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EghtesadOnline: Bank Melli Iran, owned by the government and the largest commercial bank in Iran, has invested more than 1 trillion rials ($25.6 million) in three knowledge-based startups, an official at the Presidential Office for Science and Technology announced.

“We expect higher amounts of bank investments in startups by March 2018, as we have made progress in negotiations with Bank Sepah, Export Development Bank of Iran, Tourism Bank, Bank Keshavarzi, Post Bank and Bank Refah,” Alireza Daliri, the vice president’s deputy for development and investment, told Tasnim News Agency.

 “In 2013, we started negotiations with banks and the National Development Fund of Iran to attract funds for development of knowledge-based firms … None of the banks was interested in putting their money into the sector,” he said.

The office proposed lenders to either launch their own startup accelerators or directly invest in successful startups. “This was more appealing to them,” Financial Tribune quoted Daliri as saying.

In July, BMI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Presidential Office for Science and Technology to create a new hub for startups and support innovative ideas.

The official did not elaborate on BMI’s investment. However, last week, local media reported that BMI has bought 25% shares of TAP30, a popular ride-hailing application, for 800 billion rials ($20 million).

Tap30 is Iran’s second most popular ride-hailing service and the first to expand services beyond Tehran. Currently, 95 trained technicians and 15,000 drivers work for Tap30.

Snapp, the leading Iranian ride-hailing startup, has recently attracted more than 900 billion rials ($24 million) of investments from MTN.  

Daliri did not clarify whether investments in startups are made directly by lenders or through their affiliated investment companies.

As per the law, banks are not permitted to get involved in non-banking activities. However, the Banking Overhaul Plan, signed by President Hassan Rouhani in early July, allows the banking sector to finance innovative schemes, which “will positively impact the growth of knowledge-based economy".

Currently, 3,037 knowledge-based companies are registered with the vice presidency, including 1,751 startups, 867 firms active in production sector and 419 industrial knowledge-based firms.

 

Bank Melli Iran Iran startups