”

A New Kind of Accelerator, A New Kind of Angel

Melinda Epler has spent her career working to enact social change. She has worked as a cultural anthropologist, an artist in New York, a documentary filmmaker in Los Angeles, and a consultant for companies with a social environmental mission. After taking a brief stint as chief experience officer at an engineering firm (and encountering a lot of gender biases), Epler decided she wanted to work on the issues around inclusive cultures in STEM.

Epler is the founder and CEO of Change Catalyst, a women-focused accelerator and investment platform. “I always wanted to create an accelerator,” she said, “but I decided to do it only for women because I feel we need more women leaders creating change.”

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While researching the wants and needs of social entrepreneurs, talking with investors, founders, and people running accelerators, Epler found that a lot of women don’t go into accelerator programs because they are often the primary caregivers of their children or parents, and going to a two or three month program, possibly across the country, simply isn’t possible. She also found that women tend to wait longer than men to leave their regular source of income and dive fully into their entrepreneurship endeavour.

“The traditional accelerator system leaves out a lot of women,” Epler said. “So we’re building it online, and that’s really allowed more women access to the support entrepreneurs need.”

This is the first half of Change Catalyst: a six month online accelerator program for women who want to create social and environmental change with their businesses. The program is open to social enterprises that have at least one woman in leadership, so while the companies may have male co-founders, it will be a woman going through the program.

The second half of Change Catalyst ties into a common thread it shares with Buildup—they both realize the importance of change and diversity at all levels of the tech ecosystem.

“We know it’s going to take a new set of diverse angel investors to help move the needle forward,” Sutton said. To that end, both Buildup and Change Catalyst are creating workshops, curriculum, and mentorship programs to help educate people on angel investing.

For Buildup’s part, this takes the form of a “how to be an angel investor” workshop focused on getting high net-worth minority individuals such as athletes and entertainers involved in tech investment. Change Catalyst, on the other hand, focuses on educating women investors.

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“There’s some pretty significant gender biases that happen in the VC space, so it’s really difficult for a woman to rise up in that arena,” Epler said. Take the recent Ellen Pao trial—though it ended in a not-guilty verdict for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the trial shined a public light on many of the ingrained conscious and unconscious biases that make it difficult for women to be successful or even survive in venture capital. 10 percent of decision-makers at venture capital firms were women in 1999—today that number has shrunk to 6 percent.

Venture capital is a difficult industry to break into in general, but Epler says these sorts of biases—the “old boy’s network” effect—makes it especially difficult for women. As such, Epler says it’s easier to focus on the angel side of investing first. Change Catalyst is creating a mentorship program and curriculum to help women understand impact investing, as well as develop a platform where women can discover vetted social entrepreneurs for potential investment.

“In order to create your own portfolio, I’ve found that you do need help,” Epler said. “You need advice, you need someone to bounce ideas off of, you need someone who understands where you’re going. It’s a tough space.”

A Fully Inclusive Pipeline

From entrepreneurs with ideas to investors making those ideas happen to the developers bringing them to life, every stage of the tech ecosystem has been dominated by the straight, white male majority. Diversity and inclusion-focused organizations like Women Who Code, Buildup, and Change Catalyst have made great strides, but there’s a lot more to be done, and it will take a concerted effort across all fronts to effectively move the needle.

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It all comes back to education. Just as entrepreneurs can’t learn skills they don’t know they need to know, people can’t strive for social change if they don’t realize there’s a problem. To that same end, if not for Women Who Code, Lorien Smyer may never have realized that after 20 years as a bookkeeper she could make a career change into programming.

“It’s great when you have people who care to tap in,” Sutton said. “You might not be an actual minority yourself, but you still care about the issues. We know how important it is to have allies. It’s going to take everybody at the table—allies from all races, all genders—to solve this problem. We want to partner with other individuals and organizations that do care, and that I feel like is what we’re doing with Galvanize.”








How to Win Startup Weekend? A Good Team and a Little Magic.

