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Edited by Gulan Abdullah

While I’m working on the logo of the upcoming company, the teams are busy, the coaches are around, and attendees are super energetic to get their ideas done by tomorrow, Saturday, January 31st, 2013. The pressure is on! I’m trying my best to push my team and make their tasks a bit easier, although I’m working on the logo to make it ready for the final presentation of the first Startup Weekend in Slemani, Kurdistan. Coming to the edge of the team’s zone to see what is going on with other teams, I’m thinking of the success of the event. The operation manager is stopping by and wants to know where we are. One of my colleagues is asking whether there is a startup in Baghdad or Erbil. Once hearing that, I approached the operation manager and wanted to organize the first ever Startup Weekend in the capital of Kurdistan, Erbil. The journey has just started!

Talking to friends and colleagues, I was able to find a hardworking partner, Sana Karwan to make this quite incredible event happen! After discussing the tasks and the responsibilities with Sana, I was in a good shape to go to the next step of organizing the event, which was sending the operation manager the formal email of being agreed on organizing the event. It was official! We successfully got the formal permission of being the organizers of Startup Weekend Erbil. We were on the right track at this point, Sana and I were trying to figure out what date to choose on the calendar for the first Startup Weekend event in Erbil. Only this step took a whole week to proceed because we really wanted to find a weekend when no one is busy with school requirements, Eid, Ramadan feast, and etc. The date of the event was chosen, 15, 16, and 17th of August. However, after a few months, we decided to push the event a week ahead, 22, 23, 24th of August due to Ramadan feast. Time passed by quickly and we were eagerly waiting for the dates of the event to approach. Our excitement was beyond words.

February and March went very smoothly, meetings were continuously held in order to brainstorm, discuss, share and split the tasks required to be done for the event. April and May were two busy months, I was constantly reporting back to the operation manager via emails and weekly Skype calls regarding what had been done. As June was approaching, good news started coming in about sponsoring the event. We were not done with finding sponsors; however, we were fortunate to receive complete financial support from USAID, Foras, and MercyCorps.

At the same time, working with Startup Weekend Officer closely, I was able to keep the group updated about what was happening. They took care of the event financially, which was a big part of the success of the event. One month left, and it was a quite busy time for the team; contacting people to be coaches, judges, and speakers.

This is when Sana and I decided to take advantage of the modern professional networking platform, LinkedIn. We managed to find 10 respectable candidates to be coaches and judges online. They were all pleased and showed interest to be part of this exceptional event since it was one of its kind in the Capital of Kurdistan Region. The dates of the event were approaching faster than it seemed. We were continuously updating and communicating with all the participants via phone calls, emails and Facebook. The event earned a good amount of exposure among the youth especially when we received two free radio ads from the first English-Kurdish Radio station, XfM105.7 and New Radio Life. We would like to send our sincere thanks to these outstanding radio stations in the region.

Everything was set. Coaches were ready. Judges were ready. Organizers were pretty excited about it. Two days left and nearly 95% of the work is complete. What was left? Facilitating the event was another challenging, yet incredibly amazing part. With Sana, we practiced with the operation manager over Skype for several hours until we were confident enough to facilitate it successfully.

Lastly, we ran the event with the help of so many hardworking coaches, judges, and attendees. It turned out to be a big success. We achieved what we wanted. Eight business ideas were created. About 100 people met and worked closely with each other. Attendees got valuable advice from coaches and judges. We got uncounted positive feedback about the organizing crew, the event and its aim. I would like to thank everyone. We are eagerly working again on it to make the second one happen in a very near future.

Tebeen Muhamad