Iraq may not be the first country that comes to mind when you are asked about startup hubs – but this might very well change. With half of its population of 40 million below 19 years of age, the Middle Eastern country is one of the bigger markets in the region, and its economy has a lot more to offer than just oil reserves.
Upon the invitation of enpact, nine Iraqi entrepreneurs took on the journey to Germany as representatives of the budding startup scene in Iraq.
The business ideas which the delegates presented could have originated just as well in San Francisco or Berlin: ranging from same-day grocery delivery, teaching teens about coding, offering easier access to affordable medication, to connecting artists and building an e-commerce shop for handmade goods.
As Berlinish as that sounds, the challenges the Iraqi founders face are vastly different to the struggles their German counterparts have (which can be summed up as “the paper jungle that is German bureaucreacy”). Learning how to overcome obstacles such as a lack of tech-savvy among the population, no structural or financial support from the government, and an underdeveloped entrepreneur ecosystem is part of what has brought them to join the delegation.
The agenda was packed chock-full with top-class speaker sessions, hands-on workshops, and, of course, delicious meals to keep everybody going (we’re looking at you, hummus and mirza ghasemi).
One of the most intense sessions was with Christoph Sollich, better known in startup circles as “The Pitch Doctor”. Don’t be fooled, though, he is not here to make you feel better. Just the opposite: With comments such as “Don’t even try to appeal to everyone” and “Entrepreneurship isn’t about having fun”, he left no flaw in the founders’ pitches unnoticed. Entrepreneurs definitely aren’t spared growing pains!