From the Creators of TIGER CAGE

Tiger Cage, by Startup Dhaka, is Bangladesh’s first ever entrepreneurship based video series. This reality show finds and presents potential tech startups on stage to investors who can provide funding. Four startups were selected to present for the pilot season. There were four investors in the pilot season – Samad Miraly, Mustafizur R Khan, Fayaz Taher and Nazim Farhan Choudhury. MBR was in a conversation with Miraly, Mustafizur and Fayaz to learn about their inspirations and vision behind Tiger Cage and how it aims to promote entrepreneurship in Bangladesh.

MBR: Tiger cage is an initiative which is the first of its kind in Bangladesh. What actually inspired you to come up with something like this?

Samad Miraly:

We have been working closely with startups for quite a few years and have been active angel investors. Through this, we noticed that that one of the biggest challenges for startups is raising funds. Startup investing isn’t fully mainstream, and there are not that many players in the market, limiting options for companies looking for growth capital. Although I invest through angel investments and venture capital, I cannot, nor do I want to, nor should I, invest in every company. Different companies have different requirements, only some of which match with mine. To help mitigate the problem of access to capital, we came up with the idea of “Tiger Cage” that if we create a mainstream, broadcasted platform between the probable investors and the potential startups, the bandwidth for potential funding may be widened for participating startups.

We thought of initiating this programme a few years back, but decided not to go ahead, as the whole startup ecosystem was still in a nascent stage. Though still nascent, today is a totally different scenario, with promising startups like Pathao, Shohoz, Sheba, Bongo seeing success. That is why we think now is the time to roll out initiatives like this to help take the startup ecosystem to its next level.

Fayaz Taher:

Through Startup Dhaka, we have been always connecting investors to entrepreneurs with documentaries initiatives and events like like Innovation Xtreme. We have run 5 batches of GP Accelerator program, where we mentored the startups on how to pitch to the investors and how to deal with them. However, we could mentor only a handful teams. With this platform, we zero in on giving this idea to the entrepreneurs that more access to capital have been created and enlighten investors about the bright ideas that are coming. We want to give the message to the large conglomerates and the angel investors that they can find bright startups to invest in, just by watching the show and seeing the pitch and the ideas. We just ran the pilot, the response on social media after watching the teaser was, That is when, we knew that the timing is absolutely right for this initiative. With Tiger Cage, we did not want to just confine to local investors, rather we also wanted to attract the international investors and hence, we kept English as the mode of language for pitching.

“Oh THIS WAS OUR IDEA, WHY DID WE NOT DO IT?”

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

At the initial phase of building the startup ecosystem in Bangladesh, we worked on building awareness on startups through our tech blog site called SDASIA and angel investing. In order to scale our operation we later focused on startups events, accelerator program and online learning platform like Upskill to create larger impact. However access to funding is still a major challenge so we designed a program like Tiger Cage that enables founders to seek funding to larger investment pool. We feel that TigerCage will add value in terms showcasing new kind of investment opportunities that Bangladesh has to offer and bring larger investor base to the growing startup ecosystem.

MBR: Is the notion of Tiger Cage that entrepreneurs have to pitch their ideas to the investors in a bid to pursue them for investment?

Samad Miraly:

First, we open up for applications through online and offline channels, where startups interested to be on Tiger Cage submit their ideas. We then shortlist a few after evaluating them through an in person pitch. The shortlisted startups are given a chance to pitch in the Tiger Cage. So far, only four of us are on the show as investors; however, we are on the lookout for more investors to include on the show. Based on the risk preference of the judge/investor, they decide, at their own discretion, whether or not to invest in the startup. Sometimes a couple of investors – affectionately called ‘tigers’ – can invest together. If no investors want to make a deal with a startup, we open the investment option up among the audience for a particular time period, and they are welcome to invest in the startup.

MBR: What do you look for in the pitch, the person and the idea?

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

The founders are really important when we evaluate a startup as they are the key people who executes the business vision. Secondly we look at the product itself in terms of solving a real problem that has a demand in the market. Lastly we look at the business model and path to monetisation before taking a decision.

Fayaz Taher:

The team, the market they are operating in as market size matters, the business model indeed, the product itself, whether it is solving a a customer pain point and lastly, if they can make a margin at the end. A lot of people come to us saying that they have an idea. We ask them if they have tested that in the market, if they think the product is a Minimum Viable Product, but most say no. First time entrepreneurs need to understand that they need go test in the market before going for fundraising to investors to see if customers really need their service or product.

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

Having said that, we received many interesting ideas which have not been executed yet because the founder has just touched the surface of the problem. In those cases, we intend to mentor them so that they can address those issues and come back on the next episode when they are in a better position to pitch for investments. In fact from our last pitching session for Tiger Cage, we selected 4 teams but kept 3 teams in waiting list because we found the ideas interesting but ideas not fully developed.

Samad Miraly:

When an investor decides to invest in a company, s/he is going to be in that company for as long as five to seven years. Therefore, it is very important that both the investor and the entrepreneur build an understanding between themselves. Even if everything else is perfect, if these two stakeholders don’t get along, it is going to be a tough investment. Finding an entrepreneur who is able to execute is one thing that I definitely look for as an investor along with an attractive market.

