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Cairo Creative Coding Meetup shows the potential transformation of The “Creative Coding” practice on arts & advertising

If you could secure time over a weekend in Cairo, your life could get more exciting by attending one of these industry meetups in an area of interest.

Cairo is increasingly hosting local meetups as part of global specialist networks that help build & nurture collaborative communities of likeminded specialists, professionals and practitioners sharing the best of their experience and spreading knowledge, resources and case studies in emerging practices.

These kinds of meetups are extermely valuable to nurture the emerging innovation, entrepreneurship and startup movement in Egypt with globally exposed practitioners and workforce that’s able to compete globally.

Last week, we knew about Product Guys meetup, this weekend, Mohamed Hossam brought together another edition of “Cairo Creative Coding Meetup” at the FabLab Egypt rooftop in Maadi.

Just like me, you are probably trying to make sense of what Creative Coding might be. Creative Coding is the practice of using code as a canvas for art, using creative coding you could be able to produce visual and audiovisual performances that compliments static works of art, opening up a new dimension for the arts and advertising industries.

Here is an example for you to ponder.

The meetup featured a conference call with Omar El Kammar, a Creative Coder and audiovisual artist all the way from Berlin.

Omar started being known to Musicians in Egypt as the guy who do weird (innovative) things with computers, after four year of learning the tools and working on projects, Omar is now confidently executing top-notch Creative Coding projects as part of an agency in Berlin. You can follow Omar on Instagram here to see some of the recent projects he had been involved in.

Omar highlighted the importance of storytelling and aesthetics for Creative Coding projects to avoid being dragged into challenges with the tools you use, but rather using them to get the concept done.

Omar has been massively generous with resources that he shared a full resource pool with attendees to get inspired and use it for their projects.

Mohamed Hossam, the ambassador of Creative Coding Meetups in Egypt highlighted that getting a residence as a “Creative Coding” professional could be the start of the way to have access to the intriguing challenges of big projects, but you can always start experimenting on your own to develop the skillset.

We had a brief discussion on the potential of commercializing “Creative Coding” in Egypt and agreeing that spreading awareness about the practice and how it can be used in advertising project would be necessary for more applications to be brought to the surface.

If you are excited to know more about Creative Coding, join the next meetup, makes sure to follow Mohamed Hossam on Facebook and join the Cairo Creative Coding Group.

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Events Product Startup Executive Stories Technology Entrepreneur Uncategorized

Product Guys bring insightful discussion about Product Management to Egypt’s Tech Space at Robusta Studio

Since I started working professionally in delivering technology products, analyzing the growing tech startup scene and lately prototyping solutions using emerging technologies. I could testify that most of the mistakes that I have committed and observed had to do with the discipline of Product Management.

At Robusta Studio, a group of product management professionals hosted their first meetup in association with Mind the Product and its community meetups brand Product Tank, the volunteer group called “Product Guys” has done a fine job featuring a presentation and Q&A panel tackling the basics of product management.

Michael Soliman led an interesting Career evolving from the technology side into the product management side. Beside his experience and insights, Michael’s charachter and attitude intrigued me as possibly being the most important asset in working in product management.

Michael sees himself as a facilitator for the tech and business teams to gurantee product success. I gathered my thoughts from the discussion and  Michael’s story into the following pieces of advice – in case you a Black Mirror fan, I’m making reference to a favorite episode that help us visualize the role of product manager:

1. Empathy: Never Overstep on Anyone’s Domain Expertise or Responsability

One of the big challenges operating as a facilitator between different teams and disciplines is seeing how everyone is getting territorial, if this happens, the most honest of actions can be taken as undermining someone’s authority. Keeping your ego at the door is essential for productivity and the best way to reach that is to be the first doing it and inspiring the culture.

A product person must practice empathy with the teams and team leaders engaged with their work, on taking the time to process how they think about the challenge from their prespective without becoming pushover, a challenge for introverted empaths who naturally avoid confrontations and as a result commit to unreasonable deadlines and responsabilities.

Daly the introverted CTO from Black Mirror comes to mind as someone who supresses and often sacrifices his comfort, needs and leadership capacity for the sake of the comfort of everyone else, ending up with entrapping everyone in a digital game! Not funny!

Michael shared with me in discussion after that what he found essential in these discussions and negotiations is explictly relying on facts and maintaining a friendly relationship with everyone on a personal level.

Don’t be grandiose and don’t be a push over. Good luck figuring out what that means in every situation you encounter.

Black Mirror USS Introverted Nerd vs. Controlling Alpha

2. Committment: Take your time with estimates and trust people to decide and commit on their own

Missing a deadline or falling short on producing something they promised is a pain for every professional . You don’t want to be seen as not committed and you empathize with people who don’t want the same to happen with them.

By then getting people to commit also requires you to give them the time and space to assess their priorities, allocated time and provide a reasonable estimate that you can probably then negotiate.

Remember how Daly’s partner stormed into his room to tell him that the update will have to go live anyway, the way he shouted and tabbed our introverted engineer in the head? That’s not nice. Don’t be like Daly’s boss or you know the consequences.

3. Engagement: Engaging external stakeholders with the Product Management process

If you provide software development services, your client will think they control the flow of what gets done, the same if your CEO is not engaged or experienced in the product development process. By then, proactively engaging primary stakeholders (who don’t report to you) by explaining your product management process is a very effective practice to minimize future conflicts and have ground rules to get back to whenever conflict arises.

Imagine a product manager who can keep everyone happy? Yes, keep that thought, because that’s probably just meant to be an imagination.

Product Guys are planning to host a bi-monthly meetup and a bi-monthly Product Tank (indepth sessions). If you are interested in product management, you can join their Group on Facebook and keep yourself updated.

