Hello Sulaimani: Our Fall 2018 Cohort of Startups!

After the successful completion of our Startup Incubator in Erbil last year, we are thrilled to welcome our newest cohort of startups to our Incubator in Sulaimani.

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With the hope to find innovative and passionate entrepreneurs, we have spent the past few months recruiting a diverse group of entrepreneurs from all over Iraq. During this process, we evaluated over 165 candidates, conducted many hours of interviews, and hosted nearly 30 entrepreneurs at our Innovation Hub for an intensive boot camp. We are happy to say that our rigorous recruitment process has paid off!

On September 23rd, 2018 we had the pleasure to welcome 17 new entrepreneurs to our Five One Labs community. These entrepreneurs come from a variety of backgrounds and industries ranging from technology to agriculture. With 7 female led startups and 8 entrepreneurs who have been displaced, we ensure that all members of the community feel welcome at Five One Labs.

During the three month incubator program, our entrepreneurs will be provided with intensive training, experienced mentors, and a collaborative workspace. They have access to a wealth or resources and industry experts to guide them on their journey as young entrepreneurs.

Every component of the program is designed to give Five One Labs entrepreneurs realistic and hands-on experience to prepare them for actually running a business. Through this approach, entrepreneurs learn hard business skills, effective leadership skills, and design training.  After the completion of the program, entrepreneurs will use their new business knowledge and skills to compete for up to $15,000 worth of seed funding to launch their businesses.

Not only are Five One Labs entrepreneurs interested in building up the economy in Iraq, they are also focused on building a strong sense of community. Our entrepreneurs are working to solve real life problems that people face on a daily basis.  This includes access to life saving medical information, products and services that promote healthy lifestyles, and technology that will bring quality education to those who need it most (to name a few).

We are so proud to welcome these new entrepreneurs!

Meet the Founder: Znara Ahmed

In this week's "Meet the Founder" post, we are introducing Znara Ahmed, an artist and entrepreneur from Syria who is on a mission to spread art throughout Kurdistan. Znara participated in Five One Labs' Entrepreneur Academy, where she worked to launch her business -- a multipurpose art space that serves as a gallery and an art school.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

My name is Znara Ahmed. I graduated with an Art degree in Syria and my major was in ceramic. I like all art, especially, of course, ceramics, but also painting, photography and art management.

In the past, I worked as part of the faculty at the Art Institute in Damascus. I have also participated in three art shows in Erbil, including one in partnership with Five One Labs. Further, I have worked as an executive manager at Kurdistan Little Village, a children’s learning center, where I supervised an art program.

My work in photography has included being a trainer in Terre des Hommes Italia, an NGO, Goethe institute Germany. I have also worked with Save the Children. I also implemented a children’s TV program with ZaraTV, focused on claywork.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

As I have a strong background in the field, I came to realize there was a gap in Iraq generally when it came to art. This was the case in Kurdistan, especially as people often do not pay attention to the sector. This gave me the idea for my business.

What’s your business’s current mission?

I consider art to be the face of the community of any nation. It is important to advocate the sector. My business’s current mission is to create a place for children, youth and retired people to explore their creativity and develop their talent while in a gallery.

How did you break into the business world?

The idea of giving business a go first struck me after participating in a business module in the Five One Labs program through their Entrepreneur Academy. This motivated me to get started because from the program I had learned how to start a project, how to advertise and how to market a product. This coupled with my desire to share the experience I have and the opportunity to advocate the importance of integrating art into daily life inspired me to get started.

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

Anyone planning to start their own business or project, you must first identify the following: the plan, the location, the target and beneficiaries. They must also evaluate and research similar projects and identify any weak point so he/she can overcome these in their own work. Do lots of research to identify the cost of starting a new project. Be sure to market and advertise your product. Finally, pay attention to the importance of leadership and be prepared to be flexible when managing staff.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

The skills are: flexibility and the ability to make decisions; problem solving; leadership and management; and communication.

Describe your typical day.

My typical day is based on planning, taking time to focus and at the end of the day, considering the results of any achievements made.

What’s your favourite part of the work you do?

I like the endless creativity that can be found in art. I also love that it gives me the opportunity to share my experiences with others and learn how art affects their lives. Finally, it is always great to sell one of my pieces of art.

Do you feel you have faced any obstacles as a female entrepreneur and how have you overcome these?

In general, most females in the country face issues in being an entrepreneur. This is especially the case if you work in the art sector, which in itself is already challenging in Kurdistan. The way I overcome these challenges is by not letting myself be stopped by them and by focusing on how to be productive. I believe having a strong personality and faith behind your goal gives you the power to change the way others think.

