Last Thursday, April 9th 2015, after 6 months of hard work our first cycle culminated in the first Demo Day in Iran where our 10 selected teams presented their business, progress and investment need to investors, the entrepreneurial community, industry leaders and VCs. They just finished an immerse program that gave them access to more than 200 mentorship sessions from more than 50 great mentors & up to $37K seed fund to develop their companies and special access to our resources.
The event started with Mohsen Malayeri, Avatech Co-Founder and CEO, giving a brief review of our ten teams and highlighting some numbers of the first cycle that you can find here in our Cycle #1 infographic.
The program continued with Samer Karam, founder of Seeqnce, Lebanon’s first startup accelerator who was sharing his experience about the challenges he faced since launching Seeqnce in 2010. Karam’s opinion regarding to Iran’s current startup scenario is that the only thing missing is a link to the outside world.
The next keynote speaker was Said Rahmani, the CEO of Sarava Venture Capital which has invested in many successful Iranian startups including Digikala, the leading online retail of Iran and Cafe Bazaar, the largest app marketplace of Iran. Sarava is also one of the investors in our program. He mentioned the key players of Iran’s startup ecosystem from NGO’s & university grass roots to VC’s and government initiatives and at the end thanked the partners, supporters and enablers of the ecosystem for their continued support.
After Said Rahmani’s speech, the teams started to pitch their startups in front of an audience of more than 180 people. The pitches were divided into two groups. Each pitch was 7 minutes. Before each startup came to the stage; Mohsen Malayeri announced the team telling something special, funny or memorable about the team. The first group was Reyhoon, Webyad, CafeTunes, 2nate & Taskulu.
After a short break and before the second round of pitches we had panel discussion with of Samer Karam, Said Rahmani, Majid Zamani the CEO of Kardan investment bank facilitated by Mohsen Malayeri. One point Said Rahmani mentioned during the discussion was: “Iran currently needs to improve its startup scene with foreign expertise and experience rather than funding, since the country itself has a large pool of investors, mainly from the private sector.” His opinion was supported by Majid Zamani who has noted: “Spending only a fraction of the investor’s money in early-stage businesses could go a long way in giving exposure to young entrepreneurs and reducing the country’s high level of brain drain.”
According to Zamani, who is also an investor in Sarava VC, the startup sector is among very few industries in the country that is not affected by sanctions and the economic downturn in recent years.
In the second half of the pitches, Akhbar Rasmi, Lendem, KSNA, Honari & Navaar pitched their startups and after that the teams had the opportunity to talk face to face to interested investors and answered their detailed questions. According to one of our teams which talked to 12 interested investors, the discussions were not only about the amount of investment they will need in the future but about other aspects of their startup like connecting them to their network, facilitating and helping them to have sustainable growth.
Our Investors were requested to fill out forms, listing the startups they are most interested to invest in and schedule appointments for future meetings.
At the end, this event was another turning point for us and our startups and it is another step to reach to a mature startup ecosystem which is improving fast. Our second cycle with the selected teams will be started in less than a month to see more prominent startups in the next six months.