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AgriBusiness Events Financial & Insurance Services Food & Beverage Industrial Entrepreneur Social Entrepreneur Stories

Green Entrepreneurs Prove it at Egypreneur Club; Switching to environmentally-sustainable business is a winning economic & social strategy for Egypt

Before we start, I have a confession to make: while being known for my business ventures in internet/technology/media/finance/business services, by education and academic degree, I’m a Mechanical Design & Production Engineer.

At almost 17 years of age, representing my first company at an entrepreneurship expo following The Art of Business Creation Workshop

Pursuing my natural tendency to choose an adventurous entrepreneurship path early on, I became an entrepreneur as a freshman at my engineering school and had been one since then. My Academic background didn’t in any how influence the type of ventures I choose to associate with to the extend that I have seen it as totally irrelevant, but probably this time and for the first time, working with Green Startups, I enjoyed being a production engineer as it allowed me to understand the underlying operations and potential impact of these green ventures on a deeper level.

Last Thursday, August 3rd, Egypreneur Club at Talaat Harb Square – currently on soft opening mode – hosted “Green Startups Meet Investors” event organized on behalf of the EU’s SwitchMed Programme; a program dedicated to assisting Green Startups in accessing capital and support services needed to scale their ventures. The event featured 7 entrepreneurs pitching their business for feedback from stakeholders, who had been generous with their insights during and after the event.

Egypreneur Club, Talaat Harb is hosting a few follow-up meetings between entrepreneurs, investors and stakeholders who found some of these projects interesting. If you find any of the ventures below relevant to you, please, do get in touch, would be glad to introduce you to the entrepreneurs to discuss partnership.

Personally, I admired all the project ideas and was very delighted to see sophisticated solutions to real-life problems that is either already implemented and seeking growth capital or getting very close to commercialization. A stage in which I was able to work with the entrepreneurs on what my previous 12 years has been about, turning a great idea/concept/product into a great company.

Mr. Ahmed Ismail, or the Patents Designer as he describes himself, pitched Malek for Food Dehydrators. With a registered Intellectual Property and wide recognition for its innovative approach and possible economic impact. Ahmed’s startup builds and distributes a device that dehydrates fresh fruits and vegetables at farms for easier and cheaper transporation and consumption.

“40% of Egyptian vegetables/ 35% of fruits go to waste mainly due to high transport cost, while 6 million ton of Egyptian tomato crop go to waste that lead to up to 130 million m3 methane gas emission to environment and forms great loss for both of farmers income and many of natural resources as water, land, fertilizers, energy also labor and capital that go to produce food that no one consumes”

Malek’s device tremendously brings down the price for the final consumer while retaining the nutrutious value of the fresh foods – while also increasing the income of small farmers. Mr. Ahmed brought samples of dehydrated foods created using his device to be enjoyed by the attendees. Unexpectedly for me, the dried Mango and Bananas tasted as the best types of fresh fruits you can try.

Ahmed continues to seek the right financial and business partners to boost the commercialization of his invention by producing and distributing the device at scale for Egyptian farmers and beyond.

Mr. Magdy Sharaf takes the economic impact of recycling to the next level by mixing fiberglass and hardened cartoon fabric remnants to form a new material with better physical/mechanical properties – the material, which has an Intellectual Property registered – allows Mr. Magdy’s startup El Wady for Fiberglass to produce various products that’s up to 3 times cheaper than its alternatives and has even better and more durable features, products include but not limited to Street Lighting Poles, Doors, Outdoor Boothes, Caravans, Furniture and more…

In case you are a fequent visitor to one of Cairo’s most popular mega malls, City Stars, you most likely have slowed down to take a look at an Advert on a street bump on your own in or out of the parking lot. This Advert is developed by Mr. Magdy’s new material and developed by El Wady for Fiberglass for one of Egypt’s top Ad agencies.

So far, El Wady for Fiberglass has fulfilled over 15 purchase order with a value approaching 1 Million EGP for only 2 of its products developed using the new material, being, Street Lighting Poles and Doors. Its clientele included entities like Egyptian Ministry of Interiors, Real Estate Developers, Building and Construction Companies, NGOs. Yet, despite all this success, El Wady is forced to decline majority of purchase orders they are receiving now as their small factory runs out of capacity to deliver on large purchase orders.

El Wady is looking for expansion capital now by moving from the small factory – where they have achieved all their success into a much larger production facility where they can scale their operation and spend further on building an organizational structure that allows the business to scale.

The company defines its Total Addressable Market (TAM) in Egypt only to be 5 Billion EGP, competing head-on with manufacturers and suppliers of Street Lighting Poles, Doors, Furniture and more. The company expects to dominate 5% of this market in its first year upon receiving the needed funding and expand to 15% and 25% in following years.

I saw Magdy’s El Wady, just like I saw Ahmed’s Malek, truly disruptive models for very large markets across different industries and its success takes the practice of innovation and entrepreneurship in Egypt to a more real and mature level, moving beyond apps and tech and looking in-depth at serious problems the community is facing where innovation and entrepreneurship can have serious social and economic impact.

While majority of startup investors and funds in Egypt continues to focus exclusively on tech startups, and those who don’t, continue to require an exaggerated level of maturity for the startup, I’m sure there are plenty of intelligent investors who can bring lots of business acumen to the already successful implementations of smart innovations.

I had to go through discussions that got heated into debates with the entrepreneurs who complained about receiving only superficial support mostly in the form of recognition and celebration and that investors have overlooked their pitches because they were no flashy internet-tech startups, I had to argue on behalf of investors for a second chance on pitching to local investors, before heading to international finance opportunities.

Ahmed El Masry’s story is no different, realizing that only 5-12% of household waste in Egypt is getting recycled and that Egypt consumes 10 million tons of organic fertilizers annually while producing only 3 million tons locally – Ahmed’s Hand2Hand started getting down to business to fill the 7 million tons organic fertalizers market gap relying on the unlimited resource of recycleable raw materials from household waste.

