Thinking of executing your entrepreneurial ideas and running your own business? Do you lack the resources though, to support your idea? Not to worry, Dotzero is one initiative that could help you out of your dilemma. Dotzero, according to one of the cofounder of Dotzer, Imran Moinuddin who is also the CEO and co-founder of Next Degree Pvt Limited one of its co-founding board members, “It is the new co-working space based here in Karachi that focuses on developing a solid entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan.”
The idea behind Dotzero is to provide aspiring entrepreneurs and business companies with a space where they can work and collaborate and also get exposure to interested financiers. Said another of its founding members and cofounder of VentureDive, Atif Azeem, “We lack such facilities where fresh ideas can be mentored and put to business and we need to set up an entrepreneurial ecosystem to bridge this large gap. That’s been my driving force behind my involvement in Dotzero.”
One of the motivations for really focusing on developing a solid entrepreneurial ecosystem especially in Pakistan is the need to support fresh ideas of aspiring entrepreneurs, fresh graduates with great new ideas. Said Imran, “Motivation for Dotzero is to create that framework and fill this gap by catering these young students and professionals – helping them build their own businesses where they could take their ideas forward and develop some tangible service out of them. So that’s the gap that we are trying to address in terms of building the ecosystem.”
Dotzero is not just as a co-working space but it is more of a community space which aims to build that proximity between a lot of smart minds and people with great ideas where they could both benefit from each other and experiment. It is going to take a certain degree of hand holding however in terms of helping them think cater their ideas through a greater degree of granularity – and that’s where the smart networking aspect has to play in because it is not just a matter of providing a sounding board for the idea that you have for the products but also taking them and having them bettered by the industry professionals.
According to Imran, “Majority of our existing members have the kind of networks and connection to introduce right kind of people that can provide the required feedback in terms of feasibility as far as ideas are concerned, possibly taking those ideas and getting them funded as well,” to which Atif adds, “As part of the community space we are organizing here, it is ready to connect people with ideas to people who might be able to promote those ideas, be customers of those ideas or be financiers.”
The facility has got zones as well as open walking-space for both people who want to work in a focused space as well as for people who want to work in open-spaces with other people. Dotzero currently have a board of four members and one full time program manager. Three core companies are present at the facility are currently being run by the board members which is a plus, as in-house CEOs are able to mentor when people join. Dotzero also brings experts of the industry from different domains to enrich that mentoring. Because it is not just a matter of providing physical space but it is also providing interactive feedback on daily basis whether it is about the business side, technology side or services and products. Having these three core companies present at the facility is helping small companies to get in here and take that sort of value as soon as they come and start taking space.
Dotzero is not a generic entrepreneurial ecosystem – it is very focused in terms and types of organizations, products and services it supports, which eventually leads board members to categorize it into four areas:
- Development of ICT to encourage the use of technology for social development
- Providing a platform to encourage women entrepreneurship in the community because unfortunately there are not enough women in this field in Pakistan.
- ICT for mobile as Pakistan has a very high penetration of mobile phones in the general public. That’s something entrepreneurship should be thinking about capitalizing it.
- Fourth area is ICT for youth.
They have a ‘need blind structure’ in place for entrepreneurs who come in with tangible ideas and have the determination to do things on their own and it also waves off fees for a couple of months for the entrepreneurs to experience the feel and value of the place and smart networking that can help them execute their ideas into business plans and generate some basic revenue. There is a screening process though which is a standard practice for a lot of other incubated programs and co-working spaces outside of Pakistan. Currently Dotzero has about 20 people in the waiting list and it is partnering with third party organizations along with P@SAHA.
As the primary purpose of the Dotzero is to collaborate and mentor entrepreneurial ideas, it is also instituting a series of programs that will allow aspiring entrepreneurs to share their ideas, see the business viability and learn about who their target audience should be. On the other hand they are also doing programming and networking events to collaborate with other sectors as well.
“Technology is a vehicle by which you deliver that product which can help users in solving their problems. At the end of the day, an entrepreneur is developing a business around an idea or that service. Aspiring entrepreneurs don’t place technology before the value and the idea – the technology can be figured out but the goal is to add value to the service you provide,” Said Imran.
Even though there is great talent in Pakistan and a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs out there, the board members of Dotzero believe that the current mode of education is not fit for grooming young students from the very beginning as majority of students is trained to work for someone else while they should be focusing more on bringing forward their own ideas and businesses.
“If you dig deeper, it is a lot about the risk involved in it and the need to get out of there and start earning money. I think what we need to showcase people here is that there are success stories of several people who have built companies from scratch. Eventually if you do it right and have world class companies, this is a viable source not only of revenue but also of other employment opportunities. The basic idea for networking is how you connect these entrepreneurs with the notable CEOs and financiers among major companies in Pakistan as well as to Silicon Valley and investors abroad,” said Atif.
Dotzero is that initiative to establish such an entrepreneurial ecosystem where selling ideas, buying them and transforming them into business will make it easier for students to come forward and execute their ideas. The lack of such collaborative space has developed a mindset against risking your ideas or fine-tuning your personal plans as Imran said, “I think that mindset is something that we need to change in students and industry professionals in Pakistan because a lot of us that are coming out of college are basically trained with the intention of working for someone else. When you work for yourself, you work hard –That’s where you need to think broad and big. We need to break that mindset which trains you not to experience yourself and your ideas and take the risk.”
Dotzero is getting serious response from the industry and education sector and the time in now ripe in Pakistan to be ambitious and driven. Now we have got the tools and hands to these worthy ideas into products and services that people can use. There are people out there that are ready to invest in entrepreneurs. There are entire communities and organizations and facilities like Dotzero that want to bring all those elements and pieces of the puzzle into one place. So there’s really no excuse now to not be thinking big. This is the right time for IT.