TKN mentors empower Central and South Asia's promising tech-enabled startup scene

In the vibrant city of Dubai last month, Central and South Asia's top 12 most promising tech-enabled startups took the stage at SlingShot's Demo Day to pitch for global recognition and investment. The top four startups were selected from each of the participating countries: Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. After two months of acceleration programming, they competed in Dubai for the chance to win seed funding and support from external investors.

Integral to the SlingShot program and its mission to discover, support, and promote the most promising tech-enabled startups in Central and South Asia were TKN startup mentors. Five dedicated TKN volunteers, armed with expertise, industry knowledge, and passion, played a crucial role in guiding startups toward success.

SlingShot is Accelerate Prosperity (AP)'s inaugural regional startup acceleration program, with a mission to find, foster, and fund the future tech unicorns from AP's emerging regions. In addition, SlingShot aims to foster a community of innovation, provide access and capital to the startup ecosystem, and enable a network for the creative exchange of ideas and market linkages between innovators, entrepreneurs, and ecosystem enablers.

Technology Entrepreneurs - TKN Mentors

Leading up to the Demo Day, the program included online capacity-building courses, three weeks of training sessions with Starta VC, group discussions and peer-to-peer learning, as well as tailored mentorship. Starting in February, Amin Adatia, Sarosha Imtiaz, Naaila Hossain, Amit Panjwani, and Al Lalji delivered weekly one-on-one online coaching sessions to help entrepreneurs strategize and improve their investment readiness. The TKN mentors provided personalized support and advice to help startups refine their business models, sharpen market strategies, and identify expansion opportunities. Mentors offered guidance, encouragement, and insights to empower startups to overcome challenges, while startups brought their passion and dedication. From polishing pitch decks to enhancing storytelling techniques and presentation skills, the mentors also played a crucial role in ensuring that startups made a lasting impression on potential investors in Dubai.

The impact of TKN mentorship is exemplified through inspiring success stories that emerged within the SlingShot program. For example, Naaila's expertise in crafting compelling narratives helped CC Chinese from Kyrgyzstan express their vision. At Demo Day, they were recognized as the runner-up and recommended for investment by the panel of judges. CC Chinese is a Chinese learning app with creative animations, videos, and comics. Their fun and efficient teaching methodology is revolutionizing the industry by helping students learn 12 times faster.

In the program evaluation forum, Ilmhona Skills Accelerator, an edtech startup in Tajikistan, also spoke highly of their mentor, Amit. "Amit gave us great comments on our pitch deck, asked questions that guided us thoroughly, ensured we were thinking in the right direction, and helped us develop our product accordingly. He was very cheerful and motivated us a lot. He also made sure to be available any time we asked for. Amit is a very great mentor, and we are glad to work with him! Moreover, thank you to the team who involved him to be part of this program, an amazing choice! Thank you for the opportunities and dedication to change the startup ecosystem in Central Asia!"

Demo Day was just one milestone in a larger journey, and the impact of TKN mentorship extends far beyond preparing for the Demo Day event. The lessons learned, skills acquired, and relationships built during the SlingShot program will leave a lasting mark on startups' trajectories, and some mentorships will continue beyond the TKN assignment. The mentors equipped startups with invaluable knowledge and networks, forming a solid foundation for their future growth and achievements.

Their expertise, dedication, and unwavering support propelled startups to shine on the global stage at Demo Day. Through tailored mentorship, refined pitches, and cultivated confidence, TKN mentors played a pivotal role in preparing startups. As the SlingShot program continues to empower emerging entrepreneurs, the contributions of exceptional TKN mentors will shape the future of Central and South Asia's thriving startup ecosystem.

Accelerate Prosperity is a global initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network focused on promoting economic growth in Central and South Asia. By providing technical expertise, creative financing solutions, and market connections, Accelerate Prosperity supports the growth of high-impact startups and small and growing businesses in emerging regions. Since its establishment in 2016, AP has supported promising entrepreneurs through business modelling, 1:1 coaching from staff, mentorship and networking with entrepreneurs, investment readiness, seed and growth financing, investor services and trade facilitation. To date, the program has invested $7.5 million in over 370 small and growing businesses, creating 3166 full time jobs.