Five One Labs is pleased to announce IGNITE, our very first entrepreneurship program focusing on achieving product market fit.

This program will help you better understand the market you are competing in and how you can create the most value for your customers.

We are now recruiting tech-entrepreneurs from communities all around Iraq to participate in this month long program.

If you are passionate about a tech-focused startup idea and want to learn the skills to turn it into a business, this program is right for you!

Apply by May 21 at 11:59pm to be considered.

More details here.

(Source: 51 Labs)

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

Iraq’s new entrepreneurial generation of civil activists’ sense of civic duty flourished during the trauma brought by the ISIS takeover of a third of the country in 2014, and has continued to grow since then as reviewed in a recent report.

The report into “A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis” also looked into the origins and the determination of these civil activists to “develop solutions to policy problems that the political class has been unable to address”.

Click here to read the full article.

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

Iraq’s new entrepreneurial generation of civil activists’ sense of civic duty flourished during the trauma brought by the ISIS takeover of a third of the country in 2014, and has continued to grow since then as reviewed in a recent report.

The report into “A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis” also looked into the origins and the determination of these civil activists to “develop solutions to policy problems that the political class has been unable to address”.

Click here to read the full article.

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Iraqi tech start-up Sandoog has won the Iraq round of Arabnet‘s Start-up Championship.

The company aims to solve local logistical issues using an e-logistics solution that allows merchants to send, track and manage their deliveries, invoices and customer base anywhere in Iraq.

As part of the IBBC (Iraq Britain Business Council) Tech Conference in Baghdad on 29th and 30th April, Iraq Tech Ventures and Arabnet hosted the competition on Monday at The Station Co-Working Space.

In front of a large audience, startups had five minutes to pitch their business to a panel of judges made up of angel and corporate investors, along with key industry leaders.

The top three businesses, which will be entered into Arabnet’s Regional Startup Championship in Beirut, were:

Also taking part and making impressive pitches were Alsaree3, Brsima, Dakakenna, Erbil Delivery, IOT Kids, Sumer Card, and Tabib Baghdad.

By Alexander Southworth, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Exploring Tech in Iraq: ‘Hackasuly – Promoting Tech Literacy for a New Generation of Iraqis’

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. In a country which has seen its fair share of weapon misuse over the last few decades Mandela’s quote could not be more relevant in the climate of present-day Iraq.

With a beleaguered state education system and struggling infrastructure, there exists a community within the Tech Sector that is trying to navigate these challenges and promote education of Iraqi youths through the cultivation of digital skills that will help them reach their goals and find meaningful employment.

In the IBBC’s Tech Series: Exploring Tech in Iraq, we speak to some of the innovators and founders of tech organisations making a difference in Iraq.

One such organisation, HackaSuly, is an initiative that aims to promote technology in Sulaimani, Kurdistan and wider Iraq through tech events, hackathons, meetups and to create a network of tech enthusiasts.

We spoke to one of the founders, Hero Mohammed, to find out more about HackaSuly’s events, how they are empowering young Iraqis, the inspiration behind the founding of the organisation and any advice she has to aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

I believe there is a great potential in Iraq for the tech-industry. The people of Iraq are hungry for stability, innovation and facilities after decades of war and conflict” – Hero Mohammed, Founder of HackaSuly

Growing up in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, Hero describes her desire to participate in coding challenges and tech events but due to a near complete lack of opportunities, this simply was not possible. In 2015, she helped organise HackaErbil, the first Hackathon in Iraq, which would inspire her to embark on a journey to help others in the community to have the opportunities her peers did not have as college students. Building on the success of that first event, Hero started by organising the first hackathon in Sulaimani with the help of some friends.

So how exactly does HackaSuly help young coders through its events? HackaSuly is trying to help young coders to develop their skills and match them with the existing tech market demands. In the meanwhile, they are encouraged to update themselves with cutting-edge technologies and tools.

Until now, they have had three different types of events.

  1. Meet and code (Co-founded with Razhan Hameed): regular weekly coding meetups for coders and people who are interested in coding to come together, collaborate and share their knowledge and skills.
  2. HackaSuly Hackathon (co-organised with Snur Hamid): an annual hackathon that brings together developers, designers and entrepreneurs to come up with ideas that have a technological implementation, form teams and develop their prototypes over a weekend.
  3. Suli Tech Festival (Co-founded and co-organised with Razhan Hameed in collaboration with five one labs): a day-long tech celebration in Sulaimani. The Festival brought together young innovators and members of the local tech community with leaders and companies in the industry. The goal was to help promote technology, generate more interest in the field, and expand knowledge of career opportunities (from the participant’s side) and potential hires (from the business’ side) in the tech industry in Sulaimani. The Festival contained a number of exciting events over the course of the day, including: a welcome speech by the Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government, a Coding Challenge, an Intro Workshop to Web Development, a Tech Career Fair and Project Presentations.

