Meet the Youth Start Up winners in Iraq

Start Up winners 2021

Jihad the overall winner of the challenge with his winner cheque
UNICEF Iraq 2021
19 April 2021

Name: Jihad Yousif Baqi

Age: 22

Gender: Male

Legal Status: Host community

Academic background: Software Engineer

Business Name: Freemium

“Youth Incubator was one of the greatest programs I’ve participated in, I have learned everything I need about business to start my own business. If you have an idea and you need guidance, Incubator is where you start”.

Jihad is a 22-year-old entrepreneur and a software engineer. He is the founder of Freemium, a communication, management, and service providing software for landlords, tenants, and more.

Jihad believes in innovative, new, and creative problem-solving ideas that can improve our society's quality of living. He gets his inspiration from reading about the latest technology revolutions and how they affect other communities.

Once Jihad was visiting a friend of his who lives in a residential compound. He noticed the struggles and miscommunication his friend had with the compound management. So, he decided to develop “Freemium” because he saw an opportunity, a problem to be solved, and a missing value that could be given to his community. Freemium provides the connection between tenants and landlords that is so often missing.

Jihad needed to have the necessary business skills and guidance on how to do a market and user research in order to take the first steps of launching “Freemium”. Therefore, he joined Five One Labs Youth Incubator Program, in partnership with AVSI and the General Directorate of Youth and Sports and funded by UNICEF. During the incubator, he built his prototype which is an early version of his application. Also, he started testing it through user interviews. In addition, he worked on a complete financial model for three years, a product development and a marketing and branding strategy. He also got inspired to add more innovative features to his application as a result.


Now, after winning 7,000 USD as seed funding funded by UNICEF, Jihad can turn his idea into a real business. He plans to use the seed funding on developing the application for Freemium and on his marketing strategy.


His advice to future entrepreneurs is to always do market research before they start any business, make sure their solution is needed, and listen to the feedback they get during their research.

Yaseen, took second place in the start up challenge

Name: Yaseen Abdullah Yaseen

Age: 20

Gender: Male

Legal Status: Host community

Academic background: Software Engineering Student

Business Name: Paryas

"For me the incubator was a door to learn the principles of business and to meet successful business around me to understand that I am not alone in the boat."

Yaseen is a 20-year-old software engineering student and the founder and CEO of Paryas, an online bookstore application providing books in three different languages. He is passionate about UX/UI design as an effective way to solve problems and make a change in his community.

Yaseen enjoys solving old problems with new technology, which is why he started his own business, “Paryas.” He promises that Paryas will be the start of solving many more issues in the future.

Yaseen believes “Paryas” is not only about making it easy to get books but also creating remarkable experiences for his users. Through Paryas, readers can order hard-to-find books and communicate with other readers to discuss the books they enjoy and exchange knowledge. Besides, Paryas users can make their own libraries.

Although Yaseen is a UX/UI designer, he needed to learn more about his customers and their needs in addition to business and leadership skills. For this reason, he decided to join the Five One Labs Youth Incubator program, in partnership with AVSI and the General Directorate of Youth and Sports funded by UNICEF.

Through this program, he learned how to implement outstanding business strategies, customer research, and financial model creation for the next three years. He could also prototype a complete User Interfaces of his application with the prototype budget he received.

Yaseen won $5000 as seed funding which is funded by UNICEF, and he will benefit from it by using it on marketing, branding his business, and developing his application with the highest standards.

His advice to future entrepreneurs is to surround themselves with hard-working people who keep motivating them. He believes starting a business is exciting and stressful, so he wants to guide others to stay around people who give off positive vibes.

Ahmed who came 3rd holding his cheque

Name: Ahmed Mohammed Barjas

Age: 23

Gender: Male

Legal Status: IDP

Academic background: Medical Analyst

Business Name: IraqTM esport

”Youth Incubator was one of the best and the most beautiful experiences I have ever had”.

Ahmed is a 23-year-old medical analyst and entrepreneur from Shingal. He is the founder of IraqTM Esport, a platform for electronic sports in Iraq.

Because of his interest in technology and video games, Ahmed came up with the idea of creating e-sports to spread the culture of electronic sports in Iraq so that the youth can use it to show their skills. IraqTm E-sport provides several gaming services, including organizing e-sport competitions, recruiting and training gamers to become gaming professionals, operating e-sports viewers’ channels, and providing gaming products.

