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    Date submitted
  • 15-Sep-2011

Invest2Innovate (i2i)

Abstract

Invest2Innovate supports startup communities in growth markets, and has been working in Pakistan since 2011. Invest2Innovate finds, selects & vets impact entrepreneurs for the i2i Accelerator, an annual four-month program that provides business support and access to mentors and investment. Since 2012, i2i has accelerated 25 startups in Pakistan, which have gone on to raise over $2M in capital, scaled their businesses, created over 1000 jobs, and deepened their social and economic impact in the country. i2i also has 35+ mentors and 15+ investors in our network, who are all local and successful Pakistani entrepreneurs dedicated to supporting innovative startups in Pakistan. Aside from entrepreneur support, i2i also operates two more verticals – Invest, which works to strengthen access to capital in growth markets, and Insight, which provides research, data and analysis on these startup communities.

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Additional Questions

Who is your customer?

i2i has three different verticals, which each cater to a different customer base: (1) Incubate: Through our annual startup accelerator, i2i provides intensive business support to early-stage impact entrepreneurs in growth markets, beginning in Pakistan. In our annual four-month program, our startups receive business support, access to 35+ mentors in our local network, as well as access to local angel investors. While we have primarily worked in Pakistan for the past four years, we are licensing our curriculum to power accelerators in other growth market, and just developed content for a startup accelerator that launched in Bangladesh in February 2016. (2) Invest: i2i has worked to foster a local community of angel investors in Pakistan, and is now in the process of launching its own investment fund that would provide needed risk capital for startups in this market. (3) Insight: i2i provides cutting edge data, research & analysis to stakeholders and investors to build deeper understanding of growth markets.

What problem does this idea/product solve or what market need does it serve?

Startup communities are rising all over the world. But in many countries, policies, instability, and a lack of access to capital & finance can hinder innovation and young entrepreneurs. i2i wants to see success stories come out from these markets, and takes an ecosystem approach in our work to not just support entrepreneurs, but to also better the enabling environment for SMEs in growth markets.

What attributes will make this idea/product successful? Why do you believe that those features will create success?

i2i already has significant knowledge and experience in Pakistan, where we've been operating for six years. Our Founder, Kalsoom Lakhani has worked in the venture philanthropy space prior to launching i2i, and our local team are well-connected in the technology and entrepreneurship space, from running TEDx events to teaching university courses on entrepreneurship to fostering local communities. i2i takes a local and culturally nuanced approach in the markets we currently serve and aim to serve in the future, allowing for the organic growth of the ecosystem. We do not believe in importing solutions, but instead aim to work within the parameters of these societies, hiring local teams and developing key local, regional, and global partnerships. We work with all the major stakeholders - incubators, universities, corporations, and investors - in the current landscape, and our collaborative approach has been key to our success thus far. i2i also believes in thinking creatively and flexibly when it comes to "untapped" countries like Pakistan, which is more known in the media for its unstable security and political situation than its entrepreneurial potential. But 66% of the population live on less than $2 a day, with many low-income communities lacking access to quality healthcare, housing, electricity, and education. Therefore, there is a need to support enterprises that address this economic divide. Moreover noted Portfolio.com, “Given the country’s economic weakness, Pakistani entrepreneurs do not require millions to begin .” We are developing much-needed mentor & investor networks in these underdeveloped markets, and believe that real change in these countries comes from the ground up. Our local and culturally nuanced approach in the markets we serve, beginning in Pakistan, allows for the organic growth of the social entrepreneurial ecosystem, rather than just importing solutions from the outside. We are also looking to tap the Pakistani Diaspora community, in which remittance flow back to the country has quadrupled in the last eight years, in order to connect much-needed capital and mentorship to young Pakistani social entrepreneurs at the early-stage level. Given that impact investors often provide capital to later-stage enterprises, the need in new markets like Pakistan is to foster the early-stage part of the pipeline. Developing a "community within a community" of Pakistani Diaspora entrepreneurs, allows i2i to channel capital in an impactful way, from a community whose financial flow is not influenced by perceptions of the country's internal situation.

Explain how you (your team) will execute to make this idea/product successful? What gives you (your team) an advantage over others already in the market or new to this market?

i2i has a number of partnerships and collaborations with local, regional and global networks that has strengthened our work on the ground. We believe we are successful because we continue to listen, be flexible, and believe in collaboration not competition. We also have shown major results in our work, which further proves our legitimacy in this space. In scaling to other countries, we believe in partnering with local players in order to elevate their current work, versus reinventing the wheel in these markets.