COVID Accelerator is a joint initiative of LightCastle Partners, BetterStories Limited and US Market Access Center, to help Bangladeshi startups work on the operational strategies to fight the pandemic and emerge with a vision. The first series is supported by Bangladesh Hi-tech Park Authority (BHTPA) of the ICT Division, Government of Bangladesh. The platform was open for all Bangladeshi Startups or Founders including participants of Call for Nation, ICT Division. The Accelerator featured 5 sessions that covered broad topics such as: Investment, Crisis Management, Legal Guidance, Business Continuity Planning and Road to Entrepreneurship.
The Graduation Ceremony was held on July 14, 2020, where certificates were awarded to over 300 participants.
Prior to the Certificate Award Ceremony, a panel discussion ‘Road to Entrepreneurship” was hosted by US MAC and moderated by Ms. Tina Jabeen, Investment Advisor, Startup Bangladesh, and Managing Director, US MAC. The panel was Chaired by Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Honorable State Minister, ICT Division Bangladesh, speaking about ICT Division’s commitment towards supporting the local startups during the current COVID crisis, through funding and in-kind support.
The State Minister was joined by Chris Burry, Co-CEO, USMAC; Ken Singer, Chair, Managing Director, SCET, UC Berkeley; and Ronald Weissman, Chairman, Software Industry Group, Band of Angels and Member, BoD, Angel Capital Association (ACA); and Steve Adelman, Managing Director, Wharton Accelerator.
Chris Burry shared his thoughts expressing his delight in seeing the commendable and progressive journey of Bangladesh startup ecosystem and vowed to support the ecosystem through strategic coaching and network. Steve Adelman praised the business ideas and solutions showcased during the session and stressed the importance of resilience and adaptability for startups.
“Agile and adaptive startups will survive, create a collaborative consortium with diaspora and local startups which will drive innovation and success through collaborations“, said Ronald Weissman. While addressing the current situation of the economy and business industry, Ken Singer commented that Bangladesh has shown tremendous feat in internet penetration infrastructure development; our startups want to focus on regional emerging ecosystems for collaboration and market access.
In addition to the discussion, Honourable State Minister, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP said “The ministry is open to learn and collaborate with such world-class experts and would like to continue the dialogue towards supporting the local ecosystem”.
Bijon Islam, CEO, Lightcastle Partners, remarked with reliance “The Bangladesh Entrepreneurship Ecosystem is at an inflection point with an excess of U$ 200 million in international investments from big-name corporate investors and venture capitals, investing in industries like FinTech, Logistics, and Mobility over the last four years. The emergence of active Angel Investment Networks, Impact Investing, host of local and international operating accelerators/ incubators propelled 1,000+ active startups, generating 1.5 million+ employment – embracing products and services of Startups as part of the country’s everyday life.”
Similarly, the Chief Storyteller of BetterStories Limited, Minhaz Anwar expressed his optimism as he stated, “The opportunity to ride on the massive mass technology adoption is right here. Bangladesh, being a country of 200 million people with a rising middle class, with a spectrum of investors – from corporate to government, angel to impact this is indeed the best moment for a startup in Bangladesh. Whether you are a founder or an investor looking at Bangladesh, your moment of opportunity is right here right now.”
COVID Accelerator was launched on June 6, 2020. The launch was graced by the Honourable State Minister Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP, Chief Guest, and Ms. Hosne Ara Begum, Managing Director, BHTPA, and Mr. ANM Safiqul Islam, Joint Secretary and Project Director, BHTPA.
The Accelerator hosted esteemed panelists during each session whose specialization complemented the themes of the sessions, with the likes of Maliha Quadir Malek, Founder, Shohoz.com; Rahat Ahmed, Partner, Anchorless Bangladesh; Nirjhor Rahman, CEO, Bangladesh Angels; Barrister Anita Ghazi Islam, Partner, The Legal Circle and Fahim Ahmed, CFO, Pathao; Hussain Elius, Co-Founder & CEO – Pathao; and Ahmed Fahad, VP & Head of Product – Pathao. Additionally, the experiences and insights of the startups like Pathao, Shohoz, Moner Bondho, Gaze, TruckLagbe and investment firms like Anchorless Bangladesh and Bangladesh Angels were shared.