Why did we come to Iran from America?+The First Part

OstadKar has a different narration. Their narrators aren’t young and this isn’t their first economic project. They are born in 1344, 1357 and … with lots of experiences in Iranian and American companies

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Narrators of reverse immigration; these three words describe startup founders of OstadKar very well.

If we are talking about brain drain in Iran recent years, here we want to narrate a reverse thing; that four people despite of all the facilities they had or could have, left Silicon Valley and came to Iran because they consider the current atmosphere of business in Iran as positive.

We can say that returning of Iranian elite to the country is the most important gift of startup ecosystem to Iran economy; something for which no other agencies and organization can do anything but Iranian startup environment can.

Now they have come back; but what should we do to keep them? It seems that many things should be done to keep the trend of reverse immigration and Iranians come back to Iran for their people and country.

When I entered offices of startup companies before, the first thing that usually caught my eyes was their youth.

They were born in 60s at the most and told about their first economic works and projects; about their test and trials in their startup and their successes and failures.

“OstadKar” has a different narration. Their narrators aren’t young and this isn’t their first economic project. They are born in 1344, 1357 and … with lots of experiences in Iranian and American companies.

AkhlaghPoor was a reference of startups in Silicon Valley and he has the same role in Iran too. Being in a university like Standford and working in a company like Ebay has made the startup story of “OstadKar” a little bit different.

Founders of OstadKar met each other in America and they say because they have had work experience in Iran and knew about successes of Iranian startups, they have come to Iran and know they can work here.

Mohsen Hatami and Hossein AkhlaghPoor are two members and co-founders of Ostad Kar (other two members are AmirHossein Al Yasin and Amin Sadeghi) who met each other in Stanford University in America but launched their business in Iran and they talk with Shanbeh about their reasons for coming back to Iran, conditions that can bring Iranians back to the country and the fever of launching businesses among students of Iranian universities, the market of services and their prediction about the future of online in Iran.

  • When was the start point of your cooperation with co-founders of OstadKar?

AkhlaghPoor: I was in Stanford and Mohsen had a lecture in the meeting and I found that he was very clever and he had scholarship in Stanford. Thus I was eager to become closer to him.
Hatami: I left Iran in September 2009 and met Hossein AkhlaghPoor in 2010. His unique characteristic is his knowledge about new technologies and their usages.

He had worked in the field of software engineering for many years and somehow is a reference for startups in Silicon Valley and in Iran.

  • Why did you come back to Iran? Couldn’t you launch a business in America?

Hatami: in Stanford the concern of the whole university and the whole city is business and science. In fact this atmosphere is the reason of Stanford importance.

I was attracted by the Iranian community there. The most important thing about this community was that more than 90 percent of them were students who had gone to America for their PHDs and I was one of few people who had worked in Iran for four years and was a shareholder of a company.

I knew about Iran business condition because I observed Iran macro economy to give advice to foreign investors.

In 1388, Iranians in America didn’t have exact information about what was happening in Iran. Thus I got the chance to transfer this fact to Iranian community and say that things were the way it was expressed and there are many opportunities for businesses in Iran.

But I only knew general business trends and policies and I was sure that nothing had come to end in Iran. I spent my most difficult time with Americans not Iranians in America. At the very beginning I went to a company to work.

They asked me about my work experience and I said I had done financial works in Iran and for example attracted millions of dollars investment from abroad for different companies.

They asked me in wonder: Iran? Financial work? While that wasn’t true and they thought of Iran as a ruined place where there wasn’t a place for work based on information they received from their media.

Eight years later when I was coming back to Iran, Iranian students in America said how can somebody work in Iran? In fact they were afraid of unknown and because they didn’t have a correct image of Iran, they didn’t know that there are opportunities here.

According to your saying, this question would be formed in the mind that a society consisted of Iranian educated people and even Iranian elite go to other countries like America to continue their studies and because they don’t have work experience in Iran and correct knowledge about the situation, they don’t want to come back to Iran.

Is there a way to inform them or should positive infrastructures be provided so that these people dare to come back to Iran and work there.

AkhlaghPoor: a prominent example is China. Sometime not long ago even thinking about launching a good and profitable business with low risk in China was useless but China has made such a structure where foreign investor can enter to and Chinese in foreign countries can come back to China.

Most successful Chinese companies are those whose founders have come back to this country from other countries and now they work better than American companies.

Founders of these successful Chinese companies mostly have studied in America and as soon as they found out that they can have a chance to success in their own country, they have come back home.

  • You mentioned to providing a chance to success; where does this chance come from?

AkhlaghPoor: there are several issues involved. For example I have come from America to Iran; there would be two cases for me.

