In a challenging and sometimes disenchanting job market, ambitious young Egyptians are searching for promises of hope, optimism and encouragement. Fortunately, the search is an easy one; Egyptian success stories are plenty, rife with entrepreneurial brilliance and inspirational trajectories.
Here are some powerful lessons gathered from the experience of some of Egypt’s most accomplished entrepreneurs.
1. Take Risks
Omar Samra – Explorer and entrepreneur
“If I was a scrawny asthmatic kid and climbed Everest then you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I want people to take risks, to dream and fight for [their dreams]. To understand that failure is an important part of success and that the right way is usually the longest and hardest. To not listen to those who like to tell them what they can and cannot do. To believe that each one of us has extraordinary abilities that will surprise us if we only just allow it and take that leap of faith.”
From an interview with Sidetracked.
2. Don’t let criticism set you back
Aya and Mounaz Abdelraouf – Co-Founders of Okhtein
“Believe in yourself and do not listen to anyone’s disappointing comments or voices. We always say that to girls who start their own businesses. It could be your inner disappointing voice or anyone else’s that’s holding you back. […] Some artists and designers like to keep their artwork and designs to themselves, because they think if they show it to the world they’re going to get criticised. This is a very big problem that can stop a lot of artists and designers from succeeding. So, our personal advice is to kill that voice, the negative voice at the back of your head, and go for it and just believe in yourself 100%.”
3. You don’t have to know the right path on day one
Omar Abdallah – CEO and co-founder of Brown Nose Coffee
“It took me seven years jumping from one job to another to find out what I really wanted to do. It’s completely fine not to know the best possible path right away, but what is more important is grasping every opportunity to learn something new.”
From an interview with Cairo West.
4. Ride the tech and AI wave
Rana El Kaliouby – CEO and co-founder of Affectiva
“[Artificial Intelligence (AI)] has a lot of potential to help people be happier, healthier and more productive. It’s an exciting green field opportunity, and folks who get involved early on will be able to have a big impact. That’s one of the reasons why I really encourage aspiring technologists to get involved in AI – to learn about it, build it and help shape its future.”
From an Interview with Ahram Online.
5. Find your own drive
Aly Mazhar – CEO and founder of BeFit
“Don’t look at other people and don’t try to imitate anyone. Your drive is different and your drive is unique. You find your own drive. You find what moves you. You find what you like to do. If you’re able to find that, then nothing is going to stop you. If you try to be someone you’re not, if you try to pursue something that you’re not completely passionate about, then sooner or later you’re going to lack motivation and you’re going to give up. Find something that you love and find something that will give you self-fulfilment. Nothing is going to stop at that point.”
From an interview with Cairo Gossip.
6. Never stop learning
Amir Barsoum – Co-founder of Vezeeta
“Education, whether it’s formal or informal. […] It changes how you look at the startup. I’m not talking about traditional by-the-book education only. I’m talking about how startups work, how startups fail. Sit with the CEOs who have failed or succeeded. Get access to this world and definitely spend time product/market fit and to the product early-on in the market, and then raise money.”
From an interview with Alejandro Cremades.
7. Don’t neglect your personal life
Mai Medhat – Co-founder of Eventtus (acquired by Bevy)
“At some point, as an entrepreneur or a founder, you need to make peace with things that you will be missing out on. Friends, reunions, parties, birthdays, or family gatherings, because you are working. […] What I try to do is to have quality time. Whenever I do get a chance to spend time with [my loved ones], I’m all in. I wouldn’t be working or checking emails or thinking about work while spending time with them. And what I realised after all this time is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not just a few years that you spend focusing on work, […] so we need to take regular breaks, we need to stop working on weekends, because it’s not healthy and we are more productive when we take breaks. When we decided to do that, it was what helped us to keep going and continue the journey.”
From an interview with the Startup Confessionals podcast.
8. Slow and steady wins the race
Ameer Sherif – CEO of BasharSoft (mother company for Wuzzuf and Forasna)
“[I do not believe] that the only way to grow in tech is [fundraising and growing] at crazy speeds to succeed. While speed is important and cash is king, extremes are usually not the best option. Organisations need time to develop in a healthy way. Taking steroids is usually not sustainable nor healthy. Recent global initial public offering stories are starting to tell. I’d rather be building a company that endures for years with a good working environment than aiming for a quick exit. At the end of the day, there are many important decisions entrepreneurs make. Some require difficult compromises between speed of growth vs long-term business viability and internal environment. It’s a difficult balance.”
From an interview with How We Made it in Africa.
9. Always look ahead
Azza Fahmy – Founder of Azza Fahmy Jewellery
“I always have a target that I’m busy with and I’m moving towards that target. I achieve it, and then I get another target. I achieve that one, and go on to the next. That’s why I called the book ‘Never Ending Dreams’.”
From an interview with The National News.
10. The “secret sauce”
Khaled Bichara – Late CEO of Orascom Development Egypt
“There is no secret sauce. If there were a secret sauce, I wouldn’t be standing here telling you about it. I would keep it a secret.”
From a talk he held in TedxCairo.