Iran, due to its international relations has a unique startup ecosystem. Unlike many other nations, Iranians have their own local version of international startups. Marketplace business model is getting most of the traction in the country as it’s empowering many businesses and individuals. Here is an infographic of some of the well-known Iranian startups and their international equivalents.
Iranian entrepreneurs have a unique situation in Iran for two reasons:
- Many of the big international internet companies are banned in Iran such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Waze and so on.
- Many of the big international companies are banning Iranian users and businesses due to the sanctions imposed by the US, including most of the paid services by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Spotify and so on. Even if Iranians could buy the services or products from abroad, they can’t be directly be delivered to Iran.
Iranians don’t have access to international payment services, meaning that there is no international credit card service operating in Iran, hence, the majority of Iranians can’t use international services even if they want to. While some Iranians have been able to obtain credit/debit cards from abroad by going through numerous troubles, still the postal services won’t deliver packages to Iran due to the imposed sanctions.
However, restrictions can turn to opportunities. That’s what happened in Iran. In the absence of international players, Iranians saw the opportunity and started to clone and localize the international platforms and services.
If we track the origin of startups in the country we should go back to the 2000s with the start of PersianBlog and Blogfa which were popular since Iranians loved blogging back then. Back in 2008, there were 4.5M Iranian blogs of which 450K of them were active. However, some experts believe that these companies weren’t true startups because of their business model, operating method and limited number of users.
The second wave of startups in Iran started after 2012, when Sarava VC injected money into Digikala as the first online retailer, and Bamilo receiving funding from Iran Internet group (IIG), as the first marketplace in Iran. However, as the marketplace model became more successful in the recent years, Digikala pursued Bamilo’s approach by becoming a hybrid of an online retailer and marketplace since 2017. This is interesting since it shows that the marketplace business model is showing more promise in Iran’s e-commerce/online shops.
We shouldn’t forget about Aparat, Cafe Bazaar, Netbarg, Takhfifan and many of the ad networks which were established during this time since they have played an important role in the Iranian startup ecosystem.
The third wave of Iranian startups, appeared in the past two or three years, with companies working in other sectors such as FinTech, InsurTech, video-on-demand, map services and messaging apps.
See the infographic below to find out about some of the promising Iranian startups and their international equivalent:
- To gather the information in this infographic, nearly 250 people answered our call on Twitter and LinkedIn to name their favorite Iranian startups and their international equivalent. While for some sectors there were many local examples, we only mentioned a few that showed a stronger market position.
- Due to the unique situation in the Iranian market, some of the local equivalents don’t entirely function as the foreign players, especially in the FinTech sector.