Startup Industry Likely to Grow
Mobin Ranjbar believes the country's startup industry will boom in the next few years, urging officials to get more academic institutions on board in supporting the industry.
Financial Tribune managed to track down the well-known startup activist whilst he was visiting Tehran, asking vexing questions about the emerging internet and e-commerce business.
Financial Tribune: How did you get to become a startup business expert?
Mobin Ranjbar: I originally was interested in computing and the online sector whilst I was studying through school. In my home city of Babol (a city in northern Iran) there wasn't much information about online sector in Iran and I began to get interested in programming websites. That's where it all began. From there I began to get into small projects before opening a company (Microsun) whilst still studying at school. I also gained an associates diploma in debugging which then led to me coming up with the first startup event in Iran.
What have you done to help the startup industry in Iran?
Along with creating my company Microsun, I also was instrumental in setting up the Tehran Startup Weekend. At first not many people understood the word "startup" and it was very difficult to get people to understand our objectives, but over time the events become more and more popular. Now we are in our third year of running the Startup Weekends around Iran, and we also host monthly meet ups for interested individuals.
What have been your contribution to this burgeoning industry?
Being a software engineer by training, I have had the ability to develop many different online services as well as acting as guide to many people wanting to get into the industry. I started Iran's first blog site in the English language called techly.co. This site highlights what's going on in the web-based industries. I have also been instrumental in creating a new co-working. Our company called Shariksho.com and aims to be a host website allowing people around Iran to use co-working space around the country. [Share working spaces are currently unheard of in the Iranian business environment with the government and local municipalities playing catch up with this new working concept]. We currently have 50-60 people using our space and we hope to expand our services much further.
Have you had funding for this new business venture?
Currently we are self funding Shariksho, and we hope to attract seed investment in the coming months once we've ironed out a few problems. One local business accelerator is also interested in funding our initial round in the coming months, but talks are still ongoing.
"The problem with co-working in Iran is that many companies don't see the use of this business right now. They prefer to have an official office address and reception. But what we are trying to explain to them is that their business costs would be considerably less if they used this more dynamic method. People in Iran just show interest in the idea without going any further."
Will the startup industry develop?
I think the startup industry is likely to grow much larger than we currently know it. I also think that we need to get more academic institutions on board in promoting this idea and also supporting it. Through my service at Tehran's Lean Startup Machine events, along with setting up Startup Weekend I have definitely helped move this industry.
Some Claim the startup industry is a bubble and a fad.
No, I don’t think the industry is a bubble, yes I do admit it may be becoming somewhat overinflated in some areas but overall, I don't think we are going to see a dot com situation in the near future. The longevity and strength of this industry is down to one or two issues currently. First, the government needs to better understand the changing way of business –this will definitely help– and also the authorities need to be able to support new small industries like this.
Are there major challenges?
In my view, there are a few major players entering the market, namely Sarava Pars and Rocket Internet. Between these large international players, many in the tech industries worry they might have too much of an overbearing influence on the startup scene as a whole. Sarava and Rocket have large pockets. For me personally I try not to get too involved in both of them as I wish to help everyone who wants to start. I also look for different investment opportunities which may be on the horizon.