Bamilo employees work at the e-commerce site's offices in the Iranian capital Tehran on July 9, 2017. AFP / ATTA KENARE
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TEHRAN: The names may be unfamiliar but the services are immediately recognizable: Snapp is Iran's answer to Uber, Digikala is its Amazon, and Pintapin its Booking.com. U.S. sanctions have protected the Islamic Republic's tech sector, barring Silicon Valley from profiting from one of the world's most promising emerging markets, and giving a free run to domestic startups to recreate their services.Don't dare call them copycats – transplanting a foreign business model to Iran is never straightforward.Pintapin's staff are not just building a website, they are transforming Iran's entire hotel industry.Some Iranians have found ways to profit from sanctions: One company at Elecomp buys Amazon products from the United States and ships them to Iranians for a small surcharge.Iran's tech scene has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars from firms such as South Africa's MTN, Germany's Rocket and Swedish company Pomegranate."This is not just about digital innovation and young people thinking entrepreneurially – which is somewhat new in Iran – but also how venture capital can influence the bigger picture of investing," he said.He predicts these partnerships will now be replicated in more traditional sectors like retail.
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