Start-Up Choihona - A Platform for Promotion of Youth Entrepreneur Projects



-              1 co-working space (Start-Up Chaihana) for start-ups established in Dushanbe;

-              Quarterly pitching competitions/ coaching events organized in co-working spaces;

-              Quarterly trainings organized for winners of pitching competitions;

-              At least 60 start-ups (within 2 years) supported;

-              At least 200 small entrepreneurs self-employed;

-              A start for energetic and functioning start-up ecosystem established in Tajikistan.


‘StartUp Chaihona - Increasing youth employment and income generation through supporting innovative new entrepreneurships’

Background and Rationale

One of the global UN Volunteers’ (UNV) priority areas are the youth and currently UNV in Tajikistan does not have a project focusing on youth employment. In line with the UN collective efforts to advance youth development around the world this concept of “StartUp Chaihona” responses to the urgent need to involve the youth in development. The concept is a response to the request of the Secretary-General to harmonize the UN efforts on youth, and to the General Assembly Resolution A/C.3/70/L.11/Rev.1 on policies and programmes involving the youth. The idea is to create an innovative environment “StartUp Chaihona” for new young entrepreneurs, and hence help building a functioning Start-up ecosystem in Tajikistan. The promising Start-up companies participating in the platform could be from the industry fields of textile, handicrafts, ceramics, recycled plastic, ICT and energy etc. In addition, the space would also benefit social entrepreneurs, who’s start-ups ventures concentrate on benefitting the society in general.

UNDP with private sector actors (Business Associations, Chamber of Commerce, Industries of Tajikistan, and private enterprises) are currently working (2014-2017) on project on supporting the Government’s efforts in creating enabling business environment through strengthening public-private dialogue, introduction of streamlined procedures to ease doing business, and promoting inclusive business projects under the Aid for Trade Project (Phase-III), and the Start-Up Chaihana concept could work in synergy with it. UNDP Tajikistan’s Innovation team in partnership with Association of Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurs of Tajikistan, is organizing a digital- and technology start-up training and competition for Tajik youth. The Start-Up Chaihona would be an organic fit for partnering with this project. The Start-Up Chaihona thus ties in with existing UNDP projects and offers the opportunity to scale them up, increasing the impact on poverty reduction in the country.

So far (September 2016) partnership has been made with Accelerate Prosperity (Aga Khan Foundation) and Club of Young Entrepreneurs and Association of Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurs. The main national partners for the project could be as an example Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Committee of Investment. Other partners could be Embassies, UN agencies and companies in private sector. From the UN agencies the leading agency would be UNDP, implementing agency UNV and other agencies could be interested in supporting the creation of youth employment.

Start-Up Chaihana will create an environment, co-working space and meeting point for new entrepreneurs, alumni students, investors, business angels and authorities, and it would be run by volunteers. The co-working space has free entrance for all and should not be limited to only students, but to all who have a great entrepreneur idea and want to enter the field of entrepreneurship. The volunteers would organize pitching competitions every quarter year and the winners of the competition would win consultancy time with investors and business angels and free courses in marketing and communications, taxation, legislation etc. organized by the UNV together with the partners like University, Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Private sector could invest by giving their senior talents as coaches or lecturers. Young entrepreneurs participating in the pitching competition, would also have a chance to test if their business idea is likely to “fly” and if the idea has the “so called x-factor”. The competitions and co-working space would be advertised to all universities in Tajikistan and widely among the youth.

Similar Start-Up concepts have been launched around the world, especially in technology sector. The concept is usually run by enthusiast students and volunteers and also this concept would preferably be taken over by local ownership after the support from the UN Volunteers. For example, in Finland a concept of Start-Up Sauna has been a successful co-operative space for small entrepreneurs and a birthplace to hundreds of companies. The local government officials could visit to see a co-working space, pitching competitions and how a functioning start-up ecosystem is built in other countries.


- 1 co-working space (Start-Up Chaihana) for start-ups established in Dushanbe;

- Quarterly pitching competitions/ coaching events organized in co-working spaces;

- Quarterly trainings organized for winners of pitching competitions;

- At least 60 start-ups (within 2 years) supported;

-At least 200 small entrepreneurs self-employed;

- A start for energetic and functioning start-up ecosystem established in Tajikistan.

