Nicholas Bonde
Last updated: 18 February, 2014

These young Damascene entrepreneurs won’t let a civil war stop them

Startups in Damascus are refusing to let the ongoing conflict prevent them from turning their ideas into reality. Today saw the opening of the city’s first ever Startup Weekend.

While Damascus is facing one of its tougher times in its ten thousand year-history, a group of enthusiastic Syrian youths, interested in startups and entrepreneurship, are organizing a 54-hour event called Startup Weekend Damascus together with Wikilogia.

Hopeful entrepreneurs will gather in the Al Mezzah neighborhood in western Damascus and get a chance to pitch and develop their ideas together with mentors and seasoned Syrian international businesspeople in a three-day workshop.

“Complications do exist planning an event like this during a civil war”

“This is going to be a great learning experience for the entrepreneurial community in Damascus and will encourage growth and innovation in these hard times…our mission this weekend is to create local startups, grow our community locally and build a supportive entrepreneurial environment,” Ahmad Sufian Bayram, one of the organizers of the event, told Your Middle East.

“The only chance to create new jobs in the 21st century will have to come from new ventures, so we all have an interest in fostering an environment that helps these young entrepreneurs succeed. Startup Weekend-events can be a beginning, but much more is needed.”

Startup Weekends have been held all around the Middle East for years but this will be the first stop in Damascus. A great logistical achievement given the circumstances.

“I got the approval from the Startup Weekend HQ to go ahead with the event here in Damascus. Then I started formulating the team and reached out to the speakers, coaches and judges to get more experienced participants from the Syrian pioneers abroad,” Bayram explained.

“Complications do exist planning an event like this during a civil war. Ensuring the safety of our participants was key. Looking for sponsors was also hard at the beginning.”

YME: What are some of the biggest challenges facing young entrepreneurs in Syria today?
“According to a survey we published before this event about the entrepreneurial culture here in Syria, the biggest obstacles are: proper education, finding investors and lack of support from the experts in the various fields.”

Follow Startup Weekend Damascus on Twitter under the hashtag #SWDamascus, via the account @SW Damascus and on the event Facebook page

DON’T MISS: Your Middle East Startup in Istanbul on April 14