Interview with Roxanna Varza

Hi Roxanne, I do not know I have to call you Roxanne or Roxanna

Hi Mobin :) I like it when Iranians call me Roxanna. But in France and in America, they don't pronounce Roxanna correctly. So I ask people to say Roxanne.


Could you introduce yourself and Tell us what do you do exactly?

I currently run the startup programs at Microsoft for France. We have 2 startup programs: Bizspark, and more recently, Microsoft Ventures (it used to be called Spark). I have been most involved in launching the Microsoft Ventures program in France, which is an accelerator program that helps startups build prototypes and kickstart their businesses for the first 3 months. It's been almost a year and we've already had quite a few successful startups raising funds and winning awards and competitions.

In addition to my role at Microsoft, I am a cofounder of Tech.eu – a blog on tech/entrepreneurship in Europe.

I also cofounded Girls in Tech in London and Paris – this is a network that aims to encourage and make women in tech/entrepreneurship more visible.

And finally, I am a cofounder of the Failcon conference in Paris, a conference that helps entrepreneurs learn from their failures.






When did you become interested in Entreprenuership and startups topics? Have you already launched any startups?

It happened by accident :) I grew up in Silicon Valley but I never really paid much attention to tech or startups. Then, I started working for a French government development agency, trying to encourage Silicon Valley startups to open offices in Europe and France. This is when I first got in touch with startups and the entrepreneurial community – I was about 22 years old. I absolutely LOVED it! I discovered a community of passionate, intelligent, creative, optimistic people. And I have been addicted to entrepreneurs and the tech ecosystem ever since!


Your job title in Microsoft is weird.Startup Lover at Microsoft.Would you tell me more about it?

Actually my official title is something more long and complicated: something like "Emerging Business Marketing Manager." I didn't feel that this reflected what I do. So I changed my title to "Startup Lover." I wanted people to know that my role was oriented towards startups. I'm essentially the "Startup Lead" if you prefer that :)




I think you focused on France community.Is France a suitable place for startups?

I love the French community and I think it is a great place for startups. The ecosystem has grown a lot over the last 4 years (I first moved to France in 2009). But I have also been involved in the community in London and I have a growing interest in startup ecosystems around the world – especially growing or newly developing ecosystems. Including Iran :)


I know you are interested in Iran startups and entrepreneurship news and read about it.What do you think?

To be honest, I don't know enough about the Iranian startup ecosystem, I really want to learn more. But I have been incredibly impressed by what I have seen so far. I can feel there is a growing interest in startups and I know Iranian universities produce excellent engineers and technical experts. I'm sure that the ecosystem will grow nicely in the upcoming years.


Do you know any Iranian who are in startups community there? Do you talk to them about it?

Yes, I have been in touch with Shayan Salileh and Mohsen Malayeri, they are actually the first Iranian entrepreneurs I connected with in Iran. And since then, I have been in touch with many others. I have been in touch with quite a few organizers of different startup weekend events and some people with various accelerator or incubator projects.


When have you been Iran? Will you travel to Iran once again?

I've been to Iran quite a few times. The last time was last year. And I am hoping to come again very soon.


What are your advises to young people in Iran especially Engineers and Entrepreneurs?

I think the Iranian entrepreneurs that I have been in touch with definitely are on the right path – organizing events like Startup Weekend encouraging entrepreneurship throughout the country. This is where France was in 2009. And a lot of things have developed since then.

I would also encourage people to share what is happening in English so other people outside of Iran can know what they are doing and support them. Many people are interested in learning about Iran and the local startups, but there are very few English language resources.

Finally, I would also say that the Iranian market may be an easy market for "copy cat" businesses. For example, taking a successful business model from another country and adapting it locally. This also happens a lot in France. But I also encourage Iranians to really look at the specifics of the local market as well and develop businesses that are relevant for the country.


Thank you for such an amazing interview.

Thank you Mobin.


(You can also read Persian/Farsi of this interview at Karya.ir)

(Photos by Luca Sartoni)

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