Tweetable insights on entrepreneurship from Google’s Cairo confab
April 9, 2013 Editor 0
The market now is emerging and growing to the point that not a single person can do it alone. If you have a dream, you better share it.
– Amr AbdelRahman, co-founder of MIMV
The Giza sun elicited hot topics last Saturday as emerging entrepreneurs and experienced experts shared challenges and strategies for new business in the Middle East and North Africa.
Wamda, an entrepreneurial support platform for the MENA region, launched its new partnership with Google through the expansion of an event series called Mix N’ Mentor beginning March 16. Mix N’ Mentor brings young entrepreneurs in contact with a variety of “mentors” ranging from industry experts to investors to serial entrepreneurs. (Con O’Donnell of Mercy Corps Egypt, an entrepreneurship advisor, was among the mentors.) Cairo’s was just the first in a series of Mix N’ Mentor events scheduled to take place in 11 different cities across the MENA region.
The series was built on successes last year in Amman, Beirut and Dubai, which inspired Wamda to expand and seek help from Google. This year, Google lends a hand with speakers and experts, as well as advanced technological assistance to widely share insights from these events via Hangouts on Air on Google+.
Google is proud to be a part of the program, says Maha Abouelenein, head of communications for Google in the MENA region.
“Google began as a startup in a garage and remains a startup at heart,” she said in an interview with Wamda last week. “We are committed to helping build a vibrant ecosystem for startups and enabling the next generation of entrepreneurs to be successful.”On Saturday, at the Cairo Swiss Club in Giza, entrepreneurs and mentors broke into small groups based on skills and challenges in their specific industries, rotating to maximize diversity and exposure. Throughout the day sessions were punctuated by inspiring speakers and a “Fireside Chat,” which allowed a panel of successful entrepreneurs to answer questions from the audience. The day ended with an open networking session among all participants. The new partnership with Google for entrepreneurs encouraged more hands-on technology coaching and exposure to the latest Web and mobile tools.So what do you get when you combine ambition, experience, new technology and inquisitive minds?Wamda reveals some of the key insights specific to emerging businesses in Cairo as well as broader “tweetable tips” to share with entrepreneurs across the region.Many entrepreneurial ventures these days rely on e-commerce. According to Wamda, in Egypt, as in much of the Arab world, e-commerce startups face some major hurdles to growth, including a lack of banking options, a general mistrust of online purchasing, and outdated or nonexistent government regulation. Egypt is an especially tough market due to high computer illiteracy, a poor telecom infrastructure and weakened economic conditions. Political uncertainty since the revolution in 2011 does not help, either.However, there is also lot of energy around starting up companies in Egypt and therefore plenty of opportunity to combine talents. Mentors encouraged their audience to look for partners with different skill sets.The ideal startup would have three co-founders, two technical employees and a hustler.– Mike Butcher, editor-at-large at TechCrunch, in his initial talk at Mix ‘N’ Mentor, ‘How to Pitch to Tech Bloggers’Entrepreneurs in Egypt are also facing challenges finding investment after graduating from their initial accelerator programs. Panels at Mix N’ Match highlighted the importance of portraying the uniqueness of their product or company as well as concentrating on specific investors for fundraising.
Finding an investor is not only about money, it’s like finding a partner. If you’re just looking for money, go to a bank.”
-Karim Beshara, CEO of Orascom Telecom Media
Egyptian entrepreneurs have strong technical skills, a key advantage for the country. But technology cannot foster success on its own. New businesses also need marketing and communications.
When hiring, I look for personality before technicality.
-Mahmoud Ghoz, CEO of Rawy.me
Finally, Butcher pointed to the main challenge and inspiration of the day: being unique. “We in the tech press look for purple cows,” he told the crowd. In other words: startups that stand out and may not have existed before are the most interesting to follow.
Despite current challenges and obstacles, the region of the Middle East and North Africa is proving to be a purple cow in the world’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.Some emerging entrepreneurs in Cairo get firsthand advice from experts at Mix N’ Mentor. Photo Credit: AltCity.Related articles:
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