Invest2Innovate (i2i)

Invest2Innovate (i2i): Grow, Connect, Empower

Islamabad, Pakistan
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The i2i Accelerator is an innovative program where young entrepreneurs in Pakistan get resources & support to build their businesses & create positive change.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

WHAT IF everyone could be given the tools and knowledge to become a great entrepreneur.
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

One of the biggest problems Pakistan is facing right now is youth unemployment and greater poverty. It is believed that over 60% of Pakistan's population lives at under $2 a day (that's around 120 million people) and 2/3 of the country is 30 years or less so it comprises of youth. WHAT IF we could train these young minds to create jobs instead of searching for jobs? That's the problem we are trying to solve.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Invest2Innovate supports early-stage enterprises and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem in untapped developing markets. We have been working in Pakistan since 2011, and plan to scale to other markets in 2015. i2i finds, vets and selects young entrepreneurs for the i2i Accelerator, a four month program that provides business support, mentorship and access to i2i Angels, our angel investor community. By supporting entrepreneurs, engaging mentors & investors, and partnering with local stakeholders, we are working to build a better enabling environment in Pakistan to encourage investment & entrepreneurship, as well as foster economic growth and positive social change in the country.


Won the Pasha Award for Best in Brand Development 2014, 2015
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Let's take the example of Adnan (Founder OddJobber) who was able to pivot his business and give employment to 100 rickshaw drivers because of the mentorship and support provided by the i2i program. Or take the example of Madeeha (Founder Savaree) who was able to develop an Uber-like service and has employed 50+ drivers now because of the support, mentorship and networks she built with the help of i2i. Each one of our entrepreneurs have their own unique story of how they are creating impact in the society.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

i2i is BIG on social impact, so much so that we have released a whole report on the impact we have created (available on this URL We have incubated 16 companies so far, raised $700,000 investment for our entrepreneurs and have managed to create 200+ jobs.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

In the next 5 to 10 years we hope to raise over $10 million in investment for our startups and hope to create as many as 1000+ jobs in the industry.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have a consulting arm on the side that insures financial sustainability for our venture.

Founding Story

Our founder and CEO Kalsoom Lakhani lives in D.C. and is often approached by the Pakistani diaspora in the US to know about business opportunities in Pakistan and likewise she is often approached by young inspiring entrepreneurs in Pakistan who want to meet investors. That was the aha! moment when she realised there is a potential to connect both and form a community and that's how i2i startups and i2i angels came into being and the i2i Accelerator program was born.


ADAM CAPLAN Chief Development Officer Adam comes to i2i with a background at the intersection of international development and impact investing. He helped launch the Aga Khan Foundation's Impact Investing Program, where he mobilized patient capital for projects in health, education, and microfinance and initiated the Program's small and medium enterprise portfolio. Adam then served as Entrepreneur in Residence at GSF India, a technology accelerator that spurs innovation through angel and seed investing where he mentored GSF portfolio companies across sectors such as e-commerce, travel. Adam has recently led early product research and development for the Social Capital Markets Conference (SOCAP), the premier annual convening of impact investors, and GoodCompany Ventures, a social enterprise accelerator. As i2i's Chief Development Officer, Adam is primarily responsible for steering the company's growth in new markets, originating contracts with new clients and customers, and pursuing strategic partnerships with financial institutions and government agencies. He holds a Masters in International Business and Development Economics from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. SAAD HAMID Innovation & Community Lead Saad is a tech, innovation and education evangelist who likes to work as a social media consultant by day and as a new media developer by the night. He is focused on building communities and making things happen by giving people a platform to talk and share their ideas. In the past, Saad has launched numerous Internet ventures and remains interested in teaching people how to use the web and digital media for economic empowerment. Currently, he volunteers as a TEDx Ambassador to Pakistan, Curator of TEDxIslamabad, Curator of Global Shapers for the World Economic Forum, Google Developer Group Manager for Islamabad and City Manager for Elance. He is also fond of attending global events and has managed to attend some world-class events such as the TEDxSummit in Doha, TEDGlobal in Scotland, TEDActive in Long Beach, The Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in Oslo and The Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. AHSAN MUKHTAR Business & Operations Lead Ahsan carries a diverse experience of working with both corporates and startups. Before joining i2i, he has worked for Huawei and China Mobile, where he was managing network operations and optimization for northern Pakistan. He has also managed business development for Olaround, a location based loyalty service application designed for SME's. He is also heading one of Google's community outreach programs for local businesses, aiming to strengthen the digital presence of local businesses in Islamabad. He is a TEDster and co-curates TEDxIslamabad. Ahsan has represented Pakistan on various International forums in North America and South East Asia through the International Visitor Leadership Program and Google community platforms. MEENAH TARIQ Accelerator Lead Meenah Tariq is a Fulbright scholar and MBA from Babson College, with a degree in strategy and entrepreneurship. Prior to Babson, Meenah has years of experience as a serial-entrepreneur, consultant, project manager, and finance executive. Her oldest entrepreneurial experience was at age eight, when she started making bracelets and selling them door to door. She started her first 'serious' small business when she was fourteen years old, and has, over time, been a part of four other start-ups in a variety of fields. Meenah has substantial experience consulting for entrepreneurs and non-profits. Acting as an external consultant, she has facilitated business plan development, and provided managerial and strategic support. She has also designed and executed marketing research campaigns for various products and services. Meenah believes that entrepreneurship is currently one of the strongest economic forces in the world, and the dynamics of start-ups and entrepreneurial personalities fascinate her to endlessly!
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

IDG Pakistan

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Innovation & Community Lead

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Kalsoom Lakhani is the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate, or i2i, which supports startups and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem in developing markets, beginning in Pakistan. She is also the co-founder of The Hero Project, a storytelling platform that celebrates and highlights everyday hidden heroes. Kalsoom has trained young entrepreneurs, changemakers, and civil society leaders in Cambodia, Ireland, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. She has been a Washington, D.C. co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30, and is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers. She was featured in Diplomatic Courier's Top 99 Foreign Policy Leaders under 33 in 2012, and was named an Ashoka Changemakers/ American Express Emerging Innovator for 2013. Kalsoom also founded the popular blog, CHUP, or Changing Up Pakistan in January 2008, and has written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, NextBillion and Pakistan's Dawn Newspaper. She has a B.A. from the University of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Middle East Studies, and an M.A. from The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs in International Affairs/Conflict Resolution.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?