EghtesadOnline: Qazvin hosted a tech and startup event on Thursday as part of efforts by the organizer of Iran Web and Mobile Festival to promote fledgling firms based outside Tehran.
The festival’s cofounders, Shayan Shalileh and Milad Ehrampoush, were among key speakers at the event, along with Iran E-Commerce Union Spokesman Reza Olfatnasab and cofounder of Digikala, Hamid Mohammadi.
Ehrampoush said, “We are trying to promote startups based in different Iranian provinces in a series of events.”
This year, in addition to Tehran, IWMF will be hosted in seven other cities to boost startups operating in different provinces, according to Financial Tribune.
So far, events have been held in Isfahan, Mashhad, Rasht and Qazvin. Several other cities, including Yazd, are to host similar gatherings in the coming weeks.
During the Qazvin gathering, Olfatnasab spoke about recent developments in Iran’s startup ecosystem.
Over the past few days, local ride-hailing Snapp has been targeted by hardliners’ media outlets for “attracting investment from a Saudi entity”, which claim has been rejected by the firm. Snapp managers say that the company’s major investors include MTN-Irancell and an unnamed German company.
Olfatnasab said, “Foreign investment is regulated by the government. Meanwhile, state authorities and the Leader of Islamic Revolution [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] support attracting foreign investment.”
Mohammad Rahmani, the head of Snapp’s legal team, was also present at the event. He detailed the long-drawn fracas between municipalities and online taxis.
Following long-drawn talks between online taxis, Iran’s ministries of ICT, industries and interior, as well as urban administrations, spearheaded by Tehran Municipality, introduced a guideline in late September. While taxing the startups, the guideline has left them some wiggle room.
As per the text, the ride-hailing companies need to forge a deal with each city's municipality by paying a 2% tax on each ride’s fare. In return, they will be exempted from paying value-added tax and municipalities will not tamper with the company’s pricing system.
So far, Tap30 has signed a deal with Tehran Municipality.
Rahmani said in Qazvin that Snapp is on the cusp of signing a similar agreement with TM.
Digikala cofounder, Mohammadi, spoke about the firm's history, noting that the startup was set up with an investment of 120 million rials in 2007. At the time, the USD exchange rate was 9,180 rials in Tehran. In other words, Digikala was founded with an initial investment of $13,000.
He also spoke about US sanctions' impact on the e-commerce firm, which compelled the startup to cut jobs and curb overheads.
In a panel hosted by Mohammad Mehdi Damirchi, managers of several startups and accelerators based in Qazvin discussed challenges facing them.
All the participants in the panel agreed that startups would not be able to grow further unless they set up offices in Tehran. Not surprisingly, most of the talented and trained workforce from the provinces had plans to migrate to Tehran.
Many of the provincial startups complained about the lack of professionals, as they have moved to Tehran or left greener pastures overseas.