Meet the Founder: Rawa Rauf

For those who have been wanting to learn more about Japanese culture, read our feature of this week’s entrepreneur, Rawa Rauf, the founder of Raftel Manga Store in Sulaimani!

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Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Rawa, and I grew up in Sulaimani. I attended Salahaddin Ayyubi High School College and then entered Architectural Engineering college which I recently graduated from. Since I was younger, I have had a strong love for tech, games and books. While I was still in high school, I came across a DVD set of a popular anime show (Japanese animations) called "Dragon Ball Z," and since then I became a big fan of the medium and got myself deep into the culture of Japan, especially the pop culture and anime.

What is your business idea?

My idea was to bring the most out of Japan's pop culture into Sulaimani, and eventually all the country. I started out with the anime series, and later, manga books (Japanese comic books). I realized the demand was high and increasing at an exponential rate, so I began to think how to fill that demand. That is where I came to know Five One Labs, who kindly supported me with a business-friendly ecosystem and wide network, including introducing me to my mentor, Chris, who has given me the largest push ever since!

What challenges is your business addressing?

There are a few different challenges which I would love to mention. The first is that manga books were not available locally. One had to use online services to order them, which would take a lot of time and effort. Additionally, there are a lot of trust issues, especially with websites like Ebay, which people are afraid to buy stuff from.

Secondly, there was a lack of a community, which made it almost hard for people to get together and discuss their favorite titles! Now people come in groups and start giving recommendations and engaging in the interesting conversations in the store.

Can you tell us about your experience starting your business?

I started small, and slowly began building my capital. I have had countless problems regarding getting the goods I offer, and various delivery problems with different local and international delivery companies, but I have always been able to find a way out and continued to grow! I have met with manga store owners in Baghdad to build relations. And I have been working on holding comikets (comic markets) in Sulaimani and Erbil to boost awareness of Japanese culture.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?

I have always worked hard by myself, without getting myself or my business exposed to the business world. I was wondering if ever others are interested in this niche business of mine because after all, it has a very specific audience. Neither our country nor the culture supports it in a big way.

I filled out the Five One Labs application without expecting to get accepted, but I got the call all too suddenly from Miss Alice and was so thrilled. At last I could meet with other people with entrepreneurial minds, and they might understand my business! I got from it more than I ever imagined. To say it changed my life whole would not be a lie. I joined to find the right people to guide me along the right path! And I'm so glad I joined.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

I did market research all over and found out about my customers up close. I started tracking my sales and expenses, and the increased sales weeks after week made me all the more eager to do my best. Five One Labs has kindly provided me with comfortable shared office spaces, which is a big improvement over my previous place. I tried increasing the variety of products and brought Korean song albums (known as K-Pop), and I partnered with Zanyar Bookshop to sell my manga. The demand is surprisingly high there as well. Last but not least, I have opened up membership plans for those who wants to read but aren't interested in collecting, so they can read several titles for the price of one each month.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own project/business?

Stick to your values and whatever you're set to accomplish. Family and friends may become great supporters, but they can never make up for the happiness in living your life the way you truly want!  

Believe in yourself and your projects!

Be Willing to Act! Start Now!

You can. You will!

Meet the Founder: Zhinya Hadi

This week’s entrepreneur, Zhinya Hadi, founder of Medchar, tells us about how her startup is solving challenges related to medical data. Have a read to learn more!

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Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

I'm Zhinya Hadi, a 24-year-old graduate from Sulamaniya University - College of Medicine. I'm currently working as a resident doctor. I have always been passionate about business and entrepreneurship. I have previously worked with several medical companies, and finding out about the overlap between technology and medicine has always been my pursuit.

What is your business idea?

I'm working on building an online platform that connects doctors, patients and their medical needs in a patient-centered environment, aiming to return the ownership of medical data back to patients, and building connections and trust between them.

What challenges does your business address?

The challenge of electronic medical data is one of the hot topics worldwide, and the solutions are wide and variable. With Medchar, we are aiming to build a community on a safe and secure platform that can lead patients through their medical journey -- from finding their doctor and saving their medical data, to taking their medications and their follow up. This can be safely practiced as it would not in any way be an online clinic but rather a platform for saving medical data and guidance of patients by the doctors whom they visit in person.

Medchar can be a great solution as it can be used in developing as well as developed countries. It would give patients ownership of their medical data, and doctors will be the supervisor of their patients with one click. This can be a potentially life-saving program as you can always travel with your documents in hand or easily give your doctors all they need to know about your health.

