021Disrupt19 Roundup – Making Waves Across Pakistan’s Ecosystem

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21Disrupt is Pakistan’s premier entrepreneurship conference organized by NestIO.

The two-day conference recently took place in Karachi for the third time. It ended with successful conversations and discussions on improving the entrepreneurship situation. And promoting the startup ecosystem of the country. The conference had attendees from diverse frameworks. Ranging from business specialists, successful start-up partners to budding entrepreneurs.

More than 100 innovators, 600+ startups, and 20+ investors were part of the show. These numbers are already a testimonial to the eminence of the conference.

The event covered speaker sessions, roundtable discussions, workshops, startup rapid-fire and other interactive activities.

The core idea was to channel the potential that Pakistan has. To provide young startups a platform to showcase their idea. To help entrepreneurs and businesses connect with potential investors. To learn from the industry experts themselves. And also add to the country’s industrial development.

Social Champ was the outreach partner of such an incredible event. If you missed the event or the live coverage, we’ve got you covered. Here all you need to know about the two-day tech conference #021disrupt19.

The hype of the event was created before it even started. Organizers started tweeting about the guest speakers. Early bird passes were all sold out. Speakers around the globe were delighted to be on board with 021disrupt.

The Big Bird, Jehan Ara All Set To Start The Conference

Every participant was looking for the weekend full of innovation, learning, and networking. The social media team, organizers, volunteers, hotel staff all were putting their best to make this event perfect and successful. And finally, the day arrived. On 2nd November, at Pearl Continental Hotel, Karachi, the conference was officially started by Jehan Ara. And as she said:

“We are ready. No one is going to hold us back as long as we are together, support each other, buy from each other and sell to each other. We are just the torch bearers, you my friends are the fire.”

Key Takeaways From Day 1 at 021 Disrupt 2019

 Making High-Speed Internet Access Affordable for Every Human by 2028 -Isfandiyar Shaheen


The first speaker lined up on day 1 of the conference was Isfandiyar Shaheen. The Founder and CEO at NetEquity Networks. He shared his thoughts on how will your startup change when Pakistan has abundant bandwidth by 2023. According to him:

  • “Half of the world does not have access to the Internet. That’s not okay. NetEquity Networks have come up with a tangible plan to bring internet access to every human by 2028 and to Pakistan by 2023.”

Isfandyar Shaheen shared his plan of NetEquity Networks to provide 10 million km of fiber for the whole world. How will they do it? They’ll open source it.

 A Designers Lens on Product-Market Fit
– Saba Zaidi


021 Disrupt 2019
Google Assistant’s Interaction Designer, flew in from HQ in Mountain View to share “A Designer’s Lens on Product Market Fit at 021disrupt19.

  • “We should think about markets as individuals with human needs.”
  • “Focus on user research. Train yourself or hire an expert.”

Beating the Odds and Growing by Leaps and Bounds
– Junaid Iqbal


021 Disrupt 2019
Right after HBL’s Announcement for startups by Sagheer Mufti, the next speaker session was by Careem Pakistan’s Managing Director Junaid Iqbal.

Junaid Iqbal shared how Careem is changing the lives of thousands of people across the country. And how they built a tribe of entrepreneurs solving the biggest problem of ‘commute’ in Pakistan.

    • “Today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s impossibilities.”
    • “To start Careem, we had to solve the problem of security as there was no database available. So, we collected information ourselves by asking around people’s neighborhoods!”
    • “Today, Careem is not a company, it’s a responsibility.”
    • “Every process which is broken is an opportunity to fix it.”

[bctt tweet=”IT CAN’T BE DONE – Just overcome these words and start your journey with beating the odds and growing by leaps and bounds. – @jiqbalpk” username=”socialchampsays”]

 Investor Panel: Cash to Scale
Meenah Tariq, Faisal Aftab, Misbah Naqvi, Bernhard Klemen, Jonas Eichhorst, Thomas Tsao, Kristie Neo


021 Disrupt 2019
A panel discussion with investors was up next. An incredible discussion to understand the investment landscape from a few of the best in the industry.

  • Thomas Tao from Gobi Partners compared Pakistan’s perception problem to what happened with Indonesia years ago. “If Indonesia can create 10 unicorns there’s no reason Pakistan can’t create 5.”
  • “Why invest in Pakistan? A market of 220 million people and growing entrepreneurial talent that’s why. Who doesn’t see risk but reward! We need a Hero effect.”
  • “We need to bridge the knowledge gap in the startup ecosystem in Pakistan. How do evaluations happen? Seed money? Supporter organizations?”
  • “Having shared values with your investor are important and know the value of your own business”
  • “Fundraising is distracting, focus on building the business and don’t just hustle to get the fuel (capital).” -Jonas Eichhorst
  • “Risk and Reward always go together. And when I look at Pakistan I see more reward” – Thomas Tsao.

