The first-ever Silkroad Startup Summit, held April 18-19 in the beautiful Kish Island, highlighted a burgeoning ecosystem.
Silk Road Startup is the first international B2B gathering in Iran to showcase the local startup ecosystem to international communities. The event ran a call for entry for startups from all over the country and 400 startups applied for the pitch competition. 84 startups were eventually picked to pitch during the road trip in 7 cities of the country. After these series of pitch competitions, 16 finalists were accepted to participate at the finals in Kish island.
With the presence of +250 people, among which 30% were female, and with over 20 international speakers from countries such as France, Sweden, Spain, Singapore, Austria, Japan and China, the Summit in Kish became the first international startup event in Iran.
Beside the startup pitches, various panels were held in which the Iranian and international tech experts talked about topics such as “the surprising advantages of the US sanctions”, “Iranian Women founders”, “Europe’s current state of startups”, “Governments boosting the innovation economy”, “The future of Artificial Intelligence” and “Smart cities”.
Some of the keynote speeches included “Kish, an ocean of opportunities”, by Mohammad Reza Saeedi, Head of investments of Kish Free-Trade Zone, “Iran Startup Ecosystem at a Glance”, by Hamed Jafari, Co-founder of TechRasa, “How to Have an influence with social media”, by Seyed Ahmad Moein Shirazi (Picasso), “The A to Z of investment in Iran”, by Kiyan Zandiyeh and “Women in Artificial Intelligence” by Hanan Salam from Women in AI.
At the end of the second day of the event, when all 16 startups presented their pitches, the 7 jury members, Reza Malekzadeh (Partech), Kiyan Zandiyeh (Sturgeon Capital), Mia Jafari (Intelak Incubator), Nazanin Daneshvar (Takhfifan), Jaka Levstek (D-Labs), Bertier Luyt (Techstars Paris) and Juergen Furian (Pioneers), took their time to evaluate the teams. At the end, the following three startups were chosen.
1- Echobaar: EchoBaar is a truckload transportation service. It is a marketplace for shippers, cargo companies, and truckers. EchoBaar tries to bridge the gap between technology and current logistic procedure which relies heavily on phone calls and fax machines.
2- Keshmoon: Keshmoon is the world’s first socially aware Saffron marketplace. Its founders are from Khorasan province in Iran where 95% of the world’s saffron is being supplied. Keshmoon founder’s family and 180,000 smallholder saffron farmers of Iran have a small share in this one billion dollar market.
3- Doctoreto: Doctoreto helps users search and find doctors and book an appointment. Also, Doctoreto helps doctors to manage their time and appointments. Doctoreto’s intention is to link professional doctors to people in a reliable atmosphere to relieve their concerns about people’s physical and mental health.
These three top startups received their awards from the event sponsors, Khooger and SabaVision. The prizes were:
Third Place: 10 million IRR office furniture equipment by Khooger & 50 million IRR credit by SabaVision.
Second Place: 15 million IRR office furniture equipment by Khooger & 100 million IRR credit by SabaVision.
First Place: 20 million IRR office furniture equipment by Khooger & 200 million IRR uses by SabaVision.
Silk Road Startup summit received many positive feedbacks from the attendees and the international press as one of the first steps to bridge the Iranian startup ecosystem to European and Asian countries.
“Silkroad Startup was a great eye-opening event that allowed an international audience to discover the burgeoning Iranian startup scene,” said Reza Malekzadeh, General Partner at Partech. “It was humbling to see the high quality of the startups, the smarts of the founders and the market opportunities,” he added.
Kiyan Zandiyeh another Keynote speaker from Sturgeon Capital, said: “I found the Silk Road Startup conference to be the most efficient way to get an overview of the latest developments in Iran’s startup scene and to meet early-stage companies from around the country”.
Maral Kalajian, the head of marketing and communications at Watty, was surprised about the female’s participation at Iran’s startup scene and said: “The best part was the women representation on the stage from female founders to women who are doing great things in the local ecosystem! Iran has more than 60% female engineering graduates!”.
The event was held with the support of local tech companies such as Snapp which believe in Silk Road Startup’s vision to empower startups and young entrepreneurs all around the country. Silk Road Startup’s mission is to gather and involve all the players in the country and hopefully with Snapp leading the way, the organizers of the event expect more players to join and support such events. “At Snapp, we believe in community work as its the main engine behind the Iranian startup ecosystem. Supporting Silk Road Startup as an independent startup event is one of our ways to give back to the community and support the youth to improve the country’s digital economy,” said Shahram Shahkar, CEO of Snapp.
This doesn’t end for the Silk Road Startup. Next year another road trip and summit will be held with a bigger and more diverse agenda according to the organizers of this event.