Seedstars Tehran was held on Thursday, September 3 2015, at Avatech startup accelerator. More than 60 teams had applied for the event and 12 got accepted as regional finalists to pitch at the event. This year, Seedstars was organized by TechRasa and Iran Entrepreneurship Association (IEA). More than 140 people were invited to attend the event and many were watching the live stream from Aparat on Techrasa’s website.

The teams competed for a chance to win an all-inclusive trip to Switzerland for one week to attend Seedstars World in March 2016. The first 3 teams also got credit from Netbarg, the sponsor of the program.

The global winner in Switzerland gets up to $1.5 million equity sharing and access to Seedstars’ network of investors. There will be a 3 day boot camp for startups, 2 days of conference and one day for investor meetings.

The event was kicked off with the introduction of Seedstars World’s regional manager, John Chehaibar. After that, the startups got 6 minutes to pitch and 4 minutes of Q&A. The pitch competition had 6 Jury members. Hamid Mohammadi, CEO of Digikala, Hamidreza Ahmadi, previous Managing Director of IEA, Igor Ovcharenko, Regional Manager for CEE/MENA at Seedstars World, Alireza Sadeghian, Co-founder of Netbarg, Mohammad Ramin Komeilian, founding member of Avaangles and Vahid Jozi, serial startup entrepreneur and investor.

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Seedstars Tehran jury members

After a long deliberation, the winning startups were announced. Third was Namlik, an audio delivery platform which provides curated audio articles based on user’s interest. Publishers create the content and Namlik’s community of narrators turn them into audio files.

The runner-up was Cortado, a management system for Café owners and also a loyalty service. With this system, café owners get to understand their customers’ needs and behaviors to provide a better service.

SmartBeen, the winning team, was the only hardware startup in Seedstars Tehran. SmartBeen is a climate control system which helps greenhouse owners to manage and analyze their greenhouses. Users of the system have access to an online control panel and a mobile application to supervise the health of the greenhouse.

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Edwin Baboomian, founder of Smartbeen

“One of the biggest problems for young entrepreneurs like me is the 2 year compulsory military service. After that 2 years you lose all your hopes and ideas and it takes a long time to get back to your normal life” said Edwin Baboomian, founder of SmartBeen, when asked about the hardships of starting a business in Iran.

He also added that attending startup conferences outside the country is a hassle for him because he hasn’t gone to military service yet and he needs to get a permission for that.

During the keynote speech, Pouya kondori, COO of Iran Entrepreneurship Association came on the stage to talk about the challenges of developing the startup ecosystem in Iran. He also talked about the achievements of IEA regarding the code academy campaign they’ve started in Tehran’s elementary schools.

From left to right: Reza Rezae from Namlik, Mohammad Shahbandi from Cortado, Edwin Baboomian from SmartBeen and John Chehaibar, Regional Manager for CEE/MENA at Seedstars
From left to right: Reza Rezae from Namlik, Mohammad Shahbandi from Cortado, Edwin Baboomian from SmartBeen and John Chehaibar, Regional Manager for CEE/MENA at Seedstars

Other startups that presented were: 3gaam, a study planning program and social media; Lahzenegar, a live streaming app; Hamgardi, an Iranian tourism social media; Appsi, a peer-to-peer transportation platform which connects passengers to drivers; Koodakoo, an online specialty retailer for baby products; Nobatyar, an appointment making system; and Taskulu, a web-based project management application competing with Trello.

After the event we talked to Seedstars Regional Managers and asked them about how they saw the startup scene here in Iran compared to other countries in the region.

Seedstars ambassadors said they know that the startup scene is young in Iran, but they think it’s going to be totally different in the next two or three years.

“Startups here are more focused on Iranian market. In other countries they think globally from the beginning”, said Igor Ovcharenko.

“Because of the sanctions, you live in a bubble that’s called Iran. So there’s only little incentives for startups to think globally from day one.”, Said John Chehaibar. “You get a lot of copy cats and you need them, because copying a valid model gives you enough confidence to start a startup. It’s okay for Iranians to copy, at least for now”. He also added that the government should give more incentives to diaspora to come back to Iran in order to help shape the startup ecosystem.

Seedstars mission is to find the best innovative startups in emerging markets. Their next stop in the region will be Dubai on September 16th.

For more pictures, visit TechRasa’s Facebook page.

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