Meet the Founder: Hero Salih

Next up in our "Meet the Founder" series is Hero Salih, who is starting Helana Hub, a center for students in Sulaimani. 

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Can you give a brief introduction about yourself ?

My name is Hero Salih. I’m the founder and CEO of Helana Hub. I’m also interested in painting and always want to make it green.

What is your business idea?

From my point of view I came up with an idea to open a wonderful place for students to get rest and relax while they are studying. We are going to set up a hub for the students where they can find reliable resources, books, and any other related sources that students needs during their studying time. It is aiming to fill the gap that students have in this community. We provide comfortable hub and snacks.

What challenges are you addressing?

The main segment that Helana is targeting is students. From our interviews and surveys we have discovered a number of main challenges that students are facing, such as having high prices which are not affordable and a lack of school supplies. Cafes are often crowded and smoky, which does not allow them to concentrate on their studying. Helana is seeking to address these challenges by having a talented and hard-working team to facilitate the school life of these students.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?  

My reason for joining the Five One Labs startup incubator is because I see this as the place that I need to start-up my business.

What progress have you made since you started the incubator two months ago?

Since I started I have made enough progress to start pursuing what I want to do. I have prepared a draft budget plan, improved my start up procedures and learned where to start to set up my businesses. I found out about the challenges and how to tackle with them, learned about the needs of our targeted customers and how to improve business models as well.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business or project?

My advice would be never be afraid of starting up, do what you want to achieve. As Will Smith said, "If you want to something, go get it. Period." Never let anyone or anything keep you away from what you are dreaming of.

A sampling of treats available for students at Helana Hub

To learn more about Helana, visit the Hub's Facebook page!

Meet the Founder: Ali Alrawi

The third profile in our "Meet the Founder" series is Ali Alrawi, a member of our first incubator cohort and founder of Software You Need.

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Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Ali and I am from Ramadi, Iraq. I graduated from Al-Anbar University in 2006 and I have a degree in Chemistry. Since my childhood, I have been passionate about sciences and learning. In 2012, I decided to learn how to code by taking free online tutorials to learn a long list of programming languages. Once I felt that I became more experienced and more professional I decided to start my own business.

What is your business idea?

Software You Need (SYN) is a new company that creates and design software solutions to improve the business efficiency in Iraq. We target small- and medium-sized enterprises and new startup companies. We provide competitively prized and high-quality customized, fast-delivered and cross-platform solutions for companies to improve their business efficiency.

What challenges are you addressing?

There is now a lack of companies that provide the flexibility to create software applications that fit the customer needs. Old technologies and techniques are still used to create software solutions in Iraq. We are committed to improving our customers' business performance by delivering the following:  

  1.  Business software solutions that include customer-specific features designed around current and future business practices
  2. Software that is portable across multiple platforms (Apple, Microsoft, Linux and/or  Android, Apple).
  3. Faster and more effectively solutions than the customer’s in-house development 
  4. Lower cost to the customer current methods

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?

I joined Five One Labs incubator to empower my business skills and to meet people from different cultures to exchange knowledge.

What progress have you made since you started the incubator two months ago?

In the last two months I researched the market, identified my goals and my customer archetype, and served three clients.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business or project?

I advise any entrepreneur to have the team that will help overcome the obstacles and hardships they might face. 

To learn more about Software You Need, visit their website and Facebook page!

Meet the Founder: Narin Sabah

Part two of our "Meet the Founder" series is with Narin Sabah, a member of our inaugural startup incubator cohort who is starting the Development and Peace Analysis Center in Erbil. 

Can you give a brief introduction about yourself? 

My name is Narin Sabah, and I am the founder of Development and Peace Analysis Center (DPAC) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Besides being an entrepreneur, I also have experience in teaching conversational English to non-native English speakers. Teaching students has been a reason to why I have become passionate about learning more about human behavior and how they react in different settings. 

What is your business idea?

DPAC strives to ameliorate tensions and misconceptions that exist among the various social groups in society. Additionally, it seeks to provide professional development that will serve as a guide in helping to create a more collaborative and peaceful society.  DPAC is committed to helping to create a dedicated and passionate generation for better life opportunities, and to achieve a more prosperous and peaceful region. 

