It's always great to bring together critical and cunning minds to the roots of a greater cause. Pakathon 2014 takes on this dynamic challenge by fostering sustainable development initiatives for Pakistan, and I was thrilled to attend its launch in New York City. Pakathon is a ‘hackathon’-style event, in which a large number of people meet to discuss and focus their ideas. Their mission? To help the “entrepreneurship ecosystem” of Pakistan through a collaboration of participants and mentors.
Pakathon NYC is one of sixteen cities around the world taking part in the global Pakathon, a three day venture that asks entrepreneurs, professionals, students, and more to brainstorm and hash out their innovative ideas to serve the greater good of Pakistan by tackling its social issues. Teams essentially compete for prizes of upto $10,000 that will help them launch their idea into practical business plans, while receiving the guidance that allow them to shape their approaches and solutions.
On the third and last day, teams present their pitches to the panel. Judges and mentors of Pakathon hail from different backgrounds, creating a fascinating interdisciplinary environment. It also allows social entrepreneurs and the global Pakistani community to share their areas of expertise. Judges for this year’s New York City Pakathon include Batool Hassan, Tina Israni, and Yusuf Jan. These are all Directors and/or Principals of successful entrepreneurial experiences whose insight is critical for this year’s teams.
#PakathonNYC took place at New York University, with teams focused on one of five tracks: health, education, retail, human rights, and finance. Zack Brisson, of Reboot, provided a compelling presentation about designing technology for social impact, for the first night. During the three days, 40 intense hours of hard work culminate into the finished products of the teams.
There was no lack of ingenuity and ambition in New York City’s Pakathon. Educational ideas ranged from a programmatic approach for translating Urdu text to English, to self-learning systems for tablets and a mobile platform for gender equality education. Other technological concepts that incorporated public health explored a smart stethoscope that eliminates manual data entry, a platform for professional medical collaboration, and an SMS-based medical prescription compliance service. Also found amongst the roundtable discussions were the implementation of a car ride service with female drivers for female passengers, as well as an alternative credit scoring system for financial inclusion.
Many thanks to this year’s Community Partners: American Pakistan Foundation, Indiegrove, NY Acumen, Open New York, Pakistani Students Association at NYU, The Citizens Foundation-USA as well as this year’s Sponsors- Desi Shack, General Assembly, Impact Hub NYC, Insomnia Cookies, Lyft, Soho Tiffin Junction, and Symtera Analytics. Thank you also goes to the dozens of individuals who donated their time, talent, and finances, as well as the organizers of the event: Ali Chaudhry, Amna Khawar, Hamdan Azhar, Hamed Ijaz, Hassan Ahmed, Minza Zahid, and Safwan Ghori.