Egypt’s startup scene is seriously growing, especially because the region has a lot of problems that need creative and cost-efficient solutions. This untapped market is fueling entrepreneurship, enabling future founders to put their ideas to life, monetize them, and make the world a little bit better.
However, starting a business is never easy. There are a lot of uncertainties and obstacles at play, such as assessing the real need for your planned product or service, defining the exact starting budget to make business afloat, identifying a time frame for earning first profit, building a growth strategy, hiring the right people, preserving a healthy startup culture…
Still, we can all agree that actually finding the starting capital is the most important and most challenging thing to scratch from the list. But Egypt is definitely getting better at it. According to Forbes statistics, 20 most prominent Egyptian startups have collected $24.2m in 2017, and venture capital is the main source of funding.
That being said, it is our honor to introduce you to one of the most prominent supporters of startups within this region, both in means of mentorship and finding the necessary funds – the venture capital firm called Innoventures.
Innoventures was founded in 2011 by Ashraf El-Sharkawy, Ahmed Mikkawi, and Sameh Shaheen.
El-Sharkawy previously founded two companies and is currently based in Germany, which gives him access to various valuable strategic partners and the community of entrepreneurs. Mikkawi lives in London from where he works on building a business network and raising brand awareness for Innoventures. Experienced in financial planning and creating business strategies, he is also a mentor within Innoventures, committed to coaching startups and helping them succeed. Shaheen has 14 years of experience in the tech industry and is an expert in developing and managing businesses.
Shortly put, founders (or future founders) who apply for the program are in pretty good hands.
The main mission of Innoventures is to help Egypt’s tech startups overcome the unavoidable obstacles that emerge when trying to get to the market. Mentors take the best projects under their wing and help aspiring entrepreneurs in turning their ideas into sustainable businesses.
Contrary to many venture capital firms, the team at Innoventures does not provide superficial administrative support. Startups can expect a thorough and highly targeted support on each step of their venture journey with a lot of hands-on activities and valuable insights from actual experiences. Tech innovations are always risky as they bring something totally new to the table, but the risk of failure gets reduced to a minimum with the right kind of support.
Innoventures offer a 6-month program called Startup Reactor that focuses on providing support for startups that have great growth potential. In order to apply, startups have to fulfill the following requirements:
The process begins with Spark sessions in June, which are basically mini-workshops that coach all who are interested and eligible to apply, about the best ways of defining a business idea and presenting it in a way that will sweep investors of their feet. After application deadline (30th of June), there are three different phases called Ignition, Plasma, and Nova, during which startups receive training and go through a lot of actual business exercises, while also competing with one another.
As for the prizes, first place gets €8000, second place gets €4000, third place gets €2000, and there is also a prize of €1000 for the startup that gets the most votes. However, all enrolled startups have a chance to get funded by other investors in the Nova phase of the program, which opens up new opportunities.
Steven Johnson, the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From”, pointed out the importance of brainstorming or just interacting with other people in order to come up with great, even revolutionary ideas, and innovate. It’s about having a hunch about something or having just a half of one idea (or a vague picture in the head) and then communicating with others in order to define it and bring it to life.
Innoventures is well aware of this fact. This is why they have designed Ideaspace, a co-working place that serves as a platform for sharing and discussing ideas, and networking. One can easily become a member and enjoy a variety of benefits, such as:
We all know it’s the people that make one’s startup successful, which is why mingling around remains one of the most effective ways of staying on the right business track.
Do you reside in Egypt and have a great tech idea, but lack the knowledge regarding business management, finances, marketing, funding? Consider Innoventures as your ally on the bumpy road of starting a business.
The program has many success stories so far, and it’s great to snoop around them for a bit to get your creative juices flowing.
Take Crowd Analyzer for example. It is the first Arabic social media monitoring platform, relying on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Proprietary Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing. United, these technologies help computers understand and use human language. The team created a unique analysis algorithm that collects and groups social media data using different factors, making it easier for businesses to conduct market research or create data-driven ads that are more relevant and targeted.
Want another example? Pixlly is a collaboration platform focused on video creation for various purposes. Top talent in the world of video production and visual content is gathered here to make it easier for businesses and organizations to create videos online. The business model saves clients both money and time, as the process from briefing to content creation is shortened and optimized.
There is a plethora of successful businesses that became competitive and afloat thanks to the support received through Innoventures. In addition to earning a profit, they are also making a positive impact on the world. For instance, BionicLimbs is a research and development company focused on bringing more affordable prosthetic limbs to the ones in need; Ekacia raises awareness about electronic waste and promotes donating home appliances and old electronics; Tripdizer helps travelers around the world to organize budget-friendly trips with more ease.
What’s your idea that could make the lives of people better? Even if you’re not based in Egypt, you can spread the word around about your mission by building a website for your business. We have a detailed guide on the importance of online presence for startups and ways to build a website here. If you’re bootstrapping or have a modest budget to start with – you can check our list of free or cost-efficient website builders here. With today’s modern software and drag-and-drop technology, you don’t even need to write a single line of code! Beautiful websites are within the reach of your hand.
To make your website stand out from the crowd and more personalized, use a .ME domain and create greater brand recognizability, online and offline. Check if your .ME is available!
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