If you are in #iBridges 2015, make sure not to miss these points

During last 3 days, iBridges conference was all over Iranian twitter and non-governmental media. Many of my friends were attending the conference and many were critisizing it of many different aspects.

In general I believe that having this conference is good thing since it presents Iranian tech industry to the international eyes and make Iran⇄World ties stronger which is a good news for us.

But still I’m afraid that iBridges attendees should pay attention to a few points that most probably are not discussed enough during the event.

  • Iran is still a very closed, government controlled country. Most of the “private” companies are practically “people in political power” comptanies and a lot of industries are owned by military organizations. In this situation all the private companies are competing with the governmental companies which have unlimited funding or at least are not forced to be profitable during the first years of activity.
  • Every year, Irans name shines (with shame) in Internet Enemies list published by RSF (http://12mars.rsf.org/2014-en/enemies-of-the-internet-2014-entities-at-the-heart-of-censorship-and-surveillance/). This is more than a humantarian issue. In this atmoshphere, your Internet startup can collapse when your site is blocked. One way of ensuring that your site wont be blocked it preventing general public from participating in content creation or initiating ties with the state. This is not what a western entrepreneur anticipates.
  • Iran stands 130th in Ease of Doing Business Index. http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
  • Iran lacks vital infrastructures. It is very difficult to host your site inside Iran and many businesses fell apart as soon as the critical mass started suggesting them to others.
  • Iran lacks professionals! There are some pro people around but although having great skills most of Iranian programmers/designers/managers/… lack the experience of working in an international/professional team. The companies who are going to start the first round, should expect difficulties hiring people.
  • Up to now practically all of our startup environment is dominated by copy cats. I have nothing against it but at the moment majority of the successful startups (are there more than 50 successful startups around?) are the copies of international ones. It is fine but if you are looking for inovation you should be warned that most of ideas are going to be “that site is banned in Iran so lets make a copy”, “Lets translate that site”, “lets add Shamsi Calendar to this”, …
  • There are very few traditional software companies in Iran. There no software company in our Stock Exchange Market and we only have 1 company in our OTC (for people who are not into finance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over-the-counter_%28finance%29). In this situation concentrating on “starups” reminds me of writing PostModern poems without passing through the Modern era. Doable but needs some special considerations.

In my opinion these are the points that should have been bolder in the #iBridges conference.

The iBridges conference is valuable for both sides. We are starting to play with the international society rules and they have an opportunity to enter/invest in an formerly isolated, comodity hungery and credit-card cravingcountry with an acceptable amount of money in hand.

yeaaayy! credit cards, give them to me, I never had one and imagine your life without them: that is my life!

In this situation the iBridges is a win/win game but for keeping it win/win we should not hide the “bad” parts and try to present an romantic view of the Iranian tech startups. We should see / address the problems and I’m sure the capital will find its ways to deal with these “bad” issues.

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