How do you see the future of business and entrepreneurship for women?

I can see success. I also have high hopes for the future of handmade projects designed specifically by those who cannot read or write.

Meet the Founder: Ameen Hadeed

In this week's "Meet the Founder" post, we are introducing Ameen Hadeed, an entrepreneur from Mosul who cares deeply about fitness and public health. Ameen participated in the Five One Labs Startup Bootcamp in Erbil in May and came in first place in the individual pitch competition for his business idea, Lipido.


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

I am Ameen Hadeed, from Mosul. I am 26 years old. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. My business idea is to help people, of both genders, who are discontent with their body image and fitness, to get to a place where they are happy and healthy. This is through customised meal plans, training courses, and a circle meeting game play to help them learn how to work their best to achieve their goals effectively.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals which my business focuses on are: good health and well being, gender equality and industry innovation and infrastructure.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Since 2012, I have been working as a volunteer in youth development campaigns and activities with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, alongside groups of young, motivated friends.

It all began when I was working in a small shop selling computers in Mosul. I noticed something was missing in the way we were working. I wanted to differentiate ourselves and stand out in the market. I started thinking about how to make a business thats stands out and beats the competition.

In 2014, when ISIS invaded Mosul, I lost my job and all the money sources in the city shrank. New challenges stood in front of all the people living here, and money, especially, was one of them.

In 2016 I started a small internet service provider with money that had been left to me. I started to search for answers to my earlier problem: “How to start a special business that works?” However, times were tough back then. The circumstances we were facing inside the city were the hardest a man could endure. I was determined to search for a good number of to read about.  I began downloading books to feed my curiosity on the topic.

I wanted new relationships with people with similar beliefs and ideas, especially after the war.

I decided to choose a new path because I knew there wouldn’t be job offers in the future because of the different obstacles Iraq faces. After the war ended in East Mosul, where I live, we were liberated, thank Allah. Safely, I went to complete my fourth stage of college and then started to work again. Following this, I participated in a large workshop, the “UNDP Innovation for Development,” at both the basic and advanced level. It was a huge turning point for me because I wanted new relationships with people with similar beliefs and ideas, especially after the war. I was working to fill the gap by learning and experimenting with the necessary skills be a successful entrepreneur.

I’m passionate about fitness and have specialized knowledge in the field. So the idea flashed into my head as the market had large potential and opportunity. I am now starting to execute my idea in Mosul as a franchise.

How did you break into the business world?

I went on to make prototypes for my startup, until I finally succeeded when I participated in Five One Labs Startup Bootcamp in the “Entrepreneurship for all” program in May 2018. There I learned how to validate my idea and went on to be the winner in the pitch competition for individuals for my idea “Lipido.” I made great progress with the support of Five One Labs’ Director of Training and Business Development, Pat Cline, as a mentor.     

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

My advice to would-be entrepreneurs is to take time learning the different roles of an entrepreneur while also having the mindset, the vision and the necessary skills and tools to think, act, and innovate.

Also, it is important to to read a lot about entrepreneurship and to start a business that you are passionate about. A business that solves a clear and definite problem. Don't be afraid to fail, because failure is a great teacher. Entrepreneurs are well known as risk takers, so I encourage you to take responsibility of your decisions.

Don't be afraid to fail, because failure is a great teacher.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

There are three skills I emphasize particularly. Firstly, cash flow management because it is the foundation of a business. When there is no money, you’ll be out of business. Secondly, communication is important in how you share your ideas to customers, employees and partners when you are trying to sell it. Finally, the last skill is to have the visionary mindset of an entrepreneur, to work on your business and not in it and lead it to success.  

Describe/outline your typical day?

My typical day is focused on building and optimizing business systems so I can make sure the value is delivered the proper way and scale the business to grow.

What’s your favorite part of the work you do?

My favorite part of the work I do is the process, itself, of being an entrepreneur. For example, using skills like strategic thinking and coming up with innovative new product ideas and seeing the impact on the customers and their reactions.

Meet the Founder: Azhar Almadani

In this "Meet the Founder" post, we are introducing Azhar Almadani, the founder of Shiffer, a peer-to-peer logistics service platform for express shipping with minimal cost and faster transit time. Azhar participated in the Five One Labs Startup Bootcamp in Erbil in May.

Download the app here!


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

I was born and grew up in Syria. After my graduation from Civil Engineering college at Damascus University in 2012, I left it. After that, I visited many countries to start my new life (Malaysia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan), but Erbil was always the best. Because of this I have now lived in Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq since 2013. Currently, I am studying a Supply Chain Management MicroMasters at MITx through the EDX platform. I am doing this on a scholarship from the Al Ghurair Foundation for Education. I am also interested in data analysis, therefore I have also started studying a Microsoft professional program in data science. So far, I have completed two out of nine courses.

