CAIRO: In an effort to aid future entrepreneurs at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and improve its School of Business, a group of successful entrepreneurs were brought in to help mentor the future generation of entrepreneurs.
“We see the great potential and energy, but they need to be encouraged to think outside the box and be pushed by a mentor who can help them along the way,” Professor Sherif Kamel, dean of AUC School of Business, told Daily News Egypt.
Kamel was speaking at an AUC event this week entitled, “The Promise of Entrepreneurship for Egypt.” Mentors were brought from Silicon Valley by the AUC School of Business and TechWadi, a non-profit organization dedicated to building bridges between the Middle Eastern/North African region and the US in order to promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
The mentoring program that is hoped to be established would include multiple visits from various mentors to meet with teams about their business plans and to share their experiences and advice.
“The process is more important than the final result,” said one panelist, who advised future entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into something valuable and to listen to mentors’ feedback.
Kamel noted that ideas will keep coming, but that future entrepreneurs need to gain experience through internships as well as learning from others’ successes and mistakes.
One mentor, Saeed Amidi, who is the founder and CEO of the Plug and Play Tech Center, said he “really enjoys helping start-ups and can relive joy through their success.”
All the mentors seemed to agree on the notion that mentors are there to guide as well as help, whether it be through sharing experiences, providing connections or making financial contributions.
“I believe mentors should help with connections and provide leads, such as with distributors or manufacturers, to help in the future success,” stated Essam Badawi, president and CEO of Perceptia Devices.
And while all the mentors discussed their roles, one in particular made a commitment to help those at AUC.
“Not a week goes by that I don’t meet with entrepreneurs and I want to be here at least every three months to work with people who are serious,” commented Osama Hassanein, chairman of the Rising Tide Fund.
Rising Tide is an international private equity fund that sets out to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, the fund provides seed capital as well as early- and growth-stage capital to projects in the fields of ICT, renewable energy and green technologies, healthcare and mobile applications. In 25 years, the fund has invested more than $1.5 billion, according to its website.
Hassanein noted that 75 percent of internet user growth has come from the Middle East, and also pointed out how big the internet and social media have become. He discussed how email providers, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter all started out as just ideas, but last year 90 trillion emails were sent and received, there are 500 million users on Facebook, 2 billion YouTube videos are streamed daily, and 10 billion tweets have been tweeted on Twitter since 2006.
The gaming industry has seen a 40 percent growth with the revolutionizing of social gaming, and mobile media has also seen a growth with over $1 billion paid out to developers of applications and games by Apple. Hassanein also noted that the internet is not just for kids anymore, and that a majority of users are growing older and richer.
One panelist encouraged entrepreneurs to focus their ideas, make commitments and take risks, worrying less about competition and more about value added.
Kamel said the students should be gaining experience through internships and writing cases to share their experiences, among other ways.
“While we had about 60 business plans presented by students to mentors this time around, we hope to increase that number to at least 200 by next year through holding panel discussions and mentoring events at least three times a year.”