Egypt: From Political Revolution to Entrepreneurial Evolution
June 30, 2011 · Print This Article
I came to Cairo five days ago not knowing what to expect. I leave knowing there are world-class tech entrepreneurs here in Egypt.
In April, I learned I had been selected as one of six American entrepreneurs who would be mentors for a USAID/State Department program backed by the Danish and Egyptian governments to mentor tech entrepreneurs here in Cairo. I learned about the program from Scott Gerber of the non-profit Young Entrepreneur Council.
The six American entrepreneurs were:
- Jeff Hoffman, Co-founder, Former CEO of Priceline.com
- Scott Gerber, Founder, Young Entrepreneur Council
- Alexis Ohanian, Co-founder of Reddit
- Shama Kabani, CEO of Marketing Zen
- Kevin Langle, Global Chairman, Entrepreneurs Organization
- Ryan Allis, CEO iContact
We were joined by four entrepreneurs from Denmark:
- Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, Podio
- Natasha Friis Saxberg, Gignal
- Kamran Jamshidi, Marketing Lion
- Alex Farcet, Startup Bootcamp
Together, we worked with nineteen teams young Egyptian tech entrepreneurs age 18-30 on Sunday-Wednesday to help them refine their business models and pitches in preparations for the final pitch competition on Thursday. It was extraordinarily impressive to see the immense improvement in the pitches as each day passed.
On Thursday we held the final pitch session. Each team presented for 8 minutes followed by 2 minutes of Q&A. We served as the judges, scoring each team across five category. After four hours of final pitches, the four winners were announced:
- Crowdit -A digital collaborative storytelling platform that is using real-time pictures, video, and social media reports to reinvent the way stories are told and shared online. Their first project will be called 18 Days in Egypt and provide a 360 view of the Egyptian Revolution told through the eyes of the people of Europe.
- SuperMama.me – The iVillage of the Middle East. Creating a community of mothers designed to connect and empower the women of the Middle East / North Africa region.
- Inkezny (RescueMe) – An iPhone app that enables travelers to make emergency calls (Police / Ambulance / Fire ) in any location they are traveling in the world without having to know the local emergency phone number, as well as seeing GPS directions to and phone numbers for the nearest hospitals, and posting a panic notification with location to a users social networks.
- Bey2ollak – An iPhone app that provides live user-generated reports of traffic conditions on the streets of Cairo. They already have 50,000 users shortly after launch and are working on expanding their application globally.
In addition to these four winners, I also really liked
- Balooshy – A location-based ad network for mobile content.
- Tabshora – A 37-signals like tool enabling designers to easily get feedback on design comps from customers.
- OfferQ – A social network for daily deals.
Across the board, the quality of the teams was high, nearly akin to what you might see at a Y Combinator or TechStars in the USA.
The Winners to Intern at iContact
Two of the winning teams will be coming to North Carolina in October for a three week internship at iContact. We are very excited to host them.
They will have a chance to observe every area at iContact including marketing, customer service, sales, finance, and technology. They will also have a chance to meet with investors in both North Carolina and New York City.
The other two teams will have the chance to attend the three-month Startup Bootcamp in Denmark in September, October, and November.
Creation of an Investment Fund for Egyptian Tech Entrepreneurs
On Wednesday night, we all had the opportunity to have dinner at the residence of the Danish Ambassador to Egypt.
While there, we met Hany Al Sanbaty, an Egyptian venture capitalist who runs Sawari Ventures and�Flat6 Labs, an incubator and fund that is launching in Egypt in July.
We were so impressed by the quality of the Egyptian tech entrepreneurs. We wanted to do something tangible and meaningful to show our belief in that these businesses would succeed.
After discussing, members of the American and Danish delegations came together that evening to create a $100,000 pool of committed angel investment funds (which has since grown larger) to invest in the Egyptian tech companies that will come out of the Flat6 Labs incubator in the coming months. The excitement on both sides was palpable when we announced this commitment the next day at the finals. It was clear that we believed in these Egyptian entrepreneurs and were willing to back them with more than words.
And so, after a wonderful celebratory dinner cruise for all participants on the Nile earlier tonight, now I am in the Cairo airport heading back home to the USA.
Tonight, I leave Egypt inspired. And I leave immensely impressed by what Egyptian youth can accomplish, whether it is in eighteen days in the Spring or five days in the Summer.