In September 2017, I started thinking about the problems related to Syrian express shipping. This led me to my business “Shiffer”, a peer-to-peer logistics service platform for express shipping with minimal cost and faster transit time. It is an online platform on the internet, on Android and iOS. Senders apply online with their contact details, shipment weight and type and request delivery time and origin and delivery address.

Our algorithm that matches the sender and the passenger generates the recommended cost of shipping depending on the global express shipping. After the approval, Shiffer manages the transaction between the two sides from picking up the shipment to deliver it to the receiving point.

How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

From my time as a Syrian immigrant, the cost of express shipping of documents, passports and proof of residence to Syria was high. My average yearly spend reached up to $180. On one day, I paid over $150 for a single paper to be sent. Also, the transit time is long, taking over 15 days to cities like Aleppo and Hama that are far away from Damascus. This is incredibly hard for each Syrian family, who will pay at least $55 for a single shipment. This is equal to more than half the wages of a Syrian employee. This led me to the concept of “Shiffer”.

Shiffer Logo

What was your mission at the outset? Has this mission changed?

When I started Shiffer, I was thinking of building a constant connection between the sender and their parcel so that they could monitor their shipment directly. Our primary goal was to make the system more accessible to Syrian immigrants.

Today, we now have our business up and running. We get a lot of advice from mentors and investors, allowing us to work independently and make changes in our business model. In the future, we are looking to build trust between the peers and protect them against any illegal transactions. Also, we are aiming to provide insurance on all our shipments. In particular, we want to ensure that the system is accessible for all developing and emerging countries. We aim to do this in the way we have designed our platform. We have used blockchain technology to give a 100% discount to all refugees in the world. Further to this, we also collaborate with the UNHCR in our work.

How did you break into the business world?

We participated in the Jusoor Entrepreneurship Boot Camp 2018 in Beirut. They pushed us to take the first step and make my business idea a reality. Following this we participated in the Five One Labs Boot Camp in Erbil in May 2018. They provided us with help and support to develop our business and grow on an international scale.

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

First, he must ask himself, does his business find a solution or need to a real problem in his community? Second, he should not delay his project, and get the confidence to start it as soon as possible with the right and good team.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  1. Being patient to face the problem and keep the hope to achieve his business idea.
  2. Being a good listener so that he can take on board a lot of advice to ensure his business is suited to his customer.
  3. Being an analytical thinker because the job of an entrepreneur is to find a solution to a problem. As such, he needs to analyze everything in his surroundings to find the right solution.

Describe your typical day.

Since March, I have been working full time at Shiffer. I wake up at 9am and first check my email and entrepreneurial news from around the world. After that, I start work. At 4pm I take a break. At 7pm, I start up again on my laptop and study the online course I am taking until I have completed my daily study plan. Over the last few weeks, I have also spent my mornings seeking a new job, as our Shiffer alpha version is now complete and we are going to launch it soon.

What’s your favorite part of the work you do?

Shiffer is logistics platform, the content of it is related directly to my masters degree in Supply Chain Management and has given me the opportunity to apply what I learnt then to my startup. In addition, my work allows me to provide a solution to and help people in my country.

Can you tell us about your personal experience of business and trade?

I grew up in a Syrian business family. A lot of my family members work in investment, the industrial sector and trade. In particular, my father was a businessman. When I was a child, I would spend a lot of time in his office. This developed my skill set before I went on to start my degree.

After five years of studying the field at university, I started a job as a project engineer and managing director for an Emirati construction company in Iraq. This gave me enough information and experience to found a new business and also provided me with connections and networking skills. During this work, I completed many projects in Kurdistan. The most important of them was the Grand Millennium Hotel Sulaimani (Shary Jwan). After this, I opened my own personal engineering office in Baxitiary, Erbil. Then I worked part time as a sales manager for a building materials factory in Erbil for four months.

Announcing Our Summer Innovators Program!

Five One Labs is pleased to announce that we are launching the applications for our first three-week summer program in Sulaimani, Iraq! We are recruiting creative students and young innovators with startup ideas to join our community. If you are passionate about a startup idea and are motivated to make it a reality, this program is right for you!

The application is open here and applications are due by Saturday July 7th at 11:59pm.

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

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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. Our first summer program in Sulaimani, Iraq will be held from July 22nd August 12th.

Participants are required to attend the training on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays from 4pm to 6pm each day. The trainings are held in Five One Labs' brand new Innovation Hub in Sulaimani, opposite of Faruk Group on Salim Street.

