CAIRO: Despite one of the most turbulent years for Egypt’s businesses, Endeavor, a global movement which aims to catalyze long-term economic growth for entrepreneurs, selected eight high-impact companies to join their network this year.
"While Egypt has witnessed major political and economic changes during 2011, Endeavor’s services and programs have not changed," said Ahmed El-Bedawy, acting managing director of Endeavor Egypt.
Undergoing a rigorous selection process, these businesses were judged based on their leadership, ethical grounding, creativity, and entrepreneurial qualities. These businesses then are mentored and guided in the right direction to grow their businesses and develop their entrepreneurial strategies.
"We have selected more entrepreneurs this year; in 2011 we selected eight entrepreneurs, in 2010 we selected six entrepreneurs," El-Bedawy told Daily News Egypt.
"With the rise of the revolution in Egypt, there has been an uprising and common frustration in Egypt from lack of employment and lack of hope; here comes the role of Endeavor which is to boost employment through supporting innovative, high-impact companies to create more jobs and promote role models to give hope of success to other entrepreneurs."
Given the recent circumstances in Egypt after the revolution with the economy edging on recession and growth slowing in comparison to the past years, El-Bedawy said this is the perfect time to help boost the country’s businesses that have the most potential.
"The changes in Egypt have not affected our programs or scope of work, we are still committed to promoting high-impact entrepreneurs in Egypt by offering them mentorship programs [as well as] local and global networking opportunities to help them grow their businesses and create more jobs," he said.
Among this year’s chosen businesses is T.A. Telecom, which was launched by Amr Shady, who joined Endeavor in March 2011. Shady launched several projects this year and received the "North Africa Fast Growth 500" award.
Launched in 2000, T.A. Telecom serves the people’s "need to know" via mobile technology. The company specialized in creating value for "cost-savvy" prepaid mobile customers.
Founded by Moatasem Osam and Omar Sanhoury, E-Masary, another high-impact telecom company that joined in March, was also honored with the "IBM Smart Camp People’s Vote" award.
The company currently sells e-top-ups to small-scale merchants who in turn sell minutes to end users with pay-as-you-go plans. While other e-top-up resellers require merchants to install point-of-sale hardware for e-top-up transfers, E-Masary has developed a door-to-door sales model and technology platform, which allows merchants to pay for and sell e-top-up minutes in cash.
E-Masary currently has signed deals with Etisalat, Vodafone, and Mobinil, Egypt’s largest telecom companies.
"With the rising use of technology, which played a major role in the revolution, we’ve also noticed the rise of technology companies, like mobile solutions companies for example; as we’ve selected two mobile solution companies last year, we still support very innovative companies in other industries as well," said El-Bedawy.
Since joining Endeavor in March, Osam said their company has received mentoring from entrepreneurs and finance experts in the telecom field as well as the banking sector, giving them insight to skills they need to grow their business.
"Endeavor helped give us more direction and allowed us to put focus on specific areas, we developed a focus on niche markets and enhanced internal operations, logistically and we also managed our cash flows better," said Osam.
Osam pointed out that as security weakened over the past months when Egypt’s police were rarely seen on the streets of Cairo as well as other parts of the country after the winter uprising which ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, his company was hurt and revenue fell — not because there was no demand, but because of the lack of security.
After the January 25 uprising, police presence in the street has declined, only slightly starting to return over the past month.
"The demand wasn’t hit from the consumer side, actually the demand was very much present, but the security situation affected us because our work involves circulating cash, and several times our employees were attacked and robbed because of the lack of security," he stressed.
"We had a very big map for predicted growth in 2011, but we only achieved 20 percent of these goals," Osam told DNE.
However, Osam added that Endeavor helped introduce E-Masary to a broad network of similar startups in the local as well as global market.
"This encouraged us to develop new ideas as a startup, it also gave us moral support," he said.
Similarly, Alaa Sryo, one of the founders of SASCO Group, a family business that specializes in paper converting and plastic stationary products with an exclusive license from Reynolds France, joined Endeavor in October 2011, also to benefit from its broad network.
"We decided to join Endeavor to help refine and execute our growth strategy, we don’t have a professional stationery industry, therefore we needed exposure to professional, experience people in our field, and we wanted to get to know the Endeavor network itself, to get to know a lot of people from all around, from CEOs to startup entrepreneurs," Sryo told DNE.
Sryo said that being part of Endeavor’s mentoring programs helped their company develop business strategies.
When SASCO joined Endeavor, they expected their support to grow their business globally, as well as develop their E-commerce website.
Although the business slowed at least by 15 to 20 percent during the recent economic turmoil in Egypt, the company was able to strategize and focus on exports as well as their business-to-business (b2b) relations, by acquiring a b2b e-commerce company that sells stationary and IT products.
We expanded exports, opened new distribution channels locally, and we developed new products, Sryo added.
Endeavor not only works with local businesses, the movement is a partner of "Lift-Off," an initiative that features activities which target youth across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region ranging from age 16-35 in order to promote and support entrepreneurship among young people in the Arab world.
The program funded by The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), and implemented by Endeavor Egypt in cooperation with The Institute of International Education (IIE), provides capacity building for university and youth entrepreneurial support centers, entrepreneurial leadership programs for university students and recent university graduates, and support for young, highly-qualified entrepreneurs as they enter the market for the first time.
Supported by a Board of Trustees that includes Naguib Sawiris, founder of Mobinil, as well as several other "high profile" Egyptian business leaders, Endeavor was founded in Egypt in 2008 to help expand employment and inspire innovators.
As a global organization, Endeavor currently works with more than 600 entrepreneurs in 15 various countries. In Egypt, Endeavor works with 18 entrepreneurs who operate in the field of technology, fashion, food, or books. Some of these entrepreneurs include The Bakery Shop (TBS), El Matbakh (The Kitchen), as well as Hindawy Publishing.