By Alice Bosley and Patricia Letayf, Co-Founders of Five One Labs.

At Five One Labs, we work with idea or early-stage entrepreneurs from diverse communities to launch scalable, innovative businesses. We’ve had the privilege to work with tech startups like Dada, PHARX, Khanoo and more, and deeply understand the struggles that entrepreneurs who pursue apps, SaaS (software as a service), e-commerce solutions and more face in Iraq’s context.

Based on our work in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) over the past two years, we have been able to identify some of the most pressing challenges tech entrepreneurs and the startup community encounter.

The top five challenges are described below:

Challenge 1: Online-based businesses don’t legally exist in Iraq.

Registering businesses in Iraq is a costly and time-intensive process in the best of times, but it is made even more difficult because of the lack of law regulating online or technology businesses. E-commerce sites, SaaS, applications etc are not legally considered businesses, and cannot be registered as such. Entrepreneurs establishing tech startups are often left without the protection and freedom provided by being legally registered.

When entrepreneurs choose to register their tech businesses, they must register as a traditional business and open a brick and mortar location. They could choose to register as an “office,” which is the least expensive choice, but an ‘office’ registration could negatively impact the entrepreneur’s ability to take equity in the future. Other registration choices are more expensive and time-intensive.

The registration challenges that both tech and non-tech business face have been recognized by many, including Orange Corners, an initiative launched by the Dutch Government. In November Five One Labs and Orange Corners will release a “Roadmap” for business registration in the KRI, which will also highlight the registration experience of tech businesses. A similar roadmap will be published by KAPITA on the business registration process for Federal Iraq.

Challenge 2: The digital skills gap in Iraq increases the time and cost of launching a tech startup.

Launching a tech business, be it a mobile application or a website, requires a certain level of digital and technical skills, particularly as the business grows past its initial stages. And if an entrepreneur building a tech startup does not have the technical skills herself, she will need to enlist the support of developers and coders to build more complex prototypes to be able to test her product.

While digital skills and literacy are important for entrepreneurs — be they inside Iraq or outside — the skills gap in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, creates challenges for startup founders in the country. Data on computer programming education and skills are not readily available in Iraq, our experience working working with startups and anecdotal evidence suggests that the shortage of coders in Iraq has increased the time and cost of launching an app- or website-based business.

A number of non-technical founders that have gone through Five One Labs’ incubator program have found that coders and developers can be expensive, which increases their startup costs and causes delays in launching their businesses.

Additionally, a number have had to work remotely with developers, either in other parts of Iraq, or outside of the country entirely, to have their technical needs met, and many have gone through multiple freelance coders or developers in the early stages of the development of their products. Some non-technical founders also delay the hiring of CTOs, either because of the cost or because of a lack of understanding of the importance of having one on board from the outset.

The good news is that this reality is changing quickly, thanks to some amazing organizations across Iraq. Re:Coded, FikraSpace, and Preemptive Love Coalition’s WorkWell Program have been offering high-quality digital skill-building programs across the country to ensure that moving forward, the country’s youth are well-equipped to participate in the digital economy.

Challenge 3: The cost of launching a business is high — and there aren’t many ways that entrepreneurs can find financing to cover these costs.

In addition to the fact that the costs of building apps in Iraq can be high, tech founders also face high legal startup costs.

The lack of regulation regulating tech businesses can make registration more expensive, as entrepreneurs are forced to consult with and shuttle back and forth between multiple ministries and chambers of commerce who may interpret their startup as a different type of business, which impacts the cost.

Regulations also stipulate that businesses must have a physical office, and a lawyer and an accountant on retainer, which are immense costs for someone looking to launch a startup. Around the world many early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly tech founders, operate their registered businesses from home or from coworking spaces, but regulations in the KRI stipulate that an office (with four walls) is required, and so renting an office whereby a business can register from will likely add several hundred (if not thousands) of dollars in expenses for a new business depending on where in the country they are located.

Given these high costs — the million dollar question for tech founders (and entrepreneurs more generally) is where do they go to offset these expenses and find enough capital to build their business? While we will discuss this in more detail in future posts, options for financing in Iraq are extremely limited. For instance, Arabnet’s State of Digital Investments in MENA report for 2013-2018 shows no publicly-reported investments in digital business in Iraq during that period.

