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Iran Startup Ecosystem (Part 2): Hamidreza Ahmadi Interview

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ahmadiWe continue to discuss Iran Startup Ecosystem with Hamidreza Ahmadi, Chief Operating Officer at Iran Entrepreneurship Association (IEA). Ahmadi is very passionate about the startup scene in Iran and try to bridge the gap between community, technology, startups and social. He is also the Project Manager of Startup Weekend and organizing meetings such as Iran Web Festival, Iran Web and Mobile Conference, Global Entrepreneurship Week, Startup NEXT, Seed Stars Tehran.

Iran is in the cloning phase, There are many successful startups and the others are trying to replicate the successful that the others had achieved.  Ahmadi says ”We need to clone to move forward” Iran’s market is very similar to Turkey, it has a big population and almost the same average GDP. So, it can be a good way to follow the path of Turkish Startups.

Ahmadi and his team organizing Iran Web and Mobile Conference, which is an annual competition between web sites and mobile applications. Ahmadi says ”It has been growing year by year, last year we had 8000 websites 3000 mobile applications. About 700 attendees participated this year and the big name speakers were on stage at the ending.”

Iran has a big population and very similar to Turkey, so focusing in Iran is a good thing for startups and their future. Ahmadi also mentioned that 3G is coming to Iran and it is going to have a lot of impact and finally, the relations  between Iran and the West’ll have a chance of normalizing the businesses whether in internet sector or not.

The Challenges

”We have been doing Iran Web and Mobile Festival for 6 years and we realized a problem two years ago” says Ahmadi. Everyone was working for themselves, nobody was building relationships with other participants. They didn’t know who the peers are, who the investors are. Ahmadi mentioned that in past two years they tried to build a lot of networking between entrepreneurs and investors in Startup Weekend and the other meetings.

Ahmadi pointed out that the other thing was, learning how to make money, how to make a business plan or grow a business. The people like Steve Blake and Eric Ries talked about the stuff and communicate with the participants for these concepts via our meetings.

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The Investors

”It is interesting!” says Ahmadi. Two years ago maybe there are one or two investors interested in ICT (Information and Communication Technology), but right now we see a lot of them. In every meeting we go, we’re seeing investors who are very interested to invest in startups.

Everything is changing very fast. Right now there are two VCs in Iran. There are also a lot of individual expats who worked in this sector and have a little bit money. They also want to invest the startups in Iran. The other people are successful Iranian entrepreneurs who want to support the next generation. Especially Mohsen Malayeri and his accelerator company have a good deal for the investors and the startups.

The Government Support

Ahmedi also talked about the Government support in Iran. He says that they are also very interested in entrepreneurship. ”As you know Iran is a very innovative country, as far as inventions or high tech stuff such as nano technology. Bu the government realized that the innovation itself is not enough, they need a market. They are now focusing on programs like Startup Weekend to help bridge the gap between the inventors and the market. They are helping NGOs like us to set these programs and bootcamps to all the universities in Iran and also supporting us financially” says Ahmadi.

The Trends in Iran

Software as a service is becoming trend in Iran and also mobile applications. In e-commerce, there is big players right now and entering this sector is becoming difficult. Ahmadi mentioned also his favorite startups which are Anetwork.ir,  zarinpal.com, aparat.com,  axprint.com.

─ September 10, 2014