This is a tale of two Irans. This is, specifically, the tale of the other Iran.
The tale we hear most often focuses on natural resources like oil as their greatest asset or nuclear power as their greatest threat — a narrative frozen in time, stretching back decades with remembered pain on both sides. For many Americans, the reference point for Iran is still centered on the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran over 35 years ago; for others, it has focused on Iranian support for destabilizing regional actors against our interests and costing lives. At the same time, of course, Iranians have their own version of this tale: Many remember well U.S. support for a coup of their elected leadership, our support for a dictatorial regime and later encouragement of a war in Iraq that cost nearly a half-million Iranian lives.
Politics, power, mistrust: This is one version of how the media frames discussion of Iran. It’s very real, and it has much caution and evidence to support it.
But there’s another tale, one I saw repeatedly in my trip there last month. It was my second visit within the year, traveling with a group of senior global business executives to explore this remarkable and controversial nation.
This tale focuses on Iran’s next generation, an entirely new generation that came of age well after the Islamic Revolution, and on human capital, the greatest asset a country can have. It’s about technology as the driver for breaking down barriers even despite internal controls and external sanctions. People under age 35 represent nearly two-thirds of Iran’s population at this point: Many were engaged in the Green Movement protests against the Iranian presidential election in 2009. Most are utterly wired and see the world outside of Iran every day — often in the form of global news, TV shows, movies, music, blogs, and startups — on their mobile phones.
This is a tale we rarely hear about.
These perceptions — and the complicated details of trust building on both sides — are especially top of mind right now because of the fast-approaching deadline [June 30] for negotiations around the Iranian nuclear program. The negotiations, of course, will include when, how, and under what conditions to ease sanctions. The outcome of this agreement — and whether it even happens — will impact us in ways that we can’t yet understand, but it will also impact this new generation of Iranians even more. MORE
In this age of recurring services, can’t we just get the things we use — the things we want — without having to think about it every time? For startups, it’s ideal when consumers think this way because it means not having to keep “selling” to those customers over and over and over again. Instead, convince the buyers once … and keep them for years. That’s where “Mass SaaS” comes in. MORE
One of the most active and fastest growing open source big data cluster computing projects is Apache Spark, which was originally developed at U.C. Berkeley’s AMPLab and is now used by internet giants and other companies around the world. Including, as announced most recently, IBM. In this Q&A with Spark inventor Matei Zaharia on the heels of the recent Spark Summit, we cover the difference between Hadoop MapReduce and Spark; what are the ingredients of a successful open source project; and the story of how Spark almost helped a friend win a million dollars. MORE
Investing to make a return both financial AND societal isn’t new, but the opportunities to reach and build businesses in communities that have been underserved by tech are larger than ever. Do core business principles change at all? But then how does impact get measured? And what happens when you connect more communities to tech thanks to mobile phones? MORE
It turns out that 95% of African American hair salons have no retail capability due to minimal credit and cash balances. Basically, they cannot afford to keep inventory.
Enter Diishan Imira and his company, Mayvenn. Diishan aptly named the company after the Yiddish word meaning “trusted expert”. After studying the hair market and its byzantine supply chain for years, Diishan figured out how to radically improve the hair buying experience by empowering the trusted experts in the delivery chain — the hairdressers — to recommend, offer, and deliver the right products to their customers in the most convenient way possible. They do this by ingeniously creating individual mobile e-commerce sites for each hairdresser where they can sell goods without any inventory cost or risk… The early results have been spectacular. In less than two years, Mayvenn has signed up over 26,000 hair stylists.
The most successful of these have more than doubled their income via Mayvenn while dramatically improving life for their customers. Even more exciting, Mayvenn’s methods and platform can easily be extended to trusted experts in many fields, enabling gifted craftspeople to become economically empowered. MORE
We’ve shared a lot of data about whether and why ‘this time is different’. But beyond that, why is the tech market opportunity larger than any time in history (no, really!)? One word: mobile. a16z’s Benedict Evans shares just how and why mobile changes everything in this update to his presentation on Mobile Eating the World. [watch talk track or view as slides only] MORE