Many entrepreneurs thus self-finance or look to family and friends for funding, and for those who are able to find angel investors, the terms can often be stringent, or investors may seek a majority, rather than minority, stake in the company.

Challenge 4: Cash on delivery is still the norm.

Mobile and e-payment options are growing in Iraq. Asia Hawala, Zain Cash and Fast Pay are mobile payment methods that can and will change the way businesses in the country operate. Pre-paid credit cards, like Qi Card and Zain WalletCard, are starting to allow Iraqis to purchase things online that they were previously unable to purchase. However, there are still a number of challenges with e-payments that cause headaches and risk to technology entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, mobile payment methods are not as widely used as in other countries. Debit card penetration remains low and only 11% of Iraqis have bank accounts, which means that the majority of online purchases still happen through cash on delivery. Cash on delivery causes a number of problems: first, there’s the risk that customers will not actually pay for what they ordered, and the startup will be left with the burden. Some startups, like ShopYoBrand, a startup that purchases and delivers items from international brands like Zara, IKEA and Amazon to Iraq, makes customers pay a small amount of the total up front to provide some insurance.

ShopYoBrand founder Randi Barzinji said:

“Cash is hard to manage… there are a lot of transactions on a daily basis to be calculated manually instead of having an automatic system do it for you. And this is because the majority does not use an e-payment method yet on a daily basis…The challenge is to convince people for them to gain our trust, so that they’ll pay us ahead of time [to reduce risk]…It’s also important that the customer understands that we can’t order anything either without knowing the customer [and trusting them].”

The lack of e-payments makes expansion extremely challenging as well. Startups operating across the country, like grocery delivery app Miswag or last-mile delivery service Sandoog, have to transport cash from across the country to their headquarters, which is dangerous and time consuming. Balancing budgets can take months, with delays in customer payments and then additional delays in cash transportation.

Challenge 5: Lack of international e-payment options makes international expansion challenging without a foreign bank account.

Iraq, to all intents and purposes, is still disconnected from the international financial system for reasons relating to sanctions and the risk of money laundering. While Iraqis can use prepaid cards to pay for some services – like freelance coders – online (though often these cards do not work), it is very hard to receive money from abroad in Iraq.

OFAC lifted the majority of country-wide sanctions against Iraq in 2003, but the risk of somehow funding proscribed groups is still enough of a barrier that most international e-payment methods do not connect to Iraq. Paypal and Stripe, among other payment services, have restrictions against operating in Iraq. This means that freelancers based in Iraq cannot be paid by foreign clients, and it also means that Iraqi entrepreneurs cannot easily provide their products or services to customers in other countries.

Conclusion

We are optimists, and understand the magnitude of the impact that these startups will have if they are able to succeed. It is up to us and other members of the ecosystem in Iraq (and globally) to better understand the obstacles that cause technology startups in the country to stumble, so that we can ensure that we provide them with the support necessary to overcome them. Our job is to ensure that our early stage entrepreneurs have the support necessary to launch scalable, innovative businesses.

This Sunday, we launched our first incubator in Sulaimani that is fully focused on tech startups. This program is only possible through the generous support of GIZ, and in partnership with IOM and AsiaCell, who will be providing seed funding and services to our entrepreneurs.

Donors and actors across the country are excited about tech entrepreneurship, and we are looking forward to positive improvements in the ecosystem as more people work hard to make meaningful change.

___________

Five One Labs is a start-up incubator that helps refugees and conflict-affected entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses in the Middle East. Launching first in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we aim to empower individuals to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and to contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

Five One Labs entrepreneurs are provided with training; mentorship by world class entrepreneurs from the USA and the Middle East; and a community of creative changemakers to share their experiences with. 

Our vision is to develop an inclusive network of innovators and entrepreneurs that have the support, skills, and connections to positively change their communities and countries. 

By Alice Bosley and Patricia Letayf, Co-Founders of Five One Labs.

At Five One Labs, we work with idea or early-stage entrepreneurs from diverse communities to launch scalable, innovative businesses. We’ve had the privilege to work with tech startups like Dada, PHARX, Khanoo and more, and deeply understand the struggles that entrepreneurs who pursue apps, SaaS (software as a service), e-commerce solutions and more face in Iraq’s context.

