Bilal Ahmad, one of the Co-Founders at Peshawar 2.0 shares his insights about the tech startup culture in Peshawar in this exclusive interview with KARVAN

1. Tell us about yourself?

I am Bilal Ahmad, one of the Co-Founders at Peshawar2.0 and the Director at Basecamp.

Bilal Ahmad, Co-Founder, Peshawar 2.0

2. How did you conceive the idea of Peshawar 2.0?

Peshawar2.0 was founded with a rebellious spirit to inspire the next generation of tech startup founders, entrepreneurs, designers, artists, and scientists. Our lead Dr. Faisal Khan, shared the idea of creating an enterprise of local champions for evangelizing Peshawar as a hub for technology and design. The idea materialized after our initial discussion in December 2012. The co-founders helped in kick-starting conversations around tech entrepreneurship in the region through events and community interactions like TEDxPeshawar, Startup Weekend Peshawar, Digital Youth Summits (2014 and 2015) and the Art Tech Festival. The dream is to make Peshawar2.0 a city of Science, Technology, Design, and Art. We believe making a vibrant startup community can get us there in the coming decades.

Dr. Faisal Khan, Co-Founder and CEO, Peshawar 2.0

3. What is the story behind Basecamp Peshawar?

Our team used to meet in cafes in downtown Peshawar for our brainstorming sessions and social interactions. Initially, it worked well, but then we needed a space for work too. So we thought why not get a bigger space and share it with other entrepreneurs, startup founders, and freelancers in the city. That is how Basecamp got started in late 2013.
Basecamp is a co-working space For Peshawar’s creative talent in tech, digital marketing, design, and art.

It’s the go-to place for young creative, quirky designers, weird artists, playful filmmakers, free-spirited writers, geeky coders, mad scientists, cool business-devs, passionate marketers, crazy entrepreneurs, and tenacious startup founders. These folks can get a desk and work from Basecamp, play Ping-Pong and attend events, collaborate on exciting projects, and sip loads of coffee. We also host startup events, socials, launch parties, hackathons, reading clubs, poetry slams, exhibitions, classes, and summer camps.

4. Are Peshawar 2.0 and Basecamp interlinked?

Yes. Peshawar2.0 is the cause and our mission. Basecamp is one of our projects. It also serves as our headquarters.

5. What challenges did you face when setting up Peshawar 2.0 and Basecamp? 

Sowing the seeds of an entrepreneurial revolution has been a major challenge. It is amazing to see a creative renaissance and rebirth happening in our city of Peshawar. Despite all the traction, we know we still have a long way to go, but we are in it for the long haul.6. Your future plans?   We are focusing disproportionally on ‘Revolt’ – our flagship incubation and acceleration programme for local startups. We also realize that we have been tech-biased so far. So, you all can expect something really cool on the design end as well!

7. In your opinion, how important is an entrepreneurship ecosystem for Pakistan? 

Scientific discovery, technological innovation, and entrepreneurship are vital if we want to see a double-digit growth rate that can help us take off and become a developed country. There is no other way.

8. Share with us some of the success stories coming out of Peshawar 2.0 and Basecamp? 

We are super-proud of the ecosystem and its trajectory. In a city where there was a gloomy lull and almost no conversations on technology and startups, seeing all these youngsters talk about ideas and innovation, these new startups emerging so often and all the new players joining hands in building the ecosystem make us happy beyond bounds.

9. What is Revolt all about?

Revolt is a 3-month business incubation and acceleration program. It invites applications from passionate teams with ideas for turning them into startups. This program is run by partners and not some random mentors. Instead of monthly sessions with mentors, residential partners challenge and help teams throughout the incubation cycle. Revolt is not only limited to tech startups and encourages ideas from sectors of education, agriculture, fashion, health, art, design, education, robotics, energy.

10. What message will you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Find interesting and hard problems and solve them.

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