What challenges are you addressing?

DPAC is seeking to discover ways to help create a better and more productive work force and better living conditions for the generation to come. Thus the Center devotes efforts to improving the quality of life of the citizens of the KRI by raising awareness of peace building and nonviolence, primary research training as well as peace and development research.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?  

Great friends encouraged me to take part in Five One Labs which I came to see as an opportunity for me to start on something new, explore and test my limits.

What progress have you made since you started the incubator two months ago?

I have been able to better identify the purpose of my business and as how I could better relate to it. Beside the unforgettable entrepreneur experience, it taught me an important lesson: you have to earn your own success; nobody will create it for you. 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business or project?

Based on my own experience, the advice I would give is "listen". The world gives you the answers, just listen.

To learn more about the Development and Peace Analysis Center, visit their website!

Meet the Founder: Kosha Hussain

Ahead of our first Demo Day in February, we would like to introduce you to the seven wonderful entrepreneurs in our first incubator cohort in Erbil. First up is Kosha Hussain, founder of Mirsha Media 360!

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Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Kosha Hussain and I'm the founder and CEO of Mirsha Media. I'm also an art curator and tech and astronomy geek; I'm colorblind and can say thank you in over 30 languages.

What is your business idea? 

From a holistic point of view, Mirsha Media is a creative agency built for the digital world. We provide innovative marketing and communications solutions ranging from social media management to content creation using cutting edge mediums such as 360° content and virtual and augmented reality experiences.

The company is based around the intersection between technology, media, communications and art. The business ethos upholds an interdisciplinary mindset with a talented team driven by a thirst for creative problem solving while having fun at the same time. The core values of empathy, integrity, and high-fives are what drive Mirsha Media to greatness.

What problems are you solving?

One of the sectors we are aiming for is NGOs and charities. From our research we have identified three main challenged this sector faces: firstly in fundraising, secondly in amplifying their communications and thirdly in resources. Mirsha Media targets these challenges and tackles them through innovative and captivating storytelling using low-cost and high-impact social media strategies and digital campaigns devised by a talented and smart-working team who love the job.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?  

I joined the Five One Labs startup incubator because I knew this is what I needed to kick-start my business out here.

What progress have you made since you started the incubator two months ago?

Since starting I have made enough pivots to finally find the path I want to pursue. I have developed a company culture, business ethos, first draft of a budget plan, acquired leads, built and deployed prototype products, formed customer surveys, outlined customer journeys, planned a launch event, built a website, grown a team and learnt from many mini mistakes along the way!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start business or project?

As Richard Branson says, "screw it, let's do it!" It's never too late to start. Don't let anything or anyone hold you back. Be ready to do away with your Netflix binges. Have a vision and reverse engineer it. Try to minimize regret for when you're too old to work. Just go for it!

To learn more about Mirsha Media, visit their website and follow the company on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube!

#GIRLPOWER: Expanding Tech and Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Women

“If women believe in themselves and have enough faith and confidence, they can not only be good at what they do but excel." - Safa Salwan
Photo by Re:Coded

Photo by Re:Coded

Global trends have shown that there is growing interest in STEM, but did you know that across the Arab world, women now earn more science degrees on a percentage basis than women in the United States? And in certain countries in the Middle East, like Jordan, girls have been outperforming boys in every subject?

In keeping with this trend, we want to ensure that young women in Iraq, particularly those who have been displaced, have had equal access to events and support that cultivate their creativity and encourages them to pursue innovative career options.

In partnership with Re:Coded, Zain Iraq, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), we sought to do just that. In November, we hosted the Women in Tech and Entrepreneurship Summit at the Tech Hub in Erbil to bring together inspiring female leaders and innovators to explore opportunities for women in technology and entrepreneurship in Iraq. 

The participants had the opportunity to participate in one of two hands-on, crash-course workshops about coding and entrepreneurship and then listen to inspiring innovators and founders from Iraq talk about their careers.