[bctt tweet=”Pakistani entrepreneurs have an added responsibility to trigger the ‘hero effect’ to catalyze more entrepreneurship and innovation – Thomas Tsao from @GobiPartners” username=”socialchampsays”]

  • “Entrepreneurs who stick to what they are building and can come out of times like the 08/09 period, come out big.”
  • “Most important for an investment pitch: Size of opportunity and strategic vision, the passion of founder and commitment to make the idea into reality.”
  • “Are pitch decks overrated? Own your stories! Do your homework on who you are approaching.”
  • “We invest in people, and people build ideas and that’s what we are looking for. We’re here to help founders. Think of us as partners, not ATMs. They must be able to add value. If all you want is cash go borrow money from a bank.”
  • “Vision, grit, professionalism, well researched, honesty, authenticity, and a solid plan. The yesses for Founders to pay heed to.”
  • “As an Entrepreneur, think long term.”

Thomas Tsao from GobiPartners was the biggest believer in the investor panel.  He believes that while we freak out about a liquidity crunch and business tanking – it’s instead a fantastic opportunity. If you can survive the “winter,” you can survive and win at anything.

Creativity and the Internet: A Frame by Frame Approach
– Usman Riaz


021 Disrupt 2019
Usman Riaz was the youngest speaker of day 1 at 021disrupt19. He’s the founder of Mano Studio, Pakistan’s first hand-drawn animation studio. There was no concept of hand-drawn animations in Pakistan so Usman took it upon himself to learn it on his own. He also showed his masterpiece “The Glassworker” to the audience.

  • “Be authentic to your idea.”
  • “We kept finding hidden drawings and small sculptures in our office. Turned out it was the cleaning guy at Mano. He is no more a janitor, he is part of the animation team now.”
  • “People supported us because people found the enthusiasm behind the project.”

[bctt tweet=”There is nothing wrong with searching for greener pastures, but it’s equally important to Bloom Where You Are Planted. – @usmanriaz1990″ username=”socialchampsays”]

Founder Traits That Attract Capital
– Rabeel Warraich


021 Disrupt 2019

  • “A great entrepreneur can take a failing idea and make it great.”
  • “Recognizing and building empathy in yourself is important for a founder of a startup.”
  • “The Strategist, the Implementer, the Polisher, the Game changer.  – 4 types of people needed to run a startup/business smoothly.”
  • “Be aware of your zone of weakness but work with your zone of genius.”

Disrupt Or Die
– Imran Aftab


021 Disrupt 2019
The co-founder and CEO of 10Pearls shared his thoughts on what causes disruption.

  • “The artificially intelligent robot solves Rubix cube in 0.7 seconds, whereas a human being solves it in 4.3 seconds. It’s the software programming to lead the competition.”
  • “Negative mindset won’t get you anywhere.”
  • “Believe in yourself that you can do it, Find what you love to do and purpose in life.”

Right after lunch, and Hassaan Bin Shaheen’s energetic performance the next speaker lined up was CFO of Analogue Devices Ali Husain. Just when you think the conference was getting a little monotonous, Hassaan Bin Shaheen wrote and performed an impromptu rap with the help of words provided by the audience right there.

Winning Investors Over: Why Long Term Relationships Matter
– Ali Husain



  • “If you build it, no one will care. It turns out marketing exists for a reason.”
  • “Entrepreneurs aren’t wedded to HOW things are going to happen. They are wedded to WHY they want to head in a certain direction.”
  • “You don’t need a partner; you need a start-ner.”
  • Ask yourself this question: Is my product really differentiated? If I shut down will anyone care? This is important to see if you really have validity in the market.
  • “Be honest with your investors about roadblocks and share an action plan so they could know you will make it through.”
  • “Be the doer and give investors the FOMO!”
  • “Actively seek help and feedback from investors. Don’t forget that they want their money!”

Next were announcements made by TelloTalk. Pakistan’s first homegrown messenger. TelloTalk raised 1.6 million seed round funding.
The stage was set on fire by the Fireside Chat on how cities can promote innovation with Kristin Anderssen from Oslo Innovation Week and Afaque Ahmed from Karachi Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship.

