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Pakistani-American VC Asad Jamal Invested Early in China's Baidu

Pakistani-American venture capitalist Asad Jamal hit it big with Baidu, China's search giant worth over $90 billion in market capitalization today. Jamal founded ePlanet Capital in Silicon Valley in 1999 and became an early investor in Baidu at its founding in 2000.

Asad Jamal

In addition to its search business, Baidu also runs an e-commerce platform with an online payment tool, develops and markets web application software, and provides human resource related services.

Here's is how Jamal has described his experience of working with Baidu's founder Robin Lee:

"I first experienced this Chinese tech dynamism when, inspired by the late-1990s Internet start-up culture, I moved to Silicon Valley and founded ePlanet Capital, a venture capital firm. I was new to the field and unsure what to expect. In 2000, I met Robin Li, a Chinese entrepreneur in his twenties who was seeking funding for his new company, Baidu. Based on conventional investment criteria, Baidu’s chances of success seemed low. The company had no track record, limited funding, and an inexperienced team, yet they were aiming to challenge search giants Google and Yahoo. But I soon learned that in the new Internet world, these obstacles were perfectly normal and surmountable by visionary, passionate entrepreneurs with big dreams and ideas. Consequently, my firm went ahead and invested in Robin’s vision. Within five years of that first meeting, Baidu went from little more than an idea to being the leader in China’s Internet search industry, leaving Google and Yahoo far behind. Today, it is one of China’s top three Internet companies, forming the so-called BAT triumvirate along with Alibaba and Tencent. Robin himself is now the Larry Page (or Bill Gates) of China, with a net worth of over $10 billion".

Jamal believes that China offers a good example for Pakistan to follow to develop its own technology business to "break its cycle of poverty". Here's an excerpt from an article he wrote for Project Syndicate:

"The good news for Pakistan and other countries in a similar position is that tech start-ups require far fewer resources than traditional large-scale industrial firms. Whereas the latter typically need hundreds of millions of dollars in capital, plant and machinery, and bank loans, tech companies need only a small team of smart people, computers, modest funding, and mentorship. Young Pakistani entrepreneurs are just as well placed as their Chinese counterparts were two decades ago: they need big ideas and encouragement to build on them. Here, of course, the provision of venture capital is essential. Pakistan should therefore establish a national venture capital fund to promote technology entrepreneurship. Moreover, China’s rise as an economic and technology leader gives Pakistan a unique opportunity to learn from its neighbor and collaborate with it in education, science, and technology. And Pakistan should leverage its historical ties with US and British universities in these areas".

Here's a video of Asad Jamal's speech at Islamabad National University's inaugural event also attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan:

https://youtu.be/OKmtptJyvEo

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Comment by Riaz Haq on February 10, 2019 at 10:12am

‘Don’t miss the boat’, #Pakistan #PMImranKhan tells #investors in #Dubai. “This is the time to come to Pakistan, when it is just going on the upswing. This is the time to invest in the country – and don’t miss the boat” #WGS2019 #UAE http://bit.ly/2Sp1t7f

Addressing the World Government Summit in Dubai, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday made a strong investment pitch for his country, advising investors “don’t miss the boat” as Pakistan goes on a business-friendly “upswing”.

Khan, a former cricket player, mentioned a wide-ranging “ambitious reforms programme”, which also includes various opportunities for businesses “to make money”, tax reforms, deficit cuts, tourism development, and a new visa regime.

“This is the time to come to Pakistan, when it is just going on the upswing. This is the time to invest in the country – and don’t miss the boat,” Khan told a huge crowd of summit delegates during his main address at the Madinat Jumeriah resort.

Attending Khan’s session were His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum; Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; and Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

After recalling the history of his entry and rise in politics, Khan said his party Tehreek-e-Insaf eventually formed the government in the last elections, in 2018.


“So now we have our reforms agenda… we’ve started our ambitious reforms programme. We’re trying to improve all our economic policies, trying to cut down our fiscal deficit, improve exports, cut down our imports…we’re doing that,” he added.

Pakistan, Khan said, is already seeing “optimism and investors are coming into our country. We feel that this is the time that Pakistan will take off”.

He said Shaikh Mohammad had told him earlier “you must allow businesses to make money; investors must make profits. And the reason is simple… if they can make money, more people come and invest. So this is what we’ve done”.

Khan added: “We’ve started working on ease of doing business… we’re changing our tax laws, which were very cumbersome.”

He also pointed out that Pakistan has “the best tourism potential… Pakistan has probably one of the best mountain scenery anywhere in the world. Half of the world’s highest peaks are in Pakistan; we have 1,000km of coastline; the oldest historical monuments, as old as anywhere in the world; we’ve the Indus Valley Civilisation; ancient cities”.


Pakistan, Khan added, is also poised to benefit from a unique offering of “religious tourism”.

“We have the ‘Makkah’ and ‘Madinah’ for the Sikhs – the Sikh religion has its two holiest sites in Pakistan and we’ve just opened those sites for Sikhs.”

There are important Buddhist sites too and Sufi shrines all over Pakistan, he said.

“And we’ve opened a visa regime. For the first time in Pakistan, we have 70 countries which can come in and get a visa at the airport.

“What we’re doing is, we’re opening up the country; we’re opening up for tourism and investors.”


The seventh edition of the annual summit ends on Tuesday.

