EghtesadOnline: Entrepreneurs, startup managers, stakeholders, guild members and ICT officials converged in Tehran for the 11th Iran Web and Mobile Festival (IWMF).
Organized by the private sector, the two-day event that ended Friday brought together business owners and young entrepreneurs to help them share experience and knowhow in the increasingly competitive sector.
Close to 1,800 startup and tech aficionados attended. During the event held at the Energy Research Institute, over a dozen panels and workshops were held covering a variety of subjects from digital marketing methods to state policies and the bloated government bureaucracy.
One of the panels that was a major attraction and triggered social media frenzy on Twitter was a talk on Thursday about laws and regulations that have harmed not helped the progress of Iranian startups, according to Financial Tribune.
Speakers at this panel were the head of Iran IT Organization, Amir Nazemi, Reza Olfatnasab, chairman of Tehran Guild Association of Online Businesses (locally known as e-Anjoman Persian for e-guild), chief editor of a news website Arash Barahamand, and Hessam Armandehi, cofounder of local Android market Café Bazaar.
Nazemi told the panel “The rigid disposition of some policymakers and authorities has hampered the growth of Iranian startups.”
While such companies have grown exponentially in recent years, in terms of numbers and revenue, Nazemi is of the opinion that bureaucracy and red tape must be curbed to provide the younger generation and entrepreneurs with a real shot at success.
Since being appointed as head of the IT organization, Nazemi has been a stalwart supporter of startups and privately-owned tech firms.
Nazemi was applauded for his passion and frank opinion by the largely young crowd. Thanking Nazemi and his team for their role and contribution to the startups, guild member Olfatnasab said, “While there are people in position of power like Nazemi that support startups and entrepreneurship, there are factions, even inside President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, who are against activities of such companies. Such contradictory approach is hurting the startups.”
Taking stock of the deteriorating state of the national economy, the guild member added, “Iranian startups and tech firms are divided. We need unity and harmony against the headwinds. Together we can weather the storm.”
Over the past few months and following new US sanctions, the Iranian economy is facing tough times. The national currency has lost 70% of its value and as a result doing business in and with Iran has become more difficult.
Olfatnasab noted that the purchasing power of average Iranians has been shrinking and the economic decline has hit startups hard.
With the help of the social media the event organizers got 430 million rials ($3,600) in donations to help equip a classrooms in a school in the deprived Sistan and Baluchestan Province.
“With help from founders and owners of leading startups, we are trying to create a foundation to show that startups and online firms (also) have an obligation toward the society at large. Our intention is to contribute to the development of economically-deprived regions in the country,” Olfatnasab said.
Preparations for the festival which included a nationwide contest among local online businesses began in early October 2018 and 19,567 websites and 6,810 local mobile apps enlisted.
At a gathering in Pardis Technology Park in east Tehran in late January, the jury of the festival shortlisted nominees for the IWMF 2019 award.
The websites and mobile applications were categorized in 57 and 21 groups respectively based on their services.
Categories included retailing, reservations, insurance, fintechs, marketing, e-learning, video streaming, gaming, parenting, news websites, art and culture, environment, cinema and theater, jobs, transportation and package delivery, online sales, housing, food delivery services, cloud services and charities.
The top five service providers in each category were shortlisted based on performance and user interface. With input from related businesses winners in each category were selected.
Furthermore, a public poll was undertaken to give the people a voice. They were asked to pick the best websites and applications in each category. One million people voted.
The list of winners in available on the event website, iwmf.ir. Winners were presented a statue and the opportunity to introduce their services in a short speech.
Secretary of Tehran Guild Association of Online Businesses, Shayan Shalileh launched the festival in 2009. Then it focused only on websites. Other organizers of the event, Milad Ahrampoush, and Mohsen Barati created the Iran App Festival in 2014. The events later merged.
In addition to founders and managers of a dozen local startups and technology firms, other participants at the event were Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari and head of Tehran Municipality ICT Organization, Mohammad Farjood.
An exhibition was held on the sidelines of the event at which companies showed their services.