25 Under 25: The Entrepreneurs Driving Egypt’s Startup Revolution
Egypt's startup industry is one of the fastest growing in the region, if not the world. What makes our business landscape even more unique is the ever-decreasing age of entrepreneurs. We gather the young changemakers to find out what makes them tick. Play the slideshow below to see all the photos.
Battling multinational giants, redefining trends, and valiantly driving social change, the change-makers at the forefront of Egypt’s most innovative businesses are implausibly young. From intrepid designers disrupting the fashion scene to social businesses exporting bio-diesel or tech addicts connecting crowds through mobile apps, these incredibly young entrepreneurs are taking the reins of the Egyptian economy through innovation and unstoppable drive.
CairoScene gathered Egypt’s top 25 entrepreneurs under 25 in an exclusive photo shoot and a series of round-table discussions where defying family mandates, challenging mindsets, networking, and taking risks were only the tip of a game-changing iceberg. Shot on location at our own MO4 Productions studios, we get to know the youngsters revolutionising our business landscape.
Amr Ashraf, 23, serial entrepreneur
The founder of TEDxAUC and one of the most active entrepreneurs in the Cairene startup ecosystem, Ashraf launched his tech enterprise with an inventive event: Egypt’s first Koshary Festival, known for having broken the World Guinness Record for the largest koshary plate across the globe. His company, Engezni - a mobile social network for food lovers - has set out to be the “Instagram for food in the Middle East,” and has racked up 1,000 downloads and 250,000 social media followers. A restless entrepreneur, Ashraf is also the co-founder of event management agency Idea Bakers, the company behind Creative Industry Summit.
Mostafa Adel, 24; Lydia Kamiel, 23; and Ahmed Fawzy, 21; co-founders of Good Smart
Disrupting the grocery shopping market in the Middle East, this team of entrepreneurs launched Good Smart, a membership-based online supermarket that allows Cairo residents to order their shopping through an online app. Their groundbreaking method allows clients to access a wide variety of household products, from fresh bakery items to organic produce or pet food, delivered to their doorsteps every morning in an insulated box. Launched in 2014 and operating in Sheikh Zayed and 6th of October City, the company has garnered nearly 500 clients in a year, managing a team of 20 employees and processing nearly 30 orders per day.
Youssef Elsamma, 25; Nesma El-Far, 25; and Omar Hamdalla, 23; co-founders of ElWafeyat
One of the most groundbreaking companies to rise from the Cairene ecosystem, ElWafeyat brings obituaries and traditions related to death to the digital world. Inspired by the difficulties encountered by a team member’s friend when facing the death of a family member, the startup set off in 2013 with the support of Flat6Labs and immediately experienced unexpected growth, amassing a crowd of 200,000 unique visitors to their website in the past six months and 15,000 subscribers to their obituary newsletter. Looking ahead, the creative team are preparing to launch a mobile app.
Abdelrahman Fahim, 23; and Omar Moenes, 21; co-founders of Accessny
Omar Moenes will never forget the moment his father approached him to give him his monthly allowance, only to find him a 21-year old entrepreneur making enough income, with his partner Abdelrahman Fahim, to sustain himself. Accessny, launched with the mentorship of Injaz, provides Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to users through an Android app, using the smartphone’s NFC modules to function as RFID cards; essentially, it transfers information via a scanning technique.
Ahmed Tareq, 19, founder of INTApreneur
A teenager himself, Tareq founded Intapreneur as a non-profit network for teens to learn how to start their own businesses. The initiative, based in Alexandria, offers youth between the ages of 12 and 18, sessions where they are gradually introduced to the business mindset, promoting the culture of entrepreneurship in a society that boasts a vibrating volunteerism tradition. Backed by VWorx, the startup launched in 2014, growing into a network of 40 students and 20 staff members in a year since its founding.
Mohab Ramadan, 23, independent music composer
He began as a teenager exploring the intersection between music and technology, and is now gearing up to produce a Hollywood soundtrack: Mohab Ramadan climbed up the ladder of the music scene with spirit, intrepidness, and huge doses of determination. “I had zero clients for two years and suddenly clients started to come; this guy introduced me to a director, who in turn introduced me to other directors, and I ended up in Switzerland, where I was hired by the famous TV star Alyaa Gad,” he says. A professional social media magician too, Ramadan juggles multiple identities as a social photographer and a self-taught artist, creating tracks for commercials, cinema, short films, and songs.
Ahmed Negm, 22, co-founder of Raye7
Tired of spending four hours stranded in Cairo’s traffic, Negm launched Cairo’s car-pooling app Raye7 in 2014, inspired by his experience with the sharing economy during his travels across Japan and Germany. One of the first companies to apply the collaborative principle in Egypt, the startup promotes a culturally-sensitive ridesharing service, introducing the concept of “trusted users” for commuters to connect with nearby colleagues. Operating already in Smart Village, the app powered by Injaz sets out to expand across the Egyptian capital.
