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Iran Startup Ecosystem

I was in Tehran last month to visit a friend and had the chance to connect with people involved in the startup ecosystem. Below are bits and bolts from our conversations:

  • The two largest startups are Snapp (on-demand rides) with 1 million rides per day and Digikala, an e commerce behemoth. Also; Sheypoor, classified; Kamva, e-commerce platform; Tap30 with car pooling.
  • Sarava is the most local prominent VC.
  • Lots of similarity with the South East Asian ecosystem, this is the first generation of startups: logistics, e-commerce, ride sharing.
  • Interestingly when asked what’s the second generation could be, the answer is Cloud since the US and Chinese providers do not have presence
  • Cost of a developer (in US dollars) has plummeted to USD 200-1,000 per month with the recent currency crisis
  • Iranian consumers are privacy oriented, that’s why all government-backed messaging apps have failed and Telegram is most popular (although Telegram does not encrypt by default).
  • Silk Road Conference is the startup conference in Iran
  • Despite the sanctions, some foreign VCs manage to invest in Iran (e.g. Pomegranate, a Sweden-based VC)
  • Mining bitcoin is recognized as an industry in Iran — and electricity is very cheap in Iran (Get in touch if you need information about setting up mining farm in Iran.)
  • A former electrode factory is being turned into an 18,000 square meter co working space to gather up all innovation and acceleration programmes. Sarava and Pardis Technology Park are the main investors but economic downturn due to recent sanctions is making fund raising hard.

People I met with: Hadi Farnoud, founder Kamva, Silk Road Conference; Farhad Hedayatifard, founder of Taskulu an end-to-end encrypted project management tool; Nika Behjati, PM, Nouvara; Reza Salour, deputy CEO, Nouvara; Neda Golshan, VP product Digikala and thanks to Sara.

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