Shahs of Angels

For the last few weeks I’m thinking about starting an angel network for Iranian immigrant founders in the US, supported by Iranian angels. Why?

There’s no question about systemic bias in the world, everywhere, including “the land of free”. I immigrated to the US when I was close to 30, and started my first startup without ANY investor or government support, just by hard work, and after 15+ years of entrepreneurship and a few startups, this is the lesson I learned.

The fact that black and brown founders have a harder time getting to the same level as a white founder is well-documented, but there are some hidden layers of bias which is often silenced or no one really talks about them. On the next level below African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans, then the immigrants’ category starts, those who didn’t go to the school here to create that “network”, those who have a language barrier, even if they speak well, they have that accent of “where are you coming from?”. One step below that is the Muslim community, which are those immigrants who come from a dominantly Muslim country, even if they are not Muslim. They are under another level of unwritten bias. And at the very end of the spectrum are those from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan where not only they have collected all the badges of disadvantages from the biased perspective, but they are subject to restrictions from the government side (remember #muslimban?). And at the very very end, there’s a group of extremely intelligent, hardworking, and respectable community of Iranians, which I’m proud to be one of them, where in addition to all the above inequalities, they have unnecessary restrictions for themselves and their families due to the politics. Now many Iranians are achieving the highest levels of success in academia and enterprise every day, but success stories of Iranian immigrant entrepreneurs, those who moved to the US after college is rare because those who are starting their own businesses would have extreme disadvantage compared to every other socially-disadvantage group.

I can share some stories, from a client, [C*******a] who canceled a contract when he found out I’m originally Iranian, disrespecting me in a Zoom meeting, saying your “Hezbollah friends” are doing this and that in “my country” to a reputable VC firm who clearly showed they don’t trust people from certain nationalities. As Iranians we have a culture of tolerance, embedded in our mentalities by thousands of years of multiculturalism, and we expect others to do the same, but not every RESPECT is recognized and reciprocal.

So Kudos to immigrants who came to this country, and made something happen, especially the ones who came from the developing world, left whatever they built and their families behind to build something; and even thousands of times more respect to those who achieved success in a “free” society that is designed to be in their disadvantage.

That’s the “why”. Your help is appreciated.






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