Last week, the popular a16z tech podcast released two special episodes featuring interviews by well-known venture capitalist Christopher Schroeder with two prominent Iranian entrepreneurs. These episodes are part of a series on tech startups in Iran hosted by Andreessen Horowitz, a leading venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. “The fate of Andreessen Horowitz may be closely tied to that of the overall tech market,” The New York Times wrote earlier this year.
In one podcast, titled “Layering Tech and Culture in Iran” and featured below, Schroeder spoke with Nazanin Daneshvar, co-founder and CEO of Takhfifan, the Iranian alternative to “Groupon.” Daneshvar observed that, “nobody [in Iran] even knew what startups were,” about two years ago, but universities and local entrepreneurs, many with government support, have been quick to encourage investment and mentorship opportunities.
As Schroeder noted last month in a Politico article, of the approximately one hundred startup accelerators in Iran, nearly a third are government-backed. Now, European and Asian investors are vying to engage with Iran’s startup scene. “Some of them are already in Tehran,” Daneshvar said, “lots of people are actually moving back, looking at the market.”
In another episode, titled “Is Entrepreneurship a Universal Language?” Schroeder discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the country’s entrepreneurial scene with Mohsen Malayeri of Avatech. Based on the massive success of domestic startups, like DigiKala and Cafe Bazaar, Malayeri said Iranians are seeing “that maybe success stories can happen in the same market.” To support this growth, Avatech aims to “set up the right entrepreneurs with the right environment.”
Like Daneshvar, Malayeri also discussed the government’s growing involvement in Iran’s tech scene. Since President Hassan Rouhani’s election in 2013, “we have seen a huge improvement in the vision of the government and in their approach on how they can help entrepreneurs,” Malayeri said. “I think the government has the real intention to help, and in some parts they’ve been able to do it,” he added.