Startup Accelerators are Indispensable for a Healthy Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Big ideas demand big investments to materialize. These investments don’t necessarily need to be financial – although that remains a big factor. In order to scale up in a competitive market, any new business proposition requires a supportive and enabling ecosystem to help it unleash its true potential.

In today’s digital age, these business propositions often come in the shape of digital startups. With enhanced smartphone penetration and improved access to mobile broadband, finding solutions to longstanding challenges has become easier than ever. Startups are focusing on leveraging technology to solve prevalent issues in our communities.

Traditional sectors are transforming as conventional ways of working are fast becoming replaced with smart digital solutions. Technology startups are reinventing industries; there are IoT sensors on shipping containers, manufacturing systems are becoming leaner and artificially intelligent, and agriculture infrastructure is getting a digital overhaul.

Startups are reshaping the world as we know it. They’re bringing convenience and creating new opportunities for the masses, all the while empowering them. However, it is imperative for startups to break past existing silos.

Hence, no matter how confident an aspiring tech entrepreneur may be about their idea, it would be hard to turn their raw idea into a viable product without the support of an incubator or scale it without the support of an accelerator program.

What Accelerators and Incubators Do

Service-based businesses and entrepreneurial ventures around the world are continuously emerging. However, statistics indicate that nine in ten startups fail. Several reasons contribute to the low success rates, ranging from; the lack of awareness; no mentorship; financial constraints; and unidentified potential pitfalls.

Accelerators, incubators, and hatcheries can offer the right solutions by providing entrepreneurs access to services, tools, and mentorship. Professional guidance is pivotal to the growth and sustainability of these startups.

Incubators and hatchery programs help early-stage startups survive and thrive, while accelerators work with growth-stage startups to help them scale their products and solutions They foster an environment of innovation and collaboration, encouraging startups to co-create viable solutions and scale them once the product is ready to hit the market.

Digital Entrepreneurship in Pakistan

While technology has advanced over the years, first world countries have continuously developed their digital entrepreneurial ecosystems. Pakistan has only seen development in the digital arena in the past ten years. Today, we have about 83 incubators, accelerators, and hatcheries which are supporting budding startups and making them viable enough to go to market.

One key player in this arena is Jazz xlr8, a transformative digital startup accelerator program by Pakistan’s telecom giant. It aims to discover and support Pakistan’s best startups, help them scale, and build a thriving startup ecosystem in the country. Through its global partnerships, customized curriculum, mentor network, and access to Jazz services, xlr8 endeavors to find and empower entrepreneurs.

The program mentors and helps startups optimize their marketing campaigns using advanced data and analytics, connectivity and distribution packages, digital trainings, technology credits of up to $1.3 Million, and access to a wide array of Digital Financial Services including payment gateway, collections & disbursement solutions.

In addition to Jazz xlr8, Jazz is also managing the National Incubation Center (NIC) in partnership with the Ministry of IT & Telecom, Ignite. The NIC is the largest incubation center of its kind with over 20,000 sq. ft. of workspace that was also the recipient of the Asia Pacific Design Award. The facility is designed to ensure complete inclusivity for the differently-abled people making it completely inclusive and accessible.

Since launch Jazz through the NIC has on-boarded over 160 startups in 7 cohorts out of almost 5,000 applications from startups across Pakistan. 62 startups have already graduated, with over 55 female entrepreneurs mentored and the startups creating 5000+ jobs. These startups have also raised USD 5 Million Dollars in investment and generated revenues of over USD 4 Million.

Jazz xlr8 Creating a Lasting Impact

Working with the country’s number 1 cellular and digital services provider on disruptive digital solutions comes with superior perks. The first and the most important is having the ability to access over 61 million Jazz subscribers across the length and breadth of the country. The ability to access Jazz distribution networks and digital marketing support comes as a cherry on top.

Since its launch in 2016, Jazz xlr8 has worked with over 23 startups, mentored more than 10 female entrepreneurs, and worked with startups that have generated over 1500 jobs, and raised USD 2 million investment. Some of the top startup graduates of the program include the likes of Roamer – Pakistan’s first by-the-hour car rental service, DeafTawk – a sign language interpretation service for the deaf community and S-Tech, an artificial intelligence startup working in face recognition, toll automation, and crowd control, among many others.

“The program is encouraging and supporting our youth in finding solutions to everyday challenges in technology,” says Aamer Ejaz, Chief Digital & Strategy Officer, Jazz. “We designed this platform to allow young and talented Pakistanis to come up with their great ideas and turn them into a viable reality with our support. If someone has a great idea, we are here to listen to it and extend our support, expertise, and assets to help it materialize. It’s a powerful proposition besides being a dire need of the time.”

An Innovative Approach to Spotting Talent

Besides the conventional ways of inviting applications and screening potential startups, Jazz discovers potential founders in innovative ways. “We held SDG Hackathon and Women SDG Challenge Cup last year where winning teams were provided with an opportunity to be a part of Jazz xlr8 at the NIC (National Incubation Center) in the upcoming cohort,” said Mian Talha Nasruddin, Founder Jazz xlr8 and Head of Digital Channels & Partnerships.

Jazz received some remarkable solutions pertaining to health & wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, industry & infrastructure, and sustainable cities & communities in the SDG Hackathon. Similarly, the Women SDG Challenge Cup 2019 drew overwhelming response where women entrepreneurs pitched their startups with a mission to create civic and social impact.

Innovation is naturally at the core of Jazz xlr8 and the program doesn’t balk at trying new things. A few months ago, Jazz set up a state-of-the-art usability testing lab called ‘Jazz xlr8 Xperience Hub’ at the National Incubation Center (NIC). The purpose of this lab is in-depth usability studies and product testing for enhanced customer experience. “The Xperience Hub shows our unwavering commitment to facilitating our 61 million customers and our startups to create best-in-class digital solutions for the masses,” said Haris Javed, Digital Platforms, and Growth & OTT.

Building a Stronger Startup Ecosystem

Jazz xlr8 aims to build and promote a robust startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan. The company’s mission of empowerment through technology is the key driving force behind enabling the Pakistani youth to excel on the tech front and cash in on the limitless opportunities that digitalization is generating the world over.

“We want Pakistani technopreneurs to make global headlines and with their solutions making their way to every smartphone,” says Aamer Ibrahim, Chief Executive Officer, Jazz. “In addition to enjoying domestic success, we want our homegrown startups to gain international recognition and scalability which eventually will put Pakistan on the map of innovation. And at Jazz xlr8, we want to be acknowledged as the proud enablers of such tech enterprises of the future,” he adds.

Jazz xlr8 is working with the same aim. The xlr8 team knows that amateur startups tend to make mistakes, often ones that are simple to solve. “When we have a look at the startup data, we find some common patterns of failure and success. At xlr8, we have sufficient data to train the new startups to avoid common mistakes and follow a path that has previously proven successful. This has helped many of our graduates turn into viable businesses.”