Bookmarking Desi Innovators & Ventures

LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship welcomes its second batch to The Foundation Incubator

by Farwa Mahmood November 22nd, 2014

 

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After a tough competition between startups scouted fromall overPakistan, 8 teams are selected as the second batch at The Foundation

 

Lahore: The Foundation Business Incubator at LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship has recently completed the scouting and induction process for its second batch of startups.

The new batch, as usual, was open for aspiring entrepreneurs from all over Pakistan. Over 35 short-listed startups were considered for incubation or acceleration at the Foundation and about half were presented to the illustrious Foundation Council for final selection. The selection involved founder interviews and evaluation of the business models by leading entrepreneurs and businessmen of the country.

With the new batch, a few changes have also been introduced based on the feedback from the first batch of entrepreneurs. The program is now following a weekly theme of topics, objectives and activities. For the first two weeks, the startups completed an intense Entrepreneurship Development Program which gave these startups a much-needed initial boost. Following this has started the regular program with weekly milestones, sessions by mentors and other activities.

This time around, five startups have been inducted in the incubation program and three start-ups have been selected for the accelerator program. The incubated startups include, H&O Solutions which is a one-stop shop for home maintenance and repair services. AutoGenie offers auto maintenance service at doorstep or nearest workshop. P for Plan is a comprehensive marketplace that connects individuals, event planners to venues by procuring event management related services. Scontly is a discount-based, hyper-local, digital marketing solution for businesses and Jewelry Design Pro is an online marketplace for trading digital downloadable designs of jewelry. Among the three accelerated startups, Fictive Labs offers smart home solutions that bring the control and management of electric appliances in homes at the consumers’ finger tips through their mobile phones; Appify Systems offers ease of browsing and ordering food online, food delivery services and customer order tracking; and A.H Paper Products provides recycled paper and packaging solutions for businesses.

Talking about the second batch, Khurram Zafar, the Executive Director of LUMS Center for Entrepreneurship said “There was a lot of IT focus in our first batch and I am pleased to see the startups and entrepreneurs are choosing to diversify into other sectors also. Seven out of the eight businesses from first batch are operational and several are negotiating with investors for funding. We have similar high hopes from our second batch as well.”

The second batch is due to graduate in February, 2015 with a coinciding investors summit as before.

 

 

Blue, Red, Yellow, Green

by Samar Haider September 13th, 2013

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Last Sunday, as most of LUMS either enjoyed its day off or spent the morning – and half the day – catching up on some much-needed sleep, SSE brimmed with activity from early in the morning to well after sundown.

The wheat-and-rust facade of the Syed Babar Ali School of Sciences and Engineering, or SSE as it is commonly called, is the first building that swings into view as you pull up to the university’s iron gates. A towering structure, it stands serenely against the azure morning sky. The calm in the early morning breeze did not carry itself inside the building though; in a few minutes, the much awaited Google DevFest Lahore Conference would soon begin, and there was much to look forward to in the rest of the day. 2

Past the pane-less glass entrance to the School, Luminites sporting lanyards around their necks and wearing the stylized chevron symbol T-shirts hurried about, registering attendees and guiding them about the building. Since it was nine in the morning, a cosy tea room had been set up in the Computer Science department to give the guests a few crucial minutes to drink up and anchor their eyelids safely to the top of their sockets. Once the conference began, however, we soon realized that this was not needed at all.

Room 301, where the action was to go down, looked, to put it simply, very Google-y. And by that, I mean absolutely gorgeous. The carpeted, stepped classroom was decorated in Google’s signature colours; LED strips lined the matrix of six sliding chalkboards (on which were pinned the aforementioned T-shirts); balloons had been moored to the panes of the windows on either side of the room; bright ribbons had been painstakingly tied around each seat’s backrest; spotlights washed the rear wall with multi-coloured light; and around the room were plastered logos of the search engine giant’s many products and services. Soon after we settled into our seats, the microphone crackled to life and, after an intro to the event, its proceedings, and its rules & regulations, the different sessions planned throughout the day kicked off in order. 3

Sarmad Gilani and Madiha Chan, two Googlers joined us all the way from Mountain View for a Hangout in separate sessions to discuss Google’s powerful yet highly flexible App Engine and creating Android apps, respectively. Sarmad, after announcing how dearly he misses Pakistani food, went on to educate the audience on the many aspects of App Engine, detailing its enticing features and giving examples of famous products that utilize the service. Madiha talked about the basics of Android app development and, following some confusion with the slideshow, effortlessly adlibbed on and taught the audience all they needed to know to kick-start their Android development endeavours.