The Five One Labs summer program is a free, three-week long program for university students and young innovators that takes your business from idea to a reality. Over three weeks, we will teach you the skills to develop an innovative business idea. it's an action-packed, creative program where people learn how to develop and test business ideas, pitch their business, lead organizations or projects, and more.

You will go through intensive entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership training, and will be connected to a mentor with whom you will speak each week to obtain extra guidance. Participants who attend 90% of the training sessions and complete all homework assignments will receive a certificate of participation.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

We are looking for incredible university students or young innovators from diverse backgrounds who have a business idea! All participants must be committed to focusing developing their business over the three weeks (from July 22 to August 12). The expectations are that the individual or the team will come to the co-working space three days a week (Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and treat this as their opportunity to understand the business aspect behind their idea with the help of our qualified trainers and mentors. The entrepreneurs will also have a weekly Skype call with a mentor who will guide them through the process of creating a pitch deck.

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.

In addition, we strongly prefer teams over individuals, as we believe teams will be more successful in overcoming diverse challenges. Note: if you are applying as a team, each team member should submit a separate application. The information about the start up idea can be the same in the applications of team members.


  • Are a university student or aspiring entrepreneur with a creative idea for a new business
  • Possess a good level of English speaking and writing skills
  • Are willing to work with a diverse group of people in a multicultural environment
  • Have strong self-motivation and professionalism
  • Are able to attend the program in Sulaimani

If you are not sure you are eligible or have any other questions, please email us at application@fiveonelabs.org and we will respond immediately!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

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

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 if we are applying as a team? That’s great! Teams which work well together are more resilient and resourceful. We accept teams of up to 4 people. Each member of your team must complete a separate application form (the information about the startup idea can be the same in all applications). In addition, all team members must be able to commit fully to the three-week program.

What if I don’t speak English? Don’t worry, we’ll be running Kurdish and Arabic programming during the summer and in the future!

What will our schedule be each week? There will be three training sessions per week at the Five One Labs co-working space in Sulaimani, along with opportunities to put into practice what you learn and to get feedback from your mentors. The program will end with a pitch competition. 

Over the course of 3 weeks, there will be an entire curriculum that will cover topics related to launching a businesses, such as customer discovery, defining your value proposition, building business models, and strategy, among others.


Coming Soon: The Sulaimani Innovation Hub!

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Have you been wondering what Five One Labs has been up to?

Since last fall, we have been operating full-time in Erbil, where we organized a number of exciting innovation-related programs, including the Summer Startup Festival, our first full-time incubator and our Entrepreneurship for All program in partnership with IOM.

And now we have some exciting news! Five One Labs will is expanding to Sulaimani! As part of this expansion, we will be opening a coworking space that will be the center of Five One Labs’ entrepreneurship activities in Kurdistan. The Sulaimani Innovation Hub will be a coworking space for entrepreneurs looking for an inspiring place to work; a community space for ecosystem events; and a training space for entrepreneurship and technology programming. 

Over the last few months we have been looking all over Sulaimani to find a suitable place for this new coworking space. After a long search and looking at over ten different spaces, we were able to choose the most suitable place for our purpose. 

The new space is on Salm street, one of the busiest streets in the heard of Sulaimani. With more than 800 square meters of open space, we have the room to run large-scale events and have more people participating in our different programs and trainings. We are now in the process of finishing the construction, decoration, and furnishing in anticipation of our summer program that will begin in July. 

We have always wanted to expand our work across Kurdistan in order to reach  as many people as possible. Working with entrepreneurs in Sulaimani is a great way to get many more people involved in our programs and trainings. Since we have started offering trainings in Kurdish and Arabic, we expect a greater audience and this new space is the perfect size these kinds of trainings where we will have a greater audience. 

جلب ريادة الأعمال للناس


هل أنت مهتم بمعرفة كيفية بدء عمل تجاري؟ هل ترغب في أن يكون هذا التدريب بلغتك المحلية؟ هل تريد مقابلة أشخاص آخرين يفعلون ذلك أيضًا؟

بالشراكة مع المنظمة الدولية للهجرة  ، فإن شركة  "فايف ون لابز" لديها فرصة عظيمة لك! يسرنا أن نعلن عن إطلاق أحدث برمجياتنا تحت عنوان "ريادة الأعمال للجميع" ، وهي سلسلة من التدريبات والأحداث باللغة الكردية والعربية والإنجليزية لكل من يهتم بالابتكار وريادة الأعمال والقيادة والتأثير في مجتمعهم

