Airlift raises $85 million in the largest-ever funding round for a Pakistani startup; plans international expansion
Airlift, a Lahore, Pakistan-based transportation company has raised $85 million in the largest-ever funding round for a Pakistani startup. Co-led by Harry Stebbings’ 20 VC Explorer and Josh Buckley’s Buckley Ventures, the round is also the largest Series B ever raised by a startup in the Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan region.
The round was also backed by some high-profile investors including former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Bain Capital’s Chairman Steve Pagliuca, former Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, TransferWise’s founder and CEO Taavet Hinrikus, DoorDash co-founder Stanley Tang, and others. The latest round pushes the company’s valuation to $275 million.
Founded in 2019, Airlift started out as a mass transit startup but had to halt its operations in March due to Covid-19. In 2020, the startup decided to diversify into last-mile delivery with the launch of a 30-minute grocery delivery platform called Airlift Express. Through the platform, Airlift delivers essentials across households in 30 minutes across Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, and other areas, according to the company’s statement on LinkedIn.
Currently, the Airlift Express service spans food supplies, household supplies, pharmacy, stationery, pet food, fresh fruits and vegetables, small electronics, and more. In a statement, co-founder and CEO Usman Gul said, “With this financing, we must return to where we started from — fighting against the odds and staying true to our core values of hustle, teamwork, resourcefulness, and bias to action. If this is the journey of a thousand miles, we have taken only the first step.”
Airlift’s funding announcement comes at a time when investors are pouring billions into the online delivery space. Just last month, delivery tech startup Gopuff raised a whopping $1 billion in funding, pushing its valuation to $15 billion.
Meanwhile, Airlift said that within the first twelve months of its launch, it has been able to reduce its customer acquisition cost to $5 and unit costs to $2.5, “In developed markets, CAC is well above $15 and unit costs are close to $10 at scale,” the company said.
Airlift now joins the crowded convenience delivery space. Over the past few years, Uber and DoorDash have also been expanding their footprints in the space. Last year, for example, Uber sold off money-losing units and acquired Drizly and Postmates to get into the lucrative delivery business.