If you’re reading an article about Baghdad right now in the news, chances are it’s about recent violence that resulted in the deaths of 1,045 civilians and security officials in May alone.

startupweekendbaghdad1But here’s something a little more positive going on in the city: The first-ever Startup Weekend Baghdad.

Startup Weekend, the Seattle non-profit organization backed by the Kauffman Foundation and others, has hosted Startup Weekends in 113 countries and 325 cities. But never has there been a 54-hour entrepreneurial marathon in Iraq — until now.

Othmane Rahmouni, a Senior Product Manager with Microsoft Advertising, will be flying to Baghdad for the first time in his life to advise and mentor the 200 startuppers descending upon the Al Mansour Milla Hotel next weekend.

Rahmouni volunteers with Mercy Corps, which partnered with Startup Weekend last year to help organize its events in the developing world. He loved the idea of helping out at the inaugural three-day marathon in Baghdad and is looking forward to seeing what types of startup people work in the city.

Microsoft manager Othmane Rahmouni will visit Iraq for the first time as a Startup Weekend mentor.

“I am confident that there are many tech entrepreneurs out there and that many face similar challenges to the ones faced by tech entrepreneurs here in Seattle,” said Rahmouni, who grew up in Morocco and moved to Seattle in 2005. “The environment is surely different, but I believe that they share more commonalities than differences.”

The fact that this event came together was a minor miracle in itself. Organizers locked down full sponsorship of the event about a month ago, but were told that they’d need to host the event by the end of June.

Despite the small time frame, response to Startup Weekend Baghdad has been phenomenal. The organization set what it thought was an ambitious goal of 80 attendees; within three days, more than 200 had signed up.

Judges, coaches and speakers have also offered support in droves. For Rahmouni, it’s about lending a hand to fellow entrepreneurs.

“If I can help a few (or a lot of) tech entrepreneurs be more successful, then it is worth pursuing, even it means that I have to step outside my comfort zone,” he said.

Rahmouni, who has launched a couple startups including a popular Morocco review site for public officials and public institutions, is a big supporter of what events like Startup Weekend can do for budding businessmen and women.

“I believe that this kind of approach of engaging tech entrepreneurs and creating support systems around them that provide training, hands-on experience and mentoring, is a much more efficient and sustainable model for jumpstarting local economies and creating jobs than just providing charity,” he said.

Startup Weekend plans to host 800 events this year in places like Brazzaville, Congo; Hamburg, Germany and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. For more information about Startup Weekend Baghdad, head here.

Previously on GeekWire: GeekWire Radio: Startup Weekend CEO Marc Nager spreads the startup gospel

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • greggottesman

    Great post! You are right that when it comes to the Middle East most of what we read is about violence. Is there anything that gives you more hope for the future than the reality that so many young people in Iraq want to be entrepreneurs and start new companies much like we do here? I would love a follow-up on how it goes. What kinds of companies do they build over the weekend? Differences between that event and the recent Seattle one?

  • tomnagle

    Othemane, I’m excited to see the inaugural Startup Weekend Baghdad coming up, and that you’re going to be there. Startup Weekends are a great place for a local community to connect and work together in controlled, accelerated setting; the infusion of outside experience and talent (from wherever) is like adding spices to a dish – it can help a lot.

    I had the fortune of facilitating Startup Weekend Ramallah, in the West Bank, back in April. I’ve run events around the world, and this was one of my favorites.

    My experience, particularly in Ramallah, lead me to realize how truly interconnected the world is, and how identical a table full of developers, designers, and business folks looks like when then they’re all heads down trying to solve a problem.

    Despite some limitations that I hadn’t experienced before at an event (no 3G in the country, no online payment gateways, etc – and I’m sure there are more/different limitations in Iraq), the teams worked on incredibly interesting projects.

    I’m excited to see what comes out of the Baghdad event. I wish I could be there. Like Greg, I’d love to hear a recap after the event.

    • http://lovop.com Othmane Rahmouni

      Thanks Tom for your insights! I am totally with you on the fact that we take certain things for granted such as connectivity, access to technology… I always find it interesting to learn about how entrepreneurs in the developing world are able to adjust to these constraints and come up with innovative solutions to address a market need which in the surface might very much look like one in the US, yet the right solution might defer significantly requiring a mix of low tech & high tech components adapted and localized to the market.

      Make sure to share any specific advice you have for teams taking part in this event by using the hashtag #SWBaghdadAdvice more info here: http://lovop.com/en/lets-help-tech-entrepreneurs-in-baghdad-swbaghdadadvice/

  • Ahmed Izzedien

    wooow it’s great news Othmane welcome to Baghdad so Glad I’m CEO of Legend Lands – LLS Group from Baghdad – Iraq , we are the first authorized Microsoft Learning Center in Iraq ( http://www.microsoft.com/middleeast/press/Pages/Article.aspx?id=76 ) we started at the end of 2010 our goal is participating in Building capacity of Iraqi IT sector , we trained over 1500 students so far , also we were the First Authorized Microsoft Distributor in Iraq. I would be so happy to assist you in your mission and please don’t hesitate to contact me ( ceo@llsiraqgroup.com ).
    if you like to know more also here is our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/llsgroup
    and our YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/MSLearningCenterIRQ

    wish you a successful visit

Job Listings on GeekWork