In an impressively sharp pitch, Ahmed presented to the audience the logic and numbers of how he sees the problem and realizes the solution within reach.

Hand2Hand has already started the construction of the digester device necessary for converting waste into organic fertilizers. The company is raising 20,000 Euros to finish the digester construction, purchase the hardware necessary for managing the supply chain of organic waste and launch awareness campaigns to promote household waste segregation.

Ahmed’s startup Hand2Hand has presented a perfect example of fitting societal problems and accordingly market needs with available resources and opportunities, achieving both social and economic impact across the startup’s ecosystem on household level, farm level and national level through expanding reclaimed desert land using organic fertilizers.

Four other entrepreneurs has presented impressive companies being Vwaste, turning dried fruit (especially Orange) peel into Pectine that can be used across industries. EatWater which builds a device that clears food from any causes of cancer using nanotechnology. Tadweer which seeks to disrupt the supply chain for the waste collection ecosystem in Egypt by providing professional and consistent waste collection and segregation services. And last but not least Shamsia Space which supports the economic backbone of Suez as a main industrial hub in Egypt by launching a number of entrepreneur-empowerment initiatives including a co-working space and a maker space in Suez.

After seven impressive presentations, the audience had plenty of feedback to share, that’s when an extended networking period started for entrepreneurs to receive feedback from stakeholders

Mr. Ahmed Ismail of Malek Food dehydration discussing his business with Mr. Hassan Mansi from ABA.

Mr. Mohamed Mahfouz from Shamsia Spaces, discussing his business with Ms. Dina Hassabalah from Sawiris Foundation for Environmental Development

During the networking break, scoring sheets that attendees had during the pitches were collected in order for SwitchMed team to do the math and calculate the highest score achieved through the socring grid which included variables such as Pitch Quality, Business Model, Scalability, Solution Proposed, Key Success Factors and Clear Green Impact. Vwaste was announced as the winner of this year’s SwtichMed Content in Egypt and the team will travel to Barcelona in 2018 to present its business on the global SwitchMed event.

Ms. Claudia Pani, SwitchMed Program Manager handing over the prize to the winning team, Vwaste.

As we are also in the process of launching our membership program for Egypreneur Club in Talaat Harb Square, I was glad to announce granting all 7 entrepreneurs Premium Membership at Egypreneur Club, Talaat Harb. Turning the event venue from a one-time event into a permanent hub that will retain and expand on the energy created to coach, support and help Green Entrepreneurs access capital and support services they need.

Upon the request of some of the participating entrepreneurs, who considered her to be the first person to believe in them and provide them with real support. Prof. Ghada Amer, Vice President at Arab Science and Technology Foundation was invited to share her feedback with attendees, providing eloquent, constructive and inspiring feedback to all participating startups.

Following my previous post Is it time to Switch towards Collaborative Consumption and Production in Egypt yet? – I stand corrected that these entrepreneurs and their startups have already initiated a movement towards economically, socially and environmentally more sustainable approaches towards life and business in Egypt.

It remains a challenge for these entrepreneurs to persist against all odds to bring their projects to life on a reasonable scale and to be able to endure the challenges and lack of “real” support and often the superficiality of startup celebrations versus the real needs for these projects to turn to be fruiteful. Something that entrepreneurs has agreed that the SwitchMed program has done a very good job in raising their capacity to be able to deliver a convincing pitch and presenting their projects in such a way that will hopefully help them in raising the needed capital and acquiring the support services needed.

Representatives from Egyptian Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation, Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry joined alongside representatives from UNIDO, Sekem, Knowledge, Sawiris Foundation for Sustainable Development to put together the best ending for the event by a group circle discussion during which entrepreneurs’ spirits were boosted, energy renewed and the feedback they needed, was delivered and digested.

Something we are committed to continue doing and repeating at Egypreneur Club as a hub for acknowledging and supporting entrepreneurs who challenge their surrounding circumstances to achieve greater social and economic impact for themselves, their beloved nation and the world at large.

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Commercial Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Fashion & Apparel Part-time Mother

PoshShop, the marketplace for pre-owned authentic luxury goods is making it safer to shop for original items online

It was actually tailored to my late grandfather” this was my response to a colleague commenting on my grey wool suite, one of my all the time favorite pieces of wardrobe during cold winter days, today I could hardly find something as thick, well-tailored and a perfect fit anywhere.

Using pre-owned items as part of our wardrobe is not a totally foreign concept to Egyptians, items are often carried on by family members and occassionally gifted to close friends, special pieces of wardrobe carries stories, authenticity and meaning  beyond its monetary value.

It’s not very different for shoppers for luxury items, often quite expensive and very occassionally used, the market for pre-owned luxury good has been nothing but expanding and with its expansion comes the risk of falling a prey for counterfeited items. Stories of high-value purchases of seemingly original items that turns out to be copies gets plenty of people to hold back from purchasing pre-owned originals.

The risk is realized by Daria Ilina, her over a decade of experience in the luxury fashion industry and the experience of her friends falling a prey to counterfeited items has inspired her to start Posh Shop to be the destination to buy and sell pre-owned authentic luxury goods.

The black market is so profitable so sellers of fake products, sometimes purchase original receipts of boutiques, dust bags and packaging from people who have original items in order to manufacture the high copy with corresponding serial numbers, model number, color and sell it with boutique invoice. In this case the only chance to spot the fake is to inspect the item itself.” Said Daria

The verification process of these luxury items doesn’t go far from Sherlock Holmes investigations. Unless you follow a pre-defined process of testing several variables, you’d fall victim to fake copies even if you own similar items from the same brand. For this, verification can only be handled by professionals. The shop uses a verification consulting services that requires a quarterly visit and more than two dozen photos taken on a very specific manner – the angle, the lighting, the focus all affects the verification process.

