Startup Weekend Baghdad

“I am privileged to have been a part of dozens of Startup Weekend events around the world, and I can easily say this was my favorite event” expressed Mr. Sheikh Shuvo, Startup Weekend Regional Facilitator. ُSheikh’s “favorite event” in one of the least developed most dangerous cities in the world; how is that possible?

AWAT was honored to have exclusive media coverage of Startup Weekend Baghdad; taking part in the event enables me to reason why it is considered one of the world’s most amazing, motivating, inspirational and most importantly productive events.

First of all, the organizers, seven males and one female did a marvelous job with getting things done in this furious city, Baghdad, on time. “It was a challenge to organize the event in such a short time, yet we did it,” said Laylan Attar, the only SWB female organizer. The belief in the necessity of holding such events in Baghdad motivated the organizers to overcome the challenges they faced.

SWB received a fund from USAID to launch the event on the condition that the event would take place before the end of June.  As a result the organizers had to make SWB a reality in one month or the opportunity would have been gone. Adding to that were the challenges naturally attached to Baghdad; the run from security, electricity, heat, and the tough time with getting things done.


“This was all worth it because I see it as a responsibility to promote entrepreneurship and make people understand that individual investment in the economy is the ultimate solution and the best alternate for governmental jobs,” said Marwan Jabbar, one of SWB organizers.

The professional management and organization was a key factor of SWB success, yet there were also other key aspects; the participants’ interest, enthusiasm, determination, collaboration and desire to learn sparked the event.

I was there; I sensed the energy the participants directed to make their ideas a reality; and now I am wearing a SWB t-shirt to mentally recall all the positive energy that was in that hall and try to communicate it, in the best way possible, in this article.

Determination and collaboration helped overcome an obstacle faced by Baghdad Life team, one of the participating teams in SWB.  Baghdad Life is a mobile application that shows the other sides of Baghdad, the good ones, like historical places, restaurants, shopping malls and so on. Baghdad Life team included skilled designers and non-technical members who came up with this great idea, yet they needed a member with I.T skills to develop the application. The team lacked a critical member, yet they didn’t give up. Baghdad Life asked help from other teams’ technical members, who were more than willing to offer help, and they worked hard to learn how to develop a mobile application in 54 hours.

“Without professionalism in I.T., we developed a mobile application,” said Mr. Saad Almoomen, an instructor at the University of Baghdad, who was one of Baghdad Life team members. Determination and collaboration was really valued and the Baghdad Life team won the third place.

Speaking of enthusiasm and the desire to learn, another example is the Mahaw team, which consisted of very young members, all of them under 18 years old. The team idea was to develop a mobile application that measures the speed of the Internet connection and help clients choose the best one.  The youngest team won the best technical execution prize. “ I slept only one hour yesterday, we were working hard to do what was needed,” said Mr. Mustafa Abduljabbar, Mahaw team leader.

The winner team idea addressed not the problems that Iraqi people face in their daily life, rather it addressed solutions to these problems through a series of animated cartoon. “Hayshbekom” which means “what is wrong” is a series of animated cartoon videos designed to help people not complain about present conditions. “Electricity, traffic, insecurity ….etc are existing problems in Iraq, they are not going anywhere so we have to deal with them in the best way possible. The idea is to suggest solutions in family-friendly and funny cartoon videos,” said Ms. Maryam Ameer, Hayshbekom team manger.

The participants had all of the energy and enthusiasm in them, they just needed an opportunity to show it. “It’s like we just needed to raise a flag and then people took on the role leadership as soon as they saw the opportunity,” said Mr. Bilal.

Finally, the monitoring phase, represented by the coaches and the judges, helped shape the work of the participants and produce not only better projects, but most importantly better and more confidant individuals.

They believed in the participants and their unlimited abilities “The hassles they had to go through each morning to make it to the event did not matter, nor did the struggles they might have lived through over the last decade. The only thing that mattered once they were in that room was how to make their business ideas a reality, they deserve support,” said Mr. Othmane Rahmouni, a manager at Microsoft and one of SWB coaches.

The worldly successful management style starts with planning to implanting and finally monitoring; in SWB the organizers planning, the participants implementing and finally the coaches and the judges monitoring lead to producing an ever-lasing event.

The judges were amazed by the participants abilities.“Many of the world’s most successful personnel started small and worked their way up; for Iraq to develop, it is important to embrace this concept. Iraqi people have great ideas, yet they lack the confidence to make their ideas a reality; this is why I am here today to tell them that they can do it,” said Mrs. Luma Abdulrazaq, one of SWB judges.