Hamza Sarawy, 24, serial entrepreneur
A tireless event organiser and a firm believer in collaboration, Sarawy is constantly cooking up a new event. After co-organising TEDxAUC, Sarawy joined forces with fellow entrepreneurs Amr Ashraf and Mohanad El-Menoufy to set up Idea Bakers, the event management company boosting the ecosystem of designers, creatives, marketeers, fashionistas, and artists through the Creative Industry Summit.
Amr Essam, 24, Founder of Nasheroon
Setting off with an ambitious mission, Nasheroon strives to be the first destination for book agents in the Arab world, offering 300 talented Arab writers a platform to express their thoughts, while partnering with bookstores across governorates in Egypt to make their products available nationwide. In the two years since its founding, the startup has published two books, which both sold out, and is about the release the third one. Today, over 300 young writers across the Middle East have published with Nasheroon, as more than 1,000 writers joined the battlefield to secure themselves a place in the platform’s publications.
Ahmed Shaaban, 25, co-founder of Simplex
After graduating from Minia University, Shaaban and his co-founders Hassan and Amr began developing a Computer Numerical Control machine for automated cutting and engraving, their first prototype costing them only EGP 1,000. As they joined the Injaz competition, they were first exposed to the entrepreneurship ecosystem, joining in later when they entered the Flat6labs acceleration programme, a “transformational experience,” as they called it, which they graduated from in 2013. In less than two years, Simplex's revenue is hitting EGP 8 million, with a company valuation of EGP 15 million.
Noura Galal, 23, founder of Rafeya
Committed to social change and driven to make a tangible impact on her community, Galal set up her social enterprise while working at one of Egypt’s leading educational NGOs, Educate-me. Every day, as she headed off to work, she encountered the women of Konayessa, a low-income neighbourhood in Cairo. Noticing their ability to handcraft garments, in 2014 she set up Rafeya, a fashion brand that combines Galal’s fashion designs with the women’s skills. “I wanted to create a space where they could feel in control and invest in themselves; that’s why they have shares in each product they produce,” she says.
Mostafa Hemdan, 24, founder of Recyclobekia
Hemdan was a 20 year-old student when he set up his recycling project in a garage in Egypt’s northern town of Tanta. Today, the company that began with a capital of only EGP 6,000, has grown to become the first start up in Middle East generating revenue from recyclable material inside electronic waste. Boosted by Injaz Egypt’s mentorship, the startup currently processes 40 tons of e-waste per month, and was featured by Forbes as one of the Middle East’s top 10 startups.
Mariam Hazem, 25; and Hend Riad, 25; co-founders of Reform Studio
Conceived while Hazem and Riad were studying at university, Reform Studio transforms plastic bags into furniture items, combining up-cycling with bold designs. Partnering with an NGO, the designers collect the bags, sterilise them, and use a handloom to weave them and create funky fabric used in chairs and stools. Backed by Egyptian startup accelerator Flat6Labs, the entrepreneurs launched in 2014 and have since nabbed international design awards in Milan.
Yassin Abdelghafar, 25, co-founder of SolarizEgypt
Three years working in a multinational oil and gas company were enough for Abdelghafar to resign and invest everything he had to create SolarizEgypt, a power generation company that uses grid-tie Photovoltaic technology (PV) in the form of solar plants. “I was frustrated by living in such a sunny country with a big energy deficit,” he says. Launching with mentorship by Injaz Egypt, Abdelghafar set up his first solar plant in 2014, a 20KW system installed at the American University in Cairo worth EGP 300,000. Catering to corporate, industrial and individual clients, the company addresses the US $5 billion energy deficit in Egypt, one solar panel at a time.
Rania Rafie, 24; and Yara Yassin, 25; co-founders of Upfuse
Environmentally friendly, socially responsible and extremely trendy: those are the principles guiding these two female entrepreneurs who decided to make fashion out of plastic waste. Firmly climbing the social business ladder, Rafie and Yassin began designing and manufacturing luggage cases from up-cycled plastic bags in a small studio they had rented in Cairo. Initially selling their products through social media and at events, the startup began to grow, obtaining an Injaz award and entering the incubation program DO School in Germany. Today, the company employs women from underprivileged backgrounds to manufacture the garments, while fighting taboos associated with wearing “garbage.”
Mariam Tarek Afifi, 24; Ahmed Raafat, 23; Nour El-Assal, 24; co-founders of Tagaddod
At 24, these determined entrepreneurs not only produce biodiesel, but also export to Europe and the Arab world. Their startup, Tagaddod, began as a graduation project for Cairo University students Rafaat and El-Assal, who thought of re-using cooking oil to substitute traditional petroleum diesel, enabling the production of alternative clean fuels. Partnering with business graduate Tarek Afifi, their startup launched in 2013 with the support of accelerator Flat6Labs and Cairo Angels, and now exports to Lebanon, Jordan, and across the European continent.
