Silicon Valley’s Pegasus Tech Ventures will invest $40 million over four years in the growing Bangladesh start-up economy. Pegasus CEO Anis Uzzaman, himself a Bangladeshi-expatriate, has spoken highly of the potential of Bangladesh’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Uzzaman has even stated that “Bangladesh is currently where Indonesia and the Philippines were four years ago”, highlighting the pace of change in the country. Pegasus was initially called Fenox Venture Capital and was created in Bangladesh before re-locating to Silicon Valley and changing name, yet it retains numerous investments in Bangladesh that span online marketplaces, ride-sharing platforms, and business process outsourcing companies.
Pegasus has also pioneered the Startup World Cup, which links international start-ups with Silicon Valley venture capital firms. The Bangladesh round of this year’s competition recently wrapped up with Gaze Technology emerging as the $1 million prize winner, who will soon present its ideas to Silicon Valley firms for more funding. The Bangladesh Government has also supported the rise of the start-up ecosystem, offering funding and incubation support for new companies.
US-Bangladesh economic ties have traditionally been weighted towards foreign aid, as Bangladesh is the third largest US assistance recipient in Asia, behind only Afghanistan and Pakistan. This relationship has recently shifted to become more trade and investment-focused. In 2018, Bangladesh exported $5.5 billion to the United States, comprised mostly of textiles and apparel, which made the United States the largest market for Bangladeshi goods in the world. US companies are the largest foreign investors in Bangladesh, accounting for roughly 20% of all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Much of this FDI is focused on the banking and energy sectors.
Bangladesh continues to be an attractive investment destination for US companies due to its projected growth rates and market potential. Since 2009, the Bangladesh economy has expanded by 188%, and during this time over 15 million people were raised out of poverty. Furthermore, HSBC has forecast Bangladesh will be the world’s 26th largest economy in 2030, rising from 42nd spot at the beginning of 2019.
Joshua Martelli is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a second year undergraduate student at the University of Western Australia studying a Bachelor of Arts, double-majoring in Political Science, International Relations and Asian Studies.