In a challenging turn of events for Pakistan's burgeoning startup ecosystem, the latest data revealed a substantial decline in funding, with investments plummeting to a mere $6.8 million during the third quarter of 2023, spanning July to September.
This figure signifies an alarming 87.7% year-on-year (YoY) reduction from the $55 million reported during the corresponding period in the previous year.
This downturn has led to a drastic contraction, with the cumulative figure for the first nine months of 2023 (9MCY23) plunging by nearly 90% to a paltry $35.1 million.
Glimpse of hope
While there is a slight glimmer of hope in the form of a 30.8% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) increase, with funding rising from $5.2 million in Q2, the overall landscape remains challenging.
The deal count also paints a sobering picture, with just five deals recorded during Q3, reflecting a 50% YoY decline and a 37.5% QoQ dip. In fact, the total number of deals for 9MCY23 stands at a meager 21, a figure roughly equivalent to what was recorded in Q1 of 2022 alone.
Average ticket size shrinks
One of the most telling indicators of the industry's current state is the significant drop in the average ticket size, which has plummeted by 70.5% YoY to $1.36 million in Q3-2023, down from $4.26 million.
Although there has been a slight uptick from the previous quarter's $742,900, the decline remains substantial.
Breaking it down by rounds, the seed stage has emerged as the most dominant, with five startups securing seed funding during Q3. In 9MCY23, seed funding has accounted for the majority, representing 15 out of the 21 transactions.
Notably, Taleemabad in the edtech sector secured the lion's share of seed funding, amassing $2.6 million during the quarter.
In terms of sectors, fintech has emerged as the leader both in dollar amount, raking in $14 million, and the number of transactions, with a total of seven deals. Transportation and logistics come in second, securing $11.1 million across four transactions.
Indus valley capital shines
Among the investors, Indus Valley Capital stands out by completing two deals in the quarter, while Sarmayacar concluded one. On the other hand, Zayn VC, i2i Ventures, and Fatima Gobi did not publicly disclose any investments in Q3-2023, with each revealing only one investment in 9M2023. This could potentially indicate that local venture capital firms are deploying funds without making formal announcements.
On a global scale, venture capital investment experienced a significant dip, amounting to $60.5 billion in Q2-2023, reaching the lowest levels seen since the first quarter of 2018, pre-COVID.
Startup closures on rise
Notably, the third quarter also witnessed the closure of Medznmore, one of the highest-funded startups, and Jugnu halted its core business operations shortly after.
According to the Carta database, this year has seen a notable increase in the closure of startups, signaling the challenges faced by the ecosystem.
In light of these developments, it is worth noting that some sectors, such as banking and the energy industry, have managed to perform relatively well, leveraging Pakistan's structural imbalances.
However, the overall funding landscape for startups in Pakistan presents a formidable obstacle, necessitating a strategic reevaluation of the ecosystem's growth trajectory.