To teach us some more about Android and its highly customizable nature, Faryaab Sheikh, a young Android pro, ran a quick video tutorial of his own making on creating Custom ROMs for the OS. Currently an O Level student, Faryaab has been tinkering with Android devices for over three years now and is a recognized developer and contributor at XDA Developers, one of the world’s largest mobile software development communities. With numerous successful Custom ROMs to his name and hundreds of thousands of downloads under his belt, Faryaab is the perfect example of how you don’t need to wait for college and Computer Science courses to start working on Android devices. 4

Another whiz-kid, Salman Hijazi, an energetic and articulate freelancer from Islamabad, shed light on the underrated profession of freelancing and its increasing relevance in creative fields. A Computer Science junior at FAST-NU, Salman first stepped into the world of online freelancing over five years ago and has since racked up a stellar record on many websites, most recently on Elance – his preferred choice, of which he is the official representative in Pakistan. His secret: an ability to write catchy project proposals.

The half before lunch break ended on a sombre albeit intriguing note: hacking and mobile security. Battling a sore throat and the visibly decreased attention spans of the audience, Hassun Mujeeb, a network security expert, after receiving an unexpected round of applause upon revealing his profession as a hacker, explained how hackers break into apps and where the Cloud – a popular model for mobile systems – comes into all of this. A white hat with a wiry build and ponytail, he clearly looked the part, and answered some participants’ queries about protecting their online presence with a few simple measures, the best being a swift removal of any plugins/widgets/addons that are not absolutely essential.

With strong winds whipping our tags around, we made our way towards LUMS’ Pepsi Dining Centre, while the overcast sky above showed clear signs of an impending downpour. And sure enough, after lunch (which was a splendid affair in itself), the sky was pouring hard, drenching the entire campus and leaving it looking even more beautiful than before. A short dash back to SSE, skipping across puddles with our heads held down, and we were brushing off water droplets and settling down for the second half of the conference to commence. 5

Goodie time. It was that time of the day when a few lucky chaps from the crowd got to claim some of the mysterious colourful boxes stacked on the table since morning. Correct answers to questions, both trivial and not-so-trivial, were rewarded with Google goodies. Even those who couldn’t manage to raise their hands in time for Q&A had their chance at winning one. The catch: they had to be the youngest in the room, or the oldest, or the owner of the worst phone. Despite disassembling my phone to qualify for the last of the three, I was told that my humble Nokia needed to be even more bashed up to warrant a prize. The fun activity played its part in picking up the energy level in the room, and soon the conference got back to business.

In a room filled with code-wielding developers, usability of a product is barely talked of. Ahmed Shuja, himself a pre-Y2K era COBOL developer, was there to set the balance straight. Dismayed by how inconvenient programs were to use, Ahmed switched over to the user experience side of things, and has founded his very own design firm in the process. After clarifying the much argued upon difference between UI and UX, he schooled the audience on good design practices and answered some questions that trouble designers in the industry. His golden piece of advice: follow the conventional design guidelines for the OS you’re targeting and keep it simple.

6 Nelson Mattos, Vice President of Engineering – EMEA Region of Google, was the chief guest of the event. Having touched down in Pakistan only a few hours before, this was his first time in the country and he was as thrilled to be among us as we were to host him. He briefed the audience on Google’s many programs being carried out in developing markets, which included Google Student Ambassadors and Google Developer Groups. Pakistan is home to some of the most active chapters of these, he said, and Google looks forward to more partnerships in the country. Even Pakistanis not directly affiliated with such programs had contributed much in the online space in the form of edits on Google Maps, leading to some local cities like Faisalabad being mapped in even more detail than most American ones. The highlight of his talk was the Google’s Innovation Punjab promo, a video that featured Pakistan’s national anthem as background music. Barely a minute into it, the entire audience rose from their seats in a surge of patriotism, right on cue with the electric guitar solo that resonated throughout the hall. The room may have been decorated in many colours, but at that moment, it bled green to the core.