Since joining Five One Labs’ Youth Incubator program in partnership with AVSI and the General Directorate of Youth and Sports and funded by UNICEF, Ahmed has learned more about his customers. He has developed his service and financial model for the upcoming three years.

Ahmed is a creative leader and doesn’t enjoy daily routines. That is why he decided to start his own business in his favorite field, video games.

Besides, he acquired management skills and business ethics. With the prototype budget he received during the Incubator, he could improve the platform and work on the application.

After winning a seed funding of $5000 from Five One Labs, funded by UNICEF, Ahmed will launch his application, register his business, and start marketing campaigns to reach more customers.

Ahmed’s advice to future entrepreneurs is to believe in their ideas. Keep an eye on the market and do market research. He wants them not to give up, organize their time and keep going.


Dania the only lady winner holding her winners cheque

Name: Dania Abbas

Age: 22

Gender: Female

Legal Status: Host community

Academic background: English major teacher/translator

Business Name: Reborn with Gluten-Free

 My dreams were stuck in the clouds but this opportunity helped plant them in the ground.

Dania is 22 years old. She was born and raised in Erbil. She is the founder and CEO of “Reborn with Gluten-Free”, a service that provides gluten-free products to gluten-sensitive people and helps them live healthier lives.

Dania is allergic to gluten and struggles to find her desired products because no market or restaurant offers gluten-free food in Kurdistan. After conducting market research, she realized many other people are suffering from the same issue. Therefore, she had the idea to start this business as a solution to gluten-sensitive people's problems.

Dania’s dream is to be an independent leader and a boss. She had a business idea and had no clue how to make it a reality. She joined Five One Labs Youth Incubator Program in partnership with AVSI and the General Directorate of Youth and funded by UNICEF, where she learned to build, design, and lead a business. Through the training and advisory sessions, she was able to turn the idea into a real business and start developing herself as a leader.

After winning 5,000 USD as seed funding awarded by Five One Labs, and funded by UNICEF, Dania will launch her business and develop her website. Also, she will have her products available at affordable prices so that everyone from her market segment benefits. Besides, she will work on her marketing strategy and start promoting her business.

Her advice to future entrepreneurs is not to give up because she was studying and working on her business simultaneously; lack of time was a barrier for her; many advised her to quit. However, she decided to manage her time and continue, and that is what made her successful.


Noor one of the five winners

Name: Mohammed Noor Jabas

Age: 23

Gender: Male

Legal Status: Syrian Refugee

Academic background: Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Aleppo University

Business Name: KurDictionary


“You see things; you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were, and I say 'Why not?' ”

“It was a life-changing experience, and they encouraged me to take the dictionary to a real-life” Mohammed Noor is 23 years old from Aleppo, Syria, an entrepreneur and electrical and electronics engineer. He is the founder of Kur Dictionary, the first dictionary that provides pronunciation features for the Kurdish language.

When Mohammed Noor first arrived in Kurdistan, he faced a big problem: communication in Kurdish. The available dictionaries were just providing the meanings of the words, not the pronunciation. Therefore, he had a plan to solve this problem for himself and other foreigners and came up with Kur Dictionary to make other people’s lives easier. Kur Dictionary includes words and phrases sorted into categories to help non-Kurds in their daily lives; the home interface contains more than 40,000 words that users can browse between and search for a specific one.

Mohammed Noor needed to have the necessary skills to conduct the market research to know if  “KurDictionary” is a feasible idea. Therefore, Mohammed joined Five One Labs Youth Incubator Program in partnership with AVSI and the General Directorate of Youth and funded by UNICEF. He completed the Android application (beta version) during the Youth Incubator and has included more than 1000 words and phrases for now. The moment Mohammed released the beta version of his dictionary app, it had many users. Besides that, he learned to start a business as a whole.

After winning 1,000 USD as an honorable award and extra prototype stipend funded by UNICEF, Mohammed Noor can develop an iOS version to target more users, get better equipment to record the audios.

His advice to future entrepreneurs is not to not rush. They should think wisely, focus on the target, and always believe that they can achieve anything with hard work.

With support from the Government of Germany, UNICEF and partner AVSI  supported the Youth Innovation Challenge in Iraq for young people in the internally displaced, refugee and host communities. The winners received seed funding to further develop their innovations and start ups ranging from $7000 to $1000.