For most of Egypt’s young entrepreneurs, providing their startups with the needed funding in order to launch in the business world is usually the hardest, most challenging step in their path. To find an organisation or a person willing to invest money in a project that is still trying to make headway in a world where huge business institutions encompass the market, is something many start-ups fail at achieving despite their owner’s qualifications. This is what Innoventures aims to change with its “Startup Reactor”.
Startup Reactor is an annual programme organised by Innoventures, a platform for today’s most talented entrepreneurs in the region to direct them on how to successfully launch their projects. Through a group of mentors, investors, and project directors, Innoventures aims to establish a base of young successful entrepreneurs in the business market. The company also runs Ideaspace for idea-sharing and networking programmes, providing facilities for coworking and hosting events, as well as activities and services for entrepreneurs and innovators.
The programme aims to train entrepreneurs to fit in the business market, as well as qualify them to pitch their idea to international investors while meeting their standards. The programme also allocates a starting fund of EGP 150,000 for the participating start-ups.
“We try to mentor the entrepreneurs rather than train them,” said Hesham Wahba, CEO of Innoventures. “Over the course of five months and with more than 30 mentors, we want to direct the startups to meet the highest standards so they can pitch their ideas to investors who are willing to put their money into a risky project. Moreover, we mentor them in every business related issue.”
From his point of view, entrepreneurs are not fully aware of the difficulties pitching an investment requires, so the programme comes in to fill the gap between ideas and funders.
In the event’s third edition, 10 startups competed in order to obtain an additional €10,000 in investments, divided among three winners.
The event was organised in cooperation with VC4A, a platform for startup funding, dedicated to building game-changing companies on the African continent and supporting the growth of Africa’s startup ecosystem.
Originally selected from 25 participating startups, the 10 entrepreneurs’ ideas varied across different industries, from waste management to ICT, to virtual reality and tourism.
Each group have a four-minute presentation in order to convince the judges and attendees to vote for them. Through their presentation, entrepreneurs summed up their projects’ goals, target audience, estimated profit in the next 10 years, the required funding, and why investors should fund them.
The first award went to ZeroWaste Technologies who won €5,000. The startup offers a machine “CanBank” that encourages people to recycle aluminium cans in exchange for phone credit. The idea hopes to reduce the excessive amount of rubbish in Egypt’s streets.
“This is not the first time we have participated in a similar event, but none of them were as big and beneficial as this” said Islam El-Refai, ZeroWaste’s founder. “The event did not only provide us with 90% of our needed funding, but also connected us with businessmen who are willing to buy our machine right away.”
El-Refai said the programme has ensured he can launch his product by April 2017.
At the opening of the event, managing director and senior vice president of Careem Wael Fakharany said he expects 2017 will have good news for startup ventures in Egypt regardless of the political scene in Egypt. He urged developers and startups to turn the problems they see in Egypt into solutions. “There are too many problems in Egypt that would make you not willing to wake up, but for you as startups, every problem is a new project that you can work on and find a scientific solution to.”
The second awarded startup was Tripdizer, a one-step mobile application for travellers to arrange their trip in one place. Tripdizer started as an online channel called “Hezaha w Safer”. Through different online videos, the channel directed viewers to places to visit around the world at the lowest possible costs. The channel soon developed to become an online application for people to share their travelling experiences. The application was awarded €3,000.
The third award went to Perligos, an online gate that allows customers to solve their complaints by connecting them to the right people. They were awarded €2,000.
The winning startups were offered tickets to participate at this year’s Rise-Up Summit, where they pitch their startups for further investment.
“We aimed to organise the event at the same week of Rise-Up,” Wahba added. “This allows us exposure to more investors from all around the world that come to participate at the summit, which is beneficial to the participating entrepreneurs.”