Tech Startups Help PakistanPakistani tech startups are growing at an unprecedented rate. Every year, the country has an output of more than 20,000 graduates who are trained in the field of information technology (IT). Since 2010, there have been 700 tech startups and around 70% of the startups are still operational as of 2020. The Pakistani economy reaps the benefits of the booming industry. One example that shows the importance this sector can have for the Pakistani economy is WhatsApp. WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton developed WhatsApp and Facebook bought it for $19 billion. The price of the acquisition exceeds the defense budget of Pakistan almost three times over. Tech startups help Pakistan by encouraging economic growth.

The Success of Tech Startups

Many successful tech startups are helping Pakistan because the startups have developed useful apps. For example, the Patari app is a streaming provider for music lovers and was able to obtain $200,000 worth of seed funding in 2017. Eatoye is another app that has had much success in Pakistan. Eatoye provides food delivery, catching the interest of the food portal FoodPanda, which acquired the app. Similar apps have been particularly successful in Pakistan’s domestic market. However, tech startups have found success in the international market as well. Tech startups that focus on IT have succeeded in exporting software. These software exports have made a total of $700 million, but Pakistani IT experts believe that the number is much higher. When taking into account the amount of freelance work, software exports could bring in as much as $2.5 billion.

Tech Startups in Pakistan

Pakistan has several tech startups that currently provide valuable services to its people. Zameen.com was founded in 2006 and is extremely well-funded and informative. Zameen.com allows people to make financial decisions regarding properties in major Pakistani cities. This includes investing, buying, selling or renting. The valuation of the startup is around $80 million, showcasing its popularity. Another startup called Airlift has been extremely useful for commuters. Airlift allows commuters to book luxurious buses to get to their destinations, which is extremely useful for many middle-class Pakistani workers. These examples are just two of many tech startups that are helping Pakistan.

Pakistan Reaps the Rewards

Tech startups can be beneficial to the economy of a nation for many reasons. One way is through the creation of goods and services at a high growth output rate, which older companies usually cannot match. Additionally, tech startups often tap into new markets or can reform old ones. However, startups are most beneficial to the economy because they contribute to the creation of jobs in a country. Startups create more opportunities for employment since they can add to job creation at a rate of 25% or more.

Pakistan’s unemployment rate was expected to rise to 6.65 million Pakistani people between 2020 and 2021. Tech startups help Pakistan by improving the economy of the nation and by aiding in job creation to accommodate a growing number of people without jobs. The beneficiaries of an improved economy will be the people of Pakistan.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Serbian YouthBelgrade is Serbia’s capital, with a population of over 1.7 million people. With a 40% youth unemployment rate, large numbers of Serbs were forced to leave the country and search for work elsewhere. Unemployment in Serbia is significantly higher than the European average and one of the country’s significant economic challenges is the need for private-sector job creation. In the last 12 months, Serbia has had 62 startups with $0 in total funding. More than ever, the country is in need of a program like Impact Hub to help Serbian youth.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub was founded in London in 2005 and now has over 7,000 members in more than 60 locations, one of which is Belgrade. The program is funded by USAID and assists young innovators in accessing the tools they need to connect with investors because unsuccessful funding is the biggest obstacle for startups. On Impact Hub’s website, online visitors can become “Impact Angels” and invest in a startup in minutes.

Impact Hub assists in the development of new products and business models. The program focuses on technological innovators and entrepreneurs and the future of their businesses. The organization provides collaborative workspaces, program support, an inspirational environment and diversity.

Impact Hub Belgrade offers young entrepreneurs resources such as acceleration and connections to grow their business. It is both a community center and a business incubator. The program encourages the sharing and building of a community and the space in which the project operates is used to organize events, from arts and culture to entrepreneurship.

Guiding Young Entrepreneurs

Impact Hub founders believe talent allows for growth and production. Since many young people know how to code, design and create innovative solutions, Impact Hub aims at helping  Serbian youth grow their startups. The program secures investments and teaches young people about using money in competitive markets. Impact Hub wants to get young entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone to expand their network. There are two different paths that Impact Hub employees guide entrepreneurs through. The first is “Core Competence for Market Validation,” in which individuals learn how to get the first buyer, expand their customers and make financial projections. The second is “Growth Readiness” and focuses on profiling a buyer, expanding traction and creating revenue models.

Impact Hub Belgrade implemented an initiative called We Founders, in which startup teams, founders, leaders and business developers can connect and work to improve their businesses. Impact Hub helps form partnerships to allow people to share the risks and prepare together for possible losses.

