Interview with Roxanne Varza, Startup Weekend Birjand Key Speaker

Without any doubt, Roxanne Varza is not unknown for Iranian startup ecosystem. She was previously interviewed by various Iranian newspaper & blog. In addition, lately she has accepted being one of the key speakers of Startup Weekend Birjand in Iran. Here we try to have a glance at Iran startup ecosytem and its drawbacks with her.

Roxanne Varza

Roxanne Varza

Startup events are growing like mushroom

One of the most criticism that are being mentioned by some group of activist in startup ecosystem of Iran is the vast number of startp-like events such as Startup Weekend but not having serious outcomes and successful companies or services. Maybe this case has some direct and indirect reasons but to your point of view, shouldn’t be a meaningful relation between quality, quantity and the outcome of such an event?

 This is not specific to Iran but to all Startup Weekend-style events. The point of Startup Weekend is actually not necessarily to create a proper company (although it’s great if it happens) but rather to allow people to meet and gain exposure to what it is like to create a startup. Many people meet at Startup Weekend and later go on to found companies together. I think it also helps people who are considering entrepreneurship to really try it out without having to quit their job or leave school. Therefore, the event is actually not about creating a long-lasting company but rather about actually building the ecosystem and future entrepreneurs.

Translation, Translation, Translation! Good, but where is the place of Iranian content?

Maybe it would be predictable that for such a young Iranian startup community & ecosystem most of the contents are being translated from foreigners & of course validated sources for inner startup lovers. By being clearly obvious that this is a must and have its own benefits, but what’s your solution for Iranian startup ecosystem to bypass this step & go through other level of completion?

If I understood your question correctly, you feel that there is a lot of translated content coming from abroad but not enough local Iranian content being created. I think there is a huge place for Iranian content – but translated into English. The world is actually very interested in Iran but there are few credible English language sources. I think better understanding the local ecosystem from an Iranian perspective is just as important as the “famous” content produced by some of the best-known entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur; Earthian or Martian?!

I would never forget from couple of years ago that your posts on Techcrunch France, Europe and your Techbaguette blog were a life changer for me and completely changed my attitude towards my goals and made me introduce to the concepts of startup and entrepreneurial world. But maybe a lot of people consider reaching this quality of life of creating values, impossible. How you define and see the life of an entrepreneur and trying to be one, apart from all stereotype ideas? Are they Martian?!

Haha, totally. Entrepreneurs can be my favorite people but they can also be my least favorite people – and I like to include myself in this group as well. Entrepreneurs are passionate, intelligent people who are insanely optimistic. Sometimes too optimistic, to the point that they can be oblivious to the world around them. I often feel that entrepreneurs are not touched by economic crisis and that if they are, they simply see it as another challenge or opportunity. That said, entrepreneurs really need to learn to listen and be agile. Those people make the best entrepreneurs. And it’s very difficult to strike the right balance and I rarely see people who are good as executing their vision and integrating feedback from others. Plus, the entrepreneurial lifestyle is not all that glamorous. It involves a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and sometimes people forget that. It also involves taking huge risks and often having dramatic mood swings. So I would say that entrepreneurs are a special breed of human 

Entrepreneur Women or women & entrepreneurship?

How you see activities such as GiT and generally the position of women in entrepreneurial, techy and geeky world? Maybe up to now, for our readers the activities of GiT-like stuff is still not completely clear. Are these activities being organized in startup community in a simultaneously manner or they just have a aside goals and plans?

Girls in Tech is an international network to support women in tech entrepreneurship. The network was started in 2007 in San Francisco by Adriana Gascoigne and I launched the network in Europe in 2010. I launched the French chapter with Mounia Rkha (Schibsted) and the UK chapter with Ella Weston (WPP) and Mihiri Bonney (Propeller Group). There are additional chapters throughout Europe as well. Our goal is simply to provide visibility to women who are having a big impact on entrepreneurship.

Women are still the minority in the tech space and often times there are lots of stereotypes that go with it. There are also very few women engineers and women CEOs of large companies. We’re hoping to change that. As women make up half of the consumers on the planet, technical products and services should also cater to them and address their needs. Therefore, integrating women into the technical industry can only be beneficial for the economy as a whole.

Girls in Tech is just one of many initiatives to support women in tech – there are loads of other groups, some focus more on tech and some more on other aspects of business. I have to say I am very positive on the role of women in the industry. I feel people are giving it the proper attention and we have had lots of support from different countries and ecosystems around the world. Still, we have a lot of work to do 

Finally, what’s your thoughts and feelings about helping running your first Iranian stratup weekend event so far by being as a speaker?

I am THRILLED ! To be honest, I didn’t even know where Birjand was before I was told about the Startup Weekend event (shameful, I know). Actually, I really want to learn more about the Iranian ecosystem and help the Iranian entrepreneurs however I can. I grew up in the US but always had a very strong affinity for my Iranian origins and I wish I was able to spend more time learning about and discovering Iran. I feel that I finally have that opportunity, thanks to Startup Weekend Birjand and hopefully more events down the line.

Thanks for giving your time, Roxanne Varza.

This blog post has been republished on Startup Weekend Birjand blog, as Mehdi Parhizi is one of the Startup Weekend Birjand organizers and responsible for social media affairs.

Persian Version / نسخه‌ی فارسی