Startup Weekend Erbil 2016

    Friday, November 18 - 19, 2016

  1. Overview
  2. Schedule
  3. Speakers
  4. Judges
  5. Coaches and Mentors
  6. Sponsors
  7. Organizing Team

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Startup Weekend Erbil 2016

Friday, November 18 - 19, 2016

Friday, November 18 - 19, 2016
Event starts at 6:30 pm

Cristal Erbil Hotel
100m Street
Erbil, Kurdiatan

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Thursday November 17th

6:30 pm
Arrive at the venue and get checked in

7:00 pm
Dinner & Networking
Eat food, share ideas, practice pitches, get to know fellow participants

7:20 pm
Welcome & Speakers
Review agenda for the weekend and introduce speakers, coaches, and community leaders

7:30 pm
Pitches Start
Optionally line up to give your pitch

9:00 pm
Attendees vote for the top pitches

9:15 pm
Form Teams
Teams start forming and discussing ideas

10:00 pm
Begin Work
Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Friday November 18th

9:00 am
Coffee Break
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

9:30 am
Begin Work
Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend

12:00 pm
After-lunch check-in, status reports, call for help

1:00 pm

2:00 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!

7:30 pm
After-dinner check-in, status reports, call for help

8:00 pm

10:00 pm
Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow

Saturday November 19th

9:00 am
Coffee Break
Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee

10:00 am
Coaches arrive. Final opportunity to ask questions

12:30 pm
Coach Meetings
Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS

1:00 pm

3:00 pm
Presentation Prep & Tech Check
Final hours of worktime should be focused on perfecting your presentation, tech-check for final presentations also takes place

4:00 pm
Coffee Break

4:30 pm
Final Presentations

7:30 pm
Judging & Awards

8:15 pm

8:30 pm


Omar Nihad

Omer Nihad is an Investor Relations Officer at the Erbil Stock Exchange. He is responsible to assist potential Brokerage Houses to establish as a national legal entity, pass licensing requirements to operate ESX trading and training their principles and general representatives about the capital markets in Iraq and internationally. Previously, he worked as a Senior Procurement Officer for Hawkary, an Erbil based pharmaceutical company. An alumni of The American University of Iraq Sulaimani, majoring in Information Technology with a minor in Business Administration, he graduated in 2012. While studying, he pursued his passion for photography and graphic design as photo editor (2010) and design editor (2011) of The Voice, the first independent student newspaper in Iraq. During his university years, he was involved with numerous projects including work as a temporary data analyst for USAID and volunteered as a translator and media consultant for the Youth Excellence on Stage (YES) Academy of Kurdistan. At the beginning of 2016 he was looking to purchase grooming products for his growing beard and realized the difficulty to get any local products and high cost to ship foreign products. Noticing this niche in the local market he decided to start a local grooming products company named Rishn (Bearded). Rishns vision is to have a luxury barber shop where all of the goods are made in Kurdistan.

Event Judges

Abdulsalam Medeni

Salam M. Islam is a civic activist with experience in civil society program management and training and have good understanding of the evolution and development of civil society in post-conflict environments. 
He started working as an activist with civil society in Iraqi in the early 1990’s. In 1994 he was one of the founders of one of the most active student unions in Kurdistan, The Kurdistan Students Development Union, with more than 10,000 members. He served as branch director and went on to be elected general secretary of the union. Salam joined NDI in February 2005 in Iraq where he provided capacity building and leadership development trainings to Iraqi activists and civil society organizations (CSOs). Between 2005 and 2009, Salam trained domestic observation networks working in Iraq in the elections, constitutional referendum and voter registration processes. In 2008 he worked with a group of youth in Kurdistan to advocate for a law preventing smoking in public places. The group gathered 5,000 petitions and the team convinced more than 50 MPs in Kurdistan parliament to pass the law. He also participated in drafting some laws in Kurdistan (Anticorruption Act - Journalism Law – NGOs Law – Iraqi Personal Status Law – Organizing Volunteerism in Kurdistan Act).
Salam is also a published author. He has written five books and more than 700 articles in local Iraqi and international newspapers and magazines about developing democracy, civil society and developing leadership skills. He also served as a lecturer at multiple universities in Iraq and had his own TV and radio shows.
Salam is doing consultancy work with international NGOs to conduct trainings and facilitate events inside and outside Iraq.
Salam now is an adviser for the Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government on Civil Society and Youth issues.
People know Salam as, AbdulSalam Medeni, the pseudonym that he used as a writer and lecturer.

