Can Pakistan Ride the New Tech Wave?
Technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are the key ingredients for economic success in the twenty-first century, as the US and China are demonstrating. If Pakistan can also realize its huge untapped potential in these fields, the result could be a more dynamic country that is better placed to solve many of its other problems.
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – In the old days, it was the discovery of natural resources, such as gold or hydrocarbons, that drove the world’s most dynamic economies. Today, it’s technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. As we all know by now, a one- or two-person tech start-up with no physical assets can become a multi-billion-dollar company and transform entire industries, almost in the blink of an eye.
This tech-driven revolution potentially gives developing countries a great chance to speed up the modernization of their economies. For example, Pakistan – which has 130 million young people and a largely traditional economy – and other developing countries could look for inspiration to China, which just two decades ago had a small tech start-up industry, but is now home to nine of the world’s top 20 digital companies.
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 early thirties 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.