Gathered at the first day of the RiseUp Summit was a range of the biggest entrepreneurial minds brought together for a main purpose- improving the entrepreneurial eco-system in Egypt and the MENA region. With a diverse community of Egyptian entrepreneurs, respectable corporations, delegations from more than 17 countries and participants eager to discover more about this booming community, a contagiously inspiring spirit was spreading today at the RiseUp Summit.
Kick-starting the day was “super” Angel investor and founder of 500 start-ups, Dave McClure, giving a keynote speech about the ease of the accessible information in today’s business world. “10-15 years ago people were concentrated within Silicon Valley and there was a misconception that this is where you need to be in order to succeed”. He continues, “Today it has changed dramatically and you can now build your company with lower costs. Everything has shifted online and has made everything more accessible for customers and investors. With the large variety of online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and YouTube, they provide access to more than a million people in the world and communication is much easier. You can change the world too and you don’t need to go to Silicon Valley to do it, it’s easier than ever before.”
This was followed by a panel discussion on “The Arab World meets Silicon Valley” moderated by Christopher Schroeder that included Hala Fadel, Chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum for the Arab region, Dave McClure and Ahmed El Alfi. They provided the audience with an analytical overview of what tech-communities and start-ups need to make themselves more attractive for foreign investment and explaining what is needed from entrepreneurs to work around the main challenges found today.
“One of the greatest undercurrents of many of the largest companies in the world is that they are drastically built and grow fundamentally outside of the West and now move to Silicon Valley. This shows that there is an enormous amount of opportunity to be found through mutuality and reciprocity, and some real surprises will come from the region unleashed by technology- especially in areas such as mobile and education because of its many opportunities waiting to be solved in the MENA region” said Schroeder.
“We will have peaks that go up and down here in Egypt. But growth markets are happening in the far east and the middle east and they are all outside of the US and Europe. You need a very good company in order for Silicon Valley to be interested in investing in your business and you need to start first selling to your neighbor before moving onto other developed markets,” said Fadi Ghandour
“There is an impressive quality of entrepreneurs from the Arab region, and some were given the chance to talk about the region positively in Silicon Valley as part of the MIT Enterprise Forum. The whole purpose is first to advocate the region and talk about the entrepreneurs that are here and it’s a unique opportunity to think differently and impact their mentalities. They all returned believing that the number one lesson is to dream big and thing global. If you’re experiencing problems in the Arab region, think wider and let your start-up have more ambition. There is innovation in this region and we need to push them even harder,” said Hala Fadel.
Amongst many of the activities held at RiseUp today revolving around connectivity and broadening perspectives was the “Pitch and Ride” workshop. Entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors in the time it takes to drive around Downtown Cairo. “RiseUp’s mission is to connect the entrepreneurship ecosystem by presenting the opportunities and acting as the catalysts for real action” mentions Abdelhameed Sharara, Founder of the RiseUp Summit. “Through unique experiences like the Pitch & Ride, entrepreneurs are given the chance to evaluate their business ideas with today’s industry experts and gain concrete feedback that they can instantly act upon, and most importantly, gain contacts for potentially interested investors.”
Speaking at a panel on Start-Ups in the Value Chain of Big Business, Ahmed El Sheikh, said: “by taking part and partnering with Rise up, Pepsico aims to support social entrepreneurs in the Middle East, living its strategy of performance with purpose by giving back to the community, providing social entrepreneurs with expertise and guidance needed in order to develop, grow, reach out to the foreign business community and creating opportunities for employment to empower these social entrepreneurs in a region where unemployment is a key developmental issue to address.”