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After a quick prize distribution ceremony of the previous day’s programming competition and group photographs of the winners and the speakers, the conference got on to its final leg: entrepreneurship.

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DevFest organizers had clearly saved the best for last. The first of the three sessions centred on entrepreneurship was a panel discussion with Pakistani entrepreneurs. Nabeel A. Qadeer (Program Manager, Plan9), moderated the discussion between local industry gurus Zafar Khan (CEO, Sofizar), Zia Imran (CEO, VahZay), Sajjad Kirmani (CEO, Infogistic), and Amer Sarfraz (CEO, Olaraound). With scores of years of combined experience in the IT industry amongst themselves, the panelists did not need the aid of any microphones to get the audience’s attention, choosing to speak freely instead. The attendees, almost all of whom were developers themselves, could be felt leaning forward in their seats as Nabeel asked each of the panelists some common questions regarding the IT sector that plague the minds of graduates and students alike. After all, this was everyone’s best shot at getting a glimpse into the minds of those who know how the industry works, and who work it themselves as well. The panel even debunked some common myths associated with Pakistan’s IT industry. After a few rounds, Nabeel opened up the floor to questions from the audience, and the room was instantly a complete show of hands. While some inquired about entrepreneurship, others inquired about trends in the job market. While other panelists spoke plainly, Zia Imran’s brutally clear-cut answers to the questions sent waves of laughter and applause through the room.

Much to the audience’s dismay, all pending questions had to be cancelled and the panel discussion cut short as DevFest had a schedule to maintain. And so it was on to the next session: an intro to Plan9 by Nabeel A. Qadeer – its manager. 9

Although quite a few people in the audience had already heard of Plan9, the majority did not know about incubators and how immensely useful they can be for a struggling entrepreneur in search of his big break. Nabeel introduced Plan9 by starting off with the very basic needs of an entrepreneur: workspace, mentorship, legal advice, investment opportunities, and even electricity, to name a few. These are hard enough to come by in real life, let alone getting them for free. But Plan9 does just that and even gives its incubatees a monthly stipend to help them along. It sounds too good to be true, but there’s a reason all this is possible: the Punjab Information Technology Board. It is only because of it being a government project that Plan9 is able to offer all this and more to entrepreneurs. With all the hardwork that has gone into bringing the incubator so far in its very first year of operation, the international technology industry has started to take interest in it, too. Plan9 now brings together mentors and investors from other countries as well as from Pakistan itself to help its incubatees make the most out of their startups. By this time, everyone in the room was thinking the same things: so how do we get into Plan9? The answer: a series of exhaustive Launchpads held in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad from where the top teams are awarded incubation at Plan9.

As Nabeel ended his talk, someone from the audience asked if Plan9 took any equity in their incubatees’ startups – a perfectly valid question, since that is the model upon which most incubators function. The answer was simple: Plan9 asks for nothing in return – no equity, no nothing. If the room had not already been sold on Plan9, this answer made sure that it had.