Why have all your social information on Facebook but live with missing pieces of the most important information -- your health data!

In every novelty lies regeneration, and for every need a number of potential solutions lie ahead. The idea of Medchar came to me during my last year of medical school, as I met one of our patients, Ahmed, who was in a very bad state of health, simply because of the lack of knowledge and guidance. He had a brain tumor, and because it took so much time, transferring him between doctors and investigations, by the time we met him, sadly he was comatose. This definitely could have been prevented if his doctors had a tool to communicate with each other and also to keep contact with Ahmed and supervise him to not go to the wrong places and lose time.

Bringing this solution into life has not been without challenges, and so far for Medchar most of the challenges have been in the form of finding a good group of coders and financial support for that, but whenever a need exists, a solution must be the answer as well. If you can simplify and make this solution sustainable and developing, you have the recipe for building a business. This would be challenging of course, but persistence and having the right kind of support is all you need to make it happen.

Why did you join the Five One Labs incubator?

After finishing my medical degree, I was fortunate enough to have some time at hand. Being curious about business and entrepreneurship, this was the best opportunity to explore this field. When I heard about this program, which was a full-time, three-month intensive business and leadership skills training, this was just the right point to start working on an idea that had been whirling in my mind for a long time.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

The Five One Labs incubator program is providing the support and community, and Medchar's improvement has been a journey of formulating a business buildup. Our prototype is taking its feedback from users to build the Medchar community.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own project/business?

To be passionate about an idea is not enough, but this definitely at times is the only reason to not give up, so choose to work on what you believe is meant to be done. Build your knowledge and research around the potential solutions, and invest in building your network of support and mentorship. You will never know when you could have missed an opportunity.

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Apply today for the Ignite for Tech Program!


Five One Labs is pleased to announce IGNITE, our very first entrepreneurship program focusing on achieving product market fit. This program will help you better understand the market you are competing in and how you can create the most value for your customers.

We are now recruiting tech-entrepreneurs from diverse communities all around Iraq to participate in this month-long program. If you are passionate about a tech-focused startup idea and want to learn the skills to turn it into a business, this program is right for you!

We will be running this program three times over the course of the coming months. Please see below for more information.

The full application for the program can be found here. Applications are due by March 27th at 11:59pm.

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What do you get from joining Ignite?

Five One Labs entrepreneurs are provided with a variety of support. Our vision is to develop an inclusive network of innovators that have the support, skills, and connections to positively change their communities and countries.

We do our best to give you all the support and resources available to us. This includes:

  1. Hands on training to help you learn the fundamentals of starting a business. There will be three trainings per week focusing on hard business skills and design thinking,

  2. Connections to the business and tech community, investors, and mentors, along with access to marketing, design, and technical experts as you grow your business,

  3. The full support of a world-class team of trainers, advisors, and friends at Five One Labs who will push forward to succeed

  4. Join the growing Five One Labs community and get access to networking events and an entrepreneurial family to share the experience with!

Who is eligible to apply?

All applicants must meet the following requirements to be considered for the program:

  • Have the ability to read, write, and speak in English,

  • Have a tech-related business idea that they want to launch,

  • Are willing to work on their business full time (9:00am- 5:00pm from Sunday through Thursday every week) as if it were your job,

  • Are able to be in Sulaimani for the entirety of the program (Please note that if you live outside of Sulaimani, we have a small number of scholarships available to help cover costs of housing and transportation).

Program Dates

We will hold three separate Ignite programs before the launch of our full time incubator program running from September-November, 2019. Please note that although this is a standalone program, completing the Ignite program is a requirement for applying to the  the full time incubator program running in September 2019.

The dates are as follows:

  • April 1 - 30th (Full time weekdays, Sundays through Thursdays from 9am to 5pm)

  • June 2nd - 30th (Full time weekdays, Sundays through Thursdays from 9am to 5pm)

  • July 1st - 30th (Full time weekdays, Sundays through Thursdays from 9am to 5pm)

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The Five One Labs Tech Incubator

Our three-month incubator takes you through the steps necessary to turn your idea into a reality. By the end of the incubator, you will have developed a solution that fits your customers’ needs, and you will have built a working version of it (a Minimum Viable Product). You will have developed a professional-looking pitch deck about your idea and will have the opportunity to present it to Five One Labs management, mentors, advisors, and potential investors. You will have defined your business model, built connections to an incredible network of mentors and advisors around the world, and will be significantly closer to launching your business.