Strategy and approach

Project development of the concept would be done during the second quarter of 2016 by UNV together with UNDP, other interested partners. The full resources for the activities would be mobilized during this period.

The Start-Up project could be running within UNDP project that is supporting trade/business and already operating and has UN Staff as a Manager. The national counterpart of the project could be Association of Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurs of Tajikistan, Chamber of Commerce, Council of Improving the Investment Climate under the President or other similar. The funding structure would be kept separate and the Start-Up Chaihona budget would be operated by UNDP/UN Volunteers.

The project will be launched in late 2016 in the capital city of Dushanbe. A co-operative space will be created at the Accelerate Prosperity premises, and 2-3 volunteers would be hired, including national and international youth/university volunteers. The volunteers will held quarterly pitching competitions in the Start-Up Chaihona and organize meetings with investors, coaching sessions with business angels and courses for small entrepreneurs in the field of marketing/communications, taxation, and company legislation, workers’ rights and exporting. The private sector, Embassies, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Universities would share their knowledge and expertise at the events. By 2020 the concept would be run by enthusiast small entrepreneurs, students or alumni and with the support of the University, Entrepreneurial Associations and the government of Tajikistan.

Implementation including partnership building

The management of the event would consist of board of various partners. The main partners at the government could be the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Education, and the State Investment Committee. Other partners would include Accelerate Prosperity, Club of Young Entrepreneurs, Association of Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurs, Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Universities. Other potential partners are: Council of Improving the Investment Climate under the President, National Association of Small and Medium Businesses, The First MicroFinanceBank, American Chamber of Commerce etc. The leading UN agency of the project would be UNDP, and UNV would be the leading implementing actor. Other partners would be donor partners like Embassies and private sector corporations and other UN agencies. The funding modality would be parallel fund management. See attached indicative budget.

Indicative budget

Project Implementation 2017-2020: Already covered part of the budget in yellow (September 2016)

Activities in Dushanbe


$ Year2

$ Year 3


Quarterly pitching competition





Prizes for winners (coaching, training)





Equipment and maintenance of cooperative space





Staff: Project Coordinator (National UNV)





Staff: Training Coordinator (National UNV)





Staff: Project Coordinator (International UNV)





Official travel





Publicity of the event











United Nations Volunteers

UNDP Aid for Trade Tajikistan

Young Entrepreneurs Club of the Committee on Youth, Tourism and Sport



Start-up firms here actually means those who are starting their firms currently.


1st event in November, 2016 led to seed money for winners and offers of training by the government-run School of Young Entrepreneurs of the Club of Young Entrepreneurs.


Follow-up roundtable in December discusses ways to improve the next Start-up Choihona. 

We had a Start-Up Choihona II brainstorming meeting yesterday at the UN House. Thank you all participants! Here are suggestions for Start-Up Choihona II:
> -          Time: sometime in February 2017;
> -          Place: either Accelerate Prosperity premises, Sports Bar Istiqlol or UN Information and Research Center, or we rent a place;
> -          Format: 
> o  1-day mini-training for pitchers from rural areas;
> o  2nd Day morning: a roundtable of all entrepreneurial associations of Tajikistan with topic suggestions: mitigating the effects of the global financial crisis on national economies, regional cooperation, start-up ecosystem in Tajikistan, or development of industrial entrepreneurship vs. service businesses in Tajikistan;
> o  2nd Day afternoon: pitching competition;
> -          Partners: Chamber of Commerce of Tajikistan, UNV, UNDP, YEC, Accelerate Prosperity, IOM, NABWT, GEW, Caritas (others, please confirm)
> Next meeting will be held in January. You have time to think of the topic for the roundtable and also what your organization can offer for the partnership. We came to a conclusion that pitching competitions (and rewarding start-ups with trainings) are very important since the start-up scene in Tajikistan is still at early stage.
> Thank you all very much for 2016 and let the good cooperation continue in 2017!

Helli Nykanen, UN Volunteers, Tajikistan