My Thoughts on the Startup Weekend Peshawar

Author: Irfan Ullah Khan
Published: 17th December 2013

Finally, the event most anticipated by the tiny Tech industry in Peshawar ended with a great zeal and vigor. Overall, the Startup Weekend Peshawar was a great show hosted by the Peshawar 2.0 with many sponsors from the Tech industry throughout Pakistan including some big names such as P@SHA. The theme of the event “No Talk All Action” was a captivating theme that was pretty successful to pull the young entrepreneurs to the event not only from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also from other parts of the country.

Peshawar Honored To Have Big Shots Of Tech Industry

I think it was a big achievement of the Peshawar 2.0 to have pulled the big shots such as Zafar Khan (CEO Sofizar) and Ma’am Jehan Ara (President P@sha) to Peshawar and getting them stay throughout the weekend. Jehan Ara later told us that it was the first time for her to visit Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa. It indeed was so humble of them to have travelled so far to a city that is known to be stricken by the War on Terror and projected on media as a dangerous region of Pakistan. While interacting with her, Jehan Ara told us that she was being advised by many not to travel to Peshawar due to the poor law and order situation but she didn’t pay any heed to their advices which speaks a lot about her commitment to the advancement of Technology and Entrepreneurship in Pakistan.

Jehan tweet Peshawar safe or not

SWP Jehan tweet about Peshawar

Creating a Buzz in Peshawar

It was good to see that the event created a buzz in Peshawar also making its way to the top 10 trends of Twitter in Pakistan for many hours during the weekend. Out of the 120 ideas that were originally submitted for Startup Weekend Peshawar, almost 60 ideas were shortlisted and 35 went on for the initial pitch on the 1st day. From these 35 ideas, the judges selected the 10 best teams that would make their ideas become a reality in the next 2 days.

SWP Fatima tweet event stir

Jehan tweet 120 ideas

Grilling Of Ideas

During the next 2 days, the 10 teams worked really hard helped out by around 10 mentors and coaches including me grilling their ideas and identifying the loopholes in their ideas. The one thing common in almost all of them that I noticed was that although the young teams were really passionate about their ideas, they spent too much time and energy on crystallizing the idea only not paying much attention to two very important aspects of making a startup successful; marketing and the financials. We know that so many startups fail due to the startup not being properly propagated or due to poor financial management. I saw many mentors (including me) grilling the teams to make sure they work on these two important areas. I have been noticing specially Zafar Khan and Syed Ahmed sitting or standing with different teams asking various questions, mostly playing the devil’s advocate role to identify the various ditches and trenches in which those ideas might fall if the teams didn’t plan properly regarding them. Sometimes, such cross questions would make the teams uncomfortable but we use to tell them by and again not to get discourage by such questioning as this would polish their ideas to help them become successful.

Jehan tweet coaching the teams

DSC 5434 Real-Pakistan 

Particularly, I loved one of the ideas, “Drive Thru”, which is a smartphone App that would inform the user about traffic jams beforehand using the GPS functionality and suggest an alternative route to avoid a traffic jam. It relied on “user-generated” input and I grilled the team on this aspect to the extent that at one point it seemed they would completely shift their idea to another relevant one suggested by me but I am glad they finally didn’t.

Another idea that intrigued my imagination was “Magnetic Field Protection”. The idea was to protect a person or a place from a bullet or a bomb blast by creating a strong magnetic field around the person or place that would deflect the bullet or debris from a bomb blast thus making the subject safe. Just as I heard the idea, I knew that if made possible, this can pull attention from many sectors keeping in mind the war on terror inflicted on our nation. The idea had the charm that could make many ears listening to them including our national security agencies and the USA itself who is stuck in this war on both sides of the border. During a discussion with them, me and Zafar Khan laughed at the idea that even the Taliban might contact them for such a technology if it really was workable. But after a lot of cross-questioning, it seemed that it was an idea too good to be true. Although theoretically possible, it would require too strong a magnetic field making it impractical to happen on many technical points.

The Future Ahead

This event was the second of its type in Peshawar (the first one being TEDx Peshawar held in September this year) and in my view it paved the way for such events in future in a big way. Jehan Ara announced in her final speech that P@SHA Launchpad will be brought to Peshawar for the first time in the very start of next year.

SWP Irfan tweet lauchpad

So already the event has stirred the interest of national-level organizations to hold events in Peshawar as Zafar Khan referred to in his final speech saying the historical words “Peshawar has risen to the map of Pakistan now”! The guests also showed their commitment to visiting Peshawar more often.

SWP Irfan tweet final thoughts

Media Coverage

I will not forget to mention the tremendous job done by the media partners of the event. No doubt The App Juice did a splendid job to cover the event online through their blog and social media keeping Pakistan informed on all the happenings going on at the event minute by minute. The event was also covered by the young enthusiastic team of UET Media Club who by the way were co-operative enough to get some good pose pictures of mine in the event and send it to me by email.

Last Thoughts

Overall, it was such a pleasure to see such event happening in Peshawar as it will boost the bogged down local IT industry and will also help in developing an entrepreneurial mindset in the youth of Peshawar. I will give full credit to the team of Peshawar 2.0 especially Dr Faisal Khan for making it happen.

To conclude I would say that although only a few of the teams won the prizes, to me all the teams who participated learnt a lot regarding how to make an idea become a reality. Many teams were passionate about starting their ventures and some of them even announced in their final presentation that they would go for their ideas anyways. I could read from the eyes of many of them as if they were saying “To hell with the judges, I am going to make it happen anyways”. I am glad to see such excitement in our youth and their confidence to make things happen regardless of the many obstacles that they might face as pointed out by the mentors and coaches. Whether a team won or not, I would say it was actually “Peshawar” who won at the end!

SWP Salman Ahmed tweet

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Irfan Ullah Khan An accountant by profession, an IT enthusiast by passion and a politician by necessity. I am the owner of EyeDeoSol, a web development company based in Peshawar, Pakistan.An accountant by profession, an IT enthusiast by passion and a politician by necessity. I am the owner of EyeDeoSol, a web design company based in Peshawar, Pakistan.

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