CAIRO: “Egypt is at the tipping point to go entrepreneurial and become the next breakout country,” US State Department’s Senior Advisor for Global Entrepreneurship, Steven Koltai, said in Cairo Wednesday.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the Global Entrepreneurship Program’s US delegation visit to Egypt, Koltai said the blossoming entrepreneurial spirit is why Egypt was chosen as the pilot country for the US State Department’s program, being carried out in partnership with USAID.
A GEP delegation of 13 prominent US investors and entrepreneurs visited Cairo last week in coordination with Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
“This represents a new year of partnerships between the US and Egypt that is paving the way for entrepreneurs and creating synergy for the future,” said MCIT Minister Tarek Kamel.
“We are committed as a government to promote the vision of entrepreneurship in Egypt and moving forward in this field as a country together,” he added.
During their stay, the delegation met with Egyptian innovators to share experiences and foster new partnerships in a bid to support entrepreneurship in Egypt.
Koltai noted that the high level of talent found in Egypt as well as the government’s commitment to the sector were the main reasons why it was chosen as the pilot country.
During their stay, the delegates visited Smart Village to learn more about Egyptian and multinational technology companies and were hosted at events by Google Egypt and Nile University as well as holding private meetings with Egyptian start-ups.
A business plan competition was also held and winners announced at an event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce, the American University in Cairo and Sawari Ventrues, a private sector partner for the Egyptian delegation.
The business plan competition winners and recipients of cash prizes as an investment in the winning concepts were Kngine and Siliminds.
Kngine, founded by Ashraf and Haytham El-Fadeel, is a web 3.0 personal assistant and search engine that can be accessed on mobile devices.
Siliminds is a digital design company that specializes in hardware accelerators of financial computing systems. The company’s CEO is Mostafa El-Khouly.
The GEP also named Mike Ducker, an expert in the field of entrepreneurship, as Egypt’s Entrepreneur in Residence. Along with a staff of three or four members, Ducker will be opening an office in both Cairo and Alexandria to catalyze the growth of innovation and start-up businesses in Egypt.
The offices will be supporting more than 20 GEP partners and matching hopeful entrepreneurs with the valuable resources that will assist them in starting their businesses.
“Egypt has so much potential and a key idea to the success of small companies is big companies doing businesses with them and both working together,” he said.
While Ducker is excited and optimistic about the new venture, he does foresee a few challenges. “We need to try to change the cultural perception of entrepreneurs in this region that carries a bit of a negative connotation as well as work on promoting success that occurs instead of focusing on the failures,” Ducker added.
While this first round of events focused more on the IT sector, Koltai says they welcome entrepreneurs from all aspects.
He also added that the GEP hopes to bring the idea of having angel groups in Egypt, which are individual investors working together to share research and provide capital for business start-ups.
Advice from all the delegates to future and/or current entrepreneurs included being very focused as well as finding the right mentor.
Lisa Anderson, AUC’s new president, said “This is a great program that creates a network of people to help each other; this is exactly what we want.”