And as she settles down with her Egyptian family, Daria sees the business through the goggles of sustainability.

 

“We are sustainable.  We are doing our small part to be environmentally responsible. Giving opportunity to re-sell what it is already manufactured, extending the lifecycle of luxury goods, we reduce polluting effect from fashion production. Which greatly affects Oceans’ flora and fauna.   Another issue, when people re-sell their unwanted designer items to somebody who will treasure them again they feel good knowing that they are part of the social responsibility program and making the good things not just for cash in return.” Says Daria Ilina, Founder of Post Shop

 

 

The Posh Shop has also created a luxury selling and exchange community, through which members can consistently update their items without the need to purchase each individual item. Daria’s passion for style also allows for member’s personal styling needs to be met with notifications of availability of suitable items.

To learn more about The Posh Shop and what kind of items are currently available visit their website www.poshshop-eg.com and join them on Facebook and Instagram

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Electronics & Hardware Entrepreneur Executive Management Marketing Startup Stories Technology Entrepreneur

Step-by-Step Guide on launching your Crowdfunding Campaign – especially if you are a hardware startup

Crowdfunding campaigns are one of the best ways to validate your products, especially if you are a hardware startup. For the followers of the Lean Startup Methodology – which should be everyone building a startup – you know you should be iterating the launch of your product while receiving feedback from your customers.

Crowdfunding provides the ideal medium to achieve this dynamic, yet sometimes it could be the kiss of death to a new startup if the process is not managed properly. And what’s better than other people’s experience, failures and successes to learn from while pursuing your own journey?

Inspired by the panel discussion on Hardware Startups Crowdfunding by FabLab Egypt; this article will introduce you to the storie and lessons learnt by hardware entrepreneurs who used Crowdfunding as a medium to develop their products and build growing businesses based on the initial success or failure of their Crowdfunding Campaign.

If there is enough interest, we’ll publish a follow-on article with Checklist and Score Card that will help you score your campaign and suggest ways to increase the potential of success based on the input shared by the entrepreneurs. Feel free to comment below is something like this would be helpful to you.

By the end of 2013, Bassam Jalgha’s first bootstrapped Kickstarter campaign (Roadie Tuner: the ultimate guitarist tool) attracted 2,002 backers who pledged $178,613, four years later, his company, Band Industries, attracted 4,741 backers who pledged $502,931 to its second Crowdfunding campaign (Roadie 2 and Roadie Bass Automatic Instrument Tuners), Bassam joined the panel live from China as he is working on delivering the product before the holidays.

Amr El Gabry is the Founder of VoxEra – The First Voice Roaming Killer, its Kickstarter Campaign recently attracted 633 backers who pledged $75,551 and in the process of launching their product.

Mahmoud Said of Happiana had less luck with his SunBank – The World’s Smartest Solar Charger Campaign on indieGogo despite successfully raising $3,000, the target for manufacturing the product had been $15,000 and you can’t go flexible with manufacturing, though, it seems the campaign has had a positive impact as his company recently completed a second pivot and was able to raise a seedfunding round to continue their operation.

Amr Saleh’s 1Sheeld: Replace your Arduino shields with your smartphone! campaign had been one of the inspirers of the Hardware Startup movement in Egypt, attracting 1,480 backers who pledged $85,210 and successfully delivering on their promise, Amr’s Integreight is getting ready to launch a second campaign soon.

Below are some of the top tips shared by the founders

Marketing Funnel and Conversion

The core component for the success of the campaign is proper design to the marketing funnel and a combination of persistence and intelligence in designing conversion points, as digital marketing practices mature, the process for online conversion becomes widely known yet the need for specialized professionals to run the campaign persists.

According to the founders the main tools they used for their funnel and conversion is:

  • Landing Page with Signup Form – attracting traffic from different online social channels to the landing page
  • Digital Advertising especially Facebook Ads (Using Leads Forms for Signups)
  • Providing a “taste” and “small committment” before campaign launch to get engaement and buy-in
  • Media, Events & PR

Prior to its campaign launch, Bassam’s Band Industries launched a Free App targetting the same niche, providing a taste for their upcoming product and attracting 10,000 leads, plenty of whom will then contribute to the Crowdfunding campaign later.

Bank Industres also hired an advertising agency that was able to generate $60,000 worth of revenues for a budget of $15,000 relying on Facebook Leads Forms, the cost of acquisition for a lead had been $0.2 and the conversion late was expected to be 7%. Bassam stresses on the fact that digital marketing is more about data than marketing, once you know what to measure and the ratios you’ll be able to make the right calculations and investments.

But the journey was not the same for Amr El Gably who fired his marketing team after the first few days of the campaign. They spent $2000 and acquired only 500 leads, only resulting in 50 purchases. VoxEra also used a smart pre-campaign $1 committment guranteeing super early bird prices, for which 100% of those who paid the $1 ended up contributing to the campaign.

Using Advertising Agency or Not

Amr has then moved between marketing agencies, investing $1500 for a return of $1500 with Gadget Floor, then $2500 with Funded Today which pulled back from the campaign for poor projected performance and another $2500 with PR Media Now  which didn’t also proceed in delivering results. Founders stressed that the reviews for Marketing Agencies could be very positive and also very negative sometimes, achieving the chemistry with an agency had been a challenge for Amr.

Influencers and Affiliate Marketing

El Gably’s quest for results relying on agencies came to a disappointment, bringing matters back to his own hands, Amr reached out to influencers, offering a local travel blogger a 10% profit share and using an Affiliate marketing module, results started showing. For $100 boosted post by the blogger resulted in $5000 direct revenues to the campaign.

Momentum through Media Appearances

Media didn’t end up working well for VoxEra’s campaign as well. Amr stresses that timing for media appearances is critical, a duration of 7-10 days between media appearances have not scored well with the audience, these apperances should be schedule in a short span of time, communicating momentum and urgency to convince hesitating audience to commit. People wait to see what happens after each interview, whey they wait a few days, they lose interest.

