Christina williams


The observer studied the situation with Internet business in Syria: the difficulties associated with war and economic sanctions, a hub for refugee entrepreneurs, startup accelerators and business conferences.


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Syria, ruptured by war, is hardly a place where it is worthwhile to create a business. Economic sanctions against the country were introduced by the United States, the European Union, the League of Arab States and a number of other countries - but this does not stop the locals from trying to open their own business.

On December 3, the first Raadiat business forum was opened in Syria . In 2015, according to the Doing Business report prepared by the World Bank Group, Syria took 127th place out of 189 in terms of how easy it is to start a business in the country. Last year she was on the 152nd place.

Syria is known all over the world because of civil war and refugees. Muhammad Habak, editor-in-chief of the news portal on Tech-WD technologies , says that due to the tense situation in the country, 80% of developers, from medium specialists to advanced professionals, emigrated. "Many of those I know have gone to Turkey, Lebanon or Egypt, because they do not need visas for this," he added.

Conditions for working with a computer here can hardly be called comfortable: electricity is regularly disconnected throughout the country, including in Damascus and Aleppo, where most entrepreneurs live. The satellite images show the difference in the country's nighttime coverage in 2011 and 2014: First, shutdowns lasted four to six hours a day, now there may not be electricity for a week, which is costly for local entrepreneurs. The solution to this problem is the purchase of a diesel generator for several houses. Its cost ranges from $ 400 to $ 2,000, fuel is bought from the investor. Generators are charged with car batteries, which are then connected by routers, computers, televisions, and simply lighting fixtures. To obtain a higher voltage, inverters are used that allow the connection of power-consuming electronics.

The second important problem for local IT entrepreneurs is money transfers. The US imposed economic sanctions against the regime of Bashar Assad back in 2011, before the civil war. Later, many other countries joined the sanctions, which complicated the transfer from customers to entrepreneurs and forced many to transfer business to other countries, for example, to Jordan or the UAE. Those who stay are circumventing the restrictions by opening a bank account in neighboring Lebanon, or using a VPN to use PayPal.

Syrian developers and designers are forced to play for survival - and as a result, their services are cheaper than those of colleagues from the region. Programmers here can not afford to use licensed products because of sanctions, so they do not work with Objective-C or ASP and develop knowledge of Java and PHP.

In February 2014 in Damascus, the conference Startup Weekend Damascus was held. One of the organizers of the event, Al-Amhad Tafiq Isstaaf, told the Huffington Post that their goal was to bring together local entrepreneurs and mentors and evaluate the products they can provide (incidentally, this may seem surprising, but there are many women among local entrepreneurs).

Although Isstaat pointed out that there are many non-technological start-ups that solve local problems in the region, the first three places of Startup Weekend went to technological solutions. The first place was taken by a 3D printer created from local materials.

Muhamed Al-Sirvin, another of the organizers of the event, explained that technological start-ups are the only development path for Syrian development alumni, because there are no large IT companies in the country. Often entrepreneurs create a business that can be scaled to other countries, then to withdraw it from Syria.

Refugees from among developers and entrepreneurs are happy to receive the Jordanian hub Oasis500 - it tries to attract talents by posting information in newspapers, creating targeted ads on social networks, and through personal contacts.

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