DEMO Africa: Why Arab startups should be looking to Africa for support

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Last week, entrepreneurs, VCs, and press from all over the world flew to Lagos, Nigeria, to learn about trending African startups during the 3rd edition of the African chapter of DEMO.

This event is rare in that it gathers startups and stakeholders from all around the continent including North Africa, has serious international pedigree – It’s organized by LIONS@FRICA, a project started by the US State Department, Microsoft, DEMO, USAID and Startup Weekend – and it features a format that puts startups front and center.

Indeed, on top of the VC and business angel meetups and talks, DEMO Africa gave innovative companies an opportunity to debut their products to the world during the event.

Among the 40 selected startups, five hail from the North African region (four from Egypt, one from Tunisia): 

  • LocName is an Egyptian Flat6Labs Cairo graduate that offers an application that gives a short, unique name for a physical address, which users can share in two seconds.

  • PieRide is an Egyptian ridesharing technology platform offering subscription transportation service for daily commuters (read Wamda’s profile here).

  • Telecosys is another Egyptian Flat6Labs Cairo graduate delivering software tools for tech-based service providers including telecom operators, internet service providers, cloud-based service providers, and cable television.

  • TrafficBytes is an Egyptian service that allows mobile operators and telecom vendors to use existing big data to provide real time traffic information.

  • What’sIn is a Tunisian mobile application platform service that allows consumers with chemical allergies to instantly find the allergy information when they scan a product UPC.

This is not only an opportunity for startups to raise money. Tunisian startup Famissima was one of the startups from DEMO Africa 2013; founder Ahlem Bouchahda says “DEMO was an opportunity to develop partnerships and make really good connections.”

Five new startups in attendance at DEMO received sponsorship by the US State Department to spend 10 days in the United States to pitch to investors and attend mentorship programs. The companies that were selected are Jifunza (Rwanda), Nerve (Nigeria), Paysail (Ghana), Chura (Kenya), and Spacepointe (Nigeria).

North African startups have the chance to be part of two fast-growing regions: the Arab world and the African continent. They have lots to gain from engaging in both ecosystems, benefiting from free money, expertise, and mentorship flowing in both regions.

Let’s hope next year will see even more Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, and Egyptian startups at DEMO and other events like it. 

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