Hoshang Siwaily

Hoshang Siwaili holds MSc in Database Management System. He is currently the Technical Adviser and Project Manager of the Core Banking Project at the Ministry of Finance in Kurdistan. He is also the Technical Adviser to the Ministry of Planning in Iraq.

Coaches and Mentors

Aryan Abdulqader

When Aryan was four years old, his hobby was looking at the Atlas of the world and learning the names of the oceans, continents and mountains. That hobby made him love learning and education from that early age. Aryan’s enthusiasm for education made him finish university with first class honors and then was awarded a scholarship by the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue his postgraduate studies abroad. Later, Aryan travelled to the UK and joined the Information School at the University of Sheffield, a leading school in research in the UK, where he finished his master degree in Information Systems with a distinction. Aryan is now an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Computer Science at Soran University. His favourite fields of research are e-Government information, Information Systems Project Management and Database Design. He participated in several workshops and seminars inside the Kurdistan Region and aboard.  He is keen on developing the education sector in the Kurdistan Region though utilizing information technology solutions.  

Marcello Bonatto

Marcello is the Founder and CEO of THRIVE, a consultancy that convenes teams to build innovative solutions for challenges in times of crisis. He has several years of experience working with international organizations, governments and social ventures including UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women. Prior to THRIVE, Marcello coordinated human rights and peacebuilding programs for conflict-affected communities in Myanmar, Bosnia, Colombia, and West Africa, as well as managed bilateral projects between Brazil and Canada for four years. Marcello holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro.

Ali Clare

Ali is Founder and Director of Re:Coded. She has worked extensively in human rights, humanitarian law and international affairs, most recently with the United Nations and Human Rights Watch in New York. Before founding Re:Coded, Ali lead a humanitarian innovation accelerator to encourage practitioners to apply technology as a force for social good. Ali holds an M.Sc. in Global Affairs from New York University and a Law Degree from the Australian National University. 

Aveen Howrami

Aveen Howrami is an American Kurdish. Being born and raised in USA with a background in the Biomed Field, she came to Kurdistan 5 years ago for the first time. Knowing she wanted to help in the region, she was placed as the Principal of the American International School of Kurdistan. She does a lot of community work with peshmerga at the front lines beside her main full job. Her greatest goal is to encourage the Kurdistan youth to not only believe but actually accomplish whatever their future goals may be.

Rebeen Pasha

Rebeen Pasha is founder of My(Entrepreneurial)Dream aka MyeDream Incubator, the first and only entrepreneurship ecosystem builder and startup incubator in Erbil (Kurdistan Region, Iraq), launched in 2016 to empower and enable young people to rebuild post-ISIS and focus on a 3D model of Dreams, Dialogue, and Development of youth in the Middle East. MyeDream has had bootcamps and intensive trainings with young entrepreneurs, put on the first entrepreneurship fair in the country, and as the official partner of Global Entrepreneurship Network, kicked off Global Entrepreneurship Week for the first time in the country with 11 events over a one-month period, instilling hope and amplifying message of rebuilding society, economy, and peace through entrepreneurship. 
Pasha has experience in youth engagement, international development, the Middle East, and public-private partnerships for a dozen years, most recently serving as Senior Advisor to the Middle East Bureau of USAID, and prior to that as Chief of Operations of global health at Peace Corps. He was also with the United Nations in Iraq, part of the drafting of the Iraq UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) section on Inclusive Economic Growth, and had worked in and managed 34 countries programs in youth education and vocational training (TVET). He has his Master’s of Science in Policy, and went to the University of Virginia for his BA.
Pasha has been invited to represent Iraq’s ecosystem and/or for speaking roles on multiple occasions including by the White House for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Nexus Global Youth Summit, Concordia, Rockefeller, Wamda, and many other engagements.

