Cairo Accelerator Flat6Labs Seeks Diverse Startups

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Flat6Labs, the Cairo-based start-up Y Combinator-style accelerator, is looking for new start-ups.  No surprises there.  But as the application deadline nears for the intake to their 3rd cycle, called “Cycle 2”, they wanted budding entrepreneurs to know that more diverse applications are especially welcome.  So much so that Flat6 have put back the deadline a week, until the end of this week, April 7th, 2012.

Continual improvement is a key trait of any successful venture, and that’s why Flat6Labs want to cast their net wider than before. I chatted with the accelerator's CEO, Ramez Mohamed, to find out what they’re looking for.

“The 12 companies that Flat6Labs has already invested in have been a good mix,” explained Ramez, “but none of them have been in the gaming field, so applications from game creators, especially mobile games, would be great.”  At this point Ramez pointed out that Flat6Labs will be holding a series of free mobile gaming classes at the American University in Cairo (AUC) in April.

Back on the subject of Cycle 2 applications, Ramez described what else he’d like see.  “Most of the team founders so far have been techies, and male, so it would be nice to also have more female founders, and to have founders with a business background.  And although the age spread has gone from the early 20s to the early 40s, the median has been 26, so we’d like to see a wider distribution of ages, from the late teens to 50+.”  The hidden message here is that when a founding team has an inherently broader outlook, due to the diverse cross-section of backgrounds, the team is much less likely to be blinkered.  Being blinkered has lead many start-ups down blind-alleys, sometimes fatally.

Ramez continued, “I think it’s also time our region came up with the next DropBox, there’s no reason why not, so we’re looking for cloud utility ideas.  And we’d also like to see ideas with a hardware element, whether that’s semi-conductor, electronics, or even robotics.”  At this point I asked Ramez whether it’s feasible to prototype and launch a hardware-based idea within the Flat6 financial model. “Oh yes, easily.  Creating a prototype of a physical product can be done nowadays for around 10K-15K EGP (US $1500-$2500) in most cases.”

Size came up next.  “We’d like ideas tackling Egypt’s big problems.  We’ve already had Ekshef working to make sense of Egypt’s private medical clinics, so ideas dealing with Egypt’s big problems, like traffic, waste, agriculture, security, and so on are doable and much needed.  Conversely, we’d also like to see ideas targeting well-defined small niche markets.  We have Tabshora focusing on a platform for a very specific target market of graphic designers, and we think services with other such niche markets have a good chance of success.”  In other words, first-mover advantage in an untapped market is as close as a business can get to shooting fish in a barrel.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Ramez and Flat6Labs would like to see applications from all over Egypt, not just Cairo and Alexandria, as there are some very talented people outside Egypt’s main two cities.

In closing, there’s no doubt that the increased diversity of start-up founders and their ideas is nice because it shows off Egypt’s rich culture and potential.  But one has only to look at nature to see that the more diverse eco-systems grow exponentially quicker than others.  Exponential growth of the Egyptian start-up eco-system means more profit potential for everyone involved.  More profit for Flat6Labs as a business, more profit for the Flat6 start-ups, and more profit for Egyptian business in general; diversity can only be a catalyst when it comes to startups.

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