Egypt: From Political Revolution to Entrepreneurial Evolution

June 30, 2011

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.
The program, called the NexGen IT Entrepreneur Bootcamp kicked off on Sunday in Egypt�s Smart Village, just outside of Cairo.
The Mentors
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 and Hipmunk
Shama Kabani, CEO of Marketing Zen
Kevin Langley � Global Chairman, Entrepreneurs� Organization
Ryan Allis � CEO iContact
We were joined by four entrepreneurs from Denmark:
Tomas, Podio
Natasha, Gignal
Kamran, Marketing Lion
Alex, Startup Bootcamp
Together, we worked with nineteen teams young Egyptian tech entrepreneurs age 18-30 to help them refine their business models and pitches in preparations for the final pitch competition on Thursday.
The Winners
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.
Be2yollak � 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.
The Winners Interning 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 (Insert Name).
While there, we met Hany (Last Name), an Egyptian venture capitalist who runs 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 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.
Leaving Cairo
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.
The American Entrepreneur delegates are thankful and inspired as they leave Cairo to head back home.

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 program, called the NexGen IT Entrepreneur Bootcamp kicked off on Sunday in Egypt’s Smart Village, just outside of Cairo.

The Mentors

The six American entrepreneurs were:

We were joined by four entrepreneurs from Denmark:

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.

The Winners

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.

Leaving Cairo

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.

Going to Egypt Tomorrow

June 24, 2011

Hello from Boston. I’m here today for year three of the EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program.

I am excited to be heading to Egypt tomorrow as part of a U.S. State Department and USAID funded program in alliance with the Egyptian and Danish governments. I’ll be headed there with American entrepreneurs Shama Kabani, Alexis Ohanian, and Scott Gerber of the Young Entrepreneurs Council.

We’ll be mentoring 48 young Egyptian tech entrepreneurs ages 18-30 in Cairo with the NextGen IT Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and judging a business plan competition. Four of the winners will be coming to the US in October to intern at iContact for three weeks. I’m passionate about using business, technology, and entrepreneurship as tools to make a positive impact in the world, so this will be a great opportunity to see Egypt and work with great tech entrepreneurs in an exciting part of the world.

This will be my fourth trip to Africa, but first in North Africa. In about 5% of my spare time, I invest in tech entrepreneurs in the US and Africa via the Humanity Fund, so when I was asked to go by Scott Gerber I knew it would be right up my alley.

Egypt is passing through a very significant time in it’s history and it will be fascinating to be there. Quoting one of the participants in the program, “Egypt holds an important place in human history as one of the birthplaces of commerce, and the knowledge and experience of Egyptian business people will lead to many exciting and valuable products, services, and innovations for years to come. This is a great time for Egypt to truly shine.”

Here’s some additional info on the program. More blogging to come as I’m there…

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NexGen IT Entrepreneurs Boot Camp
Background

The NexGen IT Entrepreneurs Boot Camp, is a collaborative effort by the Government of Denmark, the U.S. State Departments Global Entrepreneurship Program, the United States Agency for International Developments Egypt Competitiveness Project, and the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre, affiliated with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The NexGen IT Boot Camp is a series of training events that includes a Business Plan Awareness Class and an IT Master Class. The later will be taught by US and Danish Delegates in which prizes will be awarded to four winning teams.
Process of Selection of prizes
After the each winner is announced first and second place winners will chose what prize they prefer, the internship in the US or the Boot Camp in Denmark. The third place winners will chose depending if first and second place split their choices. The fourth place winner will be given the remaining prize.
More on the US internship @ iContact
The US internship will be with iContact in October. iContact is based in Raleigh, NC and is working to make email marketing and social marketing easy so that small and midsized companies and causes can grow and succeed. Founded in 2003, iContact has more than 300 employees and more than 700,000 users of its leading email marketing software.
As a B Corporation, iContact utilizes the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, donating 1% of payroll, 1% of employee time to community volunteering, 1% of equity, and 1% of product to its local and global community as part of its social mission. iContact works hard to maintain a fun, creative, energetic, challenging and caring company culture.. The triangle business journal (Local North Carolina business newspaper) has named iContact one of the best places to work. The company has been listed on Inc. 500 3 years in a row and its founders Ryan Allis and Aaron Houghton were selected by Inc. Magazine 30 under 30 in 2009 as two of Americas Coolest Young Entrepreneurs.
Two of the winning winning teams, composed of two individuals, will win the opportunity to gain critical knowledge of how to grow a business during a three weeks internship at iContact in Raleigh North Carolina. The iContact internship will be an entrepreneurial rotation in which the interns will learn about the critical parts of the business including marketing/sales, IT, customer service and finance. The internship is paid for by USAID through the Egyptian Competitiveness Project (ECP).

The NexGen IT Entrepreneurs Boot Camp, is a collaborative effort by the Government of Denmark, the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program, the United States Agency for International Development’s Egypt Competitiveness Project, and the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre, affiliated with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The NexGen IT Boot Camp is a series of training events that includes a Business Plan Awareness Class and an IT Master Class. The later will be taught by US and Danish Delegates in which prizes will be awarded to four winning teams. Two of the winning teams will travel to the US in October to intern at iContact, a very rapidly growing American tech company.

More on the US internship @ iContact

The US internship will be with iContact in October. iContact is based in Raleigh, NC and is working to make email marketing and social marketing easy so that small and midsized companies and causes can grow and succeed. Founded in 2003, iContact has more than 300 employees and more than 700,000 users of its leading email marketing software.

As a B Corporation, iContact utilizes the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, donating 1% of payroll, 1% of employee time to community volunteering, 1% of equity, and 1% of product to its local and global community as part of its social mission. iContact works hard to maintain a fun, creative, energetic, challenging and caring company culture. The Triangle Business Journal has named iContact one of the best places to work. The company has been listed on Inc. 500 3 years in a row and its founders Ryan Allis and Aaron Houghton were selected by Inc. Magazine 30 under 30 in 2009.

Two of the winning winning teams, composed of two individuals, will win the opportunity to gain critical knowledge of how to grow a business during a three weeks internship at iContact in Raleigh North Carolina. The iContact internship will be an entrepreneurial rotation in which the interns will learn about the critical parts of the business including marketing/sales, IT, customer service and finance. The internship is paid for by USAID through the Egyptian Competitiveness Project (ECP).