Whether I go back to America with frustration and tell this story to other Iranians that Iran isn’t a good place to work and as long as you grow, your company share would be endangered and many organizations want to buy or take your business and … or I can tell a positive and exciting story and say I went to Iran for several years and launched a great company there with high income and perfect situation and … while I couldn’t have such a chance in America because here there are strict competition and the market isn’t that much intact.

If I tell a success story, others would come to Iran after me for sure. Thus we can bring back Iranian elite and even foreign investments to Iran with correct policies but if there are wrong policies in the country, not only there would be no incentive for people to come back but also those who have gained money in Iran, take it out with themselves.

I think the best example to follow is China which has provided a good space for its citizens and they brought back capital and knowledge to their country.

Hatami: if we want Iranians outside Iran understand the situation of business and launching one in Iran well, we should show them realities and tell them differences.

That is we show them the realities of Iran market and situations for launching a business and tell them necessary elements for success. We should also show them the situation of markets outside Iran, for example market of America.

Because knowing about local culture, policy, economy and … is a part of realities of a country and this isn’t only for Iran. If someone wants to enter Iran market, he should know local market.

  • I think we can talk with more details about this. For example you talk about their lack of knowledge about Iran market. They certainly fear to come back; what are their fears?

Hatami: I put people in two groups; one is consisted of those who are guided by their educational system to study in majors of math and physics and for example they study computer in Tehran University and physics in Sharif and they are attracted by technology.

These people are attracted by technology, study and development. The most difficult barrier for these people to come back to Iran is lack of infrastructures and lack of knowledge in Iran.

Because other countries have invested on these fields and winners and losers of these games are known across the world.

Thus there isn’t any chance for them to come back to Iran because their work depends deeply on technological infrastructures and big investments.

But there is another group that work on software, web, design and … and there are work opportunities in Iran for them. The most important barrier for them is the unknown; lack of knowledge about business trend in Iran.

While in universities and other centers in America, there are people who are guided to their best work field based on their knowledge and expertise.

In fact they are put in their right place. Pieces of puzzle are arranged before; from house loan to cars and all required facilities.

In fact, their job is to arrange an ecosystem so that required people sit on their places and do their work. But in Iran there isn’t such a thing.

Iranian experts usually ask about their living requirements like house, car, insurance and … when they are told to come back to Iran. Because they see that there aren’t such facilities there.

  • What should be done to reduce such fears?

Hatami: we should remove initial barriers first. Initial barrier is the fear that can be removed by inviting them to be present in meeting and events.

When they come to Iran, see newly-established startups and established startups in the market and meet successful and old companies, they would become sure that they can work in Iran.

Akhlagh Poor: nothing is more important than creating investment security. Even if financial investment security is accompanied by low growth, it shouldn’t been affected by currency rate and bad policies.

If one person in the government is changed, the whole mechanism of the country shouldn’t being placed in a crisis. Also business long term security.

For example there shouldn’t be the fear that people would face with different accusations.

Now there is this feeling that for example within three next years, success trends can be created and something can be done because there is a positive psychological environment.

While before this period there wasn’t such a positive environment and even the economy had been stopped.

There should be a stable situation that continues its being without any replacements and political changes. Stability brings elite and Iranian and foreigner investors to the country.

Those who leave Iran, leave the country because of this lack of stability and they know that governmental changes don’t cause the economic body and businesses to fail. Now in Iran this stability is forming but if something bad happens, it would have very bad consequences.

Hatami: this bad happening and its reflection cause many people think negatively about returning to Iran.

For example, it is released in the media that one person is arrested and this affects on many other people who aren’t going to be arrested at all.

Because even during periods that were bad ones according to many people, we had successful businesses as well.

We can look at economy from two perspectives; in terms of statistics and in terms of exemplary. There isn’t a few number of successful examples.

I should say that the fear of presence in Iran is not subject to statistics but it is subject to stories about negative treatments and points.

Thus a comprehensive image should be provided and narration about success of startups and companies like DigiKala and Snap and CafeBazaar and … should be mentioned along with failures.

Now Deputy of science and technology of presidency has launched a program that brings those Iranians outside Iran into knowledge-based companies if they come back to Iran. This is good news and creates positive image.

  • Based on these sayings and that economic situation of Iran would have stability, can we hope that the trend of reverse immigration become increased?

Hatami: I myself don’t have an exact statistics about the number of people who want to be present in Iran or have come to Iran but last summer several people of the group of friends we had in Amercia came to Iran.

One resigned from Google, one from Apple and … in such a way that now we can contact with two third of them and meet them in Iran. I have many examples.

See the second part from here.


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