While events of this nature may be common in more tech-developed countries, their establishment in Iraq brings many serious challenges. Hero describes how their ideas and events are new to the society in general and the biggest challenge has being delivering their message. Explaining the events and ideas especially when seeking funds and support have been challenging. When they first started with the HackaSuly hackathon, there was significant difficultly making people within the tech industry, even professionals, understand what a hackathon is.

Support has been key to growing the operation, Hero states great support has been forthcoming from local and international NGOs and private sector companies, especially those that are operating within the Iraqi tech industry, many as part of their Social Responsibility programs. More support is necessary to keep momentum growing, especially government contributions.

“I can imagine HackaSuly in 5 years… A large tech community across the country working together to make technology an important sector for the economic development of Kurdistan and Iraq” – Hero Mohammed, Founder of HackaSuly

Inspired by her strong love of coding and tech, Hero is one of the inspiring young innovators that are driving tech literacy and interest in a new generation of Iraqis. By creating a community of tech enthusiasts in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, HackaSuly is empowering young people to believe in their abilities, learn new skills and create for themselves tech start-ups in Iraq’s fast growing tech Sector.

As Hero states: Access to new technologies can have many benefits for any developing countries. One such benefit is its impact on reducing the costs of production. Other ways technology is helping developing countries is by boosting economies through innovation, SMBs and advanced communication.

IBBC is holding a Tech Conference in Iraq in early 2019, where we aim to bring together the key innovators transforming the digital landscape in the country, explore solutions to better governance and industry reforms using technology and give a platform to young Iraqi entrepreneurs breaking the mould. For more information, and to get involved, please email: London@webuildiraq.org or visit: https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/tech-conference-in-baghdad.

(Source: IBBC)

By Alexander Southworth, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Exploring Tech in Iraq: ‘Sandoog – solving Iraq’s logistics nightmare by digital innovation’

There is a revolution happening in Iraq but not like the country has seen before. This revolution is based on advances in technology that are transforming the digital landscape of the country. The changes occurring are widespread across society, business and politics and are being driven by a new generation of young entrepreneurs revolutionising daily life for Iraqis.

With one of the most youthful demographics in the world, high unemployment rates and few avenues towards traditional jobs, there exists a growing movement of Tech innovators and a growing start-up ecology that is providing increasing opportunities for young Iraqis to break the mould, is contributing towards solving Iraq’s problems and is slowly revolutionising the way Iraqis use tech.

In the IBBC’s Tech Series: Exploring Tech in Iraq, we speak to some of the innovators and founders of tech organisations making a difference in Iraq.

One such organisation, Sandoog, is aiming to solve local logistical issues using an e-logistics solution that allows merchants to send, track and manage their deliveries, invoices and customer base anywhere in Iraq. This is all done through systems and processes that they are developing themselves as a management team.

Since starting in late 2017, they have developed a merchant application, the ‘Sandoog Center’, a driver dispatch application ‘Sandoog Mandoob’, an internal CRM system ‘Sandoog Spider’ and finally a commercial application for express delivery, which has yet to launch onto the market. They also provide storage and inventory management services for efficient transactions and delivery on behalf of merchants.

We spoke to one of the founders, Mustafa Al Obaidi, to find out more about Sandoog’s operating model, how it can help Iraqi businesses, the inspiration behind the founding of the organisation and any advice he has to aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

“Tech, when accessible, can reduce chaotic processes – Tech can connect people, it can provide order, structure, clarity, efficiency and, potentially, a path out of a seemingly never-ending state of survivalism” – Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog

The inspiration behind founding Sandoog was born out of keen sense of market opportunity where Mustafa believes there exists a substantial gap in the market to exploit. Logistics being the backbone to trade and growth of an economy – and in a country with much potential, coming out of decades of war and sanctions, Iraq’s commercial sector still relies on archaic, manual processes that connect business to each other and to their customers ineffectively.

Mustafa and the co-founder of Sandoog, Ahmed Malik, realised that the time was right to “introduce alternative processes for merchants and consumers alike, with Tech being a key facilitator for this”.

So, how does Sandoog actually help merchants with their logistics problems? Sandoog’s operating model supports consumers and companies at various levels. At the core level, they have introduced documentation, invoicing and order verification features in their merchant system ’Sandoog Center’ to allow merchants to easily find their invoices in one place, keep track of their finances, and get notified on the whereabouts of their shipments. This has been, and still is, largely done over the phone and through manual receipts in Iraq.

Needless to say, many merchants are welcoming of the Sandoog approach – However, Iraqis still largely rely on the economy of ‘trust’ where word is bounding, so the Sandoog process is needing traction through marketing and education for adoption to take place.

