Innovation Challenge Futuremakers (ICF), Pakistan’s pioneering Fast-Track Acceleration Program for Persons with Disabilities, recently hosted its Demo Day, a momentous occasion highlighting the innovation and potential within the disability community. Brought to life through a strategic partnership between Sightsavers and DeafTawk and funded by Standard Chartered Foundation, ICF is on a mission to empower entrepreneurs with disabilities, fostering an inclusive startup ecosystem.
Eight startups from Cohort 2 took center stage, pitching groundbreaking ideas that showcased how individuals with disabilities can significantly contribute to Pakistan’s startup ecosystem. These innovative ventures spanned diverse industries and technologies, including e-commerce, ed-tech, artificial intelligence, and health-tech. The pitches demonstrated not only the entrepreneurial spirit within the disability community but also how these startups aim to solve real-world problems through their ventures.
To date, ICF has successfully accelerated 16 startups, comprising 35 entrepreneurs, within its first eight months. Remarkably, 33% of these startups are led by women entrepreneurs, emphasizing the program’s commitment to diversity and gender inclusion. The overwhelming response, with over 320 applications from across Pakistan for both cohorts, underscores the program’s rapid success and the remarkable talent within the disability community. The startups throughout their acceleration program are provided with numerous benefits including a custom-designed curriculum, mentorship, access to investment and networking opportunities, marketing and PR support, entrepreneurship toolkits, and a chance to attend global tech conferences.
Ali Shabbar, CEO of DeafTawk, expressed his delight, stating, “Watching the ICF program evolve from a mere idea to empowering 35 entrepreneurs with disabilities is truly special. I extend my gratitude to Sightsavers for entrusting DeafTawk to execute this program, and to the dedicated team that has worked tirelessly to make it a success. We look forward to continuing with the same momentum and taking this initiative to the next level”
Sightsavers Extends ICF Program for 3 More Years
In light of the tremendous success witnessed over the course of two cohorts, Sightsavers proudly announced the extension of the Innovation Challenge Futuremakers program for an additional three years. The announcement was made by Munazza Gillani – Country Director of Sightsavers Pakistan during the Demo day. She stated:
“Our vision of empowering persons with disabilities through entrepreneurship has reached a pivotal milestone. Today, on this momentous occasion, I am thrilled to unveil Sightsavers’ commitment to transform this pilot project into a robust 3-year program. Sightsavers will keep supporting youth with disabilities to become part of startup eco system and will be supporting at least 45 to 50 such startup in next three years.” She emphasized that Government, development sector and corporate sector must play their part in providing the business opportunities to youth with disabilities.
Tasneem Mirza, Associate Director at Standard Chartered Bank, congratulated the startups, highlighting, “I am impressed to witness these entrepreneurs with disabilities addressing real-life problems with impactful ideas. I look forward to these startups making a strong social and economic impact within their domains.” On behalf of Standard Chartered she announced seed funding of four million for these startups.
Ajmal Anwar Awan, Member International Coordination at the Ministry of IT & Telecom, added his congratulations, stating, “Initiatives like ICF play a pivotal role in not just uplifting the technology ecosystem but also significantly contribute to a nation’s growth and innovation. I extend my sincere congratulations to all the startups who passionately pitched their brilliant ideas and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors, knowing they’re contributing to the dynamic landscape of our country’s innovation and development.”
ICF’s Demo Day marked a significant step toward building an inclusive startup ecosystem in Pakistan, empowering entrepreneurs with disabilities to lead the way in innovation, problem-solving, and economic contribution.