The word ‘startup’ has become ubiquitous in Iran and I have seen lots of events, workshops, etc. in which the word startup figures, the most famous being Startup Weekend.
One of the questions that I have had from the first day of the startup phenomenon in Iran was “Is this phenomenon is bubble or not?”
My answer is ‘yes’ to this question and I have different reasons for it. The two most important reasons are lack of both financial resources and experience.
Lack of financial resources
The first reason why I think the startup phenomenon is a kind of bubble is funding. By that I mean Iran’s government and private sector have not been investing funds in Iranian startups.
In my view, the government would like to support ideological innovations with specific goals. For instance, the government prefers to help a religious mobile app instead of an educational app with no religious contents.
The private sector story is, however, totally different in that most of them are not invest for two two reasons: Security and economy.
Red lines are not clear in Iran and they can be changed at anytime. This situation causes the private sector not to like to invest their funds in startups and innovations (especially Internet/ technology related ones) as the risk of them being shut down by the Iranian authorities is very high.
In addition, working with international companies and corporations is dangerous for Iranian startups. It might look strange if you got money for your startup from Google, you might be accused as of being a spy or collaboration with foreign intelligence services in worst case scenario.
Lack of experience
My work has brought me into contact with many tech savvy and innovative Iranians, but none has gained commercial experience in this field up to now. For instance, most Iranian startups do not have a proper business plan for their ideas and they only thing that they think about is the idea.
I believe there is a myth in Iran that if you have a good idea, you can be a good entrepreneur. The most important point that many Iranian innovators have overlooked it is that implementation of the idea is more important than the idea itself.
Also, some people think startup and entrepreneurship are prestigious words and in using them as a founder or co-founder of X sounds cool!
Anyway, Iran is very young in the startup field and it needs more time to learn. Iran is not Silicon Valley although some Iranians have been trying to copy the Silicon Valley’s methods in Iran which is impossible.
Update 1: I am not against the startup phenomenon in Iran. I believe the method that has been implemented is not correct. Startup is not an event, it is more than it.