021 Disrupt 2019

Path to Digital Pakistan
– Tania Aidrus


021 Disrupt 2019
Director of Product Management at Google, Tania Aidrus was next to share insights on the path to digital Pakistan. She mentioned the power of technology to lift the country and wants to spend time discussing how to make it work instead of why it’s not working.

  • “To solve your problems, you have to take the bull by the horns.”
  • “Vision can change your path it’s you who decide it.”
  • “Entrepreneurship is a scary city! No water- dig wells, No food- plant trees, No family- build one, No identity- prove yourself.”
  • “We need to have the humility to learn from others. We have all the right ingredients in place and incredible talent. The change will start with all of us. Instead of saying Is a digital Pakistan possible? Ask how soon can we start.”

Every year 021disrupt provides startups an opportunity to pitch their idea. Startup Rapid Fire is the part where you have 30 seconds to pitch your startup idea. With the audience full of investors, venture capitals, businesses, it is a great opportunity to showcase your idea. 5 entrepreneurs/CEOs were up on stage to share their idea in 30 seconds. Right after that, Charles Ill managing director from Oman Tech Fund was up on stage to share his experience working with Pakistani startups.

021 Disrupt 2019
OTF invested in six startups. Social Champ was also one of the startups who got funded by OTF. Charles shared his experience as

“Pakistani entrepreneurs have a knack for technology, are hard-working and work relentlessly. They are the first one to come and the last one to leave.”

Nadir Salar Qureshi from Engro Fertilizers shared challenges for technopreneurs in the agrispace. Followed by Marwan Faddoul from Qadisha Group with his talk on China’s technological impact on the region.

Transport & Mobility Panel: Moving Millions

Airlift, Swvl, Roshni Rides, Careem, Bykea
Sidra Iqbal (Moderator)


021 Disrupt 2019

  • “Companies are the result of the work of founders and employees. Putting together a great group of talented people is obviously not enough to succeed, but it is a step in the right direction.”
  • “45 is the number of people who compete for one seat. So there is immense potential and opportunity in the market. Usman from Airlift encourages people to take a share from the pie of the mobility industry!”
  • Think about “how do I change the world?” instead of “how do I add a feature to product X?”. Everything else will fall into place.
  • “Its a win-win situation for both the companies in the mobility sector and the government, as they create jobs on a large scale.”
  • “Drivers should be ambassadors and feed into the values of the company as you consider how they are the driving force behind. – Gia from Roshni Rides.”

The last speaker for day one was Beau Seil.

The day didn’t end there. It was followed by two creative, informative workshops and two interactive roundtable sessions.
The first workshop on “Mindfulness for Innovators” was conducted by Noorulain Masood. And second on “Using Storytelling & Virality to Build Better Marketing Campaigns” was conducted by Muzamil Hassan.

Key Takeaways From Day 2 at 021 Disrupt 2019

3rd November 2019 Sunday, at Pearl Continental Hotel, Karachi, the second day of disruption.

The day was officially started by The Big Bird, Jehan Ara. The second day was hosted by Sehar Habib Ghazi. The first speaker on the stage for the day was Andre Privateer, CEO of Ascendant and the founder of HotelRooms, to discuss hospitality and travel in Pakistan.

The following are some of the main speakers from day two at 021 disrupt 2019.

Imposter Syndrome. A 13 Step Formula for Banishing the Feeling That You Are an Imposter
– Melissa Sassi


021 Disrupt 2019

  • “70% of people feel imposter sometimes. Most people are convinced they’re faking it. It’s not mandatory for everyone to know everything. Even if they stand at some designation.”
  • “You belong to any profession still you can make a change.”
  • “My personal tragedy is my superpower.”
  • “Ask yourself this: What are you qualified to do? Since you cannot do everything. And what you are not qualified for, ask others who are. Have mentors and create a squad who can help each other!”
  • “Growth, personal development and everything else. Always better to keep moving forward than staying stationary.”

[bctt tweet=”You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can’t, you do the next best thing. You back up, but you don’t give up. @mentorafrika” username=”socialchampsays”]

Soft Power: Promoting Pakistan on the global stage
Shehryar Taseer (Moderator),
Shaniera Akram / Akram Foundation
Shehzad Roy / Zindagi Trust
Wasim Akram / Akram Foundation
Aamina Sheikh
Hina Bayat


021 Disrupt 2019
This powerful celebrity panel was the most-awaited and exciting part of day two. All the Pakistani celebrities in this panel are associated with some kind of humanitarian cause. All of them are representing Pakistan globally. And trying their best to show the positive and real image of Pakistan to the world. The panel discussed how to make Pakistan a place to show the world. They talked about the education system, society taboos, role of social media and television and cinema content, about modernizing the culture and solutions to all these issues.

