On Saturday September 29th, a full day Iranian Technology Forum (ITF) was held at MIT. This conference was organized by SiliconIran, a recently founded Information Technology firm in California. Around 200 Iranians and non-Iranians were present for the event. Most of them were high-tech professionals including venture capitalists, CEOs and academics. There were also a few students present from local universities such as MIT and Northeastern. The talks were about new developing technologies in the high-tech industry and also the available opportunities for investment.
During the coffee breaks and lunch, people had a chance to meet each other. This was the first time that ITF was being held on the East coast, and as such it was a good chance for Iranian businesspeople living on the East coast to get to know their counterparts on the other coast. The conference atmosphere was friendly. There was no sign of the over-formality that is sometimes present at Iranian events. Some people were wearing suits while a few others were in informal clothing. This relaxed attitude was true in the case of language, too. Persian and English were both spoken in the lobby outside of the conference hall. However, all the talks were in English, mainly due to the presence of non-Iranians and the convenience of the speakers.
The talks were amusing! Almost all of the speakers had professional PowerPoint slides full of statistics, figures and video clips. They talked about investment opportunities, new communication technologies, the future of the semiconductor industry, medical advances and the outlook for information technology.
Shaygan Kheradpir, chief information officer of Verizon Communications, told the audience how in the near future Verizon would make it possible for its cellular phone customers to broadcast their location over the Internet. This means that to keep track of the whereabouts of your teenager, it is enough to buy him or her a cell phone.
Dr. Massoud Khatamee, who is an executive director of the Fertility Research Foundation, talked about advances in biotechnology and infertility treatment. To remind the audience how common infertility treatment is, he said that he was contacted by the Clinton family for advice on fertility when Hillary Clinton wanted a child at age
4648. Khatamee joked how absurd it was that they came to talk to an Iranian who is also a Republican with the lastname "Khatami," something that can only happen in America. He added that he told them to have a child you need a man, making the audience burst into laughter.
What was absent from the conference was any mention of Iran. The reason for this was not hard to understand from what the last speaker of the day, Mohammad Sanati, told the audience. Dr. Sanati is the founder of Sina Soft Co., one of the biggest software companies in Iran. His company created many beautiful Persian fonts as well as the most commonly used Persian word processor, Zarnegar. He talked about the great potential of high-tech industry in Iran. Iranians are crazy about technology. He had even spotted a beggar on the street with a cell phone. He said, however, that the U.S. sanctions have crippled the growth of high-tech industry in Iran. For example, the American credit card giants, Visa and American Express, are not allowed to provide services in Iran. This means no E-business, which relies on credit card payments. The sanctions also hinder foreign investments and make it difficult for Iranians to purchase American software. He also named other existing infrastructure problems in Iran that have kept Iran backward in this regard.
At the end of the conference, people left for smaller gatherings in restaurants in downtown Boston. They left the conference with a higher spirit and a better confidence in the ability of Iranians to have their own professional organizations, where they can learn from one another, improve their business network and promote the image of successful Iranians.