Based on our work in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) over the past two years, we have been able to identify some of the most pressing challenges tech entrepreneurs and the startup community encounter.

The top five challenges are described below:

Challenge 1: Online-based businesses don’t legally exist in Iraq.

Registering businesses in Iraq is a costly and time-intensive process in the best of times, but it is made even more difficult because of the lack of law regulating online or technology businesses. E-commerce sites, SaaS, applications etc are not legally considered businesses, and cannot be registered as such. Entrepreneurs establishing tech startups are often left without the protection and freedom provided by being legally registered.

When entrepreneurs choose to register their tech businesses, they must register as a traditional business and open a brick and mortar location. They could choose to register as an “office,” which is the least expensive choice, but an ‘office’ registration could negatively impact the entrepreneur’s ability to take equity in the future. Other registration choices are more expensive and time-intensive.

The registration challenges that both tech and non-tech business face have been recognized by many, including Orange Corners, an initiative launched by the Dutch Government. In November Five One Labs and Orange Corners will release a “Roadmap” for business registration in the KRI, which will also highlight the registration experience of tech businesses. A similar roadmap will be published by KAPITA on the business registration process for Federal Iraq.

Challenge 2: The digital skills gap in Iraq increases the time and cost of launching a tech startup.

Launching a tech business, be it a mobile application or a website, requires a certain level of digital and technical skills, particularly as the business grows past its initial stages. And if an entrepreneur building a tech startup does not have the technical skills herself, she will need to enlist the support of developers and coders to build more complex prototypes to be able to test her product.

While digital skills and literacy are important for entrepreneurs — be they inside Iraq or outside — the skills gap in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, creates challenges for startup founders in the country. Data on computer programming education and skills are not readily available in Iraq, our experience working working with startups and anecdotal evidence suggests that the shortage of coders in Iraq has increased the time and cost of launching an app- or website-based business.

A number of non-technical founders that have gone through Five One Labs’ incubator program have found that coders and developers can be expensive, which increases their startup costs and causes delays in launching their businesses.

Additionally, a number have had to work remotely with developers, either in other parts of Iraq, or outside of the country entirely, to have their technical needs met, and many have gone through multiple freelance coders or developers in the early stages of the development of their products. Some non-technical founders also delay the hiring of CTOs, either because of the cost or because of a lack of understanding of the importance of having one on board from the outset.

The good news is that this reality is changing quickly, thanks to some amazing organizations across Iraq. Re:Coded, FikraSpace, and Preemptive Love Coalition’s WorkWell Program have been offering high-quality digital skill-building programs across the country to ensure that moving forward, the country’s youth are well-equipped to participate in the digital economy.

Challenge 3: The cost of launching a business is high — and there aren’t many ways that entrepreneurs can find financing to cover these costs.

In addition to the fact that the costs of building apps in Iraq can be high, tech founders also face high legal startup costs.

The lack of regulation regulating tech businesses can make registration more expensive, as entrepreneurs are forced to consult with and shuttle back and forth between multiple ministries and chambers of commerce who may interpret their startup as a different type of business, which impacts the cost.

Regulations also stipulate that businesses must have a physical office, and a lawyer and an accountant on retainer, which are immense costs for someone looking to launch a startup. Around the world many early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly tech founders, operate their registered businesses from home or from coworking spaces, but regulations in the KRI stipulate that an office (with four walls) is required, and so renting an office whereby a business can register from will likely add several hundred (if not thousands) of dollars in expenses for a new business depending on where in the country they are located.

Given these high costs — the million dollar question for tech founders (and entrepreneurs more generally) is where do they go to offset these expenses and find enough capital to build their business? While we will discuss this in more detail in future posts, options for financing in Iraq are extremely limited. For instance, Arabnet’s State of Digital Investments in MENA report for 2013-2018 shows no publicly-reported investments in digital business in Iraq during that period.

Many entrepreneurs thus self-finance or look to family and friends for funding, and for those who are able to find angel investors, the terms can often be stringent, or investors may seek a majority, rather than minority, stake in the company.

Challenge 4: Cash on delivery is still the norm.