Support System

Media outlets are growing less interested in idea-stage crowdfunding projects, giving the large number of projects that doesn’t deliver and accordingly affects the credibility of the media outlet, verification by testing the product is becoming essential to securing media coverage for your campaign. This was the case for Mahmoud, after trying sevearl routes, running out of funds while results are not  showing. That’s when his Fab Lab Membership kicked in to provide the supportive community, network, knowledge and insights he needed to move further. Mahmoud strongly recommends entrepreneurs to assemble a support system before launching.

You’ll never get it all right on your own just sitting there with your laptop. Opeaning up and reaching out to the community of peers, mentors and fellow makers is essential for success.

Sniping the right Events

Integreight’s geeks don’t like to leave it for chance, the team studied 70 Crowdfunding case studies before launching their own Crowdfunding campaigns, accumulating a repository of know-how fo what to do and not to do, which tools to use, when. It all came together when the team has chosen to participate at TechCrunch Disruptin Berlin prior to their campaign launch and was able to get the TC coverage and generating momentum from there.

The Not To Do List

Despite that his campaign was not a success, the first experience of launching a Crowdfunding campaign had been invaluable to Mahmoud’s business. Since then he syndicated a “Not To Do List” listing everything they have done that didn’t work. Another reason why such community meetings are invaluable is the cross-sharing of the not-to-do lists among founders and making it available to the next generation of founders.

Providing on your promises, while efficiently handling negativity online

Another challenge these campaigns face is the effective handling of negative comments from audiences and backers who often lack the understanding of the process, challenges and flexibility required while working with startups. As an Application release gets slightly delayed, and one of the backers resorts to negativity and bad mouthing which could be a source of stress and possible mis-handling of the situation.

Keeping your cool, demonstrating the situation and terms of engagement with options to proceed often turns down attention-seeking negativity-seekers. In this case, someone initially posting negative comments turned down the offer to get a refund and showed flexibility in accepting the terms.

To keep its backers updated, VoxEra even decided to take it further and hire staff to make direct phone calls to 633 backers. When people receive a personalized phone call, it feels better and more trusting and engaging for them while you are working on fulfilling their expectations.

How to Protect your idea

Founders seemed to agree that it’s almost impossible to fully protect your idea, in some cases during the campaign on one platform, other groups post the same product on another crowdfunding platform. Or larger companies often copycat the products and launch it before the end of the campaign.

Some ways to gurantee your own success if to focus on:

  • Branding & Community: If you have managed to make the brand stand out and build a supportive community around it
  • Scientific Research: If you baed your product on documented scientific research
  • Software Algorithms: If you have developed hard-to-re-engineer algorithms

Several options exist for getting a provesional patent, providing a protection for 12 month and starting only at a few hundred dollars, PatentWizard.com was mentioned as an option, though it was debated that using local legal advisors might be more engaging and cost effective.

 

Customer Discovery and Communication

Mahmoud’s experience with his first Crowdfunding campaign have taught him to listen carefully to the customers and design the offering and communication based on their needs and expectations. “Never compete on price, find a niche segment and serve them with a specific product” says Mahmoud. As a result of listening, Mahmoud decided to focus on 2 different customer segments and needs other than what was initially anticipated.

Choosing timing for Launch and Certification

It might seem promising to launch a campaign – from the scratch – but it’s highly advised by the founders never to launch a campaign before having a minimum of a prototype you can sell. Taking the risk of launching before producing a working prototype might destroy the whole process and affect you negatively.

It’s also vital to know that you’ll need to certify your product before assembly, receiving a certificate requires that your product complies with specific requirements, you have to take these factors into consideration before manufacturing not to end up repeating the process, make sure that the manufacturing partner you choose has a lab facility that can test the product for compliance with certificate requirements before manufacturing.

Pricing Considerations

4X of the cost of production should be the minimum pricing for hardware products, there are too many unforseen source of waste, re-design, cost of campaign .etc that needs to be factors in the pricing to avoid loss before making revenues.

The above are a few variables mentioned by the founders in their panel discussion. It’s not hard to build a step-by-step process to launch your own campaign then:

  1. Study market needs to verify the existence of a niche for your product idea
  2. Prototype the product and produce a working prototype
  3. Be open and engage a community of peers, mentors and potential segment
  4. Develop smart digital marketing strategy incorproating landing page, facebook ads and videos if possible
  5. Develop killer content for your digital strategy consisting of high quality video, Email Drip Campaign .etc
  6. Integrate Influencer Marketing – even relying on local influencers in your community with niche audience
  7. Snipe your event engagements for maximum exposure to the right media outlets
  8. Price your product at least 4X of the anticipated cost of production
  9. Schedule your media engagements all around the same week
  10. Listen very carefully to all feed back, be ready for pivots and delays
  11. Invest in communicate clearly and confidently while preparing the delivery of your product
  12. Don’t stop at celebrating or mourning the campaign, build a company, get funding from somewhere else and come back stronger.

As part of The Growth Manifesto, I have built a number of score cards to benchmark the startup/company performance and growth potential based on researched variables. If it’d be of interest to the community, I’d be glad to invest the time to design a specific tool for Hardware Startup Crowdfunding, comments below if this would be helpful to you.


DISLAIMER: Information shared is based on the insights shared during the panel discussion, if you’d like to revise any segment, please, feel free to contact us.

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Fashion & Apparel Stories

Abayology: How harmony and balance can be your best companions while starting and growing a business.

While I was not the typical guest to this type of delicate showroom in Nasr City, the aroma pleasantly hypnotized me that I became even more curious about the story of this business.

Abayology is a 6 year old fashion brand started in 2011 by two friends Maye and Heba. The business inspired by their own passion and talent in designing their own edgy “Abaya(s)” – an oriental robe-like garment, often considered too classic.

