Iran’s tech ecosystem struggles to catch up to Persian diaspora startups

A casualty of emigration out of Iran, or brain drain? 

The future of Iran's IT industry at Iran's Startup Weekend, November 2012 (http://live.startupweekend.ir).

Dropbox, Ebay, Zoosk, were all founded by techies of Persian descent, who represent some of the most successful entrepreneurs of the Iranian Diaspora.

Youtube’s CEO, Salar Kamangar, and the Producer of World of Warcraft,  Shahram Dabiri, are also among the Information Technology gurus, like Omid Kordestani, who advised global innovations like Netscape and Google. Kordestani earned a place on TIME Magazine’s 100 in 2006 and represents the hundreds of Iranians that pursued their engineering degrees abroad.

It is perhaps ironic that a country like Iran, that is notorious for its advancements in certain technology, like nuclear development, does not scream advancement in the information technology development. Meanwhile, in spite government policy and slow internet access, Iran has unwittingly produced a community of tech innovators abroad. Iran’s tech ecosystem strikes a sharp contrast with the Persian Diaspora startup story.

Call it the casualty of emigration out of Iran, or brain drain.

“It’s a missed opportunity for Iran to capitalize on its own talent,” Iranian-American, and startup Founder of awesomize.me, Elias Shams explained.

Shams' startup, awesomize.me, connects businesses to businesses (B2B) across different industries to generate “leads” around the world. Awesomize allows a company to aggregate all of its existing social networking platforms into each one of the company’s awesomize.me pages. Plus, there is a unique rating system embedded into each page. Currently over 1,000 companies use the awesomize.me platform,which focuses on B2B connections and goes “beyond Iran’s bandwidth”, since it’s a global concept. Their platform provides companies with the ability to create pages for each one of its products and services. The real added value is that awesomize.me has figured out the algorithm to increase your business’s “searchability” on Google. For example, a business can leverage awesomize’s ‘Ask a question’ feature, which boosts a business’s search rank.

B2B connections for startups are also valued in Iran.

“Iran is behind the Arab tech ecosystem, that is why we have developed networks and workshops like the Iran Web Festival,” said Mohsen Malayeri, CEO of Khavarzamin, an e-learning and e-commerce site.

Khavarzamin co-organized with another Iranian based tech leader, Iran Web Club, in hosting the Tehran Startup Weekend. According to Iranian tech blogger and attendee, Reza Hashemi: 120 developers and 30 mentors participated. Hashemi reported that BoiceApp emerged as the winner. No surprise here. BoiceApp is another phone application, just like the majority of participants in the neighboring ArabNet competition. Twenty-five million Iranians are more likely to have access to a mobile phone rather than a computer. Unfortunately, Iran web services are limited because there is no credit card processing due to a mix of government regulation and international sanctions.

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