Despite the pandemic, or perhaps because of the vacuum for innovation it created, Pakistan’s startup ecosystem has flourished, with 41 deals amounting to $57.7 million being closed in 2020. 2021 has only built upon the blazing speed of last year with increased interest by international investors. According to i2i’s (Invest2Innovate) latest research, since 2015, startups in Pakistan have raised approximately $424 million in funding, with close to $212 million raised in 2021 alone.
“Since its inception daftarkhwan has had the singular focus to help founders build and scale their businesses. Inadvertently this has given us a front row seat in witnessing the staggering growth of the startup industry in Pakistan”, Saad Idrees, Co-founder of daftarkhwan. We’re super proud to be hosting some of these incredible companies as they went to work in bringing their visions to reality. So who are these inspirational businesses that have been energizing the whole startup circuit?
Airlift launched in 2019 as an app-based decentralized urban mass transit startup which effectively pivoted towards quick commerce during the pandemic. The company first raised $10 million in 2020 in Series A financing led by San Francisco based Quiet Capital. Though an impressive feat in of itself, Airlift goes beyond, raising an unprecedented $85 million, held at a valuation of $275 million, in Series B financing round led by Buckley Ventures and 20VC. To date this has been the largest fund raised for a Pakistani start up, acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself. “The idea was to create impact at the base of the pyramid and solve problems that would enrich millions of lives,” the founder, Usman Gul, humbly claims.
Trella, a Cairo-based trucking marketplace that operates in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, raised $42 million, a combination of equity and debt investment, in Series A led by Maersk and Raed Ventures. Trella connects shippers to carriers while helping solve challenges faced by both parties such as transparency, fair pricing, tracking and load utilization. The startup has 15,000+ carriers and 350 shipping partners including brands like Coca-Cola , Mondi and Henkel using its platform.
In 2020, Salesflo, a software company that built Pakistan’s first cloud based sales and distribution platform, launched their subsidiary Jugnu, a B2B e-commerce platform, on a mission to digitize and empower small retail stores. Jugnu raised $3.2 million from Systems Limited, a Lahore based leading global technology and business process outsourcing services provider in exchange for a 20% stake in the company.
Retalio is a Riyadh based startup, now also operating in Karachi that enables grocery store owners to buy inventory for their stores using it’s mobile app. Building upon the $2.3 million it raised in the largest pre-seed rounds, Retalio raised $6.7 million seed to grow its B2B marketplace in MENAP, led by Shorooq Partners and Abercross Holdings. Retalio has been growing at an average of 35% (in terms of GMV) monthly since closing its pre-seed round in October 2020, with 30,000 retailers using the mobile app.
Founded in 2019, Walee, Pakistan’s largest and fastest growing Influencer network, enables brands and media agencies to connect with influencers for executing online campaigns. Walee has raised an impressive $2.7 million in seed funding from Z2C, a Pakistani communications company. Having served 5,000 brands to date, Walee wholly reimagines marketing with the 50,000 influencers it hosts, equating to a reach of 100 million followers.
Founded in 2018, OPay is an African fintech mobile money service led by a Chinese entrepreneur. Held at a valuation of a whopping $2 billion, OPay raised $400 million in a funding round led by SoftBank. OPay plans on investing in markets including Nigeria, Egypt and the Middle East. “We want to be the power that helps emerging markets reach a faster economic development” states the founder, Zhou Yahui. To date OPay has 160 million active users in Africa.
Tempered through circumstance and the desire to solve a certain problem, entrepreneurs across the country continue to raise the standards of what it means to truly disrupt, taking calculated leaps towards outstanding merit. With half of 2021 still to go, we’re excited to see what’s to come next for Pakistan’s startup ecosystem!