The most frightening thing I’ve done recently also turned out to be the most rewarding.

About a month ago I attended a Startup Weekend in my resident city. I knew no other enrolled attendee and next to nothing about the process. But I had a keen interest in business, startups, and the unique opportunity SW offers to potentially build a business from the ground up. Within a weekend.

When I arrived on Friday night I was filled with a mix of anxiety, excitement and ambition.

I wanted some magic to happen.

After some ups and down moulding a good team, ours started working on a concept I felt had good potential. We were following the Lean Startup method and had worked out a problem, a solution and who our potential customers would be by the end of Friday night.

On Saturday morning we left the building to do some market validation. Unfortunately, after spending hours gathering data and customer validation we discovered that not only did our solution already exist, but in nearly the exact same form we’d envisioned.

We were disheartened and exhausted. But we still wanted to work together. We wanted to finish the weekend. We just needed a new business idea.

After a couple hours brainstorming over beer and craft hot chocolate we were left grasping at straws and coming up short.

We returned to the building together for what we thought would be our last meal as a team: fresh paella, a Startup Weekend Wellington tradition.

After the meal, we were prepared to disassemble and go home to a decent night’s sleep.

And then a little magic happened.

A Startup Weekend mentor approached us with some sage advice that changed our weekend.

She said, “I want you to know, every team reaches this point. Not only that, but every business reaches this point. When there seems no possible way forward and that no solution exists, it’s those who find a way and a will that succeed.”

Boom. We were back in. I forgot my own need to sleep and forgot the daunting fear of failure.

Our team chose to persevere over the remainder of the weekend and we pulled out a turn-around so profound that we earned the ‘Boomerang’ award from the SW mentors Sunday evening.

We were also the honourable recipients of the first standing ovation Dave Moskovitz, our lead mentor, longtime global Startup Weekend facilitator and organiser, has ever given a team during pitch practice in his entire Startup Weekend history.

And he stood and applauded us again when we were announced the weekend’s overall winner.

What began as an exercise to stretch my comfort zone became one of the most fulfilling 54-hour work periods in my recent memory. Meeting and joining the incredible team of my now-co-founders and winning Startup Weekend Wellington has started me (and I hope us) on a journey.

And I’m not sure that where that journey will take us nor where it will end. But I feel we can rest assured there will be more magic involved.

Co-founders of Voilà  (Team HousitLook at SWWLG).







How Two Women Successfully Launched Hardware Startups

This post originally appeared on Galvanize.

Jacqueline Ros wants to keep you safe. Her little sister suffered two attacks before the age of 17, and Ros found herself wishing for a discreet, nonviolent solution that could help resolve dangerous situations—a magic button to help her sister get home safe.

So Ros built Revolar, a small, personal security wearable. When activated, the device tracks your location and sends an alert to your emergency contact list, updating every three minutes so your loved ones know exactly where you are.

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Revolar’s Safety Device

“I wanted Revolar to be a peaceful, nonviolent solution,” said CEO and founder Ros. “My sister started carrying pepper spray after her attack, but she couldn’t take it with her everywhere. In fact, she was suspended from school for bringing a weapon.”

Ros began building Revolar in 2013, and went on to raise more than $83,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that concluded in May of this year. Now Revolar is moving into actual development, nailing down the device’s mechanical design and finally starting production.

From Idea to Product

Developing new hardware poses a number of unique challenges not found in traditional software-based startups. For one, everything takes longer—you can’t just test something and make a small adjustment. The recent adoption of 3D printing has made manufacturing prototypes a bit easier than before, but it’s still a considerably greater concern than simply tweaking a line of code and and seeing instant results.

“It takes a lot of money to build any product,” Ros said. “You have to go and actually manufacture it, and the testing is just so extensive. It’s so hard to be lean in hardware.”

Another big challenge is figuring out how you want to actually get your product in the hands of customers. Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo effectively let potential customers pre-order your product possibly before its design has even been finalized. But most companies don’t want to use a pre-order system forever, which means transitioning into a more traditional sales model.