Ladies from their society started inquiring about the source of  their abayas which provided enough reason for them to turn their passion into a business with the motto of “change your abaya style”.

Started online, the business had been growing steadily and today, the partners manage not only a showroom and two sales outlets but they were also able to start their own factory to support their business and aspiring fashion-designers in Egypt.

So far, it seems like a classic success story of mature partners, steadily growing a business that they are very passionate and enthusiastic about. But what ready made it outstanding is that the two co-founders managed to maintain a successful marriage and a strong family with 6 kids.

I started digging in for answers and after getting as much information as I get, I think I’m discovering the secret ingredients to building a business while maintaining balance and harmony in different areas of our lives.

1. Maintain a Collaborative Attitude

A primarily ingredient in the success of Abayology, is that from the outset the partners have maintained a collaborative attitude throughout their journey, D’Factory, created by Abayology is serving aspiring Fashion designers to produce their vision the same way the partners has done years before.

With a belief and focus on building a better environment for the emerging fashion design industry in Egypt, the collaborative attitude has also came to be very helpful to support Abayology’s expansion and future projects.

2. Managing Expectations

One of the traps of starting and growing a business steadily is conveying overly optimistic expectations, Abayology manged to reflect their state, capacity, availability and delivery time clearly to their customers, partners and designers they are working with. Building a sustainable long term relationship, a solid community and many returning customers.

3. Balanced Exchange

What I found wonderfully inspiring is how the partners while enduring the responsibilities of sustaining and growing a business in challenging economic conditions managed to also maintain a successful relationship with their spouses, kids and expanded family.

4. Clear Communication

One secret for maintaining a balanced relationship turned out to be Clear Communication on each party’s responsibilities and expectations and consistent review and open communication on what needs to change.

Maintaining clear communication also have supplied the partners with enormous support from their partners when the going gets tough, the reality and openness in communication made it easy to access support when needed.

4. Sharing the Journey

The partners also managed to integrate different areas of their lives, they didn’t draw a wall between their work and home life or tried to manage them separately, furthermore their active engagement in work and home life didn’t hinder their ability to contribute to their community through inspiring other young ladies to venture into starting their own business.

This integration of home, work and community lives provides the needed fuel for self fulfillment and enjoyment of the journey that while being tough at times, can be enormously enjoyable for those who know how to survive the challenge of inducing harmony and maintaining balance.

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Learn more about the journey and stages of starting and growing your own business from Egypreneur’s Survival Guide, check more details and request an interview from:https://www.egypreneur.com/survival

 

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Stories Technology

VaTel: How The Technology Chef from Benha sees power in the suburbs, niches and custom-made.

Vatel, The French chef brought from the slums of Paris to rescue the kingdom from political and economic collapse, the right ingredients, the right amounts, the right sequence and the courage to try new forms is what made Vatel an outstanding cook.

By the time he was a first year Engineering student, the 128kbps DSL subscription in his city of Benha did cost a soaring 1250 EGP per month and 1 hour of internet usage at a local internet cafe would cost a full 8 EGP making it very difficult for him and fellow students to access the internet.

The loss of all his carefully structured data in a local hard-drive brought him into a network recovery tool and stroke his first entrepreneurial quality, the ability to exert time in learning and consume days in reading until he knows how to stuff really works.

In a few days, he realized he acquired lots of knowledge in setting up networks and controlling them and while still being at his second year at school, he wanted to become a local DSL provider for the undeserved Qaliobeya governorate (Main cities: Benha and Menoufeia), which are suffering from soaring prices and bad quality.

The family of the second year Engineering student was seriously concerned as he signs Credit Notes worth 60,000 EGP he decided to raise to setup the first local DSL provider in his governorate and he did.

His courageous step provided the undeserved community with quality internet connection in competitive prices, he gives himself credit for inventing the “Wasla” — extending Ethernet cables between buildings to build a local area network sharing a single DSL subscription.

His business went very well and in less than a year, he reached a peak of 3000 subscribers and build a massive network in Benha and Menoufia that he decided not only to settle for sharing the internet but use is as a platform to offer more services as well.

The need to operate as a platform formed him to study more on throttling and controlling a network, he customized hardware and software programs to match the unusual very specific needs of the local network he created.

As the market matures and major DSL providers consider competing in the market and cut off his startup’s access to service, the market in Benha was too small for his ambition, it was time to move to Cairo.

With the experience, stories and disappointments, he arrives in Cairo with the ambition to leave his mark, VoIP (Voice over IP) was just starting to gain feet in the corporate market and with the experience building the network control framework the chef was ready for business.

Based on an open source software, VaTel managed to build a custom 5,000 objects framework on top of the software to further control VoIP networks and use it in creating specific business applications for different sectors.

Since then, he expanded his VoIP network design, installation and service business in different sectors creating very specific business applications for the e-Trading, Transportation and Call Center industries.

As the business needs of the Call Center gets more specific and his clients decide to invest more in the software to optimize the performance in a challenging and competitive industry, VaTel built a very comprehensive framework for managing call center operations.

As he enjoys his success and think about what’s next, the local entrepreneur yearns to give back to his community in Benha, with a program from ITIDA, Mena decided to venture into building the first MEGA Call Center in Benha, he thinks that the location would be very competitive to find and retain talent.

As the decision is made, Mena started the journey to setup Benha’s first MEGA Call Center employing 700 local agents, relying on the advanced experience managing call center operations and human resources and performance.

Phase one of the Call Center employs 200 agents and requires a capital of 5 Million EGP. Relying on an ITIDA support program, Mena headed to the bank for a 3,500,000 EGP loan that he managed to gain approval for in 2014.

Mena is currently raising a final 1 Million EGP to complete the capital necessary to setup the phase one of the Benha call center project, employing 200 if his experience taught him something, it is that working in the suburbs and niches can turn out to be a very successful strategy, if it’s led by the right chef.