Graduates from the Five One Labs Incubator program will have the opportunity to compete for seed funding of up to $15,000!

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 or send us a message on our Facebook page!

Programming at The Lab:Suli is generously supported by GIZ.

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Meet the Founder: Saman Karim

For all of our football fan readers, you are in luck! This “Meet the Founder” post features Saman Karim, Sulaimani’s premier football manager who is working on launching a football academy!


Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Saman Karim, and I am from Sulaimani province in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. I'm a former football player and manager.

What is your business idea?

My business idea is to create a soccer academy for our region because we currently don't have an academy anywhere in Iraq that can create professional soccer players. In addition to the academy, we have also created an agency to represent these professional players.

What challenges is your business addressing?

The challenge we have is that we need investors to build this academy and to represent players. Most of the talented players in our region come from poor or low-income families and don't have enough money to participate in trial play and showcases that they may want to attend in neighboring countries.

Can you tell us about your experience starting your business?

We conducted research about our project with a population of 950 men of every age in Sulaimani, and 97% of them felt positively about the need to build this academy for our region. More than 60% of them are ready to pay more than $2500 every year, and through our calculation we can derive benefit from our academy without selling any players.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?

I joined the Five One Labs incubator because of my trust in them. I knew they would do their best to make our dreams come true.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

We participated in a trial play in Turkey for 15 days with two players, and now we want to send a talented player to Spain for a club in division 5. However, this participation has been slow because of the costs associated with this, and so often players don’t participate in large numbers.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own project/business?

Don't give up and stay focused. If you slow down along the way, don't give up. Someday you will get what you want.

Meet the Founder: Sozan Khalil

This week’s featured entrepreneur, Sozan, is passionate about engineering and agriculture and has combined these two interests to launch Sarbany Sawz, Sulaimani’s first green roofing company!


Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Sozan. I was born and live in Sulaimani. I am a civil engineer, and I have four years experience in the field of construction.

What is your business idea?

I have experience in construction and my business idea, which is “living roof” or green roofing, is also related to that field. I want to encourage and help people to use the extra area in their houses and buildings, which is their roof, and make it green to have their own green area and plant vegetables. We are using a system which consists of many layers to protect the roof and plants, and this is an engineering system used by many countries in the world.

What challenges is your business addressing?

There are many challenges can be addressed for living roof. First, as land continues to be replaced with impervious surface due to population growth and urbanization, air pollution and temperature increase in cities, so the necessity to recover green space is becoming increasingly critical. Additionally, lack of green space affects people mentally and physically. According to the World Health Organization, nine out of ten people breathe polluted air in the world, and this kills seven million people every year.

Second, the lack of green space and soil cause stormwater runoff (flooding) during heavy raining, which results in water pollution in the cities because  a large amount of rain water goes to sewer system.

Third, people in the Kurdistan Region don't have access to organic vegetables, and they don't have enough space in their houses to grow them even though many people are passionate about having the ability to grow their own produce.

Finally, the roofs of most houses in the Kurdistan Region are not insulated well, and people spend a lot of money on electricity and fuel to keep their homes warm in winter and cold in summer.

All these problems and more can be solved by having a living roof.

Can you tell us about your experience starting your business?

Starting anything in life is kind of difficult, and if it's a business it is much more difficult. Starting a business is full of responsibility, but it's not impossible if you have passion about what you are doing. I faced many challenges and problems, some of which I could handle easily but others were not easy, and I still face obstacles.

Despite these difficulties, launching my own business has given me a lot of enjoyment because I have been working on something I truly believe in and am passionate about. It taught me many things that I could never get if I wasn't in a business. It made me stronger knowing all those wonderful friends who supported each other all the time.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own business?

If you have an idea that you truly believe in and are passionate about, and you know it can solve people's problems, then you have enough reason to start your own business.

Do not only work for money or think that there is someone who needs your product or service. Do not expect that it will be easy. While some things are uphill, they are worthwhile. Your passion and enthusiasm will push you to overcome any obstacle and difficulty that comes to you.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?

I always had the dream to not work for others but to instead work for myself, as we already used our roofs for planting vegetables, and I saw that other people did the same but not in a professional engineering way. Because of this, I thought that it would be great if I could help people use their roofs for green area, but I didn't know how to do it.

