Cairo Angels has invested over EGP 12m in 15 startups over the past three years, with binding deals being made on a quarterly basis.
Menna AbdelRahman, general manager of Cairo Angels, told Daily News Egypt in an exclusive interview that the group invests in an average of four companies per year.
How do you see entrepreneurship in Egypt in the current period?
Entrepreneurship is essential to the development of our economic landscape. Startups are innovative versatile and achieve high scale within a short amount of time, they open up new markets and disrupt existing ones.
The ecosystem is growing and many new businesses are making their mark in the market, and it need support in order to grow and flourish.
What are the most important qualities of an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur must be ambitious and strive to succeed. Many of these talented entrepreneurs may receive job offers from leading companies such as Google and Facebook, but they persist to build their own businesses and work to be the next big thing.
They are by nature problem solvers that persevere, it is also essential that they are open to feedback and can pivot their strategy when needed. s. Additionally, an entrepreneur must be able to transform challenges into opportunities, and constantly reinvent themselves to stay ahead of market trends and not just exist.
How do you see the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt?
The Entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt has grown well in the past period, supported by the proliferation of emerging companies, the increase in their numbers, and the development of technology. Organisations supporting entrepreneurship activity in Egypt emerged with the need to support the increase and the diversity of the needs of emerging companies, such as the business incubator Flat6Labs, Injaz Egypt, Rise Up Summit, etc.
Investors like Cairo Angels began to appear in order to fund early-stage companies that need financing for amounts of EGP 250,000 and up to EGP 2m. Entrepreneurship in Egypt is growing exponentially with its own ecosystem improvement.
What is missing in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Egypt?
The sector needs government attention to create a legislative climate for the emerging companies, facilitate the proceedings for the establishment and closure of companies, and amend laws and develop them to suit the evolving activities of the emerging companies because all these measures obstruct companies possibly resulting in their closure.
Emerging companies in Egypt take a longer time than those in Dubai, Europe, or the United States to achieve growth and attract investment due to obstacles in the Egyptian market. The normal rate for a company to get Class A finance is two years, but in Egypt it takes more than 5 years, and even 7 years for some companies.
The government must create a climate for entrepreneurs by introducing legislation to keep the small investors’ rights and to eliminate bureaucracy.
Has entrepreneurship become a trend?
It has already become a trend among young people, not only in Egypt but around the world, it’s cool to be an entrepreneur now. But despite that, beyond the cool factor, many great businesses emerge and have been met with great success. This phenomenon sheds light on the whole ecosystem and showcases the value, talent and hidden gems in the ecosystem.
One recent local success, which is a Cairo Angels portfolio company, is Instabug, which recently received funding worth $1.7m and provides solutions to more than 25 international companies, including Hilton, Xiaomi, Tilt, Souq.com, Namshi, Verizon, Sound Cloud, Yahoo, and PayPal.
Statistically speaking, startups naturally have a very high fail rate no matter where they are, whether here or in silicon valley. The question is why they fail, it should be for natural market dynamics or poor execution, and not for lack of support or absence of funding opportunities.
Are there enough funders for local start-ups?
Different organisations fund different stages in the life of a startup, there is definitely limited capital in the market but hopefully soon new institutions will be able to fill these gaps. Incubators and accelerators support and fund startups and the very early stage, at the angel stage there is only Cairo Angels and KI Angels (Khaled Ismail) and a few other individuals, then a number of early stage VC’s that invest larger amounts at a later stage. The ticket between $300K and $1M is absent in the local market but hopefully some entries will be able to fill this gap soon.
What is considered a success to start-ups and entrepreneurship?
Some consider receiving funding a success, but this notion is incorrect. Companies obtain investments to continue growing. Funding is a means not an end. Success is to build a great business that can grow rapidly in a healthy manner, deliver a top grade product or service, solve real problems, gain recognition.
A number of Egyptian startups have been receiving investments from foreign investment funds recently. This means that the success of these start-ups echoed—not only on a national level—but worldwide.
Has the economic situation affected entrepreneurship and startups?
The economic situation definitely affects startups like any other economic actors in the market. These are early stage dynamic businesses that are flexible enough in their strategies to challenge some challenges posed by the economic environment but not all. The stringent policies on access to foreign currency, government bureaucracy and many dated laws and policies makes the probability of success of many entrepreneurs much more difficult. But those who make it in this environment have much more great and achieve great things.
How could we own companies such as SySDSoft?
We must teach entrepreneurship to students in schools and support them to build business models. We can also utilise graduation projects at universities and search for creative youth in provinces. But essentially the whole environment needs to grow in tandem to encourage entrepreneurship and deal with the current obstacles. We need to be competitive on a technological landscape which means that the infrastructure and policies need to support emerging businesses to get there.
The Ministry of Communications has plans to set up technological zones in provinces. How does this affect entrepreneurship?
Establishment of technological zones and innovation centres will help to spread concepts of entrepreneurship to provinces. This will build ecosystems for entrepreneurship across the entire republic and help start-ups emerge. Some provinces could have startups tackling pertinent problems in various industries such as textiles, furniture manufacturing, agriculture, renewable energy and so on.
How did Cairo Angels begin its activities in the Egyptian market?
Cairo Angels was founded by Hossam Allam who was engaged in angel investing in London and was interested in investing in early stage companies. Upon his return to Egypt, he noticed the growth of entrepreneurship activity in Egypt and the need of emerging companies to find financiers to fund for their growth. This led him to establish Cairo Angels.
Cairo Angels then evolved into a fully fledged network with quarterly pitch events, it is currently being lead by Aly El Shalakany as Chariman,
How many companies did Cairo Angels invest in?
We have officially invested more than EGP 12m in 15 companies. We currently have additional deals in our pipeline that will hopefully join our portfolio soon.
Among our most prominent investments are Zoomaal, Taskty, Simplex, Instabug and Eventtus. Instabug has recently raised a new round of $1.7M from Accel Partners which gives great hope to entrepreneurs in the ecosystem.
How do you inject your investments?
We are not an investment fund but an angel club. Each of our members each of our members makes their own investment decision.Our work team studies startups and selects the best options to present to our investors every three months. Our members decide which of these opportunities they are interested to pursue investment discussion with and follow our guidelines to deal closing. Our third event of the year will be taking place in september. Our membership base currently includes 80 investors, whether full-time members or observers.
What are your criteria for choosing companies?
Companies should have a solid team, preferably with previous experience working together. They have to have to have a ready prototype or proof of concept, some market traction and is close to or beyond revenue generation. They have to be a highly scalable business that is innovative and with a foreseeable exit strategy. Companies should be raising an amount ranging between EGP250K – EGP2M.