During October 22–31 I was a proud member of the jury of the Silk Road Startup tour where we had 8 pitching events (think shark-tank style) in 7 cities of the country. The tour with over 100 local organizers turned the country’s eyes to the startup community and the top 84 startups in Iran!


The jury members from Germany, France, Sweden/Switzerland and India
The jury members from Germany, France, Sweden/Switzerland and India

Presentation matters!

Once more I realized how much it matters how you present. It is absolutely crucial to know your most important KPIs and to deliver them crystal-clearly, if after 4min I still wonder if you have even launched I am lost.

Oneshape pitching their 3D printing solution in Mashhad — 3min13seconds left
Oneshape pitching their 3D printing solution in Mashhad — 3min13seconds left

Here a quick checklist before you go on stage to pitch. If you are not crossing each of these bullet-points, go back and review your pitch:

  • Start with a story to capture your listeners’ attention (essentially first 15–20sec are lost in just getting used to the presenter anyways)
  • No more than 2 slides per minute of pitch — as few words as possible
  • Include screenshots of your product even if it’s “just a marketplace” — great chance to stand out with good design
  • Clear overview of your KPIs — a chance to put your presentation in perspective, have you launched? Are we talking assumptions or tested data?
  • No spellings — use f.ex. grammarly
  • Finish (if not presented before) with a vision

Iran has a unique investment landscape 

US sanctions have banned American companies from doing business in the country. That means no Visa, Mastercard, or American Express and hence a badly functioning online payment infrastructure (making payments for foreigners impossible), no Facebook (unless you use a VPN) and Instagram without ads — which means limited social media marketing — , and no Uber, Delivery Hero or booking.com the latter having local copycats (Snapp and ZoodFood, and Pintapin) initiated by the Rocket Internet Group. It is only recently that Iran has started to attract foreign investments, and hence the event got good coverage from the media such as national PressTV.

Made it onto Iranian TV :) Click here to watch a 3min coverage
Made it onto Iranian TV 🙂 Click here to watch a 3min coverage

84 pitches later

Our “Tour Bus” bringing us from city to city just like rockstars :P
Our “Tour Bus” bringing us from city to city just like rockstars 😛

Here you can find the whole exclusive list of all startups!

For me, the Silk Road Startup Tour was a brilliant experience with many great people, not few bus rides in our “VIP” tour bus and time to bond with the rest of the rock band and very much love from the Silk Road Team. It was inspiring, insightful and very rewarding. I learned that entrepreneurs are all the same, no matter the environment. You work with what you have and you don’t give up to find the best solution. As Hamed Farhadian used to say: “Failing is an option. Giving up is not.” Despite all the local differences, the people behind the startups is what matters most and I believe many of the entrepreneurs we met will go far.

Some of the Silk Road Startup Team (100+ people involved all over Iran)
Some of the Silk Road Startup Team (100+ people involved all over Iran)
A special thanks to Moojan and her brilliant co-founders, Hamed and Hadi, and of course the 100+ people making this happen, keep it up!

Summary of learnings: 

  • Good entrepreneurs can work anywhere, solving a problem with the means at hands
  • There is a hungry generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs building scalable businesses in Iran
  • Traffic in Tehran is completely unpredictable even when using deep learning — calculate 1–5 hours to get to the other side of the city — high-five Davood 😉
  • 4/5G works well — buy a sim card at the airport with maximum data capacity
  • When somebody asks you to pay 10 — you hand over a 100’000 bill… I’m serious now that’s how it works
  • 90% of Saffran globally is produced in Iran
  • There are some seriously pretty monuments to be visited!

Investing in Iran?

If you are interested in investing in tech in Iran, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll try to connect you with the right people. If you are interested to follow the tech news in Iran, www.TechRasa.com is your place!

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3 Comments on "84 Hottest Startups Pitching in Iran — What I Learned as Jury Member of Silk Road Startup"

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Hey there are no list with start ups.


Hi The List of Startups link is broken!


Actually in my city, the selected startups had the worst presentations! Therefore your guidance are not applicable.
Maybe the local people consider you as god or superman, but I lived many years within your society and I know your culture like my palm. None of the silk-road referees were looking like any kind of referee nor investor. The difference between you and reality was like a distance from earth to the nearest galaxy.