According to Porter’s Generic Strategies, what Mena thinks can be very true, choosing differentiation focus can be a winning strategy in Case of selecting the suburbs, niches and custom made.

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Learn more about the journey and stages of starting and growing your own business from Egypreneur’s Survival Guide, check more details and request an interview from:https://www.egypreneur.com/survival

Categories
Stories

How the AIESEC experience, ignited Hadeer Shalaby’s entrepreneurial flame!

“You’ll become the books you read and the people you hang out with”

I remember this quote very well as it came to influence my approach in engaging with networking activities, it might even be one of the reasons why I started Egypreneur back in 2008, the best way to grow as an entrepreneur is to immerse yourself in an entrepreneurs network.

The Egyptian culture is still quite conservative and sensitive to “networks”, “organizations” and “affiliations” especially at university stage, when parents place high value on the academic performance and career orientation of their kids!

Lots of people wonder if engaging in student organizations would have any positive outlook in their career, from my experience working with both entrepreneurs and student organization in the past four year, I can clearly see a correlation between activity in student organizations and a more entrepreneurial outlook.

Her story is a perfect example for that, Hadeer Shalaby, joined AIESEC early on at university and took on the responsibility of setting up AIESEC Lebanon and then joining AIESEC Global expansion operations in the Netherlands where she worked on expanding AIESEC teams all around the world.

Coming back to Egypt, she didn’t fancy a corporate job and had been looking for something more active to do, couple of failed trials then she meets the right partner for her first venture, which came to be Taxi El Sa7el. The AIESEC experience helped her acquire the leadership and management skills to go through the experience of communicating and setting things up.

Also the resilience and craziness of a startup life, after a few days where they had absolutely no orders and the team of drivers they brought together to Sa7el started leaving, they had to make a move, Hadeer and team left offices and went into a full thrust on ground campaign distributing flyers and inviting people for rides.

As some drivers already left for lack of initial traction, Hadeer got her father to drive Taxi El Sa7el, her friend’s mom, herself and everyone who she can get to drive have joined the rank of Taxi El Sa7el drivers before setting up a more optimized operations to properly respond to the demand.

The venture was a success at its first season and even more importantly for Hadeer she won a bid she placed with her parents, if Taxi El Sa7el didn’t work she’ll be expected to pursue a corporate job, now as her venture worked, she is free to continue her entrepreneurial rides.

Unable to hold the entrepreneurial drive till next season and being presented with the opportunity, Hadeer joined Careem, as General Manager of Careem Cairo, the App-based chauffeur-driven car service competing with Uber in the middle east just announced its $10 Million funding round a week ago.

No claims is to be placed on how Student Organizations would contribute to your academic performance or your future career path, but even better it definitely can inspire you to take the route less traveled and ignite your entrepreneurial flame.

— — -

This story will be mentioned under first chapter “You come first!” you can check more details about the book from https://www.egypreneur.com/survival

You too can hang out with the right network by signing up to Egypreneur membership from https://www.egypreneur.com

Categories
Stories

Stirring the nest, how ZAD Solutions flourished after losing 60% of its business!

When the eagle thinks that its eaglets have reached the maturity to fly on their own. It start stirring the nest, making it extremely uncomfortable to stay where they are used to and forcing them to make a move, to fly on their own, to hunt on their own and to venture into the unknown.

As I got to his room, I could see the Business Model Canvas hanging on the wall with a business model for a new product they are preparing to relaunch for the 3rd time.

He looked quite reserved about risk and mentioned his preference to do extremely well calculated moves — never blame an engineering for it — he even mentioned at the beginning of venturing into business he prefered to be a chicken entrepreneur, to work on his ideas while still keeping a full time job.

But after gaining a lot of maturity and domain expertise through trials that started 1996 with a web design house, Ahmed El Moualled, now CEO and Co-founder of ZAD Solutions decided to pull the plunge and venture into building ZAD Solutions after starting to attract big clients.

He tells the story with a smile I started recognizing once you take entrepreneurs through their own journey, with a bit of surprise of how someone as reserved and risk-averse like him would to be forced to go through that and still survive and grow.

December 2009, by the time ZAD Solution was getting 60–70% of its business from a main client, the client decided to stop its operations and suspend the contract. Stripping ZAD Solutions off 60–70% of its business and leaving El Mouallad, who always believed in extremely calculated steps to face the storm on his own.

Now El Moualled, enters a new phase, he is forced to downsize the company, keeping only 50% of employees, a very painful exercise, and he has to struggle monthly on making the payroll, something most entrepreneurs I interviewed could relate to at some point along their journey.

Though, despite the painful reality of this phase, ZAD Solutions was forced to grow strong business development wings, as acquiring new clients was the only way to survive, ZAD Solutions was able to build a very efficient client acquisition process and increase the efficiency of getting things done with available resources..

Today, after 5+ years of this story, ZAD Solutions has done repeated business with over 100+ of Egypt’s top corporates, most of all had been acquired after being forced into business development to survive the challenge of losing 60% of its business.

Not only that, but El Moualled is taking it very seriously and systemically to increase the company’s valuation and launch ZAD Solutions’ own products, the business model hanging on his wall turned out to be for 3eyada, a Clinic Management System with aspiration to upgrade the healthcare industry in Egypt.

One of the clearest patterns in my interviews for Egypreneur’s Survival Guideso far, is how usually after this action that seems like killing you, with the right of resilience, faith and emotional intelligence you’d be able to turn this situation around and use it to grow and get closer to your vision.

— — —

The details of this story will be shared at Egypreneur’s Survival Guide. Check more details and request an interview from https://www.egypreneur.com/survival

Categories
Stories

The road to mastery, how Si-Ware raised $10 Mil during Curfew in Cairo

By the end of 2013, when Curfew was imposed in Cairo, Si-Ware closed a $10 Mil investment round from TAQNIA and Ideavelopers. Probably the largest VC round in Egypt since 2011.

