Oct 25,2010

Cairo, Egypt – 25-26 October, 2010

On October 25, TechWadi hosted the launch of the first Plug and Play incubator in Cairo. Over 1000 leading US and local VCs, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders joined together in Smart Village to build bridges and promote entrepreneurship in Egypt. The next day, on Oct. 26, pre-selected entrepreneurs met with mentors from Silicon Valley and MENA in a friendly roundtable to gain advice, refine business plans and expand networks. That afternoon, TechWadi mentors addressed a packed audience. Read our post-event coverage below, and tell us what you think via our website or email to feedback@

Photo - Ossama Hassanein The morning began with presentations from TIEC CEO Tarek El Sadany, and the two-person team that is bringing Silicon Valley to Cairo; Ossama Hassanein, Chairman of TechWadi, and Saeed Amidi, founder and CEO of PlugandPlayTechCenter. Ossama gave a quick overview of the history and current trends in Silicon Valley, including the increasing importance of angel financing, seed camps, incubators and early-stage venture capital, and discussed TechWadi’s most recent efforts in creating a mentorship network. Minister Dr. Tarek Kamel announced Egypt’s comittment to contribute $5 million of matching funds to a seed fund targeted at technology entrepreneurs in PlugandPlay Cairo.
Egypt-based venture capitalist Ahmed El Alfi, Chairman of Sawari Ventures, moderated the afternoon VC panel. Of venture capital investing, Ahmed remarked “if you need a calculator to figure it out, you shouldn’t do the deal”, it either makes sense or it doesn’t. Ideavelopers Managing Partner Tarek Assaad spoke of his optimism for Egypt’s technology sector: “there is a myth that Egypt is only a consumer of technology, but if you look at our portfolio companies and others, Egypt is creating and reapplying technology as well. Silicon Valley VC Ayaz Ul Haque discussed some of his most interesting startups: “replication plays. Taking an idea successful in the US, Europe, even India or China, and reapplying it to the local market.” Ahmed agreed: “localization takes the same innovation and ingenuity”. VCs

The entrepreneurs panel was next, moderated by Abdullah Assal, the entrepreneur in charge of launching PlugandPlay Cairo. Ziad Aly, founder of me3almobile.com, highlighted the largely untapped market of mobile applications for feature phone vs smart phones in Egypt and the Middle East (more than 50M subscribers in Egypt alone). Khaled Bassyouny, co-founder of elCinema.com, spoke about the opportunities in filling-in the infrastructural gap. He gave an example with his company: when they tried to launch an online movie theater booking system they discovered a whole new opportunity of developing the back end systems for theaters. Samer El Sahn, CEO of eSpace Technologies, one of the best software houses in the region, stressed on the high quality of Egyptian engineers that is on par with the western educated engineers. Moustafa El Kholy, CEO of SilMinds, offered a unique insight on how he was able to produce fabless semiconductor patented designs that sell to US semiconductor giants.

Shalaby During the Forum we also heard from Alex Shalaby, Chairman of Mobinil and of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) Egypt; the national team from French University of Egypt (UFE) has won the SIFE global championships two years in a row, demonstrating the potential of Egyptian innovators. World Bank MENA Sector Manager Simon Bell shared a rich overview of the region’s productivity, fundamentals, and potential for the future. He emphasized the need for partnerships with Silicon Valley as well as improvements in the competitive environment for businesses to flourish. BDNA founder & CEO Constantin Delivanis shared his journey from Alexandria, Egypt to Stanford University and finding success in Silicon Valley. He also discussed his perspective on the emerging opportunities in the internet’s rapidly growing infrastructure, as well as the most important consideration of a young startup: the needs of its customers.
Andy Duncan, CEO of Boardwalktech and a successful serial entrepreneur, shared key words of advice for Egyptian entrepreneurs:

  • Solve someone’s broken arm, not their head cold. Target problems that are serious and without an easy solution
  • Never give up an early customer because of price. Give your product away if you have to; use early customers as references
  • Use the “No Sell Sell”. Sit down with your top 5 desired target customers and ask them: “what is it that you need?”
  • Don’t think your product has to be perfect. If it solves a real need (a “broken arm”) your customers will work with you to create a better product
Andy Duncan

The next day, on October 26, American and Arab American executives from Silicon Valley gathered at AUC School of Business to engage with entrepreneurs directly and provide mentorship opportunities to the most high impact leaders. Wael Ghonim, Head of Marketing at Google MENA, advised entrepreneurs to launch a product without waiting to perfect it, “focus on the users, money will follow. That is Google school” remarked a member of the audience over Twitter. Hanan Abdel Meguid, CEO of OT Ventures, advised entrepreneurs to focus on their key sustainable advantages without getting distracted.