في ورش العمل الشخصية

من  خلال شهري أبريل ومايو ، ستعمل شركة "فايف ون لابز" على توفير تدريب عالي الجودة على تنظيم المشاريع بشكل أفضل للمجتمعات المتنوعة في جميع أنحاء إقليم كردستان العراق ، وستدعم الشركات الناشئة التي تم إطلاقها حديثًا في الوصول إلى إمكاناتها الكاملة

سنستضيف عدداً من ورش العمل المكثفة في أربيل والسليماني باللغات الإنجليزية والعربية والكردية. ستشمل التدريبات مواضيع مفيدة وعملية مثل

التفكير في فكرة إبداعية  للأعمال -

تحسين مهاراتك العملية في العمل -

 إجراء البحوث على عملائك ، و -

 .تحسين مهاراتك كقائد -

!سننشر التواريخ والأوقات والمواقع في هذا التدوينة في المدونة حيث يتم الانتهاء من الجدول ، لذا تابعونا

التدريب عبر الإنترنت

بالنسبة لأولئك الذين قد لا يتمكنون من الانضمام إلينا شخصيًا ، نرحب بكم لحضور أحد دوراتنا التدريبية الأربعة على الإنترنت. إذا كنت مهتمًا ببدء نشاط تجاري ولكن ليس لديك فكرة حتى الآن ، فلدينا ورشة عمل مثالية لك! سنستضيف ثلاث دورات تدريبية على تطوير الأفكار والإبداع على الإنترنت باللغة الإنجليزية والعربية والكردية حيث سنسير على خطوات لكيفية إنشاء فكرة مشروعك الخاص


وأخيرًا ، سننظم ثاني "ستارتاب بوتكامب" للمبدعين الشباب في أربيل يوم 4 و 5 مايو! سيقوم برنامج "ستارتاب بوتكامب" (باللغة الإنجليزية) بتجميع المشاركين من خلال نسخة مختصرة من الخطوات التي تحتاجها للتعلم لبدء عملك ، بما في ذلك التفكير في فكرتك ، وإجراء الأبحاث على عملائك ، وبناء نموذج أولي أو عينة من منتجك وتقديم عرض ونص فكرتك

إذا كنت ترغب في التقدم للمشاركة في "ستارتاب بوتكامب ، يرجى ملء هذا الطلب بحلول يوم الثلاثاء ، 24 أبريل

ندعو الجميع لحضور دوراتنا التدريبية عبر الإنترنت وجميع الأحداث مجانية!  خبرة سابقة مع ريادة الأعمال أمر غير  ضروري

إذا كان لديك أي أسئلة ، يرجى مراسلتنا 

info@fiveonelabs.org أو  Facebook

نحن نتطلع إلى الاجتماع بك جميعًا شخصيًا أو عبر الإنترنت ، ونحن متحمسون للحصول على #StartupReady!


Entrepreneurship for All


Bringing entrepreneurship to the people.

Are you interested in learning how to start a business? Do you wish this training was in your local language? Do you want to meet other people who do, too?

In partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Five One Labs has a great opportunity for you! We are pleased to announce the launch of our newest programming called “Entrepreneurship for All,” a series of trainings and events in Kurdish, Arabic and English for anyone who is interested in innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership and making an impact in their community.


Through April and May, Five One Labs will make high-quality entrepreneurship training more accessible to diverse communities across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and will support newly-launched startups in reaching their full potential.

We will host a number of in-person, intensive workshops in Erbil and Sulaimani in English, Arabic and Kurdish. The trainings will include helpful and practical topics like:

  • Thinking of a creative business idea,
  • Improving your practical business skills,
  • Doing research on your customers, and
  • Improving your skills as a leader.

We will publish the dates, times and locations on this blog post as the schedule is finalized, so stay tuned!


For those who may not be able to join us in person, we welcome you to attend one of our four online innovation trainings. If you are interested in starting a business but don’t have an idea yet, we have the perfect workshop for you! We will be hosting three online idea development and creativity trainings in English, Arabic and Kurdish where we will walk through steps for how you can create your own business idea. 


Finally, we will be organizing our second weekend-long Startup Bootcamp for young innovators in Erbil on May 4 and 5! The Startup Bootcamp (in English) will take participants through an shortened version of the steps you need to learn to start your business, including thinking of your idea, doing research on your customers, building a prototype or sample of your product and presenting and pitching your idea.

If you are interested in applying to participate in the Bootcamp, please fill out this application by Tuesday, April 24.

We invite everyone to attend our in-person and online trainings and all events are free! No past experience with entrepreneurship is necessary. 

If you have any questions, please email us at info@fiveonelabs.org or send us a message on Facebook!

We look forward to meeting you all in person or online and are excited to get you #StartupReady!