For consumers, Sandoog provides SMS order verification, which also provides a web link where they can choose their delivery date and time, whist also selecting their location through an interactive map.

Mustafa explained that the benefit extends further than this, by crucially creating local employment opportunities as the organisation expands its activities across the country. Sandoog is constantly growing its teams – from warehouse management and delivery drivers to sales agents and marketing personal. In Baghdad for example, anyone who meets the necessary requirements for their order delivery service can be registered to become a delivery driver for Sandoog and are able to use the Sandoog Mandoob app to deliver goods around the city.

“Sandoog is constantly growing its teams – From warehouse management and delivery drivers to sales agents and marketing personal” Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog

The road has not always been smooth, with Iraq’s archaic business and logistics climate, the Sandoog founders have faced considerable barriers to growth. Mustafa explained that changing the perspective of merchants and consumers away from traditional ways of working has been an ongoing obstacle. The Tech infrastructure might be ready available on Sandoog’s platforms but convincing consumers to adopt their solutions and processes over deep-set cultural practices will take time.

Mustafa also had some sound advice for international companies considering investing in Iraq:

“Iraq is a huge market for any industry with the same needs as other countries around the world. Take the risk and enter – Support local startups who are localising global tech solution. They know how to navigate around the country.” – Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog

Through considerable difficulty, Mustafa and Ahmed have shown that founding a Tech company, which aids growth of the domestic market as well providing jobs, is possible and successful in Iraq. Once consumers and merchants are more familiar with using digital platforms, the use of technology to grow other sectors of the economy and become incorporated into every day life could happen rapidly. Tech can provide a shortcut to the many infrastructural problems Iraq faces by making the most of an increasingly inter-connected world to find alternative solutions to logistical problems the country faces. For more information on Sandoog, visit: www.sandoog.net.

IBBC is holding a Tech Conference in Iraq in early 2019, where we aim to bring together the key innovators transforming the digital landscape in the country, explore solutions to better governance and industry reforms using technology and give a platform to young Iraqi entrepreneurs breaking the mould. For more information, and to get involved, please email: London@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

By Aziz Al Nassiri, CEO, RiTS.

Noah’s Ark Initiative: Toward the creation of a new entrepreneur generation in Iraq.

Noah’s Ark — an initiative aimed at solving Iraq’s most pressing problem, youth unemployment — was launched on 3rd August 2017.

The Ark is an organized Launchpad for small entrepreneurial business startups.

The concept is based on the following approach:

  • Finding all Iraqi university graduates who have entrepreneurial tendency (12% of graduates),
  • Educating, training, supporting and helping these entrepreneurs find project ideas of interest to them,
  • Expose the entrepreneurs to crowdsourcing, with focus on the elite of professionals, academics, scientists, inventors, mentors, business people, and investors to support, counsel, mentor, fund, partner, be a supplier or customer. In particular, the Iraqi diaspora as well as people from around the world who are concerned about the future of Iraq, can play a pivotal role here,
  • Provide complete business modelling expertise together with a variety of supporting functions through incubation, carried out by a choice of Iraqi and non Iraqi incubators available on deck. i.e The Ark is an ecosystem of all Iraqi entrepreneurship initiatives,
  • Design, and establish blueprints for repeatable projects, e.g. model farms, 3D Printed buildings teams (Mosul!), river transport boats (Marshes!),Babylon tourism arcades, etc,
  • Ensuring competitiveness of all projects by always basing them on the latest technology and science available. The aim is not to catch up with the neighbours; we should aim to leap ahead of them. Iraqi scientists and the diaspora have a major role to play here,
  • Establishing a fair, corruption free, crowd funding based, loan arrangement for all projects.

In doing all the above we are helping to launch 100s, and 1000s of startups in a systemic way, each startup is carrying all the elements of success with the crowdsource joining in their journey to provide good income for their owners and employees.

A feature of Noah’s Ark is to carry a running total of the potential jobs each project is likely to need, as well as another running total of jobs actually created, for all projects.

Future Development

Furthermore, we intend to continue to develop Noah’s Ark for the benefit of Iraq’s economy. The platform already accepts registrations of companies and NGOs. In addition it provides a ”jobs” function whereby the startups and any Iraqi owned entity or simply operating in Iraq, can post their job vacancies.

By Hal Miran, Editor-in-Chief, Bite.Tech. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

TechHub has officially been launched, making the first tech startup coworking space in Iraq a reality. We have housed nine members so far, as well as numerous expert-led entrepreneurial workshops and events, and look forward to bringing much more to Iraq’s booming tech startup sector.

Coworking office spaces have seen exponential growth around the world in recent years, as the business environment has undergone big changes. And the reason is simple: there are just so many benefits to joining a coworking space when building your tech startup.

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What is TechHub?