Mobile and e-payment options are growing in Iraq. Asia Hawala, Zain Cash and Fast Pay are mobile payment methods that can and will change the way businesses in the country operate. Pre-paid credit cards, like Qi Card and Zain WalletCard, are starting to allow Iraqis to purchase things online that they were previously unable to purchase. However, there are still a number of challenges with e-payments that cause headaches and risk to technology entrepreneurs.

Nevertheless, mobile payment methods are not as widely used as in other countries. Debit card penetration remains low and only 11% of Iraqis have bank accounts, which means that the majority of online purchases still happen through cash on delivery. Cash on delivery causes a number of problems: first, there’s the risk that customers will not actually pay for what they ordered, and the startup will be left with the burden. Some startups, like ShopYoBrand, a startup that purchases and delivers items from international brands like Zara, IKEA and Amazon to Iraq, makes customers pay a small amount of the total up front to provide some insurance.

ShopYoBrand founder Randi Barzinji said:

“Cash is hard to manage… there are a lot of transactions on a daily basis to be calculated manually instead of having an automatic system do it for you. And this is because the majority does not use an e-payment method yet on a daily basis…The challenge is to convince people for them to gain our trust, so that they’ll pay us ahead of time [to reduce risk]…It’s also important that the customer understands that we can’t order anything either without knowing the customer [and trusting them].”

The lack of e-payments makes expansion extremely challenging as well. Startups operating across the country, like grocery delivery app Miswag or last-mile delivery service Sandoog, have to transport cash from across the country to their headquarters, which is dangerous and time consuming. Balancing budgets can take months, with delays in customer payments and then additional delays in cash transportation.

Challenge 5: Lack of international e-payment options makes international expansion challenging without a foreign bank account.

Iraq, to all intents and purposes, is still disconnected from the international financial system for reasons relating to sanctions and the risk of money laundering. While Iraqis can use prepaid cards to pay for some services – like freelance coders – online (though often these cards do not work), it is very hard to receive money from abroad in Iraq.

OFAC lifted the majority of country-wide sanctions against Iraq in 2003, but the risk of somehow funding proscribed groups is still enough of a barrier that most international e-payment methods do not connect to Iraq. Paypal and Stripe, among other payment services, have restrictions against operating in Iraq. This means that freelancers based in Iraq cannot be paid by foreign clients, and it also means that Iraqi entrepreneurs cannot easily provide their products or services to customers in other countries.

Conclusion

We are optimists, and understand the magnitude of the impact that these startups will have if they are able to succeed. It is up to us and other members of the ecosystem in Iraq (and globally) to better understand the obstacles that cause technology startups in the country to stumble, so that we can ensure that we provide them with the support necessary to overcome them. Our job is to ensure that our early stage entrepreneurs have the support necessary to launch scalable, innovative businesses.

This Sunday, we launched our first incubator in Sulaimani that is fully focused on tech startups. This program is only possible through the generous support of GIZ, and in partnership with IOM and AsiaCell, who will be providing seed funding and services to our entrepreneurs.

Donors and actors across the country are excited about tech entrepreneurship, and we are looking forward to positive improvements in the ecosystem as more people work hard to make meaningful change.

___________

Five One Labs is a start-up incubator that helps refugees and conflict-affected entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses in the Middle East. Launching first in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we aim to empower individuals to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and to contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

Five One Labs entrepreneurs are provided with training; mentorship by world class entrepreneurs from the USA and the Middle East; and a community of creative changemakers to share their experiences with. 

Our vision is to develop an inclusive network of innovators and entrepreneurs that have the support, skills, and connections to positively change their communities and countries. 

Re:Coded is launching its first boot camp in Baghdad.

If you want to learn how to design and code websites or web apps, don’t miss it!

The bootcamp duration is four and a half months and the application deadline is July 20th, 2019

You will get to learn how to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to write professional pages.

Limited scholarships are available. Apply now!

Apply Here!

 

وأخيرا في #بغداد!

Re:Coded ستطلق اول برنامج تدريبي في بغداد

اذا تريد تتعلم شون تصمم وتبرمج مواقع الويب او تطبيقات الويب.. لتفوت الفرصة

البرنامج مدته اربع شهور ونص واخر موعد للتقديم هو 20 تموز / يوليو 2019

بالبرنامج راح تتعلم استخدام لغات الـ HTML, CSS & JavaScript لتصميم صفحات احترافية

المقاعد محدودة، سجل الان على الرابط:

Apply Here

By John Lee.

