I doubt many people get treated to a speech about CNC (computer numerical control) machines, the creation of a Bluetooth-based alternative mobile network, and a fashion show complete with disco lights and a heavy-bass soundtrack at the same event. But that’s exactly what we got at the 5th Demo Day event from Flat6Labs, the Cairo based accelerator, on May 12th.
Although ostensibly to seek investment, the events are equally a vehicle for everyone involved in the cycle to earn themselves a well-deserved pat on the back for making it this far; a way to celebrate their journey so far, before the really hard work of making a profitable business in the outside world begins. The Flat6 team has turned these demo days into a sort of grand finale showcase for startups.
Despite Flat6’s biggest turnout yet, I’m not sure if all those gathered appreciated the bright lights and dance music as much as me, but other than some new spectacle, the basic format was the same as previous events.
The six startups first exhibited their work at their own stands, fielding questions from the assembled guests and media. The recently launched Flat6Labs Jeddah team was present, as well as Egypt’s entrepreneurship elite. These events have become some of the best regular entrepreneurship networking events in Egypt.
After the exhibition, the graduates took the stage presenting their work and its investment potential. The slight change at this event was that all the presentations were preceded by a short speech by a satisfied client or mentor of each startup. Here are the day’s graduates:
- CloudPress provides marketers with Software as a Service (SaaS), enabling clients to create and manage online magazine-style interactive campaigns in the cloud. They gave a strong presentation and have a solid product, but with a potentially crowded market they’ll have to grow fast to survive.
- XoneBee offers solutions for the VLSI (very-large-scale integration) communications sector. The startup, born from CEO Mohammad Omara’s experience during the mobile blackout at the beginning of the Egyptian revolution, has enormous potential. They’ve created an alternative mobile network, using Bluetooth technology, whereby your mobile phone can route a call to another through inexpensive transponders, invented by the team, and other mobile phones. Mobile operators should be fighting hard to secure this technology exclusively, which would fit perfectly into their business model. Xonebee has in effect solved the problem of service interruptions in large crowds.
- Simplex offers customized CNC machines for the wood manufacture industry, with an Arabic software interface. This startup is also entering a crowded market in Egypt, but the local market is big enough that they should have a chance to make it. I might add that it was refreshing to hear CEO Ahmed Shaaban make his presentation in Arabic.
- Solarist brings together the two worlds of solar technology and seawater desalination with their nifty compact and power-efficient water purification unit. The region is a perfect target market, and CEO Dina Mosallem needn’t have been nervous during her presentation, the audience was engaged throughout her talk.
- Zaagel offers crowdsourced purchasing and delivery of overseas products. In effect, the startup allows Egyptians to order products from the U.S., delivered by regular travelers who get paid by Zaagel for delivering the product upon arrival in Egypt. CEO Mohamed Kash, the first person to double-graduate from Flat6, is sure that their escrow system will allay any trust issues users might have with the service. I think if he can tap into the flight attendant community, they would be the perfect source of delivery people able to buy products overseas to earn a tidy sum of extra cash.
- Last on stage were Coterique, an online platform and delivery service for high-end fashion boutiques. During their presentation, the disco lights and dance music accompanied a trendy mini-fashion show. It’s a good thing they went last; I’m sure it would’ve been unfair to ask the other startups to follow such a bevy of well-dressed models.
Ahmed El-Alfi, the chairman of Sawari Ventures that owns Flat6Labs, rounded off the event by confirming Flat6’s international expansion plans and achievements, and I think he’ll soon be able to also offer a previous graduate mega-success story to provide the cherry on top.