For many young entrepreneurs, seeking an investment for their startups is a means for turning their dreams into reality. For some, an inspirational talk from someone who overcame many obstacles to reach international success is what they need to revive their combative spirit.
As for the rest, watching the warriors, who struggle to keep their projects running, is a live experience for what they might face at the future. At the Rise-Up Summit, young Egyptian entrepreneurs were given a chance to witness this.
Rise-Up Summit is an annual event that connects stakeholders and startups together in one place to provide the latter with an opportunity for exposure, resources, and advice that would be difficult to find elsewhere.
For three consecutive years, the summit has brought together key players to discuss possible opportunities in Egypt. This year, the event will be held on 12 and 13 of December at the GrEEK Campus, Downtown Cairo.
In the first year of the Rise-Up Summit, over 2,500 stakeholders participated in the event, including entrepreneurs, investors, speakers, co-working spaces, banks, designers, and NGOs that support startups. In the second year, the number increased to 3,400 participants and this year, around 4,500 participants will participate in the event.
Injaz-Egypt, Flat6labs, Endeavor Egypt, MIT Enterprise Forum, Cairo Angels and AUC Venture Lab. Egypt are all among the participating companies in the summit to offer knowledge that pertains to their specific area of expertise.
The four young founders of the entrepreneurs’ summit Abdel Hameed Sharara, Con O’Donnell, Muhammed Mansour, and Gehad Hussein were capable of successfully creating the first of its kind in Egypt.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Mohammed Mansour spoke about how the summit began, the youths’ participation, and the new attendees in the summit this year.
Where did the idea of Rise-up Summit originally start?
Abdel Hameed, Con, and I noticed there is a huge gap in the market when it comes to connecting between investors, entrepreneurs, NGOs, and the government. We therefore decided that instead of helping startups the traditional way, we could support a wider circle of startups by creating a platform that would connect all stakeholders together in one place.
The initiatives’ needs are not only financial; their owners need a lot of guidance for dealing with contracts, customers, or even lawyers. In other words, we mainly wanted to support the economic ecosystem in general, not only to entrepreneurs but to all participants in the market. We link the infrastructure for people to plug in their services and activities.
How many startups have you managed to secure funds for in the past few years?
Our aim is to connect entrepreneurs with investors; however, we do not interfere in the deals they make. We can say that we witnessed many startups getting investments based on the sessions their owners made at the event.
For example, Pepsi funded an agriculture startup after finding out about it at our event. But we do not have an exact number of investments achieved through Rise-Up Summit because some of them happen even after the event is over.
What is the total value of investment at Rise-Up Summit?
That differs from one investor to another. Some foreign investors come to Egypt with a total amount of $10m. From that amount, they could only invest $10,000 at one or two small startups they find. Others want to invest the whole amount in larger projects, in which they would gain higher profit.
It also depends on the level of the startups themselves. The investment into projects that need money to start from scratch differs from the one that a well-established project with successful outcome needs.
Last year, we had around 40 investors with the average of investment of $30,000 at each startup.
How many speakers will be participating in the event this year?
We have around 130 speakers, with speeches that vary between panel talks, sessions, lectures, workshops, and inspirational talks.
What is the average age of startups owners that apply to participate?
Most of them are 20-35 years old. Usually the younger owners in their twenties come here looking for funding to start their own business, while those older at a more mature business stage come seek a fund to keep a well-established project they already started and have a stable output going.
In a country where people suffer from a low income, youths have turned to establishing their own businesses and refuse to work as employees; how do you explain that?
I believe Egypt currently has a lot of well-educated graduates. With all they witnessed in the past four years, they started believing that they do not need the support of the government or private sector companies.
Youth developed a thought process in which they believe instead of waiting for the opportunity for a good job, they can start their own good job. The revolution proved to us that we can do whatever we want and be effective.
How do you review the success rates of those startups, especially if their owners are young with no experience?
If we compared the numbers of successful small businesses currently with the numbers of the similar projects of the older generations, people would be surprised with the success youth are achieving nowadays.
We [the youths] have the advantage of self-learning. Moreover, with Internet availability, it has become easy to be exposed to others’ experiences and to follow others’ clever steps and avoid their falls. There are many opportunities to accelerate gaining the experience so that it is easier to take the opportunities to succeed with the business.
From the applying startups you see at summit, are ideas of successful projects monopolised by youth who come from certain social levels?
I have been involved in the world of startups for a while now so I can say that earlier, before the revolution, the ideas only came from what we can call a well-to-do social level, like AUC and GUC graduates and those who have access to better education and access to family support.
However, recently many NGOs started focusing on developing the skills of public school and university students, which led to democratising the opportunities and ideas between them all.
What is the most common field for applying startups do you receive?
So far, it is focused on technology and tech-enabled business mostly, because the way we market our events attracts people though social media or on platforms we advertise on. Agricultural projects come next.
Environmental projects and solar energy sectors are also of the many startups we receive applications for. The least amount of projects are the handmade sector because our investors usually do not target handmade startups to invest in.
Do you have any cooperation with Ministry of Trade and Industry, especially after it opened its new section to fund startups?
We are seeking to involve the ministry at the event but we have not yet finalised our partnership deal. The different backgrounds between both of us is making it harder to reach a final call.
We target different types of entrepreneurs; Rise-Up targets young innovative initiatives that are based on technology while they aim to provide small projects for those who have no income, such as sewing and carpentering. The perspective of startups differs between both of us.
However, we are more connected with the Ministry of Communication and Information (ICT) as they are more exposed to the type of startups we support.
What are new services you are adding to Rise-Up Summit this year?
Last year we offered a service called “Pitch and Ride”, in which the entrepreneur has to convince the investor of their idea in a car within the time it takes to get around Tahrir Square and back. The timing of each round however differed according to the traffic, and with it the challenge of convincing the investor increases, but we are aiming to keep that service.
We will be increasing the number of pitch events where entrepreneurs have time to introduce their projects and try to convince investors to choose them. We also have stakeholders from all around the Middle East and Europe, not just Egypt, and they would present their countries.
New global partners will be visiting Egypt for the first as well as a network app (powered by Eventtus), which allows attendees to connect with each other.