The last session of the conference would be a story – a success story. After all, what entrepreneurship talk is complete without a good ol’ narration of how someone made it big? And so it was to be LUMS’ very own Ali Rehan who would tell his tale of starting up. His startup Eyedeus and its inaugural product Groopic have been making all the right headlines in the media, both abroad and at home, but few know how it all came about. Ali chose to tell his story through the unparalleled awesomeness of stick figures. His journey started off when he quit a stable job at Telenor and returned to SSE’s Computer Vision lab. No strangers to using Computer Science to have fun with photographs, Ali and his mates entered their group photography app – then simply called ‘Group Photo’ – into Startup Weekend Lahore last year. Winning the competition instilled a fresh spirit in them, so, they applied to Plan9 for incubation – and got accepted. Six months later, they emerged from the program with a brushed-up product, revamped business plan, and loads of new industry connections. After the incubation cycle had ended, Plan9 funded their trip to Startup Asia 2013 in Singapore, where they got even more exposure than before. They finally hit it big when Eyedeus Labs got selected to the highly exclusive BlackBox Connect in Silicon Valley, where they were one of only eight startups from across the world. Ali and his teammates managed to make the best of an initial inferiority complex and ended up winning an extended acceleration program. While all this was happening, Groopic got featured on top notch technology blogs like TechCrunch, CNET, Gizmodo, and Cult of Mac, to name a few.

Looking back at it all, Ali believes that the only way you can trace a meaningful path through all of Groopic’s achievements is, well, by looking back at them. “You can only connect the dots looking backwards,” he quotes Steve Jobs. The best he could’ve done at the start of it was to trust his instinct, and that’s pretty much what everyone looking to start up should do. If you believe your gut to get you to the right place, more often than not, it will.

To wrap up, the man himself, Haris Nadeem, Community Manager of GDG Lahore (and the one to blame for the event) took to the stage to thank everyone for attending, participating and enjoying. Evening tea was set up in the same room as earlier in the day, and shirts were handed out to all the attendees.

It had been a long and tiring day, but every minute had been well worth it. I thank Haris and his cronies at GDG Lahore and LUMS for planning and executing a terrific event, and for making the last day of my summer vacation one to remember.

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I still want a goodie, though.

The author can be contacted at samarhaider@hotmail.com and tweets at @TheSamarHaider

 

The Social Media Experts, Transforming Entrepreneurial Dreams Into Realities | Coffee Shop Gurus

by Rohan David Emmanuel August 27th, 2012

 

Team | Coffee Shop Gurus

Team | Coffee Shop Gurus
Back L-R: Hasan Talal, Momna Chaudhry, Buraira Gerwal, Jaiser Abbass, Muhammad Asid
Front: Rohan David

Coffee Shop Gurus (A project of Green & White Pakistan) is a Social Enterprise of Social Media Experts. It is Pakistan’s First Real Entrepreneurial Incubator platform that promotes entrepreneurs working in any domain. Yes! It does not matter that whether you are starting a Home Bakery or making some Mobile App, Coffee Shop Gurus incubates them all from the grass root level. Here young entrepreneurs join hands with experts and bring to reality their entrepreneurial ideas. Promoting women entrepreneurship in Pakistan is a high priority.

During the incubation process the entrepreneurial ideas are put through strict process that polishes the idea. Due to a number of gurus attached to single idea, the attendees of the program get various view point about the same thing which helps in building a true market analysis. Coffee Shop Gurus aims to establish Pakistan’s first true incubation center that nurtures number of businesses all together in one place. We strongly believe that future of Pakistan is in the hands of youth and promoting youth for entrepreneurship at the time of economic depression is the best contribution to boost the development of Pakistan.
Making to the training process takes a lot of scrutinization of the entrepreneurs. After the nomination of the entrepreneurial projects and the interview process, the projects that make out alive are ready to be the part of Coffee Shop Gurus training process. To make the entrepreneurial projects successful, they go under rigorous training for 5 weeks. The meetings are held every Saturday, during the training session, which are mandatory for the entrepreneurs to attend. The week breakdown is: Week 1: Idea Tailoring & Branding, Week 2: Business Planning, Week 3: Marketing on Social Media and Internet, Week 4: Sales & Networking & Week 5: Reviews.
The syllabi and training process of Coffee Shop Gurus has develop after almost 2 years of research work on environment of incubation on the Pakistani Culture. The process has been exactly tailored to the requirements of this region. With a great deal flexibility with in the program, it can also be replicated around the world with almost no changes. The project holds the honor of conducting various country wide researches on social media and its behavior in Pakistan.
Coffee Shop Gurus is also building a knowledge base on entrepreneurial content by transforming the foreign content on entrepreneurship according to local requirement on research basis. Coffee Shop Gurus’ Blog can be visited at and do not forget to look for our Social Media case studies. Don’t forget to like Coffee Shop Gurus on Facebook.