MBR: How is the current scenario of startups and investors perception now?

Fayaz Taher:

The startup ecosystem is still at a nascent stage. Although, a handful of good companies emerged in this landscape, the situation did not change much in broader scale. People have just now begun to understand the power of technology and internet, which is why, we see startups like Pathao, Shohoz, Sheba, Bongo, gearing up and getting immensely popular everyday. Now, we can watch TV through Bioscope which is a platform partnership with Bongo, we can send money within few minutes through bKash, get transportation with just a click on the screen, or video chat with relatives in the village through IMO. That is how internet is making an impact in our lives, it is not just scrolling down Facebook or reading newspaper anymore. Basically, we can say we are on the cusp of a digital economy.

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

In last 2 years we observed a major shift in mindset of the mid-level corporate executives who are now starting their own ventures. This may haven been driven by the notion that their career growth is slow or the current job is not as rewarding, hence they are now looking for opportunities or challenges in the market, betting on themselves and getting ready to take the risk to start a venture on their own. It is a great inflection point for the ecosystem as we start to see seasoned professionals starting up versus just new graduates getting into startup scene.

Samad Miraly:

Right now, we have a few companies that have seen tremendous growth and are operating at scale. Take bkash for instance. As these companies keep growing, their people will get hands on experience on how to build a scalable company from scratch. At some point, those people will start companies on their own, or go on to invest in other startups. This is how the startup ecosystem will flourish. At this moment, we are just seeing the first stream of these companies shaping this ecosystem and this is just the start.

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

There lies a big difference between our startup landscape and that of our neighbor’s. They have all the international tech companies like Facebook, Google, CISCO, Amazon, etc along with local tech companies creating talents who later on venture on their own with relevant experience in technology, scaling and access to international investors. However, in Bangladesh, opportunities are very limited as our tech industry base is small which is largely supported by home grown companies. These founders learnt from their own experiences and mistakes. That is why the development of Bangladesh startup ecosystem will take slightly longer but it will be by driven domestic demand for services that are unique to Bangladesh.

MBR: What could be the next wave of disruption in the startup environment in Bangladesh?

Samad Miraly:

It is hard to predict what could be the next disruption. We’ll have to look at the bleeding problems of the country to see what needs to be disrupted. For instance, Pathao addressed the traffic problem, and they had huge success. We can see a lot of inefficiencies in many sectors of the country such as, remittance earning, manufacturing, transport, housing, education etc., and some companies are already trying to address these problems. What are our most frustrating problems? There are so many more difficulties we face by living in Bangladesh that need to be addressed. So, there is a huge potential.

Fayaz Taher:

There is no single industry that is going to face the disruption the most, rather all the industries will have some kind of disruption. If you think about what is disruption, it is really the start of technology making things more efficient for everyday behaviors on the way we do things. The important question here, is that- is the user base ready for the change and I believe it is as we can already see a shift in behavior and technology adoption. It is a matter of time and we’ll have to see which industry goes first and which one’s next.

Samad Miraly:

One of the biggest problems in Bangladesh is the opaqueness of information and data. Scarcity and inaccuracy in data is highly evident here. So, I think there is huge opportunity in Big Data and it is going to be a huge driver of technology in the future. With the application of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, enterprises may have the opportunity to leapfrog legacy systems as well.

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

For predicting the future we can look at how internet evolved in the 1990s in USA. The change did not happen overnight but gradually expanded over last 3 decades. Three companies helped create the modern day online business, AOL with access to Internet, Google with relevant information through their search engine & Amazon making e-commerce mainstream for the masses. There were other companies helped along the way like Microsoft, Apple, netscape, Dell, Sun micro system who created the ground for tech companies moving from offline to online but that shift happened in the early nineties with advent of internet. In Bangladesh I feel something similar is happening, like 3 or 4 big brands will change the total consumer behaivor in Bangladesh as people shift from offline to online consumption as our market get access to cheaper data, smart phones and relevant services for our consumers. Our startup founders, the government and other relevant stakeholders are creating the foundation for online business to develop but we are still at the early stage. However, we can expect big things from this sector in terms of changing the face of Bangladesh in every aspect be it education , health care, agriculture or commerce – technology will dominate and shape the lives of Bangladeshis in the future.

MBR: What is your plan for the next season?

Mustafizur Rahman Khan:

We wanted to ensure that there are enough people interested for this show. We want to improve the technical aspect of the show for better execution and production value. And finally we want a good partner who can add value for the next season to get things even more scaled. And fortunately, we have most the of things in place which hopefully will make Tiger bigger and better.

Samad Miraly:

We want Tiger Cage to be successful as our investment companies by being self-sustainable and profitable so that we can continue this show for a long time. And so that it continues to be a platform for companies to raise investment and be an inspiration for entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. We want to get more new companies in the pipeline to create the ecosystem. Which is the main concern of the show Tiger Cage.

Fayaz Taher:

I want to address all the investors who have funds, but are not utilizing it efficiently, please join us in Tiger Cage. You will not be disappointed because there are lucrative investment options available. And for the startups this is the stage which you are looking for to get visibility, gather funding and get a smooth start with your venture so come join us!

Source: IDLC Monthly Business Review

SD Asia Desk

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