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#98-Tech Startup Landscape in Iraq

Hope is humanity's most powerful weapon. Hope can give people the power which even the heaviest nuclear weapon cannot give. Hope is the biggest source of courage. Hope has never failed humanity., and it never will. Even when there is nothing, there is hope. Bomb blasts and other acts of terror are of regular occurrence in Iraq. Beasts of violence are devouring the spirit of Iraqis. There have been around 171,967 to 191,891 documented civilian deaths from 2003 to present. In countries where the security situation is much better, tech entrepreneurs get an environment conducive to growth. In Iraq, tech entrepreneurs face myriad issues. Doing business in Iraq is difficult. A country's tech startup landscape tells many stories. A strong tech startup landscape means a bright future. Successful tech startups make great contributions to humanity in a million ways. Tech startups are also the best measure of a country's innovative spirit. How is the tech startup landscape in Iraq?

There are entrepreneurs in Iraq who are optimistic about the future of Iraq. The tech startup network is growing fast in Iraq. The flag bearer of the startup spirit of tech entrepreneurs in Iraq is Miswag. It's an online consumer electronics and accessories shopping platform based in Baghdad. The e-commerce platform was founded in January, 2014. Despite facing major problems due to the activities of ISIS, the founders refused to give up. The platform has grown and now offers its services in almost all provinces of Iraq. It is also the first e-commerce service in Iraq. The company recently partnered with electronic payment platform Zain Cash. In addition to consumer electronics and accessories, Miswag also offers other products through its platform. Its app is available on both android and ios. The apps have good ratings. The startup was included in the list of 10 middle eastern startups to watch in 2015 (Global Risk Insights).

Baghdad Life is a startup which was founded with the noble purpose of showing the rich cultural heritage of Baghdad to the people of the world. In addition to the web presence, the startup has a strong social media presence. The startup shares the arts, cultural happenings, shopping centers, and entertainment centers from Baghdad, the positive spirit of life in Baghdad, the "other face" of Baghdad. The startup earned 3rd place in the first edition of Startup Weekend Baghdad.

Zain Cash, formerly known as Iraq Wallet, is a financial service provider which was founded in 2015. Zain Cash is regulated by Central Bank of Iraq (CBI). The mission of Zain Cash is to transform the way a common man performs financial transactions in Iraq. It's an e-wallet company which allows users to convert cash money into e-money. The e-wallet can be used for a variety of transactions such as bill payment, online purchase, funds transfer etc. This electronic payment solution has grown and spread all over Iraq. Deposits and withdrawals can be made at thousands of Zain Cash centers where agents are present to help the customers. Zain Cash offers integration with node.js, wordpress, and opencart. Zain Cash also offers corporate services. The app is available on both, ios and android.

Fikra Space is a startup that aims to provide a collaboration and growth platform to creative people of Iraq. The platform encourages digital artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, and others to create, share, socialize, and grow. It was founded in 2012 and since then it has grown a lot. It has over 5,300 members at present. The platform has organized numerous events to encourage startups. The platform's app is available in both, google play and itunes. Fikra Space organizes the startup show Fikra Fair.

Startup Weekend, an initiative of Google for Entrepreneurs, organizes events to encourage startups. These events aim to encourage the entrepreneurial activities in an area and provide the attendees a platform to learn the principles of business and network with entrepreneurs from various industries. The initiative has organized close to 3,000 events so far all over the world. Startup Weekend Baghdad has organized a number of events to give entrepreneurs the resources they need to get started with their ventures. The first event was organized in June, 2013. More than 120 enthusiastic tech entrepreneurs attended the event. A huge number of girls participate in these events and that is a very positive sign. Startup Weekend Baghdad has a pretty good following over social networks. There is a lot of buzz around Startup Weekend Erbil too.

Internet coverage has improved in Iraq in the last few years. Tech startups cannot flourish without a reliable internet connection. The recent developments in internet connectivity have benefited the tech startup ecosystem of the country. This is also the reason why many startups have a massive social media footprint. The idea of one-person startups is becoming popular in Iraq. Individual software developers are launching their apps on app stores to take their products to an international audience. Baghdad Telecom is a notable internet service provider in Iraq. Asiacell, a reputed internet service provider, recently announced that it will allow free access to Wikipedia to its over 12 M customers. This partnership was the first of its kind in Iraq. Zain Iraq & Korek Telecom are two other noteworthy corporations engaged in strengthening internet connectivity in Iraq.

Iraq has been a victim of political and socio-economic instability for years. This has not only crippled the country's education sector, but it has also isolated the country from other parts of the world. The tech startup ecosystem suffers from a lack of resources. Despite all the problems, a huge number of young Iraqi entrepreneurs participate in startup events with massive enthusiasm. Corporations such as Ramin Information Technology Solutions are working hard in establishing startup launchpads in Iraq. Development of Iraq's economy will increase disposable income, which is always a good news for startups. The Iraqi startups we discussed are proof of the valor of Iraqi entrepreneurs. These startups are successful. Even the ones which are not successful, are acting as a source of learning opportunities for entrepreneurs. Some Iraqi startups are targeting ubiquitous problems faced by Iraqi people in their daily life, such as making an appointment with a doctor, getting traffic information etc. The efforts of Iraqi entrepreneurs behind these startups deserve unstinted admiration. Their endeavors will go a long way in developing Iraq's economy and in time will establish the country on the global stage. 

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