Education, entrepreneurship, Events

Hello again, Iran – Startup Weekend Tourism Tehran called!

37I was recently invited back to Tehran, Iran in less than a couple of months since I was last there (1, 2, 3). It seems like only yesterday I was there and I was absolutely delighted and incredibly humbled by the opportunity to come back – and so soon!

This time I was invited to facilitate Startup Weekend Tourism Tehran. And what a spectacularly extravagant event it was!

Do you know that many nationalities can get a tourist visa to Iran relatively easy and affordable these days? Why not go to Iran to see for yourself for your next holidays!?

Let’s start with the venue. When was the last time you saw a Startup Weekend in the last Shah of Iran’s palace gardens?


The last king of Iran’s palace gardens with replica of ancient stone carvings from all around Iran


The palace

Inside the last king of Iran's palace

Inside the last king of Iran’s palace

The palace gardens

The palace gardens

So this guy kicked it off, sans Half-Baked this time…

That guy...

That guy…


Then we pitched…


The epic venue, main stage

The epic venue, main stage

And many more idea pitches...

And many more idea pitches…

Then it was off to vote which ideas who would go on to form teams…

And we're off to vote outside...

And we’re off to vote outside…


Counting democratically cast votes is serious business here too

Counting democratically cast votes is serious business here too – We double and triple checked with independent observers

A fabulous atmosphere in the palace gardens at night

On day 2 of 3 it was time for the newly formed teams to work work WORK! In a palace garden…



Does great coffee lead to hipsters or hipsters to great coffee? Anyways – Tehran has got both!


Not the worst of places to hold a Startup Weekend!


Legal drug paraphernalia


Artisanal ice cream? Yes, of course! Life at Startup Weekend Tourism Tehran is so so so hard… ;)


And cuisine from Cordon Bleu graduates? Check!


Day 2 of 3 also saw the coaches come in to help the teams out


And we had officials come by and check out the event…


The palace gardens


Did I mention we were treated to an insane array of wonderful (European) pastries? OM NOM NOM


Yes, of course the organizing team also have women onboard – thanks for asking

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The local Boko Haram (their words) kidnapping their Norwegian facilitator… Who says Iranians don’t have a sense of humor? Actually the two beards are the co-founders of a funded startup and were just the coolest guys, showing me around Tehran!




The selfie is still going strong in Iran


We also had several awesome open air coaching sessions


It gets dark early…

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In between, I managed to sneak away for a tour of the King’s Palace.


I seriously dig the design on the left, back


In the boudoir


The sleeping quarters


Big-ass Yamaha keyboard

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On day 3 of 3 it was time for the teams to present what they had built and what they had learned in front of a jury.


My special guest, the reason I’m here in the first place – superstar Sara Usinger!

The jury is settling in...

The jury is settling in…

And this guy kicked off the final presentations...

And this guy kicked off the final presentations…

And then the teams presented…

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And the jury asked tough questions…


And the winners were…


3. Place “Dadar” – travel for kids

2. Place #Iranemoon – Curated Instagram collections for tourists and travels

1. Place “Dèro” – A marketplace for rural authentic tourism.

And then this happened – a special gift for me too…

Thank you so much SW Tourism Tehran!

Thank you so much SW Tourism Tehran!

I also met an Iranian television superstar at Startup Weekend Tourism Tehran! Mr. Vahedi who also helped us moderate the pitches and get the energy going on the first day – What an honor!


Mr. Vahedi & me

Mr. Startup, Mr. TV & Mr. Startup Weekend Tehran

Mr. Startup, Mr. TV & Mr. Startup Weekend Tehran

And look who came to see me! The organizers of the last Startup Weekend I facilitated in Iran at Shahid Beheshti University!


As a funny side story, I met these two international business guys, who I assumed were waiting for their private jet, hired from somewhere like Jettly to send them onto their next venture. I first came across them at the airport in Tehran in the visa line upon arrival, the day before the event at 5 am. They were here on business to sell medical insurances and were telling me about how much they enjoy being able to travel globally for their business. As much fun as it is though, they said that sometimes they have to think about hiring a translation company that uses software to help them translate the many languages of the world. They say that it makes their lives so much easier, and I bet it does as it means more sales and higher income in the long run. Anyway, they stalked me on the Internet and came by Startup Weekend Tourism Tehran – AND, this is the coolest part, found some great leads at the event – EPIC!

All bizniz

Beards mean business


Good morning, Tehran!

I bet you didn't know that this is how instant coffee looks like in Iran

I bet you didn’t know that this is how instant coffee looks like in Iran – No joke!


Maybe, just maybe not a name you’d want to associate with your drinking water


Good bye, Iran – I hope to be back soon!

Oh, and thanks to SW Tourism sponsor Oman Air, I had a detour to Muscat, Oman both ways

Oh, and thanks to SW Tourism sponsor Oman Air, I had a detour to Muscat, Oman both ways – Here without my bathing shorts, without my suitcase, contemplating just how much trouble skinny dipping will get you into in Oman…