While the startup industry is booming in the Middle East, it’s a nascent sector that still needs plenty of babysitting. Sometimes this guidance comes from regional entrepreneurs who have had success in other parts of the world (like the Saudi entrepreneur Abdulrahman Hariri, covered previously by Wamda, who transferred experience he learned in the UK); other times, budding entrepreneurs benefit from meet-up events that facilitate trans-sector, cross-regional conversations.
MC Egypt, a for-profit subsidiary of Mercy Corps that supports social entrepreneurial work and small-scale agricultural projects, organized such a workshop last month in Cairo, bringing together Egyptian social entrepreneurs and business experts from Cranfield University in the United Kingdom. The workshop served to transfer experience and empower Egyptian entrepreneurs through direct guidance, support, and practical mentorship.
Muhammad Mansour, director of the MC Egypt’s entrepreneurship bureau, described the event as “focused on finding solutions and clear structures for the participating companies to enhance their competitive position and accelerate growth, as well as helping the members of one team to set clear business plans and conduct detailed market study.”
Members of MC Egypt and special teams from four Egyptian startups represented the Egyptian side, while a group of four experts from Cranfield University from different business backgrounds represented the British. The Egyptian startups are all related in some manner to agriculture, focusing on easing – and greening – the way to success for small Egyptian farmers.
The 4 participating Egyptian startups:
- Cubii: A company that provides dairy farmers with potential solutions to increase productivity, and ensure healthy and sterile products. At the event, Cubii was represented by CEO and Production Manager Ali Zeid, and Marketing and Accounting Manager Imane Hassan.
- Sunution: A company working to light homes using solar panels on the roof. Energy is transferred to rooms through fiber optics. The company was represented by CEO Ahmed Nagib, and two partners, Mohammad Araf and Mahmoud Taher.
- Solarist.io: A company working to purify salt water and bring it to houses through solar energy. The founder and CEO, Dina Msalem, was present at the event.
- Yadaweya.com: An e-commerce platform that sells handmade products designed with eco-friendly materials by Egyptian artisans. The company was represented by CEO Oussama Ghazaly.
Based on initial interviews, the entrepreneurs were divided into groups, each lead by a mentor, to get a coaching and guidance session for the entire day.
As part of the event, the MC Egypt organizers took the British agriculture experts on a tour of promising agricultural projects in Upper Egypt, in hopes of innovative ideas to support them. Mansour was optimistic about the outcome: “This event can be considered part of a process to identify companies that [MC Egypt] can invest in at the earliest opportunity.”
The Egyptian teams shared his optimism. CEO of Yadaweya.com Oussama Alghazaly commended the event: “We had a wonderful training that was more than just setting a business plan; it was also a way to really test a project, to identify and target the market, and develop business.”
MC Egypt will surely not be the only ones with its eyes on these young Egyptian green startups.