 

Coffee Shop Gurus @ TEDxSummit, Doha, Qatar

The Lighter Side of Coffee Shop Gurus

 

Ashar Nisar | The .PK Man | Entrepreneur of the month

by Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry March 27th, 2011

Every day we come across website addresses trailing with “.com.pk”, “.net.pk”, “.org.pk”, “.edu.pk”, “.gov.pk” or simply “.pk”. To land on this site, you also typed “entrepreneurs.pk”. However, majority people in my network don’t have an idea who operates this “PK” thing for us. It is sad to mention that even many IT Professionals and Computer Science students in Pakistan don’t know about PKNIC (Pakistan Network Information Center (Pvt) Ltd.), the registry responsible for the .pk country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) for Pakistan since most of the people acquire domain name via resellers with a hosting plan. Those who know about PKNIC are unaware of the fact that it is owned and run by Mr. Ashar Nisar, A Pakistani – American who graduated from UET Lahore in the 80s. (more…)

 

You still can

by Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry August 29th, 2010

One of my mentors and colleagues still regrets about certain startups that he should have done a decade ago. He had resources, registered some really good domains back in 90’s and got the portals developed but didn’t launch or market them. Today some people are doing the same business and earning really good money. Recently the following inspirational animated video from Adcom was released to which we both agreed completely.

Pakistan at the moment needs real walk persons instead of real talk ones. Don’t get carried away when gurus advise you that you don’t have a business model or a proper plan, and that there are giants against whom you can’t survive. Just believe in yourself and your idea or product. If its really good, you can eventually make 100 business models out of it. Give it your 110% and Insha’Allah you’ll succeed. If you fail, try again. One day you will.

Don’t wait. Somebody else might have the same idea. Go and grab the opportunity NOW. Even if you’ll let it go due to failure someday, at least you won’t regret that you never tried.

 

TEDxLahore Reviews

by Farwa Mahmood August 25th, 2010

We wrote an article about TEDxLahore last month. Some of our editors and authors attended the event as well. A personal feedback by one of our editors Rafaeel Akbar with the title “How “I” saw this year’s TEDxLahore” is available at his personal blog. Moreover other featured reviews are available on the following links.

TEDxLahore Team will upload all the talks on 31st August 2010. Those who couldn’t attend the event should definitely take out some time to listen the “Ideas Worth Sharing.”

 

Innovation occurs in periods of adversity

by Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry August 24th, 2010

One fifth of the country has been affected by the recent floods in Pakistan and 20 million people need our support. Apart from individuals, I am thankful to all the organizations that I am associated with who stood by my side and are doing whatever they can.

The first question that came to our mind was “What is the immediate need of the victims that we have to address?”  The obvious answer was food and water. There is water everywhere but none safe to drink. Outbreaks of cholera are common in large floods and arranging safe drinking water to many millions of people is of extreme importance. Hence we decided to look out for water solutions as it is not possible to deliver mineral water everywhere.

Last year I saw the following  talk amongst the TEDGlobal 2009 videos where Engineer Michael Pritchard introduced his revolutionary product “Life Saver Bottle”.

I was still wondering that how can we use the same idea here that we received an email from Mr. Azhar Mateen who told us about a similar system that they have developed in Pakistan. Instead of bottle, it is more of a manual filtration plant. The plant is capable to treat the flood water directly and its capacity is more than 1000 liters per hour. Since electricity is not available in the affected areas, the system is capable to run without electricity. He further told us that they are donating 10 plants  for free and can provide us similar system on no profit no loss basis for only PKR 250,000 whereas such a system would cost much more if we’ll try to import it. The company behind the project is Tauseef Water owned by Mr.Tauseef Anjum of Tauseef Enterprises Ltd.

The following video is the live demo of the working system.

Moreover, a friend emailed me the following poster which showed steps of making a good sand water filter. Additional details about this can be downloaded from here.