Fueled by the desire to discover for myself and share what helped Egyptian entrepreneurs survive the challenges of creating outstanding companies in the past decades, I sat with Co-Founders Dr. Hisham Haddara, Ayman Ahmed and Bassam Saadany to learn more about the journey of Si Ware.

The story of Si-Ware is not just about Si-Ware, the company came out of the womb of an interesting and inspiring journey, the collective experience of its Co-Founders has equipped the company to compete on a global level and position itself as an innovation hub with over 37 patents.

Raising $10 Million USD amides uncertainty and instability is not an accident, neither it’s an overnight success, you can trace down the roots of the story over 21 years ago.

The Journey

In 1994, after achieving academic excellence, two engineers were invited by their professor to join a new venture, ANACAD a France-based electronics company expanded its business to Egypt in partnership with a group of electronics professors and professionals, then, acquired by Mentor Graphics, it was expected for the partnership to be dissolved.

As Mentor Graphics Executive arrive to Egypt to dissolve the company, the level of competence of Egyptian engineers triggered the sight of great potential, withstanding lots of challenges and showing great competence, Mentor Graphics decided to expand its operations in Egypt.

As Mentor Graphics expands and becomes more stable in Egypt, the same team continued to join challenging ventures, until coming together to found SWS which was then re-branded to Si-Ware.

Egypt as a brand

“When you want to buy a ring for your fiance, where do you go?”

Jewelry street where Jewelry shops are known to concentrate their presence in specific areas to attract buyers and make it easy for them to compare and find their most suitable designs. There is often an intense investment on the brand of the street and great value having the shops door-to-door.

The electronics sector is one of the largest in the world, even larger than Oil & Gas yet there are still few companies and success stories coming out of Egypt in the field.

One of the main challenges facing electronics companies in Egypt is that international clients don’t recognize “Egypt” as a destination where for the microelectronics industry. Egyptian companies has to exert extra effort to attract business and get over the hurdle of not having “Egypt” recognized in the global map.

Growing trees

Recognizing their own journey founding and working under different brands and umbrellas, the commitment of the founding team at Si-Ware goes beyond their own companies into nurturing an ecosystem for the microelectronics industry in Egypt.

The management team has contributed to developing the vision for the electronics industry in Egypt and serve in different positions in Etisal, ITIDA and sees that it has been becoming easier and easier for new entrepreneurs to enter the industry.

The road to Mastery

The interviews for Egypreneur’s Survival Guide seemed to get me more challenged, it’s not that I find it hard to extract and digest stories and relate it to business practices and pieces of knowledge that I’m acquainted with, this seemed to be the easy part.

On the surface, the stories that I heard could be labelled under persistence, courage, openness, smarts, but always there had been a theme a pattern that I neither understand, nor I’m able to express.

The only solution was to upgrade the level of knowledge and understanding that I have, a journey that often brought me by the edges of the Capital and into the search of new sources of knowledge and wisdom. One of the interesting findings that triggered a deeper understanding to the entrepreneurs journey was Mastery by Robert Greene.

Being part of a generation that’s used to speed, shortcuts, we often operate in the level of being a “distracted scanning animal” as described in the book. We could count dozens and dozens of stories for entrepreneurs who thought they have came up with the idea for the next big thing and were frustrated and decided to quit after initially losing traction, or losing the team or invalidating their business model.

We often think that having, a few gallons of intelligence and street smarts with 2 years of experience in whatever we do will grant us the wisdom and instant success.

Robert Greene analyzes the journey of true masters throughout history into three main stages.

1. Student / Apprentice

If you want to achieve mastery, passion should be the only driver to pursue a new field, passion will give you the energy to invest the time, effort and consistency in understanding and putting together all pieces of knowledge that makes up the full picture of the field, furthermore, you should apprentice to a mentor to have a first hand experience in the industry, you can never skip this step, neither your smarts, intelligence and social skills will make up for it.

If we look at Si-Ware story we’d find it clear that a University Professor and 2 of his best and brightest students exerted consistent efforts in accumulating knowledge about their industry.

2. Practitioner / Active-Creative

After understanding the full picture and its details, it’s often time to get active in pursuing experiments, accumulate experience that will then allow you to get creative and start creating your own innovations.

Persistence is the name of the game, Robert Greene assumes no less than 10 years until enough pattern identification is achieved which will then be the foundation for connecting things unusually and seeing things that no one else can see, the first step in Mastery.

The journey of the founders of Si-Ware has clearly showed the risk-taking, experimental approach in founding ANACAD, then Mentor Graphics, being early employees of MEMSCAP. A Journey through which the aspiring team had to endure lots of set backs and financial stress.

3. Mastery

Being a control freak might probably keep you in business for a while, building a strict powerful system and controlling the execution with rationale might end you up with a rigid structure that will collapse in an ever changing world.

The main characteristic of Masters is their ability to go beyond the rational and use their intuition in coming up with new ideas and designing new innovations.

Si-Ware’s ability to win the trust of investors at a time of extreme political turmoil and their ever growing portfolio of solutions, products and patents is a clear example of how Mastery can be developed.

What my generation of entrepreneurs can learn from the journey of Si-Ware, is that it takes time to develop mastery, and only through apprenticeship and consistent efforts in the Active-Creative stage, breakthroughs can be made.

It also leaves my generation of entrepreneur extremely grateful to those pioneers who laid down the foundation for industries in Egypt, through the apprenticeship of those true masters, these industries can really develop and reap the economic fruit of their hard work.

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Learn more about the journey and stages of starting and growing your own business from Egypreneur’s Survival Guide, check more details and request an interview from: https://www.egypreneur.com/survival