Flat6Labs held Tuesday night its seventh semi-annual Demo Day event geared towards matching up graduates of their entrepreneurship programme with potential investors. The current class of 10 small businesses represents the largest group to complete the programme to date.
Founded in 2011 by venture capital firm Sawari Ventures and AUC, Flat6Labs describes itself as a “regional startup accelerator programme that fosters and invests in bright and passionate entrepreneurs with cutting-edge ideas”.
The programme provides seed funding, strategic mentorship, legal support, and a creative workspace, creating an environment where start-ups can advance their business as quickly as possible. Such comprehensive programmes, known as cycles, operate quickly, and are in high demand.
“Each cycle takes four months,” explained Omar Badr, Flat6Labs communications officer. “From 400 or so applicants, we narrow it down to 10; [in past cycles] it was 5 or 6, but we’ve expanded for this cycle.”
At the end of the cycle, the successful start-ups participate in a Demo Day to attract investors capable of taking their business to the next level.
Badr said the organisation is equipped to advise and evaluate on a number of different fields. “It can be a pretty broad range, so we have a similarly broad range of experts and mentors on hand to determine the product’s viability and sustainability of business model,” he said.
The small business offerings on hand were indeed quite varied, ranging from the eco-friendly like Sunergy, which aims to make solar energy more accessible to millions off grid homes in Egypt and the rest of Africa; to the high-tech, like Telecosys, which addresses a major cause of revenue loss in the Telecom industry by finding and plugging the leaks in companies’ fee structures.
Other start-ups at the event offered solutions to some of Egypt’s more pressing problems: Reform Studio tackles trash by reconstituting plastic trash bags into polyethylene which is hand-woven into fabric for designer furniture, while Khobz’s beledi bread machines offer a means of making traditional Egyptian bread faster and cheaper.
Before the demo, the 10 businesses were given the opportunity to showcase their products via kiosk and discuss them with the press and potential investors.
The demo event which followed afforded them the chance to stage a more detailed presentation of their product, in which they laid out their mission, proposed business model and sources of income, and proposed financing needs from interested investors.
Ramez Mohamed, CEO of Flat6Labs, said: “The level of diversity and specialisation present among this cycle’s startup companies speaks volumes for the future of this country and the importance and power of its innovative youth.”
Also in attendance was Minister of Communications and Information Technology Atef Helmy, who called the entrepreneurship on display “Egypt’s best [tool] for a brighter future.”
Flat6Labs currently operates regionally, with established programmes in Cairo and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the most recent cycle’s Demo Day will be held on 31 May. During the Cairo demo, the company also announced plans to set up a third centre in Abu Dhabi, UAE, supported by twofour54, the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, before the end of 2014.