Impact Hub is Positively Impacting

Participants of Impact Hub raised $230,000 in investments from the Serbian public sector and private investors, not including a $100,000 investment from Dubai’s Innovation Impact Grant Program.

Alongside USAID, Impact Hub Belgrade gives Serbian youth the chance to see their innovations and ideas come to life. Outside of Belgrade, Impact Hub is available worldwide to allow individuals the opportunity to receive education regarding the tools and skills necessary for creating a business.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain Startup in MexicoAs internet connectivity expands around the globe so do the benefits of blockchain technology and its potential to better the lives of those living in poverty. In Mexico, accessible financial services and insurance programs are vital to the improvement of the quality of life of Mexicans living below the poverty line. Saldo.mx, a blockchain startup in Mexico, helps facilitate this access.

Blockchain Startup in Mexico

A blockchain startup in Mexico has utilized the security of blockchain technology to meet the needs of Mexicans living in poverty. Saldo.mx offers Mexicans a secure and easy-to-use platform on which they can pay their bills using remittance money from abroad.

This is a significant development in the Mexican fintech market as Mexico receives billions of dollars in remittances from the United States each year, with $10.6 billion reaching Mexico in the third quarter of 2020 alone.

Especially during a time of economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to securely receive timely remittances is crucial for the financial security of Mexicans who rely on remittance payments for their survival.

Saldo’s services have the capacity to reach millions of Mexican customers, as it has been estimated that by the end of 2020, upwards of 81 million Mexicans will have internet access and thus the ability to quickly receive and utilize much-needed cash without having to wait for physical cash to arrive from abroad.

Consuelo: Access to Affordable Insurance Plans

One of Saldo’s newer services is Consuelo, which allows users to find fixed health and life insurance policies. Consuelo uses blockchain technology to connect its users to an insurance plan with a “smart contract,” which eliminates the need for a claim adjuster and gives the users direct access to affordable plans.

By removing a costly middleman and lessening the financial bureaucratic burden on customers, Consuelo gives its users a chance at obtaining health and life insurance and decreases long-term financial insecurity concerns.

Consuelo also helps uninsured Mexicans bypass the bureaucratic messiness of the national public healthcare system, which is supported by numerous uncoordinated social security institutes. This allows for better continuity of care by allowing Mexicans to remain with the same doctor by staying on their plan provided by Consuelo rather than facing the possibility of having to switch to another doctor through the national system after losing their jobs.

The Diverse Applications of Blockchain Technology

Innovation is not confined to affluent areas of developed countries. Especially in the age of the internet, new solutions can be developed and rapidly disseminated from any part of the world and can impact the lives of millions. In Mexico, receiving international transfers of money and gaining access to affordable health and life insurance plans can be difficult for the unbanked and those without stable employment. Startups like Saldo exemplify the potential of internet entrepreneurship and blockchain technology in helping lift the global poor out of poverty.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Israel's Foreign AidIsrael, a country 18 times smaller than California, is proving that size does not matter in terms of global impact. For decades, Israel has served as a trailblazer in technology, medicine, artificial intelligence and innovation. Golda Meir, Israel’s former Prime Minister, spearheaded a program called MASHAV in 1957. MASHAV is a Hebrew acronym for “Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.” At its onset, MASHAV worked with countries in Africa and Asia. Today, MASHAV works with more than 130 countries like Ethiopia, Vietnam and Guatemala.

Natural Disaster Response

Among the most impactful of Israel’s foreign aid is the work with refugees, natural disasters and terrorism response. For example, in 1995, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Force, created a humanitarian aid unit that executes operations worldwide. Israel has sent 24 delegations of Israel’s foreign aid team to 22 countries between 1985 and 2015.

Israel’s aid to Haiti following the 2010 earthquake is among the most respected of Israel’s foreign aid efforts. Israel, one of the first countries to send support to Haiti, set up makeshift hospitals and disaster relief tents. Israel’s teams sent more than 200 doctors and volunteers to treat those affected by the disaster directly at the scene. In less than two weeks, Israel’s foreign aid teams treated more than 1,000 Haitians, performed more than 300 successful surgeries, delivered 16 babies and rescued four lost individuals.

Start-Up Nation

Israel’s foreign aid capacity can be primarily attributed to its advanced technology. In 2019, Israel received the third-largest amount of funding from venture capitalist firms for various Israeli startups. The U.S. and China are the only countries that received more funding. In the last six years, annual investments have increased from $112 million to $650 million, with more than 250 active startups.