New-York-based ConsenSys has confirmed its support for Re:Coded Iraq.

Re:Coded is a humanitarian innovation non-profit organization. Founded in 2017, Re:Coded is working relentlessly to train the youth of the MENA region in coding and entrepreneurship. Apart from the training part, Re:Coded also offers mentorship, employment and freelancing opportunities to the youth in conflict affected areas of the region.

ConsenSys has developed a blockchain mentorship program for the Re:Coded trainers. This program is going to include technical and general blocking training courses. The course instructors are: Blockchain Protocol Engineer, Mostafa Farghaly, and Senior Technical Project Manager from ConsenSys MENA, Ammar Kurabi. The trainers will be able to use their training to deliver the courses at their centers in Iraq.

Over 3.3 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since early 2014 because of conflict. On top of that, over 240,000 Syrian refugees are currently living in Ira    q. This is one of the largest humanitarian crisis moments of the 21st century.

“Our aim in Iraq is to bring together local developers, designers, social entrepreneurs, humanitarians and community residents to develop creative technology solutions that address the specific challenges facing this war-torn region. These include barriers to education, difficulty accessing the job market and social cohesion between displaced Iraqis and host community members,” said Samsul Karim, Senior Edtech Expert, ConsenSys.

“One Re:Coded trainer has also received a scholarship to attend the ConsenSys Academy Developer Training Program in October, a testament to the fact that there is talent to be harnessed in this conflict zone,” added Karim.

According to Zawya, the Country Director Zahra Shah is working with the partners on a global scale to bring funding and training for better employment opportunities for the Re:Coded students.

“The support from ConsenSys goes a long way in helping Re:Coded meet its goals, which include increasing female participation in the tech sector, upskilling conflict-affected youth to enter the digital economy and providing employment opportunities for graduates,” said Zahra Shah, Country Director, Re:Coded.

“Buoyed by our initial success and once we have delivered more comprehensive developer training, we are looking into growing our Bounties network, enabling students who complete the program to use Bounties to apply their skills and contribute to the community,” she added.

(Source: Re:Coded)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held Iraq’s first International Tech Conference in Baghdad at the Babylon Rotana Baghdad Hotel on 30 April, hosting government ministers, private industry, entrepreneurs, investors, and representatives from the leading UK and Iraq Tech companies.

The purpose of the Conference was to drive confidence, investment and awareness of the power of the new tech economy and how it can benefit Iraq.

The event – Iraq Tech Conference – was led by Ashley Goodall, IBBC’s Marketing Adviser. Keynote addresses were given by H.E. Dr Sami Al Araji, Chairman of the National Investment Commission and Mr Ashraf Al Dahan, Chairman of the CMC Board of Commissioners.

The agenda for the day comprised four panels: Consumer Tech panel, E-Government Panel, Business Fintech and a Consumer Fintech Panel.

Fintech in particular is making strides forward with the blessing of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), as Mr Waleed Eidi, Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank, explained and encouraged the adoption of steps to include Women, those excluded from banking and the digital economy and young people.

The CBI is being ambitious in encouraging banks and financial institutions to modernise and offer new ways to distribute the flow of funds for investment and those who need it. This will also have a big impact on the overall economy and growth.

Ahmed Elkady of EY echoed the importance of Fintech as he led the Consumer FinTech Panel discussion onto technical infrastructure and what needs to happen to grow the opportunity for financial transactions. He was ably supported by National Bank of Iraq’s Eyad Mahmoud and Roger Abboud of Arab Payment Systems – who are modernising banking transactions – and Douglas Way of Almaseer Insurance – who are enabling business to reduce risks and transact insurance products rapidly and scalably.

The conference also embodied eight presentations:

  • “How technology is driving the business and consumer world in Iraq and Internationally” by Zain Iraq;
  • Online Literacy” by Dr Victoria Lindsay, Country Director – Iraq for the British Council;
  • Automating & digitising BP and Iraq” by Zaid Elyaseri, Country Manager-Iraq for BP;
  • Restrata Product Announcement” by Botan Osman, CEO for Restrata;
  • “Five One Labs” by Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Five One Labs;
  • Blockchain and AI – The Future Talk” by Muhana Almrahleh, Director – Head of Information Technology Advisory for KPMG (Jordan); and,
  • How Re:Coded are Training the Next Generation of Technology Leaders in Iraq” by Zahra Shah, Country Manager-Iraq for Re:Coded.