TechHub is a community hub for tech startups in Iraq, headquartered in the city of Erbil, Iraq. We created TechHub to give budding Iraqi techstars the springboard they need to build, grow and scale their startup in a fully supportive tech environment.

At the end of May 2017, the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) launched its latest initiative: the Young Executives Network. The event was held at the IBBC offices in Westminster Tower, London, where Mr Zaid Al Elyaseri, Country Manager of BP Iraq, was the first guest speaker.

Around 30 young professionals, executives and entrepreneurs attended the meeting, which is designed to connect, support and facilitate a strong business support network for those with Iraqi descent or who have a strong interest/affiliation with Iraq.

The IBBC Young Executives Network is a platform committed to strengthening and maintaining the longstanding relationship between Iraq and Britain by bringing together the ideas and expertise of subject matter experts, IBBC members and young professionals in the UK, Iraq and internationally.

It is a diverse and pluralistic platform created to foster collaboration, encourage discourse and support the development of connections within the business, academic and cultural ecosystem of Iraq.

The Chairwoman and Chairman of the IBBC Young Executives Network, Dunya Hatem Shamkhi and Sammy Sharifi, gave an overview of the core values, benefits and mission statement of the new initiative after an introduction by Managing Director of IBBC, Christophe Michels. In his introduction, Mr Michels said that YEN “was designed to enable young executives of Iraqi descent to find a way to positively engage with their country of origin which they might find difficult to engage with otherwise”.

He added that “Zaid Elyasery was the perfect role model for the YEN, born in Baghdad but leaving Iraq as a child with his parents and only returning to the country in his thirties and under the Umbrella of BP”. He also remarked that he “could not think of better qualified chairpersons than Dunya and Sammy to lead the IBBC Young Executive Network, Dunya being an Architect and Sammy a Property Developer, they literally embodied the IBBC’s founding credo together we build Iraq”.

This was followed by a presentation from the Iraq country manager of BP, Mr Zaid Elyasery, on BP’s history of involvement in Iraq, the integration of a local Iraqi workforce into field operations and his optimism for the Young Executives Network to bring Iraqi and UK young professionals closer together and strengthen future ties between the two economies.

But more importantly, Mr Elyasery told his personal story that lead him to take the helm of BP in Iraq. Zaid inspired his audience and promised to fully support the IBBC Young Executives Network in future.

For more information on membership criteria, benefits and the objectives of the Young Executives Network, read more here, or contact: mailto:london@webuildiraq.org

By Lara Saeed (pictured), Managing Editor, Bite.Tech. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Over the past 6 months, we at Bite.Tech have been mapping out the startup ecosystem in Iraq which consists of all the stakeholders who directly add value and and drive the startup ecosystem providing entrepreneurs, investors, and new comers with an overall guide of the ecosystem.

With this map we can also identify the main challenges the Iraq’s startup ecosystem faces and the initiatives the Iraqi ecosystem needs to go through for it to become a high-potential site amongst regional startup ecosystems. For example, a notable missing section on the map is investments/funding.

E-commerce:

  1. Chanbar is an online platform that allows merchants to create online stores within 24 hours, users can start to sell products online immediately after a simple setup. Payment can be made through Zain cash.

CO-Working Space

  1. Tech Hub: the first tech focused co-working space in Iraq, the Erbil location is already accommodating several startups and is running workshops, with a Baghdad branch soon to follow.

Media:

  1. Bite.Tech is an online newsletter published in English covering the tech startup ecosystem of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Events:

  1. HackaErbil: a two-day hackathon, participants are required to present new and innovative projects.
  2. Startup Weekend: Powered by Google, Startup Weekend teaches its participants how to network and build their startups within 54 hours.
  3. Pitch Bootcamp: a two-day career accelerator program that helps participants develop their skills, and improves their chances of finding jobs. The concept is from Spark Agency in Portugal who have organized these events around the world.
  4. Rwanga: the NGO running the Rwanga Awards. The event is open to anyone who wishes to showcase their work in the fields of writing, photography, scientific discoveries and many more.

Maker Space:

  1. Fikra Space: an open space in Baghdad for people who have common interests in computers, technology, science, arts and other fields.
  2. Science Camp: a space for anyone with interest in computing technology, digital arts, design, green energy, recycling & digital arts run in Basra?

Education:

  1. Al-Mansour University Incubator: The incubator is located in Al-Mansour University. They guide and support entrepreneurs through brain storming sessions, business analysis and more.
  2. MSELECT: a staffing agency with a training academy offering internationally certified public and private courses in business, IT, soft skills, vocational subjects and more.
  3. Re:Coded: the mission is to equip refugees and vulnerable youth in conflict affected areas with fundamental coding skills and professional experience that together create access to careers in technology.
  4. Code Lab: an intensive software development boot camp that meets virtually on Facebook. The boot camp focuses on writing clean and efficient code to produce scalable and maintainable software products.