An investor in Egypt, Awadallah is also a mentor to several companies based in the country, including Diagnosoft, Offerna, Instabug and Wuzzuf. He is one of the co-founders of Cloudera that provides the world-leading platform for extracting valuable information from Big Data.
What motivated you to participate in Egypt’s Economic Summit?
I was born in Cairo and stayed in Egypt until I was 25 years old (I am now 44). I care a lot about Egypt and want to see it have a brighter future. I believe that this future will require better education, health, transportation, technology, and jobs, a lot more jobs. All of that will absolutely require tonnes of investment. The potential is huge though, this is the largest country in the Middle East (by population), sits in a very strategic location, and has amazing touristic resources. That is why I am participating.
What kind of support can you provide?
I am one of the co-founders of Cloudera. We started the company in October 2008, and 6.5 years later we employ almost 900 people, have raised more than $1bn in funding and are valued at more than $4bn. I learned a lot of technology entrepreneurship lessons during that journey, so I want to help mentor the new generation of technology entrepreneurs in Egypt to do the same. I believe Egypt has a lot of smart engineers that can absolutely build great technology companies. Technological innovation has proven to be one of the best investment opportunities in the world, with very fast lucrative return on investment compared to other industries (albeit more risky). Look at the Silicon Valley growth with companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Intel, Cisco, Oracle, HP, etc, I think it is totally possible to see companies like that come out of Egypt. I am already an investor and mentor to a number of companies based in Egypt; this includes Diagnosoft, Offerna, Instabug and Wuzzuf.
What is your vision for the Economic Summit? Will it succeed in achieving its objectives?
I think the Economic Summit already succeeded in achieving its objectives, which is telling the world that Egypt is ready for the next stage of growth. I am calling it mission accomplished already. That said, we have to understand that this summit is only the very first step in a very long journey ahead. These things don’t happen overnight. Frankly, it is all about the “execution” following summit; we need folks who work very hard, who make the right decisions, and whom understand that money/investment, while necessary, is not sufficient. We need people who are dedicated, disciplined, have outstanding work ethic, and put Egypt’s long-term success above all else.
In your opinion, what are the challenges that face Egyptian investments?
Two words: stability and work ethic. Investors don’t like risk; they like to minimise it as much as possible. If they continue to see unstable events take place in Egypt (I mean explosions and such), they will not come, period. We need to fix that (or at least isolate it, e.g. Mexico has a very successful tourism industry despite all the horrendous drug cartel issues). Second, for the investments to succeed long-term, we need excellent workers. We need to hire people because they are good (meritocracy), versus hiring people because of their connections (nepotism). We need to also be more disciplined about holding people accountable.
What are the economic reforms, which the company believes they are important for the success of the summit and are important for the company to increase their investment and business in Egypt?
First, I have to admit that I am not an economic expert. That said, what any company wants to see is legislation that makes it smoother for them to get started, and once they start their business properties are well protected (from a legal/safety standpoint), and they don’t get taxed a lot (Ireland is a shining example for that). For example, Cloudera currently needs to open another engineering office outside of the US. We researched a lot of locations worldwide and we decided on Budapest in Hungary. The reason why we went there is a combination of ease of finding the type of engineers we need (Egypt has that), but more importantly Budapest makes it very easy/safe to do business.
What is the content of your speech at the summit?
I am on a panel that will be discussing technology entrepreneurship and innovation. The panel will be moderated by Ramez Shehadi, Executive Vice President and Managing Director at Booz Allen Hamilton (UAE). My co-panellists are: Minister of Communications and Information Technology Khaled Negm; CEO of Sawari Ventures Ahmed Alfi; Co-founder and Executive Director at the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, Shashi Buluswar; Lawrence Berkeley of the US’ National Laboratory; Walt Macnee, Vice Chairman of MasterCard Worldwide from the US.
What is Cloudera and its role at the summit?
First, it is important to note that I am attending the summit with my personal hat as Amr Awadallah, as opposed to an official representation of Cloudera. I would certainly like to educate folks attending the summit about Cloudera: We provide the world-leading platform for extracting valuable information from Big Data. We are used by companies and governments all across the world. Some of our large customers include: Mastercard, Dell, Intel, Samsung, Western Union, the US Government, BT, National Cancer Institute, Commonwealth Bank, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and many others.