Witnesses to the next big startups out of Tehran? [Images via AvaTech].
Since launching in 2014 the Tehran-based accelerator AvaTech has taken 10 digital startups successfully onto their first demo day. The event, held in Tehran last week, saw startups covering education, social media, news and project management present their products to investors.
“We are happy that all teams managed to grow, get traction and validation for their business model during the last months,” said cofounder Mohsen Malayeri over email with Wamda. “We are looking forward to see them growing further in the time to come.” With about 70 investors present, local as well as international, (in person or via Livestream), AvaTech was very happy with the resulting demos.
The startups include Reyhoon a food delivery service that is already the most popular in Iran; KSNA, a marketplace for video tutorials in Farsi; a web and mobile app whereby a user can control the music being played around them called CafeTunes; and Lendem, a mobile social networking site facilitating the sharing of physical items amongst users.
Moving on now the 10 companies will be finalizing their investment memos and are following up with interested investors. According to Malayeri startups will continue to receive support from AvaTech even after they have moved on. “They are always welcome to get back to us for support, feedback and will always stay part of our Alumni Network.”
"How much money shall I give you?" Investors take note at the demos.
Startups that pass through AvaTech’s doors receive the equivalent of $8,000 in funding, along with an additional $30,000 from the accelerator’s angel network. They then have access to a network of international and local mentors and supporters, workshops, and office space, over a period of four months. In return AvaTech takes 15% of the company’s shares. Over the next three years Malayeri says their aim is to accelerate 100 teams and expand to other locations by next year year, “either adding a vertical in mobile, health or FinTech, or simply expanding to another city in Iran.”
“AvaTech was a game changer for Taskulu,” says the project management software founder Farhad Hedayati. “The network […] have provided us with incredibly valuable and crucial advice, support and introductions that turned Taskulu from a prototype into a real business.” Hoping to grow their team once an investment deal goes through the team hopes to eventually have an office outside of Iran, unsurprising when 80% of their 6,500 users are based in the US.
The Webyad team. A learning platform for students and teachers alike.
Iran’s startup scene
Challenged by sanctions that prevent many products and services from being available in the country, potential investors without a clear grasp of what a startup is, poor internet infrastructure, and outside investment not being an option, Iran's startup ecosystem is a nascent one.
But with a population of 78 million, and an internet penetration of around 55%, people are becoming more tech savvy and in the last few years a lot has been seen to change. Tehran’s scene is catching up.
DMOND Group is another accelerator alongside AvaTech, also opened in 2014; Android software app store Café Bazaar allows users to access what they would ordinarily get with Google; Iran Startups, a community platform is holding monthly meetups; Startup Weekends are occurring, and then there is Techly, a website dedicated all news related to startups in the country.
“It is great to see how the ecosystem developed during the last few years," says Malayeri. "We have incubators, accelerators, meetups, an NGO that is running events like Startup Weekends and international conferences like Iran Web and Mobile Conference. There are success stories like Digikala, Cafe Bazaar, Takhfifan and others.”
Demo from the news and pr platform Akhbar Rasmi.
For Malayeri, simply finding that one person who took a company from the drawing board to IPO level is hard is such a young scene. “But this is compensated for with a great network of successful mentors from abroad who are sharing their experience and helping our teams.”
Avatech’s second cycle of startups have already been selected and will begin their acceleration at the start of May.