Speakers included a leader from the refugee community who started her own business; Safa Salwan, Founder of Women Techmakers Baghdad; Ravan Al-Taie, Founder of The Book Cafe Erbil; and Ava Nadir, Head of Zain Kurdistan Marketing Communication and PR Department. The discussion revolved around important issues in Iraq, including the digital gender gap, opportunities and challenges in the tech and startup sectors in the country and the importance of role models to inspire more women to enter the world of technology and entrepreneurship.

Five One Labs and its partner organization hope to continue to encourage women in Iraq to excel by providing them with the support and resources that they need to succeed and by cultivating a community of like-minded women across Iraq. As  highlighted by Safa Salwan during the panel discussion, “If women believe in themselves and have enough faith and confidence, they can not only be good at what they do but excel".


Photo by Re:Coded

Photo by Re:Coded

Five One Labs Entrepreneur Academy Launches with 15 Innovative Startups

The Five One Labs Entrepreneur Academy kicked off last week with an incredible cohort of 15 innovative startups. The Academy is an evening training program that runs until mid-February. 


The Entrepreneur Academy is a highly selective, focused, and energetic program for people who are planning to launch their own businesses or who have launched their business within the past year, but who have a full time job or schooling. The program will teach aspiring entrepreneurs the skills to take their business from idea to launch. Participants will learn the key to understanding their customers, developing their business and financial models, marketing, operational and strategic planning, and more.

Fifteen entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds have joined the program, including those from Syria, Mosul, Erbil, and across Iraq. They are students as well as business people, and come from a diverse array of industries. Their businesses create innovative solutions in a variety of sectors: unique cooking classes, female-friendly cafes, software development, design, and medicine distribution, to name a few.

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Check back here often to read more about how they are progressing over the next two months!

Apply today for the Entrepreneur Academy!

Five One Labs is pleased to announce that we are launching the applications for our Entrepreneur Academy in Erbil, Iraq!

The Entrepreneur Academy is a training course that takes place every Sunday and Tuesday evenings (5:30-7:30pm) from December 3rd - February 6th. The Academy is a highly selective, focused, and energetic program for people who are planning to launch their own businesses or who have launched their business within the past year.


We are recruiting strong entrepreneurs from diverse communities including refugees, internally displaced people, and locals. If you are passionate about a startup idea and want to learn the skills to turn it into a business, this program is right for you!

The full two-month training program costs $250, however limited financial scholarships are available. SPECIAL PROMOTION: If you apply before November 7th, you get $100 off of the full price (if accepted). 

The application is here. Applications are due by Thursday, November 23 at 11:59pm.

Please read below to learn more about the program, the application process, and whether you are eligible to apply:

The Program

Five One Labs is a startup incubator in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) that aims to empower entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. We are launching a two-month Entrepreneur Academy for entrepreneurs, professionals and students from November 26-January 28. (The program will have a two week break from Dec 24-Jan 6).

The Entrepreneur Academy is a twice-a-week course that teaches you the skills to take your business from idea to launch. You understand your customers, define your value proposition, build out your business and financial models, and build and improve your prototype.

You will go through intensive business and entrepreneurship training, and will be connected with legal, marketing and other advice to help you think through your business. Winners of “competitions” throughout the program may be linked to world class mentors or provided additional support for launching their business. Finally, all Five One Labs entrepreneurs are welcomed into a community of likeminded entrepreneurs, both in their training and through optional networking events.


What Do You Get From Joining the Entrepreneur Academy

We want to give you the resources you need to grow your business. This could mean a number of things:

  • Practical training to help you learn the fundamentals of starting a business
  • Connections to the business community, investors, and champions
  • Connections to marketing, design, and technical advice as you develop your product or service
  • The full support of a world-class team of trainers, advisors, and friends at Five One Labs who will push for you to succeed
  • Access to social events and an entrepreneurial family to share the experience with!

Who is Eligible to Apply?

All Five One Labs entrepreneurs must be committed to attending the full two months of training (from December through early February). The training will be held on Sunday and Tuesday evening from 5:30-7:30pm.

The program will be held in English, so candidates must have good written and spoken English ability in order to apply. This means being able to converse easily and understand business terms.


