This startup incubator has mentored over 500 young entrepreneurs in three years

 

“This is a country of over 200 million people, there will never be enough jobs for all these young people. They need to create jobs not just for themselves but for others like them,” says Jehan Ara, President of P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT Enabled Services). She is also heading the technology incubator  The Nest i/o, which was launched in Karachi by P@SHA in 2015, with global partners Google for Entrepreneurs and Samsung. A grant from the US State Department added to its funds a few months later.

Watch this interview to hear what inspires Jehan Ara (00:01), the problem that led to The Nest’s conception (00:57), securing funding for the incubator (02:39), the community support at launch (04:51), the role of its alumni network (05:15), plans for the future, (06:15), Jehan’s mentors (08:08), major influences in her life (08:49), her proudest moments (09:28), and what Pakistan needs more of (10:10).

Born in Karachi and raised in Hong Kong, Jehan has served in a variety of communications-based roles in diverse industries around the world.  From advertising in the UAE and running a publication for a multinational shipping corporation in Hong Kong, to setting up a multimedia company in Pakistan in partnership with a friend, communication and media have played a central role throughout Jehan Ara’s career.

Jehan believes that her discipline and work ethic stem from the “Chinese way of doing things”, which she grew up around. She’s always had a passion for writing, and believes that it is the sum of her experiences that forms a meaningful whole – and aspiring entrepreneurs in Karachi, seem to be much better off for it.

Through the P@SHA platform, Jehan, and likeminded people within Pakistan’s IT sector noticed a lack of new startups entering the space. They headed to universities to find out why. What was missing, they discovered, was the focus on entrepreneurship, access to mentors, and collaboration between like-minded people.

The Nest i/o, emerged as their answer, to all three.

Initially, securing funding was difficult, with local investors not valuing the returns on ‘investing in young people,’ but Google proved more open to the idea, and agreed to contribute half of the necessary funds, with Samsung contributing the remainder. Soon, a space was set up in an office tower on Shaheed e Millat Road, Karachi, and the first startups were signed on. Eventually, the US State Department also contributed to funding through a grant.

Getting people involved in the process proved to be much easier, with a community of volunteers rushing to help. A strong sense of community remains one of The Nest i/o’s biggest strengths. The ‘Nestlings’ (as incubatees are called) actively help each other, leveraging from each other’s strengths, forging partnerships, and doing their best to give back to their community as well greater society.

Now, more than three years in, The Nest i/o has incubated 137 startups, involving more than 500 young people who’ve learnt together, collaborated together, and been a part of each other’s entrepreneurial struggle.