“We always had the clear idea that our product had to be in retail stores,” said Alexandra Zatarain, co-founder and CMO of Luna, a mattress cover that essentially turns your bed into a smart bed.

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Alexandra Zatarain with Luna’s Founding Team

Luna raised more than $1.1 million via an Indiegogo campaign in March of this year. The device can track your sleeping patterns, regulate bed temperature, and wake you up using a smart alarm that activates during the optimal time of your sleep cycle. It also communicates with other wearables and smart devices in your home to create a personalized sleep profile that can recognize how various factors might relate to your sleep patterns.

“When we finished our Indiegogo campaign, we knew transitioning into a normal sales cycle had to be an immediate focus,” Zatarain said. “Going direct is one thing, and we’re starting to talk to distributors and retailers to really understand the system and adjust anything that is needed, such as determining what our wholesale price is going to be.”

On Ros’s end, coming from Kickstarter allowed her and Revolar to better understand their potential customer base. Revolar had already closed a seed funding round, so taking to Kickstarter was much more about directly connecting and interacting with customers. They walked away with a pile of data that has allowed the company to restrategize accordingly.

“We got some surprising information that we didn’t anticipate,” Ros said. “For example: real estate agents are incredibly interested in our technology. We wouldn’t have initially focused on that group if they hadn’t come out and expressed a huge interest.”

Making it Personal

Perhaps one key to Ros and Zatarain’s success is their personal investment in the projects they’re building. It’s certainly something they have in common.

“I find that women entrepreneurs tend to have really strong emotional connections with what they’re building,” Zatarain said. For Ros, obviously, that connection is her little sister. For Zatarain it was her father, who passed away from terminal cancer shortly before she joined Luna. “If we had this product in his bed, my mom could have monitored his vitals while she went to work.”

But that personal connection is not exclusive to women—Luna Sleep itself was conceived by Luna CEO Matteo Franceschetti in the hopes of alleviating his chronic restless legs syndrome. Even so, it may be a factor in Ros and Zatarain’s similar experiences in the industry—that is, neither reported having faced the kind of ostracism that has led many women to leave the tech industry.

“I’ve actually experienced quite the opposite,” Ros said. “So many people have stepped up to help, and I think it’s because they have this emotional attachment to what you’re trying to do. They believe in the vision, and there’s so much passion behind that.”








How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Alicia Liu on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

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Imposter syndrome is feeling like you are unqualified or faking it in your industry, even though you have the skills and the value to be there.

Alicia Liu, serial entrepreneur and senior software engineer at Lift, highlights this phenomenon and talks about why it’s particularly prevalent and ostracizing for women in tech. In her video, you’ll learn why imposter syndrome is damaging to women, how she overcame it, and how you can, too.

 If you want to learn more about overcoming imposter syndrome, the rest of Alicia’s lesson is available for free at Zana.io.








Techstars and Chase Power Startup Week to Celebrate Entrepreneurs

Today Techstars is excited to announce the continuation of a partnership with Chase to present Startup Week Powered by Chase, a community-led celebration of entrepreneurs.

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Now in its second year, this national sponsorship grew out of Chase’s title role in Denver Startup Week, the largest free entrepreneur event in North America. Startup Week brings entrepreneurs, local leaders, and friends together over five days of free programming, speakers, education and networking to build momentum and opportunity around a community’s unique entrepreneurial identity.

 

Business owners Mark Frommeyer & Joe DeLoss, along with Jeff Lyttle, Sr. Vice President, Media & Community Engagement at Chase, speak on a panel at Columbus Startup Week about their entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to build a successful business.
Business owners Mark Frommeyer & Joe DeLoss, along with Jeff Lyttle, Sr. Vice President, Media & Community Engagement at Chase, speak on a panel at Columbus Startup Week about their entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to build a successful business.

