iBRIDGE Berlin Report

iBRIDGE Berlin was the second gathering of its type of seasoned entrepreneurs from the US, Iran, Europe, and the Middle East, to explore the opportunities and challenges of high tech entrepreneurship in Iran and its impact on the country’s ongoing economic development. The event was an unparalleled opportunity which brought together the largest number of Iranians living inside and outside of the country with the global business community to jointly explore the development of the growing high tech ecosystem of Iran. As Prof. Yahya Tabesh, one of iBRIDGES founders stated, “at the core of iBRIDGES lies the commitment to actively and unrelentingly contribute to the advancement of the human condition by developing high tech entrepreneurial activities”. This very aspiration was clearly present and defined the atmosphere of the  three day conference. The conference was characterized by a community that shaped, that welcomed diversity, fostered open exchanges between participants, and encouraged curiosity, learning and free sharing of experiences while forging new contacts and friendships. Held from June 4-6, 2015 at the stunning and brand new Berlin CityCube convention center, the event included 117 sessions with 163 speakers, and 1,040 registered participants from 35 countries. Of these, 345 were from Iran, 324 from Germany, and 121 from the US. The event was also live­streamed to viewers around the globe, with online viewership of around 3,000. In coherence with its philanthropic mission, the organizing team included some 150 volunteers who formed the backbone, and 107 members of steering teams, advisors, and board members. These represented 21 countries in total by themselves – a truly international collaboration for a truly international event. The venue, Berlin, is itself a burgeoning startup hub that has drawn talented, tech savvy entrepreneurs from across Germany and Europe due to its dynamic innovation eco­system.

The overall rating of the event based on a post-event survey (35% response rate, or 367 responses) was 4.07 out of 5, with 80% rating the conference as high or very high. Almost 70% stated that they will definitely make plans to attend the next iBRIDGES event. The event included keynote speeches, workshops, panel discussions, and an exhibition. Presentations were made by leaders from the tech sector, venture capitalists, angel investors, and academics including Stephen Chambers, the director of international strategy at the SAID Business School, Oxford, Dave McClure, the well-known Silicon Valley based “super angel” investor, Kamran Elahian, chairman and co­founder of Global Catalyst Partners, Hamid Biglari, former Citi Vice Chairman, Alinaghi Mashayekhi, Professor at Sharif University and Dean of its Graduate School of Management, Yahya Tabesh, Professor at Sharif University, Dr. Fereidoun Ghasemzadeh, Founder and CEO, Afranet and many others. Summary videos for each of the event days are provided here and main hall program videos are provided here.

iBRIDGE Berlin Pitch Fest WInners
In addition to the talks and discussions, the event represented the gathering of dozens of Iranian startups, providing them with the opportunity to meet each other and their Western contemporaries to exchange knowledge, ideas and experiences. Leading Iranian entrepreneurs from diverse fields ranging from robotics and nano­tech to green­tech, medical and wearable technologies attended the event.   iBRIDGE Berlin was a sequel to iBRIDGE Berkeley which was a conference held at the University of California, Berkeley on Sept 6 2014. The event was sold out and had 700 attendees. Over 1,000 viewers observed the event via live webcast, most from inside Iran. A comparison of the two iBRIDGES events in Berkeley and Berlin is provided in the table below. Attendees from Iran fell into two groups: the first group represented established, successful entrepreneurs from the private sector, mainly in information and communication technologies, nanotechnology and molecular biology. The second group was composed of younger start­ups and innovators who had demonstrated talent and expertise in developing business ideas and/or creating start­up companies in the aforementioned sectors.

iBRIDGE Berlin and Berkeley in numbers

iBRIDGE Berkeley Berlin
Dates Sep 6th, 2014 Jun 4-6th, 2015
Participants 705 1040
Countries of Origin 5 35
Participants from Iran 17 345
Online Viewers 1,000+ 3,000+
Volunteers 54 151
Organizing Team 42 107
Event Length 1 Day 3 Days
Sessions 12 117
Speakers 31 163
Participants Survey Not Available 4+ Rating
Online Visits 5,000+ 38,000+

Table 1: iBRIDGE Berlin and Berkeley in numbers.

Pitch fest competitions were also held for the most promising startups and ideas, and the top six winners will soon be arriving in the US to take part in entrepreneurship workshops at the University of California, Berkeley, and to visit accelerators, incubators, and high-tech firms in Silicon Valley and part of a iBRIDGE Spark program iBRIDGES is in active fund raising to be able to support this program. The event was designed to provide the participants with access to educational and innovative leadership within their sectors from universities and companies around the globe. The overarching goal of iBRIDGES is to accelerate, and assist with, the build­out of an innovation based private economy in Iran by exposing local, young high-tech entrepreneurs to the international high-tech community. As an educational initiative, iBRIDGES draws more than $360,000 funding from the Iranian diaspora community and is thus privately funded and organized, has no government involvement, and is founded on the apolitical principal that the support and promotion of the digital economy should be accessible to all who work within it. For a list of the contributors please see here.

iBRIDGE Preliminary Financial Statement

 

Income Expense
Remaining Funds from iBRIDGE Berkeley $38,040.00
Total Fund Raised $365,806.00
Online Ticket Sales $110,239.36
On-Site Ticket Sales $8,176.00
Accelerators Site Visit Tickets Sales $3,012.80
Conference Costs (Venue, Food, Global Operations, …) $451,815.83
UC Berkeley Fundraising and Host Management Costs $62,355.80
Remaining Funds after iBRIDGE Berlin by the end of Q3’15 $11,102.53
Total $525,274.16 $525,274.16

Table 2: iBRIDGE Preliminary Financial Statement by end of Q3’15

We would also like to thank the large community of Iranians abroad who provided much needed, and much appreciated time and material support to the conference.

iBRIDGE Berlin would not have been possible without significant support and organizational planning by entrepreneurs inside Iran who raised over $200,000 locally from some 40 startups and investors to help defray travel and accommodation expenses of those young Iranian entrepreneurs who need financial support to attend the conference. The Iran organization activities also included an open call for startup ideas and vetting of the submitted ideas and videos (over 600), and selection of the winners by the judges among Iranian high tech executives for travel to Berlin.

The event would also not have been possible without the organizational and sponsorship support of the Berkeley Program on Entrepreneurship and Development in the Middle East, and the office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley.

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