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SF venture capitalist Draper bets on Pakistan, leaves 9/11 behind

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On the anniversary of 9/11, terrorism theorists may be surprised to learn that the smart money is on Pakistani agriculture. Local private equity kingpin Tim Draper, a renowned, international venture capitalist, is quietly investing in Pakistani agribusiness, one of the biggest providers of food commodities in the Middle East. His partnership of private equity firms includes holdings in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Silicon Valley.

The International Herald Tribune reported on the American venture capitalist's new foray into food products just last October as follows:

One company that has done more than most to bring in foreign investment into Pakistani agribusiness is Indus Basin Holdings, a new venture capital firm that has amongst is investors financial and industrial luminaries from Europe and the United States. Indus Basin is the brainchild of Aamer Sarfraz, a merchant banker at the London-based private equity firm Tigris Financial, where he has been managing director since 2006.

We’re focused on non-political commodities (those in which the government does not set the prices) where we can launch greenfield investments that yield a return that is 10, 20, 40 times the initial investment,” said Sarfraz in an interview with The Express Tribune. “We want to be the biggest agribusiness private equity player in Pakistan.”

The Boston University and LSE-educated Sarfraz has managed to bring in Tim Draper, the founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, one of the largest Silicon Valley venture capital firms that was an early investor in firms like Hotmail and Skype. He also brought in Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, a Swiss aristocrat whose family owns the ThyssenKrupp, a German technology conglomerate with over 670 subsidiaries and 200,000 employees worldwide. “I am very excited about the agricultural sector in Pakistan. There are excellent opportunities that provide sustainable growth. Being Swiss, this is a familiar sector,” said Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.

The amounts committed by each of the two gentlemen to the firm, as well as to Indus Basin’s original project – Agroventures, a Faisalabad-based breakfast cereal manufacturer – are unclear. But being able to attract highly prominent investors to his firm has been an achievement for Sarfraz, especially at a time when most investors are reluctant to put their money in the country. Indus Basin is now about to launch a rice export business as well as a corn mill and a dairy farm.

With the scion of the Krupp family, a noted German steel industry player, and people like Draper investing in Pakistan, along with the most influential and wealthy Pakistani families, it's a foregone conclusion that the tide is turning against terrorism. International forces will continue to mold the middle east's economies to offer alternatives to opium poppies and oil, and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a local venture capital firm, will be in the forefront. IBM insiders also state that by 2020 “Pakistan can easily have a million jobs and exports of $10 billion in the IT industry.”

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