Karachi-based start-ups raised $236.7 million in 2022, accounting for two-thirds of Pakistan's total startup funding and almost double the previous year, according to Data Darbar. Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, is followed by Lahore with $69.2 million and Islamabad with $41.6 million. Nationally, the total funds raised by startups have been declining after hitting the peak of $173 million in Q1/2022.
National Incubation Center, located at Karachi's NED University of Engineering and Technology (NEDUET), has incubated more than 250 start-ups so far. These include ride-hailing app Bykea and London-based proptech platform Gridizen. Kamran Mahmood, the CEO of Gridizen, who recently returned to Pakistan to join NIC Karachi, says he has found it even easier to meet decision makers at large companies in Pakistan than the UK, according to a report in FDI Intelligence. “Karachi really offers the best chance for Pakistan to catch up with other start-up ecosystems,” says Rabeel Warraich, the founder and CEO of Sarmayacar, a Pakistani early stage VC fund set up in 2018.
Since the start of 2018, the total VC funding in Pakistan soared more than 20-fold to reach an all-time high of $333m in 2022, according to Magnitt, an emerging market data platform. Most of the funding has gone to e-commerce and fintech start-ups, including Karachi-based online marketplace Bazaar Technologies, salary advance app Abhi and Lahore-based e-commerce platform Jugnu.
NIC Karachi is funded by Ignite, the country's national technology fund, and operated by LMKT, a private tech company which runs two other NICs in the cities of Hyderabad and Peshawar. “The level of funding and support has improved a lot in recent years,” Sana Shah, the program manager at the National Incubation Center (NIC) in Pakistan's most populous city Karachi, told FDI Intelligence. It is one of eight public-private tech innovation hubs established across Pakistan since 2016.
Across Pakistan, the total funds raised by startups have been declining since hitting the peak of $173 million in Q1/2022. Start-ups raised just over $15m in Q4/22, the lowest figure since the first quarter of 2020 and 79% lower than the same period a year earlier, according to Data Darbar, which tracks the Pakistani start-up scene. This downward trend is at least partly due to Pakistan's current economic crisis. It also reflects a global decline in VC investments in startups.