Among Israel’s startups are various medical companies working on COVID-19 innovations. For example, the Israel Innovation Authority is working to create a robotics partnership. This partnership will connect Israeli companies to South Korean companies to collaborate on coronavirus solutions. Additionally, with more than 600 investors and 100 companies working on COVID-19 technological solutions, the Israeli private sector is far more efficient than other companies and governments.

Most recently, Israel developed a sticker called the Maya to cover medical doctors’ masks to decrease their exposure to the virus. Made of a nanofiber material, the masks contain nanoscale pores that prevent the virus from attaching to the mask’s base. The virus itself is 130 nanometers, which is small enough to attach to standard masks. However, the Maya prevents such attachment. The U.S. and Europe are expected to approve the mask. In addition, there are currently plans to export the masks to Canada, Japan and Spain.

Israel’s foreign aid efforts span from natural disaster relief to cutting edge technological advances. The country’s global impact in comparison to it’s size is proving Israel to be a trailblazer in global aid and innovation.

Maya Sulkin

Photo: Pixabay

University of Southern California (USC) has a course called “Innovation In Engineering and Design for Global Crises.” As part of the class, a team of USC undergraduates visited the Moria refugee camp to learn from and engage with the displaced peoples about their experiences. The need for more livable housing was the impetus for students’ project development. The result was Torch Tile — an adaptable, low-cost, user-friendly solution to the sheltering challenges of the displaced peoples in Moria.

Living Conditions of the Sprawling Moria Refugee Camp

On the eastern coast of the Greek island of Lesvos, is the Moria refugee camp. Moria is the largest refugee camp in Europe. It is the landing pad for the daily stream of refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, Syria and Turkey via a harrowing boat trip across a six-mile stretch of the Mediterranean Sea. The camp was originally designed to shelter 3,000 people. Currently, it is overflowing with over 13,000 refugees.

Tents sprawling the foothills surrounding Moria have constituted as impermanent shelters or “homes” for these refugees. Some asylum-seekers have even established residence with flowers, hand-made tandoori ovens and power cords for hijacking electricity. Despite these additions, the tents are no match for the temperature swings of Greece’s climate. In the summers, heat waves can break 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters on the island bring lasting snow from the sea moisture. Asylum-seekers can expect to wait a year before their asylum applications are processed ensuring they will experience both extreme weather conditions.

In the past, asylum-seekers have employed cardboard and tarps in an attempt to block out the extreme cold and heat. Increasing the temperature a few degrees led to refugees living in environments with dank, humid air that condenses on the tent inner walls. Running water is only available inside of Moria, and these moist environments put asylum-seekers at risk for health complications. Many suffer from pneumonia and heat stroke, which there are limited resources with which to treat.

In stepped the Torch Tile.

The Product

After over thirty different prototypes and dozens of hours of overnight testing, the team created the Torch Tile. The users’ needs were at the forefront of the creation’s design. The product comes in 36 or 55 sq. ft. sheets that can be laid side-by-side (like tiles) to fully surround a tent. The sturdy, lightweight and flexible material of the tiles is Aluminet.

The knitted screen-like material allows for airflow, reduces indoor humidity and lets light into the tent for visibility. Secured using zip ties and draped over the tent ceiling, the Torch Tile cools the interior by deflecting outdoor heat and light on warm days. Similarly, in winter weather one layers a tarp over the Torch Tile to warm the tent by 5-15 degrees by reflecting body heat inward.

Then, the team founded Torch Global Inc., a nonprofit currently fundraising to mass produce tiles for distribution. The goal is to provide tiles for those in Moria and for the unsheltered populations in Los Angeles.

Protecting Homes during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The distribution of Torch Tiles has been paramount to enabling people to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. One Torch Tile user from Los Angeles shared, “I have COVID and can’t isolate because my tent is too hot. This product will keep my tent cooler, so I can actually stay inside and isolate.” Recently Torch Global Inc. fundraised $13,000 for the ordering of 1,500 more Torch Tiles — protection for 1,500 more people in their homes.

The collective, global mobilization and coordination of resources necessary to resolve the refugee crisis in Greece is unlikely to occur soon enough. Even when it is, situations and conflicts will likely displace more people in the future, and asylum-seekers living in tents will be inevitable. By thermo-regulating shelters, Torch Tiles alleviate one aspect of refugees’ vulnerability and address the downstream effects of displacement.

Tricia Lim Castro
Photo: Flickr