The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Japanese governmental development agency, has announced plans to support Egyptian startups with funding and mentorship through its ‘NINJA’ competition for startups.
Aiming to boost sustainable development in Egypt and support the entrepreneurship scene in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, JICA is launching NINJA – Next Innovation With Japan – as part of its attempts to foster innovation and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Running a successful startup in countries in the Middle East, like Egypt for example, involves tackling quite unique challenges. The Middle East has quite the analytical workforce, and with the failure of many startups, comes the crucial step of applying the lessons learned.
To implement NINJA, JICA has partnered with Practiq’s Digital Consultants Team to provide monitoring and mentoring services for selected startups. Practiq is a management consulting firm specialized in managing transformations through technology-friendly enablement. In addition to mentorship, Practiq has created a platform for their incumbent startups to seamlessly deal with tax and social insurance compliance in Egypt.
Applying to NINA
According to Practiq, startups hoping to apply to NINJA must have two elements: business readiness and investment readiness.
In terms of business readiness, Practiq says startups should consider a number of questions: How has their business value proposition changed since their inception? Did the startup’s product or service reach an adequate product-market fit? Are customers pulling the startup’s product or is the startup trying to force it onto customers to no avail?
In terms of investment readiness, Practiq says startups should consider whether they are mature enough to handle investment and spending with a high return on investment, noting that the injection of funds is not a foolproof way to grow.
Success stories with JICA
A number of startups aiming to develop a more economically sustainable Egypt have been successfully supported by JICA in the past.
HELM, one of the region’s leading disability social enterprises which is removing barriers to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities, was supported by JICA to achieve its objectives through the establishment of HELM Academy. HELM Academy supports people with disabilities by providing them with training and support – support that has often been lacking.
DilenyTech, a fast-growing health tech startup in Africa, was also supported by JICA. DilenyTech, which boosts radiology services with artificial intelligence and medical imaging technologies, was supported by JICA through its acquisition by Astute, a US-based imaging therapy provider. JICA supported DilenyTech to solidify its business model, explore new market opportunities, pitch to investors and through introductions to business experts and stakeholders in the radiology sphere.
More recently, in 2020, DilenyTech was granted its first US patent in medical imaging and was able to secure a USD 160,000 non-equity grant in 2021. Today, DilenyTech is a member of the NVIDIA Inception program and the Microsoft for Startups program.
Another startup that witnessed success through its partnership with JICA is NANO-FIB-TECH. This Egyptian startup set out to change the future of hygiene, creating a sanitizing and gel product that is harsh-chemical-free, alcohol-free and sensitive to various skin types using nanotechnology. JICA supported the startup to formulate the product, test manufacturing, ensure readiness for registration, establish a strong pricing model and through business negotiation skills development.
These examples and more exemplify JICA’s track record of helping entrepreneurs to turn new ideas into industry-leading goliaths with the goal of building stronger, more sustainable economies.
Find out more about NINJA by clicking here.
Main image source: Ahmed Alattar – Egyptian Photography / Getty Images