Currently, most of the youth globally, and in Egypt specifically, are pursuing entrepreneurship rather than finding a fixed job. And subsequently, they look for funding or investors for their startups. Accordingly, some companies have made it their mission to help youth around the world succeed in their startups by funding them, and among these companies is “500 Startups.”
Meanwhile, there are many summits all over the world that help connect both stakeholders and startups, providing startup owners with exposure, resources. and advice. Among these events is the Rise Up Summit that is held annually in Egypt and will be held this year from 5 to 7 December, which means that there is only a day left for the beginning of the summit which is considered one of the more major summits in the Middle East for entrepreneurship.
On this occasion, Daily News Egypt interviewed Hasan Haider, venture partner at 500 Startups- MENA region, to learn more about his company’s participation in the coming Rise Up summit, the amount of his company’s investments in the Egyptian startups, his company’s selection criteria for the startups that it funds, as well as the company’s five year strategy.
First of all, can you tell us more about 500 Startups?
500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and support the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. It is one of the most active venture capital firms in the world.
500 Startups in the MENA region:
Silicon-Valley based 500 Startups is one of the most active early-stage venture capital funds in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Since its first investment in the region in 2012, 500 Startups has committed to investments in over 160 startups across the MENA region.
500 Falcons, a MENA-focused fund, that is a part of the global 500 Startups network, was launched in 2017. To-date, the company has invested in over 150 startups and plans to invest in another 50 companies, in addition to follow-on investments into the top performing companies.
Earlier this year, the oversubscribed MENA-focused 500 Falcons fund was closed at $33m.
Up until now, how many Egyptian startup companies has 500 Startups funded? And what’s the amount of investments?
To-date, 500 startups has invested in 37 Egyptian startups in our portfolio, which is around 30% of our total investments in the MENA region. We typically invest an average of $100,000 as an initial investment and can go as high as $500,000, which is the case of our top 20-30%.
At what stage will 500 Startups prefer to fund the start up? And what is the selection criteria for start-ups to receive funding from 500 Startups?
As a firm, we typically invest at the seed stage of a start-up’s development. How that is defined varies, but on average we are looking for startups that have launched a product and have been generating revenues of at least $5,000 a month, for the last three-six months, growing at least 20% month over month. Startups at this stage are generally raising between $300,000 – $500,000 in total to scale their customer acquisition, traction, and metrics.
We’re looking for balanced founding teams, with a bias towards execution, going after a large market with few to no competitors, and a product that users want.
As we are only a day away for the Rise Up summit, what is your opinion about it?
Rise up Summit is one of the best startup events in the MENA region. We actively look forward to it every year. I believe the key advantage that Rise up Summit has is that it genuinely feels authentic. The startups and community come together to make something grassroots, organic, and real. It’s not a series of government speakers in a ballroom in some hotel, but a real festival and celebration of entrepreneurship, founders, and startups.
How many times have you participated in the Ruse Up summit?
Almost every year.
What’s your expectations for your participation in the coming edition?
I’m looking forward to interacting with amazing startups from Egypt and all over the MENA region again, catching up with the other investors that will be there, and hopefully providing some useful insights to as many founders as we can through our speaking engagements.
How many startups have you funded through Rise Up summit and with how much in investments?
We’ve invested in many startups that we’ve met with during Rise Up and hope to continue doing so.
In your opinion, what distinguishes Egypt in terms of entrepreneurship than other countries in the Middle East? And what are the challenges?
In my opinion, Egypt is one of the fastest growing startup ecosystems in the MENA region. We love investing in Egyptian startups – the founders are passionate, driven, motivated to succeed with an amazing technical talent base. Combining that talent, motivation, and the large market size that exists – Egypt really is the main market to be investing in. Egyptian founders do face challenges, like recruiting talent related to growth, and the low spending power of users, but we’ve generally seen them succeed against all odds.
What are the promising sectors in Egypt that you would like to invest in?
There is a massive untapped opportunity in Egypt in fintech – finding ways to provide financial services to the mass unbanked market is an attractive option, and we’ve seen successes in other markets which leapfrogged the banking system to mobile based wallets. In addition, there are a lot of logistical and transport-based opportunities within Egypt, as well as on-demand products and services. We’ve been actively investing in all these sectors, but more broadly we’re interested in backing starts that can scale both within and outside Egypt.
The government is adopting a digital transformation strategy, in your opinion what are the challenges that Egypt faces in terms of mobile technology and e-commerce? What are the opportunities?
Every challenge and obstacle is just an opportunity to solve in the right hands. I believe that the largest challenge, particularly for e-commerce startups, is the availability of online payment options other than cash on delivery. Additionally, connectivity – making sure the majority of the population can afford data and access to the internet is an infrastructural obstacle. Combined with logistics, these three points are the main obstacles for growth in the tech industry. Having said that, I believe Egyptian founders have overcome these issues and have been thriving with their startups, and Egypt has passed the tipping point to enable success stories in the market.
Finally, what is the company’s five year plan in Egypt?
We’re going to continue to actively invest in the Egyptian market as we have been, and I believe the market will just get bigger and better. We’ll also start to see more and more exits there. Egypt is one of our key markets and will likely be for the foreseeable future.