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#TBT Throwback Thursday: Why Airlift Failed

Derek Watson
Derek Watson
Airlift collapse

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Throwback Thursday: Why AirliftFailed

It’s Throwback Thursday, and today we’re taking a look at the rise and fall of Airlift, Pakistan’s top startup that promised to revolutionize the way we shop and get around. Founded in 2016 by Usman Gul and Junaid Ilyas, Airlift quickly rose to fame as the go-to ridesharing service in Pakistan, but eventually pivoted to become a rapid delivery service for groceries and other essentials. Despite raising an impressive $85M Series B round in August 2021, the startup was unable to secure the funding it needed to continue operations and announced that it would be shutting down in July 2022.
Airlift Fail

Usman Gul

Co-Founder & CEO

Usman Gul is the Co-founder and CEO at Airlift Technologies . Airlift Technologies Co-founder and CEO 2019. Building logistics infrastructure for the developing world. I write at

Airlift fail

Ahmed Ayub


Specialist in employee engagement, people management and team building. With a strong software engineering background, I have lead work as an engineer, a project manager, as process owner and as head of operations group. I have managed technical and operations teams of 200-300 people to produce outstanding results to customers all over the globe. My core area of interest are employee motivation, delivering high value results with millennials, engagement-centric HR policy and empathy research.

Airlift Fail

Meher Farrukh


Meher Farrukh is a Co-founder at Airlift Technologies. She attended Lahore University of Management Sciences.


Usman Gul and Ahmed Ayub were no strangers to the startup world when they founded Airlift in 2016. Both had previously founded successful companies in Pakistan, and they saw an opportunity to revolutionize the way people got around in the country’s major cities. With a strong focus on customer service and a sleek, easy-to-use app, Airlift quickly became the go-to ridesharing service in Pakistan.

What problem did CommonBond set out to solve:

Airlift set out to solve the problem of inefficient and unreliable public transportation in Pakistan’s major cities. By offering a convenient and affordable alternative to traditional taxis, the company aimed to make it easier for people to get around and access the services they needed.

Timeline of events:

2016: Airlift is founded by Usman Gul, Ahmed Ayubas and Meher Farrukhand a ridesharing service in Pakistan.
2018: The company expands to eight major cities in Pakistan and begins offering rapid delivery services for groceries and other essentials.
August 2021: Airlift raises an impressive $85M Series B round, the largest of its kind in Pakistan.
2020: The COVID-19 pandemic hits the student loan refinance market hard, and the pause on student loan payments reduces demand for solutions like CommonBond’s offering.
July 2022: Despite attempts to secure additional funding, Airlift announces that it will be shutting down operations due to a lack of funding.
Airlift collapse

What worked and what didn't:

Airlift had many things going for it. The company had a strong focus on customer service and a convenient, easy-to-use app, which helped it become the go-to ridesharing service in Pakistan. Its pivot to rapid delivery was also a smart move, as the demand for instant commerce has grown worldwide in recent years. However, the company’s rapid expansion and heavy reliance on funding likely contributed to its downfall. As a capex-heavy business, Airlift likely needed a steady stream of funding to continue operations and maintain its impressive growth.

The Results Analysis:

The shutdown of Airlift has had a major impact on the startup ecosystem in Pakistan. As the most funded startup in the country, the company’s failure has raised questions about the viability of the local startup scene. It has also had a major impact on the employees of the company, many of whom have lost their jobs as a result of the shutdown. However, it’s important to note that the failure of a single startup does not necessarily reflect the overall health of the startup ecosystem in Pakistan. While the shutdown of Airlift is certainly a blow, there are many other promising startups in the country that are thriving and making a positive impact.

Conclusion and takeaway for Startup founders:

The story of Airlift serves as a cautionary tale for startup founders everywhere. While it’s important to be ambitious and strive for rapid growth, it’s also important to be realistic about the resources and funding required to sustain that growth. Startup founders should be mindful of the risks of relying too heavily on funding, and be prepared to pivot and adapt as needed in order to survive in a rapidly changing market. It’s also important for startup founders to have a clear plan for how they will generate revenue and be self-sustaining. While it’s natural for startups to rely on funding to get off the ground, it’s important to have a long-term plan for generating revenue and becoming financially independent.
Finally, startup founders should be prepared for the ups and downs that come with building a business. While the journey can be rewarding, it can also be challenging, and it’s important to be resilient and adaptable in the face of setbacks.

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