How the Egyptian revolution created a new generation of entrepreneurs
Egypt’s youth left an unprecedented imprint on history in 2011 when they collectively achieved the impossible, over throwing a 30 year old regime, breaking the barriers of fear and pushing for change in a country deeply imbedded in bureaucracy. Although Egypt has since been through a series of tumultuous events and unrest, yet the waves of change are still stirring and something wonderful is brewing just beneath the surface.
Change wasn’t just in politics
The call for change that had captured the hearts and minds of young Egyptians has now empowered them to take change into their own hands and has manifested itself in a wave of Entrepreneurship rising across the country. A new entrepreneurial culture and Ecosystem is now taking shape, with an upsurge of young people bringing their dreams into reality through their very own start ups. Organizations such as Injaz Egypt have been a catalyst in helping young people create their own businesses and a part of a new and thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt. With a focus on creating a culture of Entrepreneurship among young people by delivering programs at schools and universities across Egypt; Injaz launched Start-Up Egypt a few years back which serves to generate a continuous flow of young graduate entrepreneurs who participate from all over the country, taking their business ideas and supporting them till they launch as companies.
Innovation driven change
A shining example of these young start ups supported by Injaz comes from a bright graduating senior from Tanta University. Mostafa Hemdan, an engineering student who noticed that his town was suffering from piles of unaddressed waste, especially material left from old electronics. He got inspired by watching a documentary that showed how a company formed a business out of extracting precious metals from discarded computers and selling both the metals and scrap material to recycling plants. He knew nothing about recycling at the time, but noticed that not many people in the country did either so he was determined to fill that gap. That week he launched Recyclobekia with his classmates with an initial $1000 investment, less than two years later Mostafa and his team’s hard work paid off, they had two investors, a company valued at $500,000 and not to mention recognition from Forbes magazine as one of the top ten start ups to look out for in the Middle East!
Behind a facade of political turmoil highlighted by the media in Egypt an entrepreneurship ecosystem is flourishing with young driven Entrepreneurs as change makers at its core. The ecosystem is now bustling with accelerators incubators, co-working spaces, angel investors and organizations which support entrepreneurs at various stages. One of the more prominent accelerators Flat 6 Labs headed by a visionary entrepreneur and investor Ahmed El Alfi is helping launch ground breaking start ups one of which is Nafham which works to offer supplementary teaching material to students through online videos. Non profit Organizations such as Endevour are also working hard to mentor and help grow several existing businesses. The Entrepreneurship rage has also caught on in Government circles, the Ministry of Investment has taken the lead in easing the process of registration for start ups with its Bedaya center’s ‘One Stop Shop’, and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has an incubator by the name of TIEC specialized in technology startups.
Angel investors have also stepped in on the scene and for the first time in Egypt we saw the launch of Cairo Angels headed by Hossam Allam an investor and entrepreneur himself who saw a financial gap in the market and formed the group who are now successfully investing in young promising start-ups. Even private sector companies are now getting involved in this entrepreneurship craze offering mentors from their base of employees and even getting involved in investing and seed funding startups. Companies such as Mobinil are getting involved as part of their CSR work with local organizations and have seed funded several successful start-ups. Others such as Vodafone have launched Vodafone Zone to directly invest in early stage start-ups.
Rise Up Egypt
This year the Global Entrepreneurship Week is taking place in November and in Cairo it will all culminate symbolically in Tahrir Square where ‘RiseUp Egypt’ the first entrepreneur-based summit in the country will be taking place. This event aims to bring all the stakeholders of Egypt’s entrepreneurial ecosystem under one roof with a purpose to showcase the vitality and opportunity that exists in the country. The two day event includes keynote speakers, sessions, panel discussions, start-up trade fairs, entrepreneurship awards and other activities all organized by an ecosystem of partners who are determined to express to the whole world that what might seem to be an Egypt in turmoil is in fact Egypt on the rise!
In a country where the Arabic word for Entrepreneurship still remains contentious and vague, one thing is for certain an entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing and is collectively working together toward a common goal of creating real sustainable change for Egypt.