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 10, 2019 at 10:21am

Asad Jamal has been on Forbes Midas List of top global VCs several times since 2007. Here's his Linked-in profile:

Asad Jamal is Founder and Chairman of ePlanet Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Since late-1990’s, ePlanet pioneered migration of technology venture capital to global emerging markets in Asia, Europe, Middle-East, and Latin America. Asad was ranked among the “Top 20” venture capitalists worldwide by Forbes Midas List for 2007, 2008 and 2009, and received the “Pioneer of Global Venture Capital” accolade by Forbes in 2007.

ePlanet has invested in over hundred companies in Technology, Media, & Telecom sectors including wireless telecommunications, computing software, consumer internet, enterprise software, and digital media. A number of ePlanet’s investments have become category-leading companies, including Baidu, (China’s No.1 Internet search & AI company), Skype, (the global No.1 VOIP company), Focus Media, (China’s leading digital-media company), Virgin Mobile Middle-East & Africa, (the No.1 MVNO in MENA), Virgin Mobile Latin America, (the leading MVNO in Latin America), amongst others. The aggregate market value of ePlanet’s successful exits is in excess of $100 Billion. 

Asad founded Good Planet, a non-profit global foundation, to support educational projects and relieve world poverty. Good Planet works with the UN Education Envoy in supporting achievement of Millennium Development Goals in Education, particularly in underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia. He also sponsored Singularity University in Silicon Valley, which seeks to utilize exponential technologies to solve the world’s pressing challenges. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Honors) from the London School of Economics, and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/asjamal/

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 13, 2019 at 7:23am

#Pakistan Citizen's Portal #app, launched last year by #PMImranKhan, wins 2nd spot among 4,646 #MobileApps from 87 countries competing in #Dubai at the #WGS earlier this week. #Indonesia came out on top while the #UnitedStates stood at the third spot. #PTI https://www.dawn.com/news/1463589

The citizen's portal app was developed by a team in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa "free of cost" in a "record time of 45 days", the prime minister said.

"This is the first time any government-owned mobile application [has] reached this level in Pakistan."

So far, around 250,000 out of 420,000 complaints that were registered through the app have been resolved with 55 per cent 'satisfactory' feedback from the public, according to statistics posted by Prime Minister Khan.

The application has a 4.5 rating on Google Play and a 3.5 rating on Apple Store.

The World Government Summit is a non-profit organisation, that holds an annual event in Dubai. According to its website, the World Government Summit is a "global platform dedicated to shaping the future of governments worldwide". The organisation aims to "set the agenda for the next generation of governments" to tackle both global and local challenges with the help of technological innovations.

The event held by the World Government Summit serves as "knowledge exchange platform" by bringing together governments and private entrepreneurs. Leaders, entrepreneurs and experts from over 150 countries are invited every year.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 1, 2019 at 7:43am

#China's Gobi Partners and #Pakistan's Fatima Ventures launch $20 million #VC fund for #startups. Fatima Ventures has already made investments in 5 local startups and Gobi Ventures had made their first investment in Pakistan last year
https://www.menabytes.com/gobi-fatima-pakistan-fund/ via @MENAbytes

Gobi Partners, a China-headquartered venture capital firm with big presence in Southeast Asia and over $1.1 billion of assets under its management is partnering with Pakistan-based Fatima Ventures that is investing arm of one of the largest conglomerates of the country Fatima Group to launch a $20 million fund to invest in early-stage technology startups in Pakistan, Gobi announced in a statement to MENAbytes.

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The fund that will be co-manged by Gobi Partners and Fatima Ventures will focus on seed and Series A investments in tech startups of the country. Gobi Partners in a astatement said that the sectors they will be investing in include travel, logistics, fintech, healthcare, education, e-commerce, consumer tech, industrial internet and Taqwatech, an investment vertical that targets innovative startups offering products and services that cater for the global Muslim population.

Speaking on the launch of the fund, Gobi’s Managing Director Jamaludin Bujang, said, “Gobi began our ASEAN operations in Malaysia, and we have now ventured out of the region to other countries with potential, such as Pakistan. This is a nation that has all of the right ingredients to be one of the fastest-growing digital markets – it has a sizeable and young population, as well as a growing middle class, not to mention high Internet penetration, with about one million users going online every month. The country also has a high number of unbanked citizens which means that there is a lot of potential for FinTech startups in Pakistan.”

“We believe that the nation’s growth will mirror that of Indonesia, and as an early investor in that market, we have the insights and experience in seeking out successful business models which we can apply to the Pakistani ecosystem,” he added.

Gobi’s Chairman and Founding Partner Thomas G. Tsao, said, “Pakistan is the second largest Muslim market in the world and is at the center of a $200 billion Muslim digital market. It is increasingly evident to savvy investors that Muslims are one of the most powerful sets of consumer purchasers and there is an immense market opportunity as the communities’ digital needs are largely underserved.”

Fatima Ventures Founder and CEO Ali Mukhtar, said, “Pakistan is emerging, and we at Fatima want to help Pakistani entrepreneurs emerge with her. Through our partnership with Gobi, we will now be able to fully support and nurture early-stage companies and, when they are ready, we can help them to scale. Gobi’s region-wide network and wealth of experience together with Fatima’s large footprints and local expertise will also be a boost to the Pakistani entrepreneurial community.”

“For both Fatima and Gobi, the launch of the Fund not only means more funding options for Pakistani startups, but it will help to promote common values, the digitization of traditional industries, as well as further the inclusion of underserved communities as a whole,” Gobi Partners, said in a statement to MENAbytes.

Founded by Ali Mukhtar, Fatima Ventures has already made investments in five local startups and has also partnered with Lahore University of Management Sciences to set up, what it claims is the largest tech incubation center in Lahore (NIC Lahore).
Gobi Ventures had made their first investment in Pakistan last year by leading Karachi-based OTA SastaTicket’s $1.5 million Series A.

Last year, Sarmayacar, another VC fund for Pakistani startups had announced their first close of $30 million.

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