On June 27, Seattle-based Startup Weekend hosted their first event in Baghdad, a city not noted for its vibrant private sector and entrepreneurial spirit. However, the team sent to Baghdad to hold the event found that the reputation was at least in part false, and they had over 120 young entrepreneurs who weren’t concerned with the risks of trying to business in Iraq, or even to move around the city, which is heavily checkpointed. Instead, their interest lay in creating the tech startup community of Baghdad, a community that has the chance to really shape the new city that is developing.
Over 40 ideas were pitched through the event, and 11 were selected to be developed by teams. The overall winner of the event was the team lead by Maryam Ameer, who sought to drive social change by creating animated videos to convey messages around social issues that face Iraqi society. Another winner was a team that created an app to let users select the best internet service provider in their neighbourhood, through collating the speed of the internet connection in a user’s home with the GPS location of that home to build a map that shows the variance in speed for each ISP across the city.
Startup Weekend is a 501(c)(3) that has hosted over 1000 events in more than 400 cities in over 100 countries since their founding in 2007; they have facilitated the creation of over 8000 startups worldwide.