FASHION AND LEISURE
Dina Dash, 21, organiser of the Dash Beauty Conference
Tired of having her ideas tossed aside while working in PR and media, the fresh graduate decided to go it alone and create her own media and PR agency, DASH Management, She's currently organising Egypt’s first Beauty conference, Dash Beauty Con, uniting online influencers, models, and fashion celebrities in one place. The young entrepreneur aims to redefine beauty, challenge perceptions, and bring together the new faces that will become the future of advertising in the fashion world.
Dana Khater, 22, founder of Coterique
An e-commerce startup with an edge for hidden gems in the fashion sphere, Coterique was founded when Khater was only 19-years old. Incubated by Flat6Labs, the website launched in 2014 and has already sold items to South Korea, UK, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. “We scout through different boutiques, trade shows, and fashion weeks to find unique emerging designers and cross-style them with established firms; so you will find we have a product mix that includes Peter Pilotto dresses and Chloe bags but also new brands like Mijanou from Australia and Amaya Arzuaga dresses. We think this mix properly represents the modern day fashion-forward women's wardrobes,” she explains.
Manar El Mokaddam, 22, founder of PoleFit Egypt
An architect by profession and a pole fitness instructor at heart, El Mokaddam disrupted the fitness world with an activity that was traditionally frowned upon. “I worked very hard since the beginning to make sure people associate pole with the fitness aspect; but it takes time to educate the market,” she explains. Having opened her studio in Cairo’s Garden City in 2012, the entrepreneur teaches the art to enthusiasts from 10 to 58 years old. “It´s interesting when you have a cancer doctor together with a freelancer who travels the world, sharing the love of pole fitness,” she says.
Mohanad Kojak, 21, Fashion Designer
He is enigmatic, he is buoyant, and he dares. In three years since the launch of his brand, Mohanad Kojak has become a synonym of fashion design in Egypt. The 21-year-old designer began working while studying at university. “I was creating things that were not wearable, so it wasn’t my interest to sell. The market is not easy here, but the more you shock them, the more curious and aware they are of what is going on,” he says. The master of designs with a story behind them, Kojak introduces a new era to fashion design, adding a component often absent in the local fashion scene: meaningfulness. “I am targeting people who are interested in not only looking different but owning something that has a story,” he states.
Hassan Arslan, 24, co-founder of Ariika furniture
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that Ariika has reached the world podium when it comes to bean bag design. Dominating the market in Egypt, Arslan has built a furniture empire that keeps stretching the edges of design, inaugurating floating bean bags and mats whose patents they own worldwide. Having launched in 2011 with an initial investment of EGP 10,000, he and the brand's two other co-founders have sold 30,000 beanbags over the past four years and managed to take over 93% of the market in high-end beaches and compounds across the Egyptian coast.
Sara El Mofty, 25, founder of SAYA swimwear
“Handmade swimwear? Why not?” El Mofty thought. Raising the standard of homegrown brands, the entrepreneur launched the company in May 2015, selling over 350 pieces in three months, mainly through her e-boutique, collaborating with brands such as Okhtein and J's Designs. “All our shoots are done in Egypt to support other young Egyptian designers with collaborations, as it is very important for me to revive the image of what we are capable of in Egypt. I also wanted to accentuate the fact that Egypt is home to some of the best beaches in the world and used SAYA as an outlet to portray the raw beauty on our very own coasts and shores,” she explains.
Hadia Ghaleb, 22, founder of GPH
Defining herself as a socialite and trendsetter, the tireless entrepreneur has made a brand out of her name, amassing a crowd of 139,000 people who follow her Instagram account. She founded GPH, a premium integrated marketing communications company that counts the likes of L’Oreal, Guess Jeans, Topshop and Danone among its clients.
Adham Ezz El Din, 25, co-founder of Kinetic
Venturing into a very competitive market and battling giants such as Nike, Puma and Adidas, Ezz El Din launched Kinetic in 2015, offering fitness enthusiasts affordable and innovative sportswear. Producing locally-made gym and CrossFit apparel, the brand has amassed a gigantic follower base of over 60,000 in eight months, growing into a team of 13 members. With mentorship by Injaz, the entrepreneur sets to serve a market of approximately 1 million fitness enthusiasts through partnerships with Egypt’s leading gyms.
Farah El Ashiri, 24, fashion designer, founder of Fufa
A fresh graduate of the AUC, El Ashiri began studying at the Italian Fashion Academy and launched her first Fufa collection in 2014, but it was an encounter with the collection of fabrics her grandmother had treasured throughout different travels that changed her startup’s physiognomy. “My first collection was all fancy and soiree, but as I found those fabrics from Japan and South Asia, I began making shorts, kimonos, and launched a beach collection. I think people enjoy it more because they know their pieces are unique,” she explains.
Photographed exclusively for CairoScene by MO4 Productions' Lobna Derbala, shot on location at MO4 Network's in-house studios.
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