I somewhat felt really happy that people are coming up with amazing ideas to help out their fellow countrymen. Burt Rutan once said that “Innovation occurs in periods of adversity”. I would request all readers to step up and come out with such innovative solutions & initiatives that can be used to help our brothers and sisters. Since we have to rebuild these areas, smart relief efforts and superior infrastructural & residential planning is the need of the hour.

In the waters of the devastation hitting Pakistan lies a chance to reinvent our condition by washing away the regrets of the last 63 years and laying the foundations of a new temple. But only if we have the courage and vision to think on these lines.

 

P@SHA – TiE Lahore Interactive Talk with Imran Sayeed

by Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry July 26th, 2010

P@SHA and TiE Lahore are joining hands with LUMS to bring to all entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs an Interactive Talk with Mr. Imran Sayeed, a very distinguised entrepreneur and technologist from the US.

Imran Sayeed, a serial entrepreneur, a consultant, an engineer, a mentor, a rainmaker, and a great supporter of many initiatives in Pakistan including the OPEN-MITEF initiative would be in Lahore on July 29.

Imran is the Senior Vice President, Global Architecture, Application Development and Management Practice and leads all commercial sector industry practices for Keane, a global BPO and IT Services company with ~14,000 professionals worldwide. Industry practices include Financial Services, Insurance, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing, Retail, Hospitality & Travel and Energy, and together comprise most of the key business lines and customers for Keane.

Imran Sayeed came to Keane through its acquisition of netNumina, a boutique technology strategy and consulting form that he founded and grew from a 15 person startup to one of Computerworld’s Top 100 emerging companies. netNumina won more than 30 of the leading financial services & pharmaceutical institutions in the world as clients, raised more than $25MM from venture capitalists and strategic investors and received more than 20 industry awards for its work. (more…)

 

TEDxLahore: Collective Genius – 31st July 2010

by Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry July 26th, 2010

It was late 2005 when I started promoting entrepreneurship, social media and startups amongst the techies in Lahore. I came up with a name called “Technology Entrepreneurs Den (TED)” for our meetups but little did I know that there was already a global phenomenon known as TED. I got to know about it when few people asked me if I am coming up with a local TED event. I had to drop down the name but at least it introduced me to the wonderful TED Platform and since then I have listened around 80-90 phenomenal TED Talks.

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TEDx program and the annual TED Prize.

The TED Conference, held annually in Long Beach, is still the heart of TED. More than a thousand people now attend — indeed, the event sells out a year in advance — and the content has expanded to include science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. Over four days, 50 speakers each take an 18-minute slot, and there are many shorter pieces of content, including music, performance and comedy. There are no breakout groups. Everyone shares the same experience. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It works because all of knowledge is connected. Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole.

Last year in July, when Asim Fayaz told me that a license has been acquired, I was overjoyed that finally we would have a platform to share ideas and reach out to masses. Asim did invite me to earlier events at LUMS and Kinnaird which were held on July 25 2009 and February 23 2010 respectively but few professional commitments didn’t let me join both the events. On May 22, 2010, I got an email from Asim for the third event. I decided the very day that this time over I’ll definitely register for TEDxLahore and make it to the event. (more…)

 

Economic Times – The Power of Ideas

by Rafaeel Akbar Chaudhry July 14th, 2010

I have been approached by few of my Indian friends since last year seeking advice to startup a business or do a joint Indo-Pak venture with them. Considering the relations between the country and money exchange issues, I have been quite careful.

Recently, one of my friends told me about the Power of Ideas organized every year in India. The promotional video (below) just blew me away and refreshed memories of initial struggling time I had while starting my first venture.

The Power of Ideas is the intellectual property of The Economic Times, India’s leading financial daily. In a unique three-way public-private-academic partnership, The Economic Times has joined hands with the Department of Science and Technology (Government of India) and the Indian Institute of Ahmedabad’s CIIE (Center for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship) to create a formidable force that can champion the cause of entrepreneurial culture in India. It leverages on the Government’s remit to encourage innovation and IIM-A’s demonstrated experience in mentoring and incubating start-ups. (more…)