Emerging Leaders of Pakistan Meet Established Leaders in Silicon Valley
By A.H. Cemendtaur
On Friday, November 5, fifteen young men and women visiting the US from Pakistan met with a diverse group of Silicon Valley technologists to discuss ideas and brainstorm solutions to issues the visitors face in their respective fields of work.
The meeting held at the residence of Osman Rashid, a role model among the Pakistani-American entrepreneurs, coincided with the monthly get-together of the NED Alumni of Silicon Valley. Mike Zaidi, the President of the NED Alumni, decided to merge his group’s monthly meeting with the visitors’. Moazzam Chaudry and Amra Tareen represented the Organization of Pakistani Entrepreneurs of North America (OPEN) at the gathering.
The visitors were part of the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan fellowship program arranged by the South Asia Center of the Atlantic Council. The Atlantic Council is a Washington DC-based think-tank primarily funded by the US Government.
Huma Haque and Nazia Khan of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center shortlisted over one thousand applicants in Pakistan, interviewed them over Skype, and later met them in person to select fifteen bright individuals.
According to the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan program is currently in its fifth year.
This year's contingent of 20-something fellows included Ali Haider, Editor-in-Chief, of Humans of Pakistan; Anam Bhatti, Co-Founder of Deeda and Chief Operating Officer of Design Pakistan; Danish Ali Bhutto, a Parliamentary Associate; Fakiha Ali, a social activist; Fatima Rizwan, Founder and CEO of TechJuice; Hussain Haider, Founder of the Beydaar Society; Khalid Khawaja Mushtaq, CEO of Tourplanner.pk; Rafia Farooqui, a social activist interested in water issues; Rizwan Shoukat, involved in social activism through puppet theater; Saima Feroz, a law student and the Joint Secretary of Da Thor Sarro Saddar, a women’s empowerment organization; Sawai Mal, a humanitarian worker and minority rights activist heading the Minority Social Development Organization (MSDO); Syed Azhar Shah, Co-Founder and Chief Architect of TeleConvex; Usman Khan, founder of Emperor’s Bazaar; Zahra Barkat Ali, a clinical psychologist; and Zulqarnain Jameel, founder of the Tent School System in 2015.
It was obvious that the fellowship program had tried to assemble a diverse group: there were individuals from various geographical regions of Pakistan — no one from Balochistan though -- and there was one member of the Hindu community too.
A number of visitors were running startup companies and social enterprises. Meeting with the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the inevitable question came up: How to raise money for an enterprise, in Pakistan? Why does that process seem so easy in the Silicon Valley where venture capital money seems to be growing on the trees?
The answer was simple, but was not articulated well. Nothing succeeds like success. Entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley succeed because the Silicon Valley is succeeding, and the Valley in turn is succeeding because the US is succeeding. Put the brightest technologist, the best businessman in a Third World country experiencing political turmoil, and you will soon see the excellence of the individual being bogged down by the inertia of the collapsing system.
But introducing young leaders from Pakistan with the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs was just one aspect of the fellowship program. Emerging Leaders program is all about exposure; the underlying idea being that exposing bright minds to new environments, ideas, and people in the US will further groom the visitors’ professional skills.
Even if the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan fellowship program fails in establishing a single working relationship between a fellow and the people that fellow has gotten introduced to in the US, these young people, after being together for the duration of the program, will discover each other to be the greatest support group they can lean on, in their future endeavors.
Fifteen young men and women visiting the US from Pakistan met with a diverse group of Silicon Valley technologists to brainstorm solutions to issues the visitors face in their respective fields of work
( Cemendtaur's latest book The Green Ibn Battuta is now available at Amazon.com)