  • Are an aspiring entrepreneur with a creative idea for a new business
  • Have strong self-motivation and professionalism
  • Possess a good level of English speaking and writing skills
  • Are willing to work with a diverse group of people in a multicultural environment
  • Are able to attend the incubator in-person in Erbil each Sunday and Tuesday from 5:30-7:30pm

Your business:

  • Is innovative and has a high chance for success
  • Has a scalable model for growth and income-generation
  • Is in the idea stage or  later of business development (ie, you already have a set plan and strategy, and just need to implement it)

Finally, we are looking for candidates from very diverse communities, including locals, refugees, and internally displaced people in Iraq. If you are not sure you are eligible or have any other questions, please email us at and we will respond immediately!

Program Cost

The cost of the program is $250. The cost will include two trainings per week for eight weeks (for a total of 16 training sessions), access to advisors and potential additional support, and individual advice from the Five One Labs training team during “Office Hours” every other week.

We welcome diversity in our program and encourage all individuals to apply. In order to ensure that those who are interested can participate, we have a limited number of scholarships available to cover some or all of the cost for entrepreneurs on a needs-based system. If you are not able to participate without financial support, you can apply for one of our scholarships using this link.

SPECIAL PROMOTION:  If you submit your application by the early deadline of Tuesday, November 7th at 11:59pm, the cost for you will only be $150! (Note: You still must be accepted to the program.)

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

What is an incubator? An incubator is an organization that helps entrepreneurs start businesses. Incubators help entrepreneurs develop their business and solve problems they might face while launching.

What is an entrepreneur? An entrepreneur is someone who is starting a new business to solve a problem in a creative, innovative way.

What level of English is required? The program will be held entirely in English. This means that you have to be able to converse freely and to feel confident about presenting and pitching your startup idea in front of an audience in English. But don’t worry: there will be special sessions for startup, business and financial terminology as part of the training, and entrepreneurs will be encouraged to work together and help each other.

What if I don’t speak English? Don’t worry, we’ll be running Kurdish and Arabic programming in the Spring and next Fall!

What will our schedule be each week? Over the course of 8 weeks, there will be an curriculum that will cover topics related to launching a businesses, such as customer discovery, defining your value proposition, building business and financial models, and strategy, among others.

There will be two training sessions per week at the Five One Labs coworking space in Erbil, along with opportunities to put into practice what you learn and to get feedback from your trainers. Over the course of the incubator there will be a few sessions of office hours with the trainer, who will be available to answer any questions you may have about the topics covered or the development of our business.

Five One Labs Welcomes First Cohort of Entrepreneurs!

The Five One Labs entrepreneurs in their coworking space in Erbil, Iraq.

The Five One Labs entrepreneurs in their coworking space in Erbil, Iraq.

Five One Labs is proud to welcome the inaugural cohort of entrepreneurs to the Five One Labs Startup Incubator!

On October 22nd, Five One Labs accepted 9 innovative, early stage startups to our startup incubator. The entrepreneurs will be working full-time over the next three months to go through customer research, prototyping of ideas, and finally to launch their businesses in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Over the past months, we’ve been doing intensive recruitment to find the best and brightest young entrepreneurs around the region. The entrepreneurs that were chosen are young men and women from diverse backgrounds and communities – from Mosul, Ramadi, Baghdad, Sulaimani and beyond. We have four female-led startups and six startups led by entrepreneurs who are currently or have been displaced.

The three month, full-time incubator provides Five One Labs entrepreneurs with intensive training, mentorship from experts, office space in the Tech Hub in Erbil (sponsored by Zain Telecoms), and connections to a broad network of likeminded entrepreneurs and innovators in the region. At the end of the three months, the entrepreneurs will compete for seed funding of up to $15,000.


The startup ideas are aimed at solving diverse challenges in Iraq, including education, 21st Century skills for youth, and facilitating communication during conflict. Our entrepreneurs are running healthcare, fashion, technology and virtual reality businesses. Check back here often to read more about how they are progressing over the next three months.

Join us in welcoming our new entrepreneurs!