Investor’s Perspective; Kalsoom Lakhani on shortcomings that startups need to overcome to attract investment.

There is a gap between the investors and startups in Pakistan. If we look at it closely, investors are looking for good startups as much the startups that are seeking investment opportunities. Here is what Kalsoom Lakhani had to say when we talked to her about the current condition of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Pakistan and the shortcomings that startups need to overcome if they want to attract investment?

What is your take on the current condition of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan?

The entrepreneurial ecosystem has grown significantly over the last five years – there are more competitions, startups, support organizations, investors, you name it. I remember when we started i2i, there was maybe an event happening a month around the country – seven years later and there are multiple events happening every weekend – that activity is something to be proud of. However, while the increased activity is certainly exciting, and the government’s move of launching National Incubation Centres signaled an investment by the public sector in the startup landscape, the business-enabling environment is still very, very poor, and very debilitating to entrepreneurs and investors alike. The taxation policies still need to be improved significantly, the issue of payments and how money flows in and out of the country are all massive problems – the list goes on. The poor enabling environment ultimately creates a ceiling for the potential growth of the overall ecosystem – we can have all this incredible activity happening on the ground, but it can only grow so far thanks to these regulatory barriers.

In your view, what are the shortcomings that startups need to overcome if they want to attract investment?

A few things:

(1) focus on EXECUTION – the fortunate and unfortunate part of all these incredible events and startup competitions is I tend to see a lot of entrepreneurs who care more about winning awards than executing on their business. As an investor, I don’t care what awards you’ve won, I want to know people are willing to pay for your product and it has validation in the market.

(2) Think about growth and scale – it’s great that you’ve thought about how you’re going to attain your first 100 customers, but how have you thought about growth beyond that? As an investor, we want to know that you’re thinking big and that you’ve really understood your market and your path to growth better than your competitors.

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