When my friend told me about Five One Labs, and I looked at their Facebook page and website, I saw how they are doing their job in a very professional way and helped many other people. I thought it would be great opportunity if I could participate in this program, so directly I applied, hoping I would be accepted. And here I am, about to start my own business.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

Before I joined the incubator, I didn't know anything about business, how to start, and what processes I should follow for starting a business. Five One Labs taught us everything necessary related to business and introduced us many business owners so that we could get benefit from their experience. I learned everything necessary to start my business, and I worked on my business a lot, l did market research, finished my business model, finished my prototype and my financial plan for the next three years, among other things.

Meet the Founder: Laylan Attar

This week’s featured founder is Laylan Attar, who is launching Dada, Sulaimani’s first babysitting app!


Can you give a brief introduction about yourself?

My name is Laylan and I am 28 years old, a graduate with IT degree and Business administration as minor. I am also a mother of wonderful little girl who was born in January. I was born in Baghdad and lived there for 17 years, but I am originally from Sulaimani where I’m currently settled. My husband Botan Burhan is also my partner. He is 30 years old, from Sulaimani and an IT graduate with a concentration in web technologies.

What is your business idea?

I joined Five One Labs with a business idea that came out of a personal need for a babysitting service that connects parents with babysitters to watch their children for a temporary time.

What challenges is your business addressing?

My business addresses a number of challenges. For working parents, once they have children and build their family, they often have to give up their jobs opportunities or their social life. Additionally, children need love and care but also need their parents to be sane and happy.

This babysitting solution gives peace of mind for the parents and the quality time for their children. It is for children between ages 1 to 12 years and is flexible, affordable and safe.

This service helps in making a healthier family environment and creating job opportunities for qualified babysitters who love spending time with children. It is the first organized platform in Sulaimani.

Can you tell us about your experience starting your business?

Starting my own business required persistence and ambition and a desire to truly want to start this solution and to believe in it.

Since I joined the incubator, it was a very rewarding experience. It prepared me through the guidance of the trainers, and the mentorship that I received from very intelligent and experienced mentor Caroline, made the process possible. Also, the environment of being surrounded by wonderful entrepreneurs encouraged me to think that nothing is impossible. Three months of training, meeting businessmen and women, meeting inspiring speakers and sharing great resources all prepared me to be in that world mentally and physically.

We started with brainstorming ideas among the entrepreneurs and then testing the idea by interviewing people in the market related to my segment. We then built and tested a prototype, which was the best step before launching the business idea. Finally we approached customers, built a marketing strategy, budgeted, and answered legal questions.

When my first customer tried the service, it was full of remarks and feedback. It only meant that no matter how prepared I was, there is still a lot to be improved. When it is your business idea, you will take care of it as if it’s your own little baby. So I will always take care of my little baby to be a matured premier service in the market.

Why did you join the Five One Labs startup incubator?

It was always my dream to bring a change and be the manager of my own. I always thought I needed experience and education to start my own business. But knowing there is such a place as Five One Labs, which required nothing from the participants but an idea, gave me a new hope. So I joined the incubator with an idea  and now im wrong, it mostly required the belief to be the manager of my own and run my own business.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

To be remembered: My friend once told me that her daughter’s pediatrician's wife was looking for a solution as she has children and needed someone to watch them. Then my friend told her about my solution. Accidently, she was one of the people that I interviewed randomly during the testing phase in the market. She remembered my name and my solution positively which is a great opportunity for a potential clients.

Progress I made during the incubator included networking; testing my business idea by running a couple of babysitting sessions and getting reviews and feedback from them; finding new potential babysitters; finding training programs for the babysitters; and starting the legal process.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own project/business?

My advice is:

  • Never ever start a business idea without testing the need for it in the market.

  • Have a strong instinct and believe in yourself when everyone else against you.

  • Be positive. You will attract opportunities.

  • Read a lot and be aware of what’s going on around you.

  • It is a lot of work, sacrifice and responsibility so be prepared.

  • And plan ahead and have a vision.

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Meet the Founder: Sirwan Ezaddin

In this week's "Meet the Founder" post, we are introducing Sirwan Ezaddin, an entrepreneur who graduated from our first incubator cohort in Sulaimani in December 2018. Sirwan is the founder of Gas App, an online platform that helps you order gas, water, and fuel in a smarter, faster and more efficient way.


Can you give a brief introduction of yourself?

My name is Sirwan Ezaddin. I was born in Salahaddin, and spent much of my life traveling throughout Iraq and Kurdistan. I currently live in Sulaimani city with my wife and two children. I graduated from Kirkuk University with a degree in Computer Science. I have 10 years of experience in IT specializing in client support as a supervisor.

