Asra Nadeem: Making Impact in The Startup Ecosystem

This article is written by Jeremiah Uke, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.

Asra Nadeem is a venture capitalist and Vice President of DraperU, she heads the Entrepreneurial Programs at Draper University, where she designs and implements curriculums to build and grow startups tackling the world’s most intractable problems. Asra has over 15 years of experience with product and market development for startups in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia. She was present at Startup Istanbul 2017, she shares her thoughts during the event in an interview with us.

Asra is the first female Pakistani venture capitalist and a global speaker. As the Vice President at DraperU, a pre-accelerator, Asra leads the startup, corporate and investor education programs. She also invests in early stage companies through DraperU Ventures. Startups which are a part of DraperU alumni have raised over $250 Million dollars in investments and include companies like QTUM ($5 billion) and nVision ($275 million).

Aside from investing, most of Asra’s work is directly with governments, universities and international incubators to establish local entrepreneurial hubs, investment opportunities and corporate innovation initiatives.

Before working at DraperU, Asra worked on product and market development for startups in the Middle East, North Africa and Southeast Asia. She was an early employee and the first female product manager in Pakistan for where she not only worked with the CEO to secure venture funding from DFJ, but grew the product and company to 150+ employees. She later led’s special projects team to build web infrastructure for government organizations and MNC’s in the MENA region and successfully launched the first dating website for Muslims. She is a space technology enthusiast who reads avidly about space and the future of humanity.

She frequently speaks globally to help teams and individuals innovate around the future of work, understand the basics of angel investing, build startup ecosystems and engineer an entrepreneurial mindset. Asra can be found reading and funding researches to build vertical cities or inventing new recipes for world’s best hummus.

Asra mentions loving the city being her third time in Istanbul, a few startups have joined the DraperU accelerator through Startup Istanbul, the quality of the startups got DraperU interested and had to come see Startup Istanbul themselves, this also led to a partnership that fostered the hosting of an event in Draper University. Asra believes that Startup Istanbul is the right place for entrepreneurs, because one of the biggest challenges of the ecosystem is the gap between startups, mentors and investors, Asra believes Startup Istanbul fills that gap and brings mentors, investors and startups all over the world to one place, giving both startups and Investors the access they both really need.

Asra advises emerging entrepreneurs to look at the problems around them because there are tremendous opportunities in emerging markets, using better technologies to target local problems because that is where the big opportunity is.

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