 

Starting in October in Seattle and continuing into spring of 2016, the following cities will host a Startup Week, created by local community leaders with support from Techstars and Chase:

Seattle – Oct. 26-30, 2015
Tampa Bay – Feb. 8-12, 2016
Phoenix – Feb. 22-26, 2016
Dallas/Ft. Worth – April 12-16, 2016
Columbus, Ohio – May 2-6, 2016
Detroit – New for 2016! Date TBD

With this ongoing support from Chase, Startup Week will continue to build upon the efforts already made by our local organizers to grow their entrepreneurial ecosystems and deepen the connections made in their communities. We are especially excited to take Startup Week to Detroit, where Techstars and JPMorgan Chase both have deep commitments. These communities are the lifeblood of future economic growth and development, and the sponsorship from Chase is vital to the long-term positive impact entrepreneurial ecosystems are having on the world.

Nicholas Karnaze, founder & CEO of Stubble & 'Stache, leads a fireside chat at Tampa Bay Startup Week.
Nicholas Karnaze, founder & CEO of Stubble & ‘Stache, leads a fireside chat at Tampa Bay Startup Week.

 

On a related note, Jamie Dimon, Chairman & CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., will speak today at CU Boulder on the topic of innovation and its critical importance to a thriving entrepreneurial environment. Jamie will be joined by Brad Feld, co-founder of Techstars, Managing Director of Foundry Group, and author of Startup Communities. The discussion will focus on Jamie’s perspectives on building entrepreneurial communities and how entrepreneurial approaches translate in different contexts.

Techstars is proud to partner with Chase to bring together entrepreneurs and local leaders to build startup communities around the world! Visit us at www.startupweek.co.








Startup Weekend in Indo-Pak: Conversations and friendships will change mindsets

This interview was originally published on Aman Ki Asha (Peace Destination).

“Conversations and friendships will change mindsets”

Anurag Maloo facilitating the Startup event in Lahore recently.

There is an almost palpable glow on his face as I get him to talk about Pakistan, his friends in Lahore and Islamabad, the streets, cars and autowallahs there. Meet 25-year old Anurag Maloo, Regional Manager South and Central Asia for Startup Weekend, a global organization that fosters entrepreneurship and grassroots leadership by building on the power of communities.

Anurag has successfully organised and facilitated Startup Weekends in Lahore, Islamabad, Delhi and Jaipur recently. He has visited Pakistan twice – in November 2012, and more recently in March 2015 as part of Startup Weekend Lahore at LUMS. These experiences have led him to initiate positive change in his own way. A former Teach for India Fellow, he reaffirms his love for Pakistan’s people and culture.

How did your first visit to Pakistan happen?

Anurag Maloo: I first visited Islamabad as an Indian Youth Delegate for a South Asian Youth Conference on Peace, Education and Sustainable Development in 2012, representing my initiative, The Family of Global Volunteeers. We travelled on the ‘Sada-e-Sarhad’ Delhi-Lahore Dosti (Friendship) bus and the journey was memorable. I was surrounded by much initial scepticism.

Friends advised me to travel with caution. Some remarked that I would not return safe from the land of ‘bomb-blasts’. My family was very worried, but after I called them and they talked to my friends from Pakistan, they felt quite comfortable. Of course, I also had friends who were jealous at my getting a chance to visit Pakistan. Once I crossed the border, I never had a feeling that I wasn’t home. To me, then, Pakistan was no different from India.

What memories do you hold dear from this visit?

AM: I was especially overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth of people in Pakistan when they learnt that we had come from India. I explored much of Islamabad and fell in love with the amazing roads, the beautifully decorated trucks, the street food and old style architecture. It was all about youth, Bollywood, music, qawwalis, art and culture in our discussions with Pakistani friends.

I returned to India on the day of Diwali and was flooded with greetings from friends across the border. That day I realized, “These friendships will last forever”. Little things can make a positive difference, give joy to people on both sides resulting in stronger relationships.

With Pakistani friends

What got you to think differently about Pakistan?