Ossama Presentation Other leading mentors were TechWadi100 Charter Members from Silicon Valley and the broader MENA region, including Sam Badawi, CEO of Perceptia Devices, Samir Kamal, Chairman of Ascendiente, and Ahmad Al Sari, Executive Partner at Malaz Capital. At the day’s end Ossama Hassanein presented an overview of the social media, social gaming, and mobile application markets with some amazing facts and statistics. A low-barrier, high-growth industry, the new frontiers of the internet represent a strong potential area of new growth for Egypt’s entrepreneurs.


Leaders and Mentors
Ramez Dr. Tarek Kamel Minister of CIT Government of Egypt
Tarek El-Sadany, PhD CEO TIEC
Saeed Saeed Amidi Founder & CEO PlugandPlayTechCenter
Ossama Ossama Hassanein, PhD Chairman Rising Tide Fund
Sherif Kamel, PhD Dean AUC School of Business
Alex Shalaby Chairman Mobinil
 Ayaz Ul Haque Managing Director ePlanet Ventures
Constantin Delivanis Co-Founder & CEO BDNA
 Essam Badawi President & CEO Perceptia Devices
Hanan Abdel Meguid CEO OT Ventures
 Ahmed El Alfi Chairman Sawari Ventures
 Andy Duncan Chairman & CEO Boardwalktech Inc.
George George Chammas Founder & Vice-Chairman NavLink Inc.
 Wael Ghonim Head of Marketing Google MENA
 Ahmad Al Sari Executive Partner Malaz Capital
 David Marcus Founder & CEO Zong
 Simon Bell Sector Manager World Bank
Tarek Assaad Managing Partner Ideavelopers
Abdullah Assal EIR Rising Tide Fund
Samir Kamal, PhD Chairman Ascendiente


October 25, 2010 – Agenda
9:30 Registration & Check-In
10:00- 11:00 Opening Session How to make the dreams of Egypt’s entrepreneurs come true by providing a complete ecosystem and interconnection with Silicon Valley Tarek Sadany, PhD – Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) Ossama Hassanein, PhD- The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Silicon Valley Saeed Amidi – Launch of PlugandPlay Cairo: a Bridge to Silicon Valley Minister Dr. Tarek Kamel – Egypt’s Commitment to Promoting Entrepreneurship
11:15- 11:30 The World Bank’s Perspective The importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in promoting economic development in the MENA Region Simon Bell (Sector Manager, World Bank)
11:30- 12:15 Entrepreneurs: Challenges, Opportunities, and Aspirations Egypt’s best and brightest share their journey to launch, operate, and expand vibrant startups…and the challenges they face Ziad Aly (founder, me3almobile.com) Abdullah Assal (EIR, Rising Tide) Khaled Bassyouny (co-founder, elCinema.com) Samer El Sahn (CEO, eSpace Technologies)
12:30- 13:15 Seed Financing, Angel Investors, and Venture Capital Investors from Silicon Valley and Egypt discuss the creation of an effective Angel network and vibrant VC industry in Egypt Ahmed El Alfi (Chairman, Sawari Ventures) Tarek Assaad (Managing Partner, Ideavelopers) Ayaz Ul Haque (Managing Director, ePlanet Ventures) Walid Bakr (Director, Riyada Enterprise Development)
13:15- 14:00
Emerging Opportunities: Mobile, Digital Media, and the Internet Leading CEOs and serial entrepreneurs from the US discuss lessons learnt and targeted advice for Egyptian business leaders on the rise Constantin Delivanis (co-founder & CEO, BDNA) Andy Duncan (Chairman & CEO, Boardwalktech) David Marcus (founder & CEO, Zong)
14:00- 15:00
Lunch and Networking
Sponsored by TIEC    


About Us
TechWadi Logo Header As recovering economies seek to create jobs, spur innovation, and remain competitive globally, entrepreneurship has rightly been recognized as the engine of future growth. TechWadi is a California-registered non-profit organization seeking to build bridges between the United States and the MENA region in order to promote entrepreneurship and foster economic development. TechWadi is leading a grass-roots movement pioneered by Silicon