Somehow all the entrepreneurs ended up on one round table (I suspect it was by design), and all the students in the diagonally opposite corner (I am sure it wasn’t). In the middle we had a handful of aspiring younglings and a few who had already jumped in the self employment pool and were at the roundtable session to pick experiences shared by the 5 panelists PASHA and CIPE had chosen to lead the discussion.
A quick poll to ensure that everyone in the room would take a job rather than start a business showed that there were 4 kids who were willing to give destiny a spin. But the other 35 would rather not start a business.
Once we established that we had the right profile in the room, five questions got the discussion started
- Your deepest fear – the one that holds you back from taking a leap of faith and starting your own business
- The greatest challenge that you expect to face as an entrepreneur or have already faced
- The one resource that you think can make the difference between success and failure
- The one thing you would ask if someone would be in a position to give it (PASHA, CIPE, Government)
- The question you really want to ask the Entrepreneurial roundtable
A variation along the lines of the same theme was posed to the group of in-residence Entrepreneurs. Rather than taking one question at a time, we asked the room to jot down their reactions to the questions posed on a piece of paper within the first 15 minutes and then opened up the floor for interaction.
Surprisingly the deepest fear turned out to be not meeting expectations. Some brought up failure a little later but the very first response was disappointing customers and family. Which was exceedingly interesting, I would have thought a budding entrepreneur would have thought of himself first but this gentleman was actually thinking of his customers. Then came financial loss. On the challenges front the A list included managing cash flows, finances and money and the one resource everyone felt that can make a huge difference was mentoring from individuals who had already walked on this path before. The one thing you would ask was not capital but the knowledge that helped you find and sell to customers. And interestingly enough the discussion around the four questions was enough to eat up the designated three and a half hour for the roundtable.
In between we touched on failure (how could we not touch my favorite topic) and our personal picture of what it means. Farzal shared his point of view on success rather than failure. We also touched IPR rights, the human capital story, the enforcement of contracts and the ability to collect from customers who have decided to not pay us for the work we have already done (another sore topic).
Topics that got touched upon and covered on the sidelines of the discussion during the tea and lunch break included:
- Arbitration of issues around payments collection and enforcement of contracts especially within the technology industry.
- The impact of tax consequences of selling a private limited company or business in Pakistan and how the current tax code discourages registered transactions by applying the personal marginal income tax rate on the difference between the sale price and the par value of shares.
- Creating opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to create reference sites and portfolios by being given the chance to do pilots, internships and mentored projects.
- Sharing as much information as possible about building credibility and creating opportunities for startups to find and close new customers.
Post the tea break we also got Moen sahib to share his story with the audience and the distance he has travelled from the point that he started working as an 8 year old child to his current role at CIPE.
The highlight of the event of course was the multiple attempts to close and conclude the discussion. I think I tried three conclusions before Jehan stopped counting. But then she said something very interesting. In her words:
“The reason why PASHA creates so many opportunities for young companies to participate and win in events like the PASHA ICT Awards, the PASHA Launch Pad initiative, the upcoming PASHA Social Enterprise initiative, the Asia Pacific ICT Awards and the Microsoft Catalyst program is to make it possible for them to build credibility, win cash prizes where possible and build a portfolio that they can put in front of their customers as part of their pitches.”
To which yours truly added a simple note. “In our days all of this wasn’t there to support us and yet we started companies. What are you guys waiting for?”
Rabia does a great job of editing the multi-lingual show on CIO Pakistan which shows that moderating an event with a really bad cold does wonders for the quality of my voice. A note to those who didn’t attend the session that while the recording just shows me speaking for 23 minutes, the actual session ran for 250 minutes. So if you thought as a moderator I hogged the mike you would be absolutely right (it is just another instance that proves Rabia and Bert’s evul cousin are one and the same).
Psss. And if you are interested in similar stuff that PASHA has been upto recently in this space, please check out Training for young Entrepreneurs – Microsoft Catalyst as well as the NUST Business Plan Competition and the PSEB Incubation opportunity posts.