The Black Box 2012-2014: Iran
This article is written by Mohammad Eslim, a Contributor Author at Startup Istanbul.
Mohsen Malayeri is the Co-founder and CEO of Avatech Accelerator, he is also the co-founder of Tribe Technologies. He is an Experienced entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of working in information technology. Previously, founded a digital marketing platform that was acquired by a media holding. Later, a founding partner of a Tech fund that was recognized as top ten seed-investor and accelerator in the Middle East by Gust.
Mohsen has been a key speaker at StartupTurkey, TEDx, StartupGrind and he has have been featured on Forbes, NPR, Guardian, and a16z. Avatech is a seed funding and accelerator program that provides Iranian entrepreneurs with the necessary ingredients to succeed. With more than 50 companies in its portfolio, Avatech was recognized as the top 10 seed investors in the Middle East.
Iran has been absent from the startup revolution happening around the world for a few years, that was until 2012 when all the factors were ready for this opportunity and emerge in the market with the startups adopted by the private sector their as an entrepreneurship incubator and accelerator.
There were factors that lead to such a development in the region’s market, demographic factors with conditions that lead Turkish people to grasp such opportunity as a new force in the business world. Iran has a population of which %64 represent educated people under the age over the age of 18, which is interesting as it’s around the perfect time for people to start launching startups and being entrepreneurs. What is even more interesting is that roughly 32 million people are between twenty and thirty-five years old, the perfect age for people to be able to buy online and be customers. 
The population in 2012 used to be 75 million and right now in 2014 it is 79 million and still increasing.
The internet penetration had been at %42 with 32 million users in 2012.
Year 2014 has %50 penetration with 39 million internet users which is a spectacular growth of internet users in only two years since 2012 . Lots of people had access to the internet which meant that almost all can reach the world’s data and have access to the humans’ knowledge. In addition, with the internet the market has become massive and its capacity is getting exponentially bigger and with so many services to provide through it, so many products to advertise and market with so many platforms to work at and opportunities to find.
Cellphone users in Iran 2012 were approximately 100 million user with %126 penetration, which means that lots of people have more than one cellphone, this hadn’t only been a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs to launch business or get into business from around the globe, but also a massive improvement of the customers’ base and the types of customers targeted by companies in and out of the country.
And however great factors Iran had, still the startup ecosystem wasn’t there yet. We are not talking about the entrepreneurship ecosystem but the startups specially the ones in internet and mobile. There used to not be many events, many accelerators, venture capitals and angels, for sure there has been basically ICT companies and internet providers with nothing happening regarding startups.
In a span of two years, more than nine cities in Iran has hosted 25 startup events and talks about startup world with 2500 people and it was completely done and empowered by entrepreneurs with no governmental help, this was the reason of the explosive mass of looking into startups more and searching and learning more about launching and starting a business through startup.
All of that had been the result of emerging Iran as a successful ecosystem, now venture capitals are stepping into the market most of them completely fund by local funds by successful entrepreneurs who brought their money in. Media and NGOs have started working on entrepreneurship especially on the startup scenes. Accelerators are now being shared in the country in a kind of collaboration to have startups accelerators that provide seed funds, space, training and everything to the entrepreneurs.
A small success story is Cafebazaar.ir which is an Iranian App Store invented by a team of entrepreneurs as an app market instead of the widely known App Store and Google Play both of which are not allowed for the Iranian people to use. A brilliant local success startup story with 20 million dollars’ worth.