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Egypt’s Top 20 Startups According to Forbes: The Breakdown

The cover of Forbes Middle East was splashed with Egyptian talents this month, from celebrity entrepreneur Mai Medhat, to the bug-trackers impressing Yahoo. Here are the 20 Egyptian entrepreneurs making waves from the Middle East to the global stage.

Staff Writer

After the mammoth Global Entrepreneurship Summit put Egyptian entrepreneur Mai Medhat at the center of the spotlight last June, Forbes set their eyes on Egypt, dedicating their latest Middle East edition to highlighting the stories of Egypt’s most promising startups.

The issue crystallises a ballooning entrepreneurial ecosystem that, although nascent in terms of valuation and revenue – the 20 startups altogether raised a total of $24.4 million, compared to the $41.6 million that UAE’s 20 startups raised last year – is proving a fertile ground for innovation, business initiative, and a new generational paradigm.

The world’s top business magazine, Forbes, compiled the list through questionnaires shared amongst some of the ecosystem's major players, and evaluated each startup based on their potential global and regional appeal, quality of investors, and the amount of funding raised.

From a restless man who toured Egypt with a mic and a caravan, to Youtube video masters, to bug trackers and biodiesel change makers, these are the 20 most promising startups in Egypt, according to the world's top business magazine.      

Instabug: Their dramatic story crafts one of the most symbolic metaphors of Egypt’s entrepreneurial resilience in the midst of post-revolutionary unrest. When co-founders Omar Gabr and Moataz Soliman knocked on the shuttered doors of an empty U.S Embassy, they probably came very close to losing hope in their company’s growth, let alone being on the cover of Forbes. With clients such as Paypal, Yahoo, and SoundCloud, the startup recently raised $1.7 million from California-based investors, and now, plan to open their office in San Francisco.

Yaoota: Now operating in the U.A.E, the online price comparison platform made waves after one of their posts went viral, racking up 100,000 visitors a month. The startup compares prices across online stores, such as Souq and Jumia, obtaining revenue through cost-per-click. Last year, co-founders Sherif ElRakabawy and Mohamed Ewis closed a $2.7 million funding round, led by U.A.E-based KBBO Group.

 “I was amazed by the idea that Obama understands the value of entrepreneurship," Mai Medhat told CairoScene last month.

Wuzzuf: Their success story made waves last year and catapulted them into the hallmark of Egyptian champion entrepreneurs, as founder Ameer Sherif secured the country’s largest funding round of $1.7 million, from Sweden-based Vostok New Ventures and UK-based Piton Capital. The startup, one of the country’s most disruptive companies, has so far helped over 60,000 people find jobs in over 4,000 companies on a national scale.

Diwan Videos: With 4.6 billion total views, Diwan is the most viewed YouTube Multi-channel network (MCN) in the all of the Middle East and Africa. Their staggering numbers, amounting to 700 million subscriptions and over 500 channels – including Bassem Youssef’s El Bernameg – the platform is the first MCN in the Middle East to develop an online dashboard, giving access to financial monitoring of owned channels. Last April, its founder Ossama Youssef raised a $5 million investment from a Dubai-based executive.

Vezeeta: A pioneering healthcare platform, Vezeeta matches healthcare providers and patients through digital cloud-based solutions, allowing users to compare and book physicians online for free. With currently 2,000 doctors covering 30 specialties across Egypt, the platform sets out to take on the global health sector.

Elves: The one-stop shop for all kinds of purchases has taken on the challenge of battling e-commerce giants through its chat-based platform, unifying and facilitating purchases, from airplane tickets to thoughtful rare gifts – chosen by one of their very own 16 real-life ‘elves’. The app has already racked thousands of users around the globe, tapping on a trend that many may know as ‘the concierge economy.’ “Most of our energy is now going towards developing a platform where you will have elves around the world to understand people’s needs better,” co-founder, Egyptian investor and serial entrepreneur, Karim Elsahy told CairoScene earlier this year. Leveraging on the opportunities provided by a booming real estate industry in Egypt, this real estate search engine has sold more than 11,000 properties – not only in the country, but also in Saudi Arabia. Its founder, Yemeni-American Amad Almsaodi, found Egypt a goldmine for real estate businesses, which proved to be more fruitful than other countries, he told Forbes.  

Eventtus: Catapulted to national stardom after she shared the stage with Barack Obama, founder Mai Medhat had no idea she would come even close to the U.S President when she got on the plane to participate at this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University. “I was amazed by the idea that Obama understands the value of entrepreneurship, and how we can bring countries together through this,” Medhat said in a recent interview with CairoScene.

ElWafeyat co-founders Youssef Elsamma, Nesma El-Far and Omar Hamdalla at CairoScene's 25 under 25 photo shoot.

