Growing as one of the annual highlights for entrepreneurs in Egypt, the third edition of the RiseUp Summit spanned December 11-12, during which over 4000 attendees shared experiences with 240 speakers and more than 100 investors.
Taking place in the heart of the capital at the American University in Cairo’s (AUC) Greek Campus, speakers from Google, Facebook, Uber and many more discussed Egypt and the MENA region’s ecosystem and the prospect of investments in startups.
“The ecosystem is amazing nowadays, unlike when I first started [in the 1990s],” said Khaled Bichara, chief executive officer of Orascom Telecom Media and Technology OTMT, and co-founder of Accelero Capital, at one of the summit’s four keynote talks.
“They are looking for a future with more sunshine,” said Microsoft’s Aly Faramawy, asserting that the Egyptian youth won’t settle for less anymore. Tapping on some of Africa’s most abundant resources, Faramawy explained how Microsoft is constantly in pursuit of making the most of the continent’s brains and man power.
However, despite the entrepreneurship atmosphere looking up and letting more promising hope in, young startups are far from past some concrete challenges. Among the various challenges facing entrepreneurs is that investors set the wrong priorities for them, said Hala Fadel, chair of MIT Enterprise Forum pan-Arab, reminding the audience that “you need to fight for what you want.”
“There will be bumps,” said Chris Schroeder, investor and author of ‘Start-Up Rising’, highlighting that the government spends too much time thinking whether it should put money in startups or not. “People say amazing things that get lost on implementation,” Schroeder said.
Nevertheless, as challenges arise, so do solutions. On that note, Dave McClure, investor and founder of 500Startups, declared that through his company, he hopes “to make capital available to every talented boy and girl.”
For the first time since the booming growth of entrepreneurship in Egypt, the three entrepreneurship giants Techstars, 500 Startups and Y Combinator came under one roof in Cairo, making RiseUp15 the rich and unique experience that it was.
A total of 130 sessions, varying between 71 workshops, 19 talks, 9 key panels and 14 global trends demos took place. Gathered at the Greek Campus were also 49 startup exhibitors.
“I’m so energized by what I feel when I come to this event and I wish this type of energy could be placed in Aswan and Asyouy and Sohag… Entrepreneurship isn’t just IT. There are amazing entrepreneurs around the country; the idea of getting out of the city and going to smaller cities is actually also to help the economy.” – Sherif ElDiwany of the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies Yes! There’s so much untapped potential here in Om El Donya if only we’d get out of the city and invest in it. As the whole world came to @downtowncairo, including Ali AlHusry of Hikma Pharmaceuticals and Mohamed Farid of DCode, we saw an unbelievable amount of talent and potential right here @thegreekcampus. Can you even imagine the possibilities outside of this big city? Wow! We’re wrapping up Day 2 and it’s about to get crazy – keep up with the crazy on RiseUp snapchat 👻 ‘riseupsummit’. #RiseUp15 #myriseup
Accentuating on the essence of such events, Ahmed Alfi, Founder and Chairman of Sawari Ventures said: “Technology now empowers people to solve and act more than any time in history,” calling on people to share their knowledge.
“The greatest technologies and biggest companies were created by people who have confidence,” said author Elmira Bayrasli who believes that the next Steve Jobs lives in Cairo, stressing that in entrepreneurship, confidence is key.
Keen to present more value for the event participants each year, seven global delegations and 25 nationalities were present at this year’s RiseUp summit. Unlike previous years, the whole MENA-region was involved and showcased, said Gehad Hussein, cofounder and content manager at RiseUp.
In addition, RisUp15 secured much more exposure for startups to investors and media, Hussein declared. “For instance, Jared Friedman, partner at Y Combinator, at some point went to the Startup Station and visited the booths, giving them advice on their startups and products, and looking at demos,” she said.
Hussein said that she was proud of the team built over the past months. “The energy and the vibe in the office were extraordinary,” she said.
According to Uldis Leiterts, founder of Infogr.am, “RiseUp is beautiful Egyptian chaotic creativity. And if it wasn’t that way, I wouldn’t be here.”