Most of our readers are probably aware that the Bangladesh chapter of Founder Institute (FI) began their startup program earlier this year. After four months, the first batch which consists of 5 companies will graduate from FI’s chapter in Bangladesh. We had the opportunity talk to Sajid Rahman who is the director of local chapter of FI.
Since Sajid has been actively involved in the local startup scene so we asked about his take on evolution of the startup space in Bangladesh. He summarised his view in following statements:
The startup landscape is changing fast in Bangladesh and this is happening across the board. The three (03) major trends are:
1. We now have more entrepreneurs taking on to the challenges. We are seeing bright young minds jumping in to build a company from scratch rather than taking a job at traditional companies. This is a significant shift in our society and will have a long term impact on the eco-system in the coming years.
2. We now have more players in the eco-system. This ranges from accelerators/incubators to work space to institutional/angel investors. International VC firms are getting interested in our companies and the successful companies are getting highlighted in international media.
3. Policy makers and some of the large corporates are now very active in this space. This will have a more macro level impact on the arc of growth.
SD. What has been the most interesting idea that you saw in this program?
Sajid: There have been many and difficult to chose one. For example we have a company which is trying to solve the challenges of private tutors in our market. As we all know, this is a big challenge in our education sector and finding a way to provide guidance on the spot for students can be disruptive. Another company is trying to digitise the games that are ethnic by nature and more related to the local cultures. They have brought in “Ludo” to the platform and now developing another exciting game.
We have one company which is solving the challenge of household works and creating a market place for standard, professional service for everyday chores. Another company is trying to bring transparency and ease to financial service products. We have one e-commerce company which is launching products for women targeted to “modest” attires. There were also many who did not finish the program but working on very interesting ideas for our market.
SD. FI is a very challenging program and it has huge drop out rate through out the world. In your view what made the founders finish the program vs others who just could not continue? What is the key characteristic?
Sajid: Grit. As in entrepreneurship, the successful ones have the grit to stick through ups and downs. The whole FI program is designed to train the entrepreneurs for real-life challenges. So, besides the company-building aspects of market research, product development, company formation and the launch, it tests the founders on how good they are under pressure.
SD. Once the founders graduate from your program, what usually happens?
Sajid: They become a part of the FI group known as #fimafia in startup circles around the world. They continue to leverage the worldwide network of support in terms of mentorship, funding etc.. Some of them go on to build the next unicorn, others may continue on lower trajectory. Because of the rigorous program, the statistics show that the graduates have a very high likelihood to build a company that will be amongst the best in the eco-system.
SD. When is DEMO day for FI and how can people attend the event?
Sajid: We have not finalised the date for demo day yet. We are coordinating with our partner VC and other stakeholders. A communication will go out on this separately.
SD. When is the next semester?
Sajid: We had very good participation for this semester. Out of 148 applicants, we selected 28 to be part of the semester through our proprietary tests. And after a very intensive program, we have 5 companies graduating from this semester. We are already getting a lot of inbound requests to join the next semester and will announce the date shortly.
Following is the list of five startups from the first batch of Founders Institute.
TapStar is a gaming startup focused on the mobile platform.
Styline collection is an e-commerce platform that sells modest clothing and fashion items such as hijabs.
Handymama.co is a web and mobile based platform linked to a call center where people can outsource their daily chores such as laundry or housekeeping.
Smartkompare is a comparison site for financial products (loan / insurance).
Tutor71 is a micro-tutoring platform using channels such as app, web, phone or SMSs.
Disclaimer- Sajid Rahman is a board member in SD ASIA.
Photo Credit – Studio Wash