Iran’s Startup Ecosystem: Challenges and Opportunities

This is a repost of my story.

Startups play a crucial role in economic growth. The recipe is courage, infrastructure, money, and culture.

Iran is a developing country with a very young and educated population. More than 60% of the people are under 30 years old. These tech-savvy youngsters are great pool of talent struggling to find a job. Therefore, many opt to start their own companies.
Self-employment is embedded in Iranian culture and is valued by tradition. Being your own boss is culturally encouraged and praised. Cultural advantage plus young educated youth population equals greater opportunity/courage for starting up.

However, it’s not all good news. Iran banking system is not connected to global banking system. Thanks to economic sanctions, Iranians do not have access to PayPal, Visa, or Mastercard (yet). There are other problems too; Iran internet average speed is slow right now, especially on mobile. Every internet website (nevermind if it’s a business or not) need permission to avoid getting blocked by government’s country-wide internet firewall.

All of those problems have, to date, led to very limited number of online services. There is no sign of familiar websites such as eBay or Amazon on this side of the world.However, over the past few years, some similar indigenous services have started to appear. There is an Iranian version of eBay, Esam. They have their own Amazon, named Albasco. Iran’s internet censorship also helped these startups to flourish under the absence of big names. For example, Aparat is a substitute for blocked Youtube.

With the rise of e-commerce in Iran, banking system started to change. Internet speed is improving and getting cheaper. More and more young Iranians own a smartphone.All in all, Iran’s market is getting bigger and more attractive for tech startups by the day. As a result, Iranian startups are growing in number, and their products are becoming more well-designed.

In this series of blogs, I’m going to write about best Iranian startups, startup news, and events. If you like to learn more about Iran’s startup scene, make sure you follow this collection. I’m also recording an English podcast every month about the same topic. So, stay tuned and follow me on twitter@hadifarnoud.