|Date: 2nd October 2013
Time: 10:00am to 01:00pm
Venue: KITE Campus
What is Plan-9?
Started by the Punjab government almost a year ago, Plan-9 is an initiative aimed at nurturing the budding culture of tech-enabled entrepreneurship (technopreneurship) in Pakistan. It is a technology incubator modeled after, and at par with, incubators abroad, such as Y-Combinator.
The term ‘incubator’ was adopted from the medical profession by Silicon Valley thought-leaders in the early 60’s. As their name suggests, business incubators provide support facilities, mentorship and guidance to nurture promising start-ups with limited reach. To this end, Plan-9 offers office space, product design and marketing guidance, and access to venture capital funding to help innovative Pakistani tech-businesses get off the ground.
According to Mr. Qadeer, the government spends on average US$50,000 per team through Plan-9, shortening the incubation cycle from 3 years to merely 6 months. The 2 best teams are also sent to Silicon Valley, USA for further learning and development at Google’s incubator (Black Box).
Making the Cut
The selection criteria is tough and the competition stiff. As Mr. Qadeer pointed out, the Plan-9 board assesses each team on 3 critical areas – the value of the problem being solved, the inventiveness shown in the proposed solution, and the overall impact of the solution, both in Pakistan and globally.
Almost 850 teams (each between 2 and 5 people) compete for a total of 15 slots. These applications are rated by the Plan-9 board and a panel of judges drawn from leading figures in the industry; seasoned and enthusiastic entrepreneurs alike play their part. Shortlisted teams are invited to Plan-9 ‘Launchpads’ organized in Lahore, Karachi & Islamabad. KITE was the official host of the Karachi Launchpad last year.
Launchpads are intense 3 day events that allow teams to develop their ideas. The first two days are earmarked for initial scoring based on the first idea pitch. Participants are expected to demonstrate their technical competence by developing a prototype of their idea. They also receive overnight mentorship from industry experts that come in as guest speakers. On the final day the judges vet each prototype and announce the winners.
Walking the Walk
After the vetting process is complete, selected teams are invited to the Plan-9 HQ in Lahore where they are provided with accommodation and the resources that they need to develop their business idea into a viable and sustainable venture.
The 6 month ‘incubation cycle’ includes rigorous and comprehensive trainings across the areas of soft skills, business plans and digital marketing (Badar Khushnood from Google conducted this session last year). By the 4th month of incubation the teams are expected to have finalized their product. The cycle culminates in 2 “Demo Days” – open to academia and venture capitalists alike – where the participant teams showcase the result of their hard work and take charge of their future.
With the recent successes of Pakistani technopreneurs in the global arena, and the increasing awareness of technopreneurship locally, the future of technology leadership in Pakistan seems to be very bright. As always, our best wishes go out to all teams participating in the current Plan-9 cycle. May the brightest idea win!