Moviepigs: The startup, supported by international giant 500 Startups, is a two-sided platform that allows filmmakers to crowdfund their projects, while offering audience independent films from around to the world. Its founder, serial entrepreneur, skydiver, and avid juggler Perihan Abou-Zeid, was the previous founder of Qabila Media Productions, and has led panels at the African Innovate Conference 2014 and Riseup Summit 2015.  

Edfa3ly: Catering to the Egyptian consumer market aiming to buy products abroad without paying excessive shipping fees, the startup started off with EGP 120,000 in 2012, and managed to raise $1.25 million from investors, including 500 Startups. Co-founders, Mohamed Attiya, Mohamed Hisham, and Ahmed Mohamed, now lead a team of 40 in the Egypt office, as well as six other employees at a U.S-based warehouse, according to Wamda.  

Zee3: Remember that travelling audition booth everyone thought was crazy? What started off as a fun social project for Sherif Hossny, turned into a successful startup lauded by Forbes. Hossny travelled across 10 governorates in the search for Egypt's talented singers and artists offered the chance to unlock their passion. Having garnered over 25 million views on his online show, the entrepreneur also raised $1.6 million.

Chaino: Termed “A social network where we can be better together”, the startup founded by Ali Zewail and Mohamed Nar is a social media platform that – unlike Facebook's algorithms – allows people to control the content they see, and protect the information they post about themselves. With 200 registered users, the startup raised $1.3 million investment.

"We've heard that even students in Syria are using Nafham's videos," co-founder Mohamed Habib said in an interview with CairoScene.

Biodiesel Misr: Entering the biodiesel market with huge ambitions and international standards, the startup produces 600 metric tons of biodiesel generated from used cooking oil per month. Its founder Mahmoud Abou Elrokab, a sports commentator for Abu Dhabi Media, plans to convert rice straw, rice husk, and agricultural waste into green liquid fuels by 2019.

Mumm: Enabling stay-at-home mothers, housewives, and refugees to find a source of income through selling homemade meals, Mumm works like an Uber of food, which not only boosts the underserved market of homemade food, but also empowers women. Recently, the startup partnered with leading technology investor A15, in a move that will merge the company with A15’s offspring DishDino, which also runs on a similar model as Mumm, and raised seed investment from A15.

El Wafeyat: Digitising the business of death could seem like a tricky terrain, but not for Youssef Elsamma, Nesma El-Far and Omar Hamdalla, the co-founders of ElWafeyat, who set off with the support of Flat6Labs in 2013, aim to radically change obituaries and mourning rituals, and bring them to the digital world. “Why publish an obituary in the local newspaper for $1000, when our service only costs a fraction of the price?” co-founder Nesma El Far, one of CairoScene’s 25 under 25, said in a recent interview.

Nafham: Not only have they become one of the most socially relevant startups for Egypt’s educational conundrum, but they also set off to contribute to the refugee crisis, providing online video tutorials that follow the Syrian curriculum for Syrian refugees and migrants. “Most refugees have smartphones, which they could perfectly use to watch Nafham videos,” said co-founder Mohamed Habib, in an interview with CairoScene. “We got a message from a Syrian mother living in Egypt who is using it to learn, and we’ve heard that students based in Syria are also using the videos,” he added. 

The co-founders of biodiesel startup Tagaddod, who were listed as CairoScene's 25 under 25 entrepreneurs last year.

Tagaddod: One of Egypt’s 25 under 25 entrepreneurs, the trio behind this social startup produce biodiesel from used cooking oil. “We kicked it off for our graduation project. We were studying the production of Biodiesel, and thought that it would be a good project to create renewable fuel from used cooking oil,” engineer Nour El-Assal, co-founder of Tagaddod told us in an interview. The team, who has finished its production facility in 2015, plans to produce 5,000 metric tons of biodiesel.

Feloosy: Established in 2015, the startup sets out to be the first goal-based personal finance platform, providing users with the chance to save and invest effectively by connecting them with well-established investment partners. Obtaining revenue from their retail and business partners, the platform is free of charge for users.

Taskty: One of Flat6Labs' incubated startups, Taskty took it upon themselves to embark on the task of formalising a largely informal economy. The online marketplace connects users with suppliers of short-term tasks – from house maintenance and private nursing, to translation, and graphic design.  

Ifix: Their idea sparked after their smartphone screen broke and they had to wait days to get it fixed – Mohamed Fayez and Omar Galal decided to create Ifix to offer smartphone repairing services, delivered at home. This idea tapped into the Egyptian long-lasting custom of having their products, from black honey to medications, delivered at home.  

All photographs exclusively shot by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.