As the Techne Summit took off last weekend in Alexandria's iconic library, a generation of emerging entrepreneurial talent rose to the spotlight. Here are 9 power teams that killed it at the event.
100 startups, 80 panelists, and 6 pitching competitions awoke a vibrant atmosphere at the Techne Summit, which kicked off its second edition last Saturday at the Alexandria Library. From tutoring platforms to furniture social businesses and ridesharing applications, the startups pitching at the event, as well as the inventive horse-powered Uber 7antoors, showed tremendous potential.
“In comparison to other places in the Middle East, entrepreneurs in Egypt really are thinking globally. They have a very global mindset; some of them may be iterations of things we have already seen, but they develop them in such a sophisticated way that it really shows ingenuity," said Tiffany Obser, Senior Associate at Seedstars World. "There is obviously a lot of talent here, and there is great vibe in the air because everyone is collaborating and building off each other.”
The Geneva-based platform, which supports seed-stage startups in emerging markets from Bogota, to Bangkok, to Kigali, ran their second competition at this year’s summit, after hosting a brimming first pitching event in Egypt at last year’s Riseup Summit in Cairo. “We are looking for startups that are at seed stage which come up with solutions that can be scaled in the region and beyond,” she explains. “These are typically the startups that we will see win.”
“I was mind blown by the level of startups,” said the summit’s team member Reem Jabak. “Some of them are at such a young level and yet they speak of business models and methodologies with extreme professionalism. Some of them offer real solutions to some of our major problems.” Among the winners, the changemakers, the social champions, and the pitchers, these nine startups certainly stood out.
1. Tutorama: Introducing themselves as “the Airbnb of tutoring,” the startup presented one of the most powerful pitches and nabbed the first prize at both Seedstars and Upscale competitions. The platform is a highly curated marketplace that connects parents with top quality tutors, and which recently won $15,000 at the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, an event that has seen the beginning of some of Egypt’s most resonating success stories. Its co-founders, Mohamed Khodeir and Omar Khashaba, are piloting the platform in Cairo as they plan to launch across the MENA region by the end of the year.
2. Raye7: This restless, creative ginger entrepreneur has been making waves across the world since he co-founded Raye7, the carpooling mobile app that allows commuters to enjoy hassle-free rides with nearby colleagues within verified networks. One of CairoScene’s 25 entrepreneurs under 25, Ahmed Negm and his sister Samira were selected this year as the world’s second best mobile startup at the Mobile World Congress, and racked up two prizes at Techne Summit: second place at Seedstars World pitch, and the Sweedish Institute competition.
3. Ennota: Roaming across the panels and startup exhibitions, Ennota’s founder, Mohamed Hamada, stood out with a hunter hat that was, to say the least, surprisingly random. “At Riseup, I was chasing partners; now I’m hunting for investors,” he joked. Charismatic and incredibly driven, the entrepreneur set up a solution to empower small businesses to grow by offering “ridiculously simple financial management solutions that adapt to their level.” The startup, incubated by Flat6Labs and winner of the TIEC competition at the Summit, offers cloud-based financial management solutions to specifically help business owners with limited financial knowledge, from camel herders to koshk owners.
4. Voxera: Even though they were not awarded a prize at the summit’s competition, the founding trio behind the startup introduced a tech device that could potentially disrupt the telecommunications industry. Their product, a device and an app that allows the user to send and receive calls and SMS at no cost, promises to do away with roaming fees. “It was their first competition, but they got a lot of feedback, and I think it challenged them to think more strategically on how to better suit the needs of the market,” Obser says.
5. Tyro: Tyro is an online platform that connects anyone who wants to learn with skilled individuals through live one-on-one online sessions. Their pitch was so impressive that the Upscale competition granted them the fourth prize, adding a position to their list of winners.
6. Homect: Hailing from Alexandria, this startup run by three spirited young girls won the Upscale competition after pitching their online outsourcing platform for interior design. The platform aims to raise the quality of the home improvement industry, by connecting homeowners and designers. The female power-team is raising funds through a crowdfunding campaign on Egyptian gamified platform Tennra.
7. Jereed: The winner of 2015’s MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, Jereed capitalizes on a largely available natural resource in Egypt, discarded palm midribs, to create furniture. The palm midrib comes from the annual pruning of the palm, therefore it is a valuable environmentally-friendly material significantly tougher and more durable than other imported wood. The founders won the competition held by the Swedish Institute Alexandria at the summit, based on their positive impact on climate change and environmental protection.
8. Shezlong: In a country where mental health is taboo, the startup offers the region’s first online mental health practice, allowing patients to connect with licensed therapists via video visit via mobile or web through their platform, ensuring confidentiality and privacy to an experience that many across the region still regard with skepticism.
9. Tatweer: The social startup won the Abraaj competition hosted at the Techne Summit, after embarking on a venture to radically change the face of Cairo’s iconic koshks with a unique model: the new flashy kiosks, equipped with flat-screen TVs and built-in refrigerators, given to Cairo’s street vendors for free, as they are funded by sponsoring brands. The startup, which in Arabic means “uplift” aims to install up to 600 stationary kiosks in the next four years.
Main image: Tech pioneer Mark Turell giving a panel at Techne Summit 2016.