A.M.: A first-hand encounter of Pakistan makes all the difference. As Indians, we tend to have negative impressions about Pakistan because all that we read and hear in the media is ‘bad’, ‘negative’ and ‘not inspiring’. It is after all, in popular imagination, an ‘enemy’, never to be trusted. A positive mindset flowers only when you actually get to visit a place you always thought is full of people who hate you. My experience proved that things were otherwise. Through my visits, I was able to challenge and defy stereotypical notions and demystify labels like ‘terrorist’ and ‘enemy’.

You recently facilitated the Startup Weekend at LUMS (March 27-29, 2015). Share your experience of the event.

A.M.: Startup Weekend is a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. Participants create working startups, collaborate with like-minded individuals and receive feedback from mentors. It offers a perfect environment to test your idea and take the first step towards launching your startup.

This was the fourth such event happening in Lahore, but the first with energy and enthusiasm of this magnitude. I got to meet aspiring young entrepreneurs and innovators. There is a well-established Pakistani startup community that is contributing towards building Pakistan 2.0, creating more entrepreneurial opportunities and a better Pakistan for one and all.

I was inspired by the passion, commitment, diversity and determination of Pakistan’s youth. With over 120 participants, 61 plus entrepreneurial pitches, 16 mentors, 13 judges and 17 final startup pitches, there was incredible energy on the floor. Pakistan’s young entrepreneurs are working out innovative solutions to everyday problems. They exude vibrancy and are upbeat about facing challenges. They speak with unparalleled conviction about Pakistan’s progress and development.

Do Startup entrepreneurs in India and Pakistan face similar challenges?

A.M.: Both India and Pakistan are blessed with an increasingly young population, a potential demographic dividend. Time is ripe for both countries to root for economic and social progress, in a bid to define a common future through meeting the needs and aspirations of their young people. India and Pakistan have immense potential to produce innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future.

“I was inspired by the passion, commitment, diversity
and determination of Pakistan’s youth”

We can deal with common challenges like finance, funding and mentoring if both countries decide to focus on cooperation and positive transformation instead of confrontation. Unemployment rates remain high in both countries. Faced with lack of opportunities, Indian and Pakistani youth are taking it upon themselves to create their own.

Pakistan and India will grow by leaps and bounds if they support each other in defining their destiny through technology-based innovation, social entrepreneurship and grassroots innovation that places people and community at its centre.

With Prof. Zartash Uzmi of LUMS

Trade relations between India and Pakistan are almost always hostage to strained political relations. How does one capitalize on the idea of ‘business for peace?’

A.M.: I strongly believe in the power of business and entrepreneurship in bridging the rift and bringing people closer. To me, entrepreneurship doesn’t mean earning a livelihood but generating employment. We have millions of graduates coming out of college each year in India and Pakistan. This talent requires nurturing and mentoring. We could begin by adding entrepreneurship to the academic curriculum in schools and colleges; corporate leaders could take steps to encourage startup entrepreneurial ideas; and governments could ensure that startup cross-border collaborations are excused from complex state imposed regulatory mechanisms.

My dream is to be able to organise a joint Startup Weekend for Indo-Pak Peace Innovation, letting youth and startup entrepreneurs from both sides meet, share ideas to manage common problems and use business as an opportunity to cultivate friendships. I also envision a stronger, more entrepreneurial South Asian community involving other South Asian countries, positively building on the power of youth.

One incident that makes you smile when you think of Pakistan?

A.M.: If you watch the news/media for example, you’ll be given every reason to believe that humanity is headed for the iceberg… or maybe we’ve already hit the iceberg and we’re slowly sinking. But if you look underneath the waterline, you’ll see that there are so many profound positive stories transforming this world inch-by-inch.

“I was taken aback to learn that his father had been a prisoner of war for three years in India, during one of the wars between India and Pakistan. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about, as it was his responsibility to drop me safely to my destination. What he said next was powerful…”

One late evening during my visit to Lahore, I was looking for an auto to take me to LUMS. My accompanying friends were hesitant to let me travel alone. I, though, was quite confident. As I boarded an auto, I was strictly instructed by my Pakistani friends to not reveal my Indian identity to him. He was a married young man of about twenty-two. As we got talking, I spilled the beans. He told me about his life and family in Lahore.

