Investors in Egypt: Who's Hot, Who's Not

by Omar Aysha, March 25, 2013

This piece does not represent the opinions of Wamda; it is based on a survey of over 200 entrepreneurs conducted by Contributor Omar Aysha. See more on the survey’s methodology below.

I’ve spent some time recently finding out what Egyptian entrepreneurs really think about the main players in Egypt’s early stage investment firms, and have created a ranking that offers an honest snapshot of the investment ecosystem. 

The below is a summary drawn from interviews with over 200 entrepreneurs, mainly from Cairo and Alexandria, based in multiple sectors, although mostly tech-enabled.  This includes entrepreneurs  who have received investment as well as those that haven’t, at each organization, and the sample at each firm is proportional to the quantity of deals and applications relevant to that organization.  

Overall, this is a compilation of entrepreneurs’ subjective views; it's not a scientific study.

The aim is to give entrepreneurs a collective public voice, and to be a real guide to anyone seeking investment. Hopefully this ranking will provide some motivation to those that need to raise their game, and inspire those that are doing well to be even better.

A few disclaimers/ points of note: 

  • This list is not comprehensive; some will be missing either because I am not aware of them, or because not enough entrepreneurs have spoken to me about them.
  • For organisations that invest on a regional or global basis, I have only taken into account their activities within Egypt.
  • If you know of an investment house not listed here, or if you’re involved with any of these organisations and want to correct something, please don't shoot the messenger, email me at omar.aysha@wamda.com.  Just remember that I can only correct facts, not opinions.
  • I will of course periodically publish follow-up articles to track who has improved or otherwise, and to add or remove organizations from the list, so please get in touch.
  • The views expressed here are not the official views of Wamda.

The column headings are as follows:

  • Organisation: self-explanatory.
  • D: Delivery i.e. how well does the organisation deliver its funds and services (as there are too few exits, I have left any exits out of the scoring).
  • E: Effort i.e. how helpful the organisation is and how willing the staff are to go beyond expectations.
  • O: Overall opinion i.e. how people view the organisation overall, based on results and benefit to the ecosystem compared to expectations.
  • The scale of opinions is "--" = very negative, "-" = negative, "o" = OK, "+" = positive, "++" = very positive.

Organisation

D

E

O

Vodafone Ventures Egypt (VV)

- -

- -

- -

VV is the 1st component of Vodafone's 'xone' entrepreneurship unit. They are currently figuring out "how to be nimble while remaining tied to Vodafone". I haven't heard any positive comments about VV so far. I have heard that VV has “Egyptian government levels of red-tape”, “does not deliver on its promises”, “simply doesn’t understand startups”, and “seems to be driven by the wrong motives.”  

Alexandria Angels (AA)

- -

-

- -

Perhaps it is unfair to include AA, but Alexandria is a hotbed of great entrepreneurs so AA should have achieved something by now.  Only listed above VV because AA does not a have a ready-made fund or a global brand to build on.

Mercy Corps Egypt (MCE)

-

+

-

Focused on social entrepreneurship, things started very slowly for MCE, as it suffered from common mistakes made by foreign NGOs, but the recent addition of Con O’Donnell to the team has given MCE fresh impetus and ideas.  The last 3 months have seen many social entrepreneurs mentored and the investment fund is nearly ready, so expect opinions to improve rapidly in the next few months.

N2V

-

+

o

Most people are confused about N2V, as N2V has pivoted their investment strategy many times. It hasn't gotten high rankings, as it has access to funds and expertise that haven't been utilised, but N2V has sponsored many startup initiatives, and has employed several individuals who have gone on to be integral in Egypt’s startup community.

Cairo Angels (CA)

o

+

o

Everyone has praised CA founder Hossam Allam for his drive and efforts to kick-start the Cairo business angel community, but he has been hampered by the lack of commitment shown by local individual investors.  Recent changes within the CA mix bode well for the future, and CA is now starting to build some investment momentum after a slow start.

Ashoka Arabia (AA)

o

+

o

A global stalwart of investment in social entrepreneurs, the main criticisms of Ashoka are the length of time they take to make a decision to invest in an entrepreneur, and the Cairo office’s over-reliance on foreign nationals.

Innoventures (IN)

o

+

o

IN has been hampered by a lack of commitment from local individual investors, but the IN team has been behind various initiatives that benefit the local startup ecosystem.  Their incubator now has 3 teams so we will see how well their 6-month model works.

Tahrir2 (T2)

o

+

o

T2 are, like Innoventures and Cairo Angels before them, hampered by a lack of commitment from local individual investors.  They also suffer somewhat from brain drain as the top talent in Alexandria ends up in Cairo where there is more money.  The next few months will reveal how effective their unique staggered investment model is.

Wamda Capital (WC)

+

+

+

Wamda is a new entrant in the local market and people would prefer less paperwork, but the main displeasure centres around too few investments in Egypt, and the perception that those Egyptian investments haven’t been as ground-breaking as promised.

Ideavelopers (IV)

o

+

+

As the only government backed fund, it is perhaps understandable that it is perceived as only being interested in investing in near sure-fire big-hits. People think IV should have achieved much more than it has. It’s too risk averse, but understandably so.

OT Ventures (OTV)

+

+

+

They describe themselves merely as “an internet company,” but most people view them as investors.  They will only invest in companies that add to their existing internal ecosystem of tech companies, but once in, their internal ecosystem supports each company very well. This is the only investment company in the list with a female at the helm.

KI Angels (KA)

+

+

+

The only not-for-profit investment fund in for-profit commercial enterprises. Too reliant on the founder, there isn’t even a KA website yet. The main benefits for budding entrepreneurs are that KA founder Khaled Ismail makes fast decisions by not letting paperwork get in the way of making a deal; and as one of the few local entrepreneurs with a successful exit under his belt, his experience is priceless. 

Flat6Labs (FL)

+

++

++

Founders Ahmed Alfi and Hany Sonbaty are extremely well respected within the community, even by those that disagree with their decisions and both men have consistently put their money where their mouth is.  F6 supports a range of initiatives; quite a few people think FL’s 3-month high volume model is not suited to present day Egypt, but only time will tell.

Tamkeen Capital (TC)

++

++

++

The only firm to provide all the investment tools under one roof, and the longest local incubation periods in Egypt: up to a year.  They invest in technology “enabled” companies.  There is a common misconception that TC is a Muslim Brotherhood incubator, but the only real criticism has been that TC is perhaps too helpful to its incubated companies.

Sawari Ventures (SV)

++

++

++

Also founded by Ahmed Alfi and Hany Sonbaty. Considered by many to be the tech venture capital firm in Egypt, SV is regarded as the bedrock of Egypt’s new investment community.  Some would like to see them invest in non-tech companies, but to each their own strategy.

--

Omar Aysha is an AUC graduate, then UK video game developer, turned Euro business IT consultant then serial entrepreneur, turned media person.  He now helps start-ups as a non-executive board member, and has two media projects of his own under development. 

 
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Bassam Tolba , Wed 29.05.2013
Lovely!!
 
 
Asim Haneef , Mon 08.04.2013
Terrific list Omar.
 
 
Hanan Solayman , Mon 25.03.2013
Excellent piece. Thumbs up mate.
 
Omar Aysha , Mon 25.03.2013
Thanks Hanan. Looking forward to your money piece :)