Since the word “startup” was introduced into the Iraqi scene (early 2012), young talents have been thriving to come up with new ideas and build new businesses to evolve the Iraqi private sector and build a government-free independent ecosystem.
Many international and regional companies/organizations arrived on to the scene and held dozens of workshops and implemented training camps and events that helped nurture the entrepreneurial culture within the youth, teaching it to think outside-the-box. And while the young kids were taking all the fun, a big player was forgotten about.
In any startup culture, the finance sector is a main player, and Iraq is known for its corrupt financial system. As a result, no one can depend on finding a decent opportunity for his/her business to be funded. Further, there are no incubators and business accelerators to help startups. Everyone thought that there are people with big money who are ready to invest once an opportunity arises. Such assumptions were wrong and are affecting the growing ecosystem.
Many successful startups have emerged in the last 2-3 years, which are looking for investors who will help to grow and expand their businesses; however, the shock is that “there is no one interested in investing in such businesses“, which is causing a lot of startups to close down. The rich 1% do exist in Iraq (oil, real-estate, trading), and they’re already successful businessmen, why don’t they invest then?
The mistake was that while everyone was focusing on promoting teenagers to build products and services in their garages, no one kept an eye on the business tycoons who should have been investing in those businesses from the beginning. No one told these businessmen that among the millions they’re making, they should be part of this revolution that will change the country in the coming years. No one told them that they need to help the teenagers in order to grow the private sector even more. No one actually worked on linking up those teenagers with potential local investors.
This is crippling the Iraqi ecosystem. This is how the revolution is being killed.
Linking up potential investors with startups at an early stage could be a viable solution to get these investors interested in funding startups, which could be a first step towards a more stabilized Iraqi ecosystem.