I was taken aback to learn that his father had been a prisoner of war for three years in India, during one of the wars between India and Pakistan. He assured me that I had nothing to worry about, as it was his responsibility to drop me safely to my destination. I asked him why he sounded so positive. What he said next was powerful: “What happened to my father is a thing of the past, why should we as young people hold up negative emotions against each other? Such hostility will come in the way of a shared bright future that we can work together to shape.”

Startup Weekend team in Lahore

I smiled and told myself, “Hope is still alive!”

This incident further reaffirmed my vision that if we start paying attention to good things happening around us, it will change our preconceived notions and biases towards each other and will bring about positive transformation.

What is your message to people who have never had the chance to meet anyone from the other side of the border?

A.M.: When we look at the state of the Indo-Pak relations today, what do you feel… Fear….Hate…? Some combination? I strongly feel… Hope… Love…. Peace….. Friendships….!

Don’t judge people just because they are Indians or Pakistanis. I have continued to experience love and warmth from Pakistan. For most Pakistanis, who were part of the Startup Weekend at LUMS, it was their first direct face-to-face interaction with me, an Indian. And yet I ended up receiving an unexpectedly surprising outpouring of love, warmth, care and respect. How can one not reciprocate it?

A trust deficit is not helpful for peace. Conversations and friendships will change mindsets and break shackles of past bitterness. I strongly believe if we’re going to heal and transform relationships, we need to DREAM BIG! We collectively need to have a positive outlook and a strong belief that it’s possible to triumph over negative stories. Together we can fight against our most pressing problems. And to achieve that, each one of us has a role to play in deepening mutual friendships and bringing about an understanding of the interconnectedness of life.

Let us create more collaborative platforms where we can learn, sing, dance, play, eat, enjoy and experience – all of this and much more without judging the ‘other’.

Nidhi Shendurnikar-Tere is an independent researcher based in Gujarat, India, interested in politics, gender, peace and popular culture. Email: mailtonidhi12@gmail.com








Ask An Entrepreneur: How important is it to have business partners?

Answer provided by: Nishika de Rosairo, CEO and Creative Director, dE ROSAIRO. Previous Employment: Strategic Human Capital Advisor for 9 years at Deloitte Consulting, Apple, Levi, Cisco, Salesforce and others.

How important is it to have business partners? 

NishikaWe are entrepreneurs, thought leaders, champions of the world, and YES we believe we can do it all, and of course we can… until we realize that true success depends on bringing together a team of rock star individuals to plug in where you can’t, or frankly, where you sometimes shouldn’t.

For example, some businesses require a solid supply chain. In the fashion industry, it is not possible for me to weave the fabrics I need for my designs, design the clothes, and then manufacture at the quantities that I need. Besides the point that weaving fabrics is not a skill I have, and because of the varied fabrics we use at dE ROSAIRO, we need to have strong relationships with multiple fabric mills who can provide us with an array of choices. Similarly on the manufacturing side, we also need manufacturers who can make patterns, make samples, and cut/sew at the quantities we need. Naturally this means we have to maintain relationships with multiple business partners.

On the other hand, if I weren’t in the fashion industry and instead, I had, let’s say, strong programming skills and wanted to build an app, then I might need a different set of business partners. I would still need to ask myself questions related to marketing strategy, social media strategy, sales strategy etc.

There are multiple aspects to running a business, and although entrepreneurs are super stars with motivation that drives us to the highest pinnacles… we’re still human, and we need a hand on our way to achieve and maintain success.

To be successful, identify the areas you need help with in your business — who can put together a social media strategy better than you can, who can run your SEO mechanics (if that’s not your strong suite). Find a way to grow and escalate your operations with the assistance of key business partners who are able to help you see your vision through.

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