Venture capitalists poured over $85 million in funding in Pakistani startups in the first five months of 2021, with fintech companies riding a wave of interest by overseas investors, according to data from Invest2Innovate Ventures, which supports early-stage enterprises in untapped developing markets. Pakistani Internet platforms engaged in finance and business, or fintech companies, have fetched around $22 million, mostly in foreign funding, since January 2021, according to Alpha Beta Core, a tech-driven boutique investment banking and financial advisory services platform. These include recent deals by TAG Innovation, KTrade and Abhi who have raised $12.1 million in total in separate rounds. Industry experts say Pakistan’s increasing mobile phone penetration and growing young population are major attractions for foreign funding in startups. Official data shows Pakistan has 85 percent teledensity with 183 million cellular, 98 million 3G/4G and 101 million broadband subscribers. The decrease in global air travel during the coronavirus pandemic has also provided an unexpected advantage for startups in Pakistan, cutting out the requirement that investors visit the country as part of the due diligence process, and making them more open to discussing deals remotely over Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. Kalsoom Lakhani, founder and partner at Invest2Innovate (I2I) Ventures, said that data collected by her firm showed Pakistani startups had already raised close to $85 million in funding. “Which means we have surpassed the total amount, $65.6 million raised in 2020, by the middle of the [current] year,” she said. “Most of the funding has been made in e-commerce… but a high number of deals in fintechs, mainly pre-seed and seed, were made.” Khurram Schehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core, said the growth of fintech in Pakistan is because of a realisation that the country’s growing retail, wholesale and trade sectors required a better financial ecosystem. “Pakistan is a highly under-tapped market as far as financial inclusion goes — only under 25 percent of the population is banked while cash is rampant for payments,” Schehzad said.