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Alchemy in the MIT Final Five

MIT Enterprise Forum’s Business Acceleration Plan (BAP for short) has been doing the rounds since late July this year. From 25 companies we came down to 17, from 17 to 11, from 11 to 5 over three rounds. Yesterday the MIT Enterprise Forum Pakistan announced the eagerly awaited list of final five.

We made it.

When the BAP initiative was launched there was a lot of talk about how the experience would shape out. Here is out story…

We first heard about the initiative through the PASHA platform in early August. A business plan is something that I have very bitter memories of from my Avicena days but it is a document that you ultimately have to write. Even though we did our first round of funding without the benefit of a formal plan, the direction we have been moving in the last few months required that we get down and get it done. The MIT competition was a great way of making that happen. We had met Ken Morse and Bill Aulet on their very first trip to Karachi and then at the Global Sales Workshop which lit a fire under our combined butts and made us do some of the things we did in 2007. I think if we had not met Ken and Bill, we may not have looked at Dubai or Singapore or even realized how big an opportunity the global market represents or how inadequately prepared we were to take advantage of it all.

Come August we did our initial 4 page application and sent it in. 25 companies made the cut and were assigned local mentors who sat with us and explained how the process would work. Our first mentor was Ghulam Nurie, a semi conductor veteran who had been in the valley and had been there and done that. Our second session with Ghulam lasted for about two hours in Ramazan and covered the full pitch. Ghulam had some solid feedback on presenting our story, increasing our credibility, focusing on our core strengths, scaling up as well as logistical off topics that had nothing to do with MIT BAP. We took Ghulam’s feedback and pitched in with version 2.0 of our story.

In the second round, 17 were selected. Our new mentor was Umair Khan of Clickmarks, Folio3, Renaissance 2.0 and TEF Fund III fame. Once again a two hour chat on the phone focusing on refining the pitch and the story, evaluating options for future growth, funding mechanism and execution made for a quick reality check. Umair’s advise was invaluable and led to some of the things we ended up doing in our most recent trip to Singapore. We also threw out a large part of our initial submission and re-did it all over again based on the core points Umair raised in our conversation.

11 companies made it into the second round by submitting a revised acceleration plan, funding requirements and a draft power point on the 26th of October. I was in Singapore, Mohtashim was here in Karachi and between the two of us I think we slept a combined 4 hours in 48. The best thing that came out though was all the competitive intelligence we were able to dig out in these 2 nights. We wanted to be sure of our numbers, our strategy, our positioning and we were quite surprised at all the dirt we dug up on companies within our space. The next best thing was a 24 page document that I was finally able to use as a half way decent business plan for funding and strategy conversations. The night Mr. Shim sent it to MIT, I sent it to our potential partners in Singapore. Over the weekend we sealed our joint venture.

In a short span of 3 months, the business acceleration plan competition has already given us a tremendous boost. Even we didn’t make it to the final five we would have been fairly happy with the results of this exercise. Using what came out of our interaction with the folks at MIT, we have locked up our next round of funding, we know what we are doing with that money, we know what our market is worth, here, within Asia Pacific and globally and who we want to work with as partners and vendors. We have validation on strategy and competitive strengths as well as on valuation.

Tuesday, November 6th is when we go up in front of Ken Morse. The last time that happened, we were making our elevator pitch. He tore us to itsy bitsy little pieces (in a good way). This time we will be better prepared.

Sign on in again on 7th November, 2007, to find out how the showdown went down, late evening at Mr. Captain’s residence. Over and out.