  • “More than 4k girls are studying at our government school. When you say something is better than nothing, it becomes substandard and this can be damaging.No short cuts. No such thing as sub-standard education. Scientific, scaling up solutions are needed.” says Shehzad.
  • “We need to take baby steps, else the foundations will crumble later on. Before we can reform government schools, we need to introduce children’s books in regional language (and properly introduce them to their culture).” -Shehzad Roy
  • We need to use media to translate initiatives in order to reach the community effectively. The topics which people say are taboos won’t be taboos if we don’t make them into a taboo.” HinaBayat also addressed the issue of how we are disconnected from reading and literature. She said, “Our quality of writing is not at par with the type of content we need to put out there.”
  • “As Pakistanis, we are reinventing ourselves. We are scared of improving our culture. We shouldn’t be scared. We just need to modernize our culture. We all seem afraid to lose our culture but we shouldn’t be. Just having culture does not mean we need to live in the 1900s. We need to modernize our culture and reinvent ways to do things.” – Shaniera Akram
  • “I get hundreds of messages on my social media accounts from overseas who keep asking if I really like living here and I answer it’s amazing! You need to come to see for yourselves.” -Shaniera Akram
  • “I’m all for political shows but all we see is people shouting at each other 24/7. The news channels need to discuss other topics like tourism and education to engage the youth,”- Wasim Akram
  • “We need to accept our own culture.. Pakistan has a long way to go.” – Shehryar Taseer

Trends in Emerging Market Venture Ecosystems
– Chris Rogers


021 Disrupt 2019

  • “One thing I don’t like about entrepreneurs and that is when they don’t tell the digits/numbers exactly. I wouldn’t tell how much they’re earning, how much they plan to earn/invest or anything as such. They’d rather say, it’s a new business. Even if it’s new. I won’t judge, but tell me the digits. If you need advice or something, how do I know whether it’s worth enough or not.”

[bctt tweet=”If you are fake, your customers will know it, your employees will know it, and your investor will know it. Never be fake! @mobilerogers” username=”socialchampsays”]

Intrapreneurship: Innovating Within Large Companies
– Sami Kizilbash


021 Disrupt 2019

  • “Ideas are often a solution to the problem.”
  • “If you want to fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
  • Agenda of Intrapreneurship:
    -On the road to LGTM (You got the approval from Senior)
    -On Ideas in Action
    -On legacies & failures.

[bctt tweet=”Say what you’ll do, do what you said and then say what you did! @samikiz” username=”socialchampsays”]

Introducing a New Term ‘Wapistani’

During one of the speaker sessions, the speaker said that professionals coming back to Pakistan to serve should be given a name. Someone from the crowd shouted “Wapistani.” And that’s where the term drove. Other speakers also started using that term on stage.

And That’s A Wrap!


021 Disrupt 2019
The conference hosted talks and panel discussions addressing diverse themes of engineering, technology, investments, user design, civic innovation, mobility and transport, tourism and agri-tech. Many startups raised fundings during the event. Some of them include SWVL, Airlift, Find My Adventure, PriceOye, and TelloTalk.  Right after the conference ended, a sinner with a music session and other refreshing activities was also hosted by the Nest IO for all the organizers and guests.

“If we are to make sure that Pakistan is going to become one of the greatest startup destinations, we will have to do it together, and collaboration is where we’ve got to focus. 021Disrupt is our attempt at doing that. We started it not to hold another conference, but to have conversations, to decide what is important, to bring relevant people into the country, and to facilitate the growth of the startup ecosystem, because I feel that the time is right.”
– Jehan Ara in her closing speech.

With that ending not, and a bang of a conference, we hope to see startups and entrepreneurs of Pakistan thrive and succeed with their full potential.
We hope to have events like 021 Disrupt to be a part of the business-industry culture.

Happy Disrupt-ing!

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Picture of Saadiya Munir

Saadiya Munir

I'm part of #ChampFam as a Senior Content Strategist. Computer Science graduate who hates to code. Introverted. Mostly hungry or sleepy. Writing a novel is always on my bucket list, and eventually, when I'm done with all the movies on my watch-list and tasks on my to-do list, I'll get to it. Twitter handle: @munirsaadiya

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