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Meet The People Behind Bangladesh’s Growing Startup Ecosystem

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Nov 17, 2015

Bangladesh’s doing business index indicators may show otherwise given the nation’s political instability last year and mismatch in policy level but we are surely moving forward in-terms of having a vibrant startup ecosystem in Dhaka.

According to various reports, Bangladesh is among the next growth frontiers in Asia. The World Bank is forecasting the country’s real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate at 6.3 per cent in 2015. Middle class is on the rise and mobile and internet penetration is growing rapidly. Ericsson predicts 20% of the population will have access to Smartphone by the end of this year. According to a study of the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), 39% of the country’s population will be using Internet by 2020, making Bangladesh the 10th largest Internet using country in the world. Top of that, we have a huge young population under 40 and hungry for progress.

Though we have infrastructure issue and our business environment needs to improve but Bangladesh is poised to grow. Approached rightly, it is only a matter of time before Bangladesh's startups catch up with its neighbors in the region.

Here are eight people, in no particular order, who are pushing Bangladesh's startup ecosystem forward.

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Minhaz Anwar
Managing Director, BetterStories Limited
FSindex Profile

Minhaz Anwar is an entrepreneur, startup activist, and opportunity broker for less advantaged. Currently he is the Managing Director at Better Stories-an Ideas Agency Based in Dhaka and also Co-Director of Founder Institute Dhaka. Minhaz started Bangladesh’s first business incubator proper called BizCube in the year 2010. He is the licensee of Bangladesh StartUp Cup and host of this 7-month long mentorship driven business model competition in Bangladesh. He recently launched an accelerator program called Startup Bangladesh.

Why in the list: For bringing Founder Institute and Startup Cup to Dhaka and launching Startup Bangladesh

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Sajid Isalm
Sajid Islam

Sajid Islam
Founder and CEO, hubdhaka
FSindex Profile

Sajid Islam is the Founder & CEO of hubdhaka – Dhaka’s first coworking space. Before starting Hubdhaka, he has worked for a startup in Silicon Valley, CA that eventually did an IPO. Later on, he had a services consulting business which he exited from in 2013. He is also the licensee of Startup Weekend Dhaka and holding it for third time this year.

Why in the list: For starting the country’s first coworking space in Dhaka and bringing Startup Weekend to Dhaka

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Sajid Rahman
Director, Founder Institute Dhaka
FSindex Profile

Sajid Rahman is an entrepreneur and investor. He is the Co-director of Founder Institute Bangladesh. He has worked in a number of countries around the world and managed a few billion-dollar banking businesses in Asia and Africa. He is currently setting up the first wind turbine power plant in Bangladesh. He sits in the board of many financial services, technology and energy companies in US, Europe and Asia.

Why in the list: For brining Founder Institute to Dhaka

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Shameem Ahsan
Shameem Ahsan

Shameem Ahsan
CEO of Akhoni.com
General Partner, Fenox Venture Capital
FSindex Profile

Shameem Ahsan is the CEO of Akhoni.com, one of early ecommerce startups in the country. He is also President of BASIS, the highest body of IT entrepreneurs in the country, and General Partner at Silicon Valley based Fenox Venture Capital.

Why in the list: For playing role in making international VC funding happen in Dhaka and engaging BASIS to promote startups in Bangladesh

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Team SDAsia.co, Fayaz Taher, Samad Miraly, Mustafizur R Khan
Team SDAsia.co | Fayaz Taher, Samad Miraly, Mustafizur R Khan [from left to right]

Fayaz Taher, Samad Miraly, Mustafizur R Khan 
Team SDAsia.co

Fayaz Taher: Fayaz is a serial entrepreneur, investor, mentor, and a startup community advocate. He is a co-founder at SDAsia.co. He is also the CEO of Fortuna, one of the leading footwear companies in Bangladesh. 

Samad Miraly: Samad is a Canadian-Bangladeshi investor. He is a co-founder at SDAsia and looks after international partnership. He is also an Executive Director at Olympic Industries Limited. 

Mustafizur R Khan: Mustafiz is the Co-founder and CEO of SDAsia.co. Previously, he worked as a marketer for over 17 years and led teams across diverse industries in Asia

Why in the list: For making GP Accelerator happen

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Shawkat Hossain
Managing Director, BD Venture Limited
FSindex Profile

Shawkat Hossain is the Managing Director of BD Venture Limited, one of the early venture capital firms in Dhaka. BD Venture started back in 2012 when Bangladesh had no rules for venture funding. BD Venture recently invested in Doctorola, a local startup connecting patients with doctors.

Why in the list: for bringing the idea of venture capital funding to our attention

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M.K Aaref
CEO, EMK Center
FSindex Profile

M.K. Aaref is the CEO of the EMK Center for Public Service and the Arts, also known as the EMK Center. Under his leadership EMK has become the epicenter of the city’s major change initiatives and events. Aaref is an Architect by profession & training and founder of Aaref & Associates-an Architecture firm that embodies his passion for entrepreneurship. Having the experiences of living in multiple cultures that include the Middle East, England and USA, Aaref understands universal commonalities of culture and human endeavors. He believes the next generation of Bangladesh is in the unique position to have it all for the country!

Why in the list: For opening up EMK for startups and events and launching its own program for promoting entrepreneurship

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Munir Hasan
Munir Hasan

Munir Hasan
BdOSN and Prothom Alo

Munir Hasan is the co-founder of Bangladesh Open Source Network (BdOSN), a voluntary organization promoting open source philosophy in Bangladesh and also works as coordinator of youth programs at the Daily Prothom Alo. He is the man behind one of the most vibrant Facebook groups called “Chakri Khujhbo Na, Chakri Debo” which later on has turned into a movement of promoting entrepreneurship in Bangladesh.

Why in the list: For inspiring young people to start business and launching an Entrepreneurs' Award

This list is far from complete. Please let us know if we missed anyone doing great work.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Fayaz Taher as the person behind making GP Accelerator happen whereas it should be entire team of SDAsia and GP management as well. It has been corrected.

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Ibrahim works as an Intern at FS. He takes interviews, writes features, and meets entrepreneurs and makers and doers.

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