By: Amal Hashim – Social Development and Policy Major 2020
(Student, School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Habib University)
The second talk under TechPen theme was an absolute success with a story like no other. Mr. Muhammad Waqas , co-founder of WonderTree, came to Habib University on 10th October 2017 to talk about Social Entrepreneurship in Pakistan.
Social entrepreneurship refers to those techniques used by start up companies by which they hope to resolve cultural, social, and environmental issues around them and is a relatively new field in Pakistan and has not been penetrated by a lot of people.
WonderTree is one of the first start ups to have penetrated this field and have been quite successful given the number of problems they had with funding and getting people to invest in their cause. WonderTree faced one of the main and initial problems seen with almost all start ups – the risk posed to an investment as a result of the ‘new-ness’ of the product. With WonderTree this problem was even more acute since no one in Pakistan had any idea of even the basic concept behind their product – augmented reality based games for therapy of differently disabled children.
As mentioned earlier one of the very basic reasons for the stunted growth of this industry was the hesitance of people to invest in a different venture. In WonderTree’s case the problem was the lack of knowledge that made hospitals, firms, governments, schools, and even individual psychologists and counselors reluctant to use its products. This was further exacerbated by no prior statistical results showcasing positive, or for that matter negative results. As a result the co-founders faced yet another difficulty in trying to convince people to invest in their product.
Since the audience was very interested in learning more about how Waqas and the other co-founders got enough funds to be able to make a substantial project, he revealed all the various competitions that WonderTree had won because of its uniqueness and how well it was designed. Winning these competitions, here and abroad, gained WonderTree the recognition it needed and had hoped for.
However, WonderTree’s problems did not end there. Soon the money that they had won from these competitions had run out and they had to scramble to look for new competitions, grants, donors, and investors.