As is common in every startup ecosystem, finding co-founders, talents and a team is not a one-day effort. Iran startup scene is no different. Fundamental elements of every emerging startup ecosystem to get off the ground can be categorized into human capital, financial capital and infrastructure.
Why Is There a Fundamental Problem With Team Building in the Middle East?
When comparing cultural behaviors and tendencies regarding team building, teamwork and mutual cooperations, Iranians do not excel relative to the rest of the world. historically, Iranians have a great ability to unite under one powerful cause in larger scales while the cause holds its purpose. Iranians rank high when it comes to this feature.But regarding teamwork, large-scale partnerships and cooperations they do not possess the same unity.
The Iranian educational system doesn’t promote teamwork activities enough, especially when compared to more modern educational systems now used in developed nations. Looking from a socioeconomic point of view, financial and political struggles over the last century have taken their toll and the overall trust within Iranian societies has declined as the culture is changing from a more collectivist culture to a more individualistic one. The emphasis of teamwork values in educational systems may be an effective tool for its implementation in society. The impact of this act will be more evident in the long terms.
Questions and Answers
Getting past all the history and social behaviors, team building is and always will be one of the main challenges facing entrepreneurs all over the world. Where can I find my co-founder? Where are the experts that can guide me? Where are the talented university graduates to join me in this venture? Talented graphic designers, programmers, marketers? These are the questions that can be heard everywhere especially in younger startup ecosystems.
1. Networking Events and Social Media Groups
A major question needs a major answer. The subject of teamwork and collaboration is one thing, building a team and finding a talent is another. It was more than two years ago where the startup ecosystem was still in a grass-roots stage. Few startup weekend events were held at the time in Tehran which is considered as an inception of the startup community we see today. Two startup community builders went out to solve the issue of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts in building teams and finding co-founders. The answer was networking! Startup Weekend and other entrepreneurship events happening once every now and then weren’t the best solution for this specific issue. These two gentlemen felt the need to start a weekly networking event called Hamfekr. This event just celebrated its second year anniversary last Wednesday.
This weekly networking event that is held every Wednesday in Tehran, helped many entrepreneurs connect. Many found their co-founders, hired, and were hired. Events like Hamfekr offered something startup groups on social media did not. The key to having virtual groups on the internet is to also have offline gatherings and meetups, that will continue into the virtual world in forms of chat messaging and Facebook groups. Though Facebook groups in Iran startup ecosystem were one of the main engines in growing the community, the lack of an offline gathering was observed. By the use of the offline events the virtual groups also became more vibrant, which highlights that offline gatherings could better feed online gatherings and not vice versa.
2. Universities as the Mainstream Location to Find Business Partners and Co-Founders Around the World
Universities can go far beyond what we expect when it comes to having the largest talent pools in a country. Many MBA graduates from major schools who moved to Iran to start their business owe many things to the network they got at their MBA programs. Graduates (mostly MBA graduates) from major universities in the US and UK seem to have a far greater asset than just a paper from a big named university. Classmates become your greatest connections in the business world. Using this alone many international companies work with Iran through their classmates back in college.
But it’s not just about having an international network and global connections. Many famous founders of startups found their co-founder and founding team member from the university they attended. It doesn’t matter which university you study, it’s about who you find while studying.
Universities can also facilitate events while bolding the networking part in order to help their future alumni to connect more and potentially start businesses together. These actions proved to pay off for universities like Harvard and Stanford, where their graduates turned out to be world business leaders which ultimately became a trophy for the university to showcase. Thinking more about it, universities gain as much as the successful business founder does.
Business schools in Iran should initiate events and programs by also concentrating on empowering their student’s team building and networking skills.
3. Startups That Aid Entrepreneurs to Find Entrepreneurs and Talent
There are startups that actually focus on the problem we are talking about. Cofounderslab and Founder2be are good examples of platforms to help entrepreneurs to find their proper co-founder. The question is would there be a need of a product similar to the ones mentioned in farsi and tailored to the Iran startup community’s need? Or these startups don’t have enough Iranian users because they didn’t need it, or don’t know about it?
At the end the answer lies in a simple generic word called “Networking”. Whether it’s virtual or real time, it’s an important subject that ultimately boosts a local startup ecosystem to growth. Actions taken in Iran’s startup community to solve this issue came with great examples and results.