What is your business idea?

The idea for the project came while I was sitting in my garden with my family. Every day as we would sit under the sun, we were disrupted by loud music from the gas trucks. Every five minutes a new truck came, blasting its music. All I wanted was to sit in peace with my family.

What challenges does your business address?

The more I looked into this problem, the more I realized that the issue was much bigger than I had anticipated. Not only do the gas customers find the noise disturbing, but the gas suppliers disliked the method, too! It turns out that this approach of selling gas was inefficient and wasted many resources. Suppliers wasted time and fuel searching aimlessly for customers while customers in other parts of the city weren’t being reached. I knew this was a problem that millions of people were facing, so I chose to create Gas App.

Gas App is an online platform that helps you order gas, water, and fuel in a smarter, faster and more efficient way by connecting customers and suppliers. The app has many features that allow you to manage your orders, track your usage, and contact an after sales service representative. Because of the growing access to mobile phones and internet connection, this is a much better system than the current method of purchasing these items.

Why did you join the Five One Labs incubator?

I chose Five One Labs because I needed someone to guide me in my first steps as an entrepreneur. I knew I could do it but I wasn’t sure where to start. Five One Labs helped me open a new door in my life.

What progress have you made on your business since joining the incubator?

Over the past four months, I worked every day on my project. I learned how to conduct market research, develop my strategy, and build and test various prototypes. I was able to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of my personal leadership style and develop myself as a professional.  Through the program, I was put into contact with organizations such as the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) along with other successful businesses. This was a great help to keep me continuously working on my project and growing as an entrepreneur.

What advice do you have for someone trying to start their own project/business?

If I could give advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, it would be to take risks. I took a big risk when I chose to leave my job and become an entrepreneur. I want to encourage them to take the risk too and start their own business so that they can be free to think and build how they want.

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Apply today for the Female Founders Fellowship!

The the Female Founders Fellowship is designed to give women the support they need to grow their businesses in Erbil and Sulaimani. Apply by Jan 19th at 11:59pm to be considered!


After speaking with women entrepreneurs from Iraq and Syria to learn more about their experiences launching a business, we have designed a program specifically for incredible women entrepreneurs.

Through this program, we intend to foster a collaborative learning environment through skills sharing and team work. The program starts on January 26th, 2019.

We are looking for a group of 8-10 women to join our fellowship program in Erbil and Sulaimani. During our 4 month program, Fellows will accomplish three main goals:

  1. They will make major steps to grow their business by taking action to reach their personal goals,

  2. Learn new skills related to business, leadership, management, and more,

  3. Build their professional network and confidently communicate their professional brand.


What does the program consist of?

We are expecting you to be the leaders and drivers of your business, and we will support you to do this in a variety of ways.

The program will have four main components, each intended to develop the entrepreneur in a unique way:

  1. Four training workshops: These workshops are intended to teach entrepreneurs new skills. Topics of these workshops will contain business, leadership, and design thinking components; however, each training will be designed based on the needs of the participants.

  2. Weekly meetings: These sessions are designed to hold the group accountable for each other’s success. You will meet on a weekly basis to define goals, discuss progress, and contribute insights to the group as a whole. You will spend at least 10% of your time helping other fellows meet their goals during this program.

  3. Support staff: Each fellow will be matched with 1-2 supporters to help her manage her business. These supporters will be trained on specific business concepts such as marketing, sales, financial management, and more. This component will provide the fellow with real management skills and an extra hand to get the work done.

  4. Networking events: Finally the fellow will be invited to different networking, press, and public speaking events intended to push the entrepreneur out of her comfort zone.  

Who is eligible to apply?

All entrepreneurs must be committed to participating in the full length of the program from January 26 through May 2019.


  • Have strong self-motivation and professionalism

  • Possess a good level of English speaking and writing skills

  • Are able to attend training sessions and weekly meetings in either Erbil or Sulaimani

Your business:

In order to apply, entrepreneurs and their businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a growth stage entrepreneur. This means that you must:

    • Be operating your business for at least 1-3 years

    • Have paying customers

    • You have a recognized brand in the market and you are ready to increase sales and market share

  • Your business must provide a solution to a problem in your community

  • Your business can be a physical store, online, or social media business

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 or send us a message on our Facebook page!

Programming at The Lab:Suli is generously supported by GIZ.

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