Egypt’s startup ecosystem has evolved greatly, becoming fastest growing ecosystem in MENA: Fadl Al Tarzi

Mahmoud Radwan
6 Min Read

“Egypt’s startup scene will continue to witness strong growth as a result of several factors including a large youth population and increasing availability of funding,” Nexford University Founder and CEO, Fadl Al Tarzi told Daily News Egypt.

Nexford University is an online American university offering globally affordable education to learners worldwide. Al Tarzi founded Nexford University in 2018, with a vision to enable greater social and economic mobility through high-quality, affordable education.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Al Tarzi to get a hold on how he views Egypt’s startup scene and how can Nexford support entrepreneurship in Egypt.

What is your vision about the entrepreneurial activity in Egypt?

I think Egypt’s startup scene will continue to witness strong growth as a result of several factors including a large youth population and increasing availability of funding. The ecosystem has evolved a great deal recently resulting in Egypt becoming the fastest growing startup ecosystem in MENA.

What opportunities do you see available in Egypt to support entrepreneurs?

While I’m not actively involved in the Egyptian entrepreneurship scene, from what I can see there is definitely a lot more funding available, more incubators, more accelerators and overall a more mature ecosystem. I remember launching my 1st startup in Egypt almost 20 years ago, there were 0 real venture capitals at that time.

According to Nexford, are there any challenges facing entrepreneurs in Egypt?

As with any nation there will be challenges but I wouldn’t say they’re particularly unique to Egypt. From my perspective I can see two challenges remain: support plus legislation. Support beyond funding remains limited; entrepreneurs still need a lot more mentorship and support from people with real experience in building businesses from the ground up. Then comes the legal environment, while it has evolved, it is still significantly behind in terms of level of flexibility and innovation. This will naturally affect some industries more than others, for instance fintech startups are likely to have a much harder time vs a food delivery app.

What role can Nexford play to support entrepreneurs in Egypt?

We can help with skills plus global perspective. I think one of the main points entrepreneurs often overlook is the fact that their startup does not need to limit its ambition to the local market. At Nexford, we help entrepreneurs master the skills they need to build their startup such as the practical knowledge of finance and cashflow management which so many founders, especially tech founders, usually know very little about. We also give them a global perspective where they can learn about the successes and failures of companies from across the world and apply those learnings to their own startups.

What are the synergies between Nexford, universities and business incubators in Egypt to support entrepreneurs?

We’re about to sign a partnership with one of the incubators in Egypt, stay tuned!

How can Nexford benefit from the coming fourth industrial revolution in the entrepreneurial activity?

As more and more businesses launch online, the whole world will essentially join this virtual grid of both businesses and skills. Nexford provides you with the skills you need to stand out and become more competitive on that global grid.

What role can the huge technological development in the artificial intelligence play to boost entrepreneurship?

AI has become a buzzword that I think many entrepreneurs feel inclined to use in order to impress investors. Ultimately AI will have a role to play with some startups but not all. Still the level of investment in data to use AI truly effectively is, in my opinion, beyond the reach of most small startups. Human intelligence is what I think we should value above artificial intelligence. Don’t get me wrong, AI will change the world as we know it over the coming decade, we invest millions in AI at Nexford, but the point I’m making is it’s not AI that will boost entrepreneurship – its human intelligence.

Speaking of the future, how much is the amount of funding Nexford plans to offer to entrepreneurship in Egypt?

We don’t set limits per country, we find the concept of physical borders a bit irrelevant to the knowledge economy we’re in. That is a big part of what Nexford exists for, we believe one’s physical location should no longer inhibit their ability to access economic opportunity. We want to enable greater social & economic mobility all across the world; through providing you with the right skills.

How much will be the allocation pumped from Nexford to support entrepreneurs in 2020?

We hope to support at least 50 new entrepreneurs but will confirm the figure by Q4. Over the past 2 months we got over 1,300 applications to our entrepreneurship scholarship.

What qualities or conditions does Nexford see obligatory in a successful entrepreneur?

Grit and resilience.

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