Jimmie Collins

 An American living in the Kurdistan Region for more than four years, Jimmie Collins is the Editor-in-Chief of Circuit Magazine, an English-language travel & leisure publication in Kurdistan running for more than two years. Circuit Magazine started as a hobby but turned into an obsession. It is meant to help others get to know Kurdistan's social scene and enjoy themselves as much as she does.
  She has also been the Manager of Qualitas Oilfield Services, a Canadian-based oil services company, for three years where she “holds down the fort” so to speak. 
  After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Business, she taught English as a Foreign Language in three countries including here in Kurdistan when she first arrived in September 2012.
  She has volunteered with several NGOs in the Kurdistan Region, including spending a year organizing fundraising events and handling community relations for the RISE Foundation as well as helping establish administrative and transparency procedures. 
  As part of her business, Jimmie leads a vibrant social life among expats and locals in Erbil. She now considers Erbil home, settling into the city with her husband, two massive dogs, a feisty cat, and a daughter coming this December. 

Jeremy Oliver

Jeremy Abu Elliot Oliver, I along with his wife Lana Khoshaba Yaqo are co-founders of a number of businesses in Kurdistan, and continuous entrepreneurs. He moved his company Trans-Atlantic Corp to Kurdistan in 2008 for the construction of two Peshmerga military bases in Dibecca and Al Khazer. In 2011, he sold my company, and started a new business with his wife called Pnk Taxi.  They have since closed the company, not due to lack of benefit, but because they had reached their goal, and had other ideas that they needed to bring to life. In 2010, he started a Facebook group called EPIC. Erbil Party International Circuit with express aim at making Erbil a more comfortable place for expats and English speaking locals that live and work in Erbil. They use the group to promote events, plan parties, make friends, and basically it has become the most powerful tool in the region for information. They have also created a magazine called Circuit Magazine, which is virtually a printed version the online platform to help them turn the Facebook group into a profitable venture.
They are entering their third year of the magazine, and currently have more than 40 companies advertising with the magazine on over 70 outlets. They are currently the only premium English Magazine in the region, and produce up to 10,000 copies for distribution quarterly.
Additionally, Jeremy has a minority interest in over 10 local companies in Erbil through trade and investment. After 10 years in Iraq, and 8 Years in Erbil.  Kurdistan has become my home. In 2013, he paid cash for a house to be built for my family to stay here. He believes that he can't find a better place on earth for greater opportunity.

Event Sponsors, and Partners

The Startup Weekend Erbil 2016 team is grateful for the support of local community partners without whom this event would not be possible.
Learn how to become a sponsor here.



Organizing Team

Techstars Startup Weekend Erbil is 100% led by volunteer community leaders.
Learn how to get involved here

  • Sana
  • Rawa
  • Halo
  • Diyar


Sana Karwan
Lead Organizer

Sana Karwan is from Slemani, currently living in Erbil. She is working at UNHCR and pursuing a graduate degree in Politics and International Relations. 
She was the co-organizer of Startup Weekend Erbil in 2013 and 2014. She has initiated and participated in a number of community development activities and projects, and leadership and global issue workshops. 
Sana has volunteered for multiple events and projects; like Erbil Food Festival, Slemani Forum, Kurdistan Careers, MERI Forum, and other small projects such as nature clean ups and cook offs. She also encourages community empowerment in all capacities, especially youth empowerment.

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