Attendees were able to enjoy one-to-one meetings and conversations.

As part of the Tech Conference on April 30, IBBC hosted an Evening Reception for Entrepreneurs and Start-ups at The Station, Baghdad, the evening prior on 29 April. The evening, planned in partnership with Iraq Tech Ventures and Arabnet, showcased the growing tech community in the country and gave an outstanding platform for some of the leading start-ups and entrepreneurs in a more informal setting.

The participating start-ups pitched their business in 5 minutes to a panel of seven judges composed by: Mohammed Khudairi, Managing Partner of Khudairi Group and Founder of Iraq Tech Ventures; Hal Miran, CEO of MSelect and Founder of Bite.Tech and TechHub; Richard Greer, Venture Capital Investor in Asia, Middle East, & UK and Philanthropist in Northern Iraq; Zahra Shah, Iraq Country Manager for Re:Coded; Ali Ismail, Co-Founder of Fikraspace and Co-Founder & Partner of Solo Creative Studio; Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Five One Labs and Maryam Allami, Advisor for Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Through this first international Tech Conference in Iraq, IBBC aims to provide a foundation, a platform and focus for Tech in Iraq and give inspiration and confidence to those building a modern Iraq.

For more information on the Iraq Britain Business Council, visit our website at https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/

To contact IBBC for Interviews, registration and sponsorship please contact london@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)

By Mohammed Khudairi, for Bite.Tech. Re-published with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Through many visits to Iraq and exciting conversations with visionaries like Hal Miran, I began to learn about Iraq’s budding world of startups, incubators and entrepreneurs.

Communities and organizations such as FikraSpace in Baghdad, along with Re:Coded and 51Labs based at TechHub in Erbil, have all developed in recent years and are growing at an astonishing pace. In my quest to figure out how I could best contribute to this ecosystem, I learned that we don’t have to wait for more “traditional” investment conditions to get involved.

Iraq’s Potential

In many ways, Iraq has been closed off from the rest of the world for many decades due to war and sanctions and now the people of Iraq are hungry for innovation and development. Iraq’s young, growing population of 37 million people, an increasing percentage of the population on the internet (17.2% in 2015), and mobile subscriptions on the rise (93.8 per 100 people had mobile subscriptions in 2015), make it a promising environment for tech. Source: World Bank.

Iraq still faces many issues including security, political and financial challenges, but the beauty of technology is that it can potentially allow developing nations like Iraq to “leapfrog” in the evolution of certain consumer processes, e-commerce, on-demand services, fintech and many more.

For those interested in diversifying their investments outside the more established tech communities and in gaining access to new (and potentially undervalued) opportunities, Iraq is fertile ground. While investors can’t turn a blind eye to the legal, financial, and operational challenges that exist, we all know that where there’s risk, there’s reward.

The Road Ahead

Good tech ecosystems require skilled human capital. The Iraqi government can support universities and other institutions by investing in science and technology programs and emphasizing these fields’ importance to Iraq’s future economy. Additionally, the government can work to improve the conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI) into Iraq by strengthening the legal frameworks and recourse surrounding FDI. This is what is currently veering foreign investors away from Iraq and into other MENA countries who have established a more secure legal framework for FDI.

While there’s a number of measures the government can implement to make it easier on new businesses and FDI, it may take some time for the government to establish these reforms. Rather than waiting on the government, I encourage those interested in making Iraq a better place to take action now and provide support to this ecosystem where possible.

Aside from financial investment, many of the Iraqi diaspora have access to resources, institutions or technology that could be very useful to entrepreneurs and tech communities in Iraq. Those interested should follow Bite.Tech and other online sources to learn more about the tech ecosystem in Iraq and contact organizations directly.

Any support will go a long way to these individuals who are dealing with regular power outages, security challenges and limited local institutional resources. These brave men and women will be the entrepreneurs who forge a new economy and transform Iraq into a modern, inclusive and innovative society it can be.

Articles by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bite.Tech.

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.