My Message to Egyptian Entrepreneurs

July 4, 2011 · Print This Article

On Thursday at the Smart Village Egypt outside of Cairo, I had the opportunity to give a keynote speech during the NexGen IT Entrepreneur Bootcamp award ceremony.

The winning teams were Bey2ollak, Inkezny, Supermama, and Crowdit. The team from Bey2ollak and one other team TBD will be interning at iContact in North Carolina in October. The other two winning teams will be participating in a three month Danish startup bootcamp in the Fall.

My message to the young Egyptian entrepreneurs in the room was “You can achieve anything you set your mind to.”

Mike Ducker from the Global Entrepreneurship Program at the U.S. State Department gave an introduction and then I jumped right in.

Here are my prep notes from the speech:


  • Congratulations to all the teams that have participated in the NexGen IT Entrepreneur Bootcamp.
  • Coming here Monday I wasn’t sure what to expect.
  • The quality of the young tech entrepreneurs here in Cairo is world-class.
  • The youth of Egypt have already proven their ability to affect change, and this class of tech entrepreneurs has been extremely impressive.
  • I run iContact in North Carolina. We do email marketing and social media marketing software and services for small and mid-sized businesses.
  • I also have a small investment fund called HumanityFund that invests in entrepreneurs who are changing the world in both the United States and in East Africa.
  • I hope someday to have my first investment in Egypt.
  • Today I’m going to challenge you to be a leader.
  • Be a leader in in your community.
  • Be a leader in your nation.
  • Be a leader in changing the world.
  • Entrepreneurs change the world.
  • Entrepreneurship is not about making money.
  • Entrepreneurship is about helping others.
  • Entrepreneurship is about creating value–for your customers, employees, community, and shareholders.
  • Wonderfully, the more you help others and the more value you create, the more money you will make that you can then invest in giving back and helping other entrepreneurs succeed.

My Story

  • I started in business at age 11 helping senior citizens learn how to use the internet in Florida.
  • I learned that word of mouth marketing is the best type of marketing you can get because it is trusted and it is free.
  • At 14 I had a business creating web sites.
  • I learned that you need to hire a team of people around you to scale the business.
  • By 18 I was the CEO of iContact.
  • I learned that if that you hire people much more experienced that yourself, amazing things can happen.
  • Today iContact has 300 employees and $50M in annual sales.
  • Here are the eight of the lessons I’ve learned in business in the last fifteen years.

Lessons Learned

  1. Set your goals high. Write them down. Frame them. When I was 16 I wrote down the goal to build a company to 1 million in sales by the time I turned 21. At that point I was making $4000 per year designing web sites, so it was an ambitious goal. I missed the goal. On September 1, 2005 iContact reached 1 million in sales. Eighteen days after my 21st birthday. Because I set that specific definite goal, I went after figuring out how to get the people, knowledge, and resources into my life necessary to make it happen, even though I wasn’t sure how it would happen when I set it.
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail your way to succeed.
  3. Surround yourself only with positive people. Avoid negative people.
  4. Hire people more experienced than yourself. You should never have a direct report who can’t do their job better than you could do their job.
  5. Have fun. Enjoy the journey. Don’t be boring. Consciously create an awesome culture at your company.
  6. Think big and think globally when you build your business.
  7. There are two types of people in the world. People who watch more TV than they read. And people who read more than they watch TV. Be the second type of person. Read as often as you can. Five hours of reading per week minimum. Book recommendations: Rich Dad Poor Dad, Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
  8. Create your business around one simple principle, “do unto others as you’d have done unto yourself.” Make every interaction you have with every employee and customer follow this principle.

Final Thoughts

  • As entrepreneurs, you are all in the business of changing the world.
  • Our generation can communicate and collaborate globally like none other before it.
  • Work hard, collaborate.
  • You can do anything you set your mind to.
  • The world is watching what you do now.
  • Be a leader.
  • End with chant of “I’m an Egyptian. I can change the world.”

What message would you have shared with an auditorium full of future Egyptian changemakers and innovators??


3 Responses to “My Message to Egyptian Entrepreneurs”

  1. Gamal ElDin Sadek on July 4th, 2011 3:19 am

    Gr8 Words man !! Thanks for Everything & C ya real sooon :)
    btw I Tweeted “Ryan Allis Bey2ollak” which means “Ryan Allis Says” … ;)

  2. Shone on July 6th, 2011 5:58 pm

    Egypt has inspired the world on achieving great things, we hear of pyramids and think ,you can build something great, i guess to be in Egypt you have a privilege to see pyramids and believe you can build something greater than what you see.

  3. Arlene Marie Daniels on July 9th, 2011 3:10 am

    Powerful words! I hope that they will all be able to fully live them out. :) There’s been so much political instability in Egypt and I know it must have an effect on all of their young entrepreneurs and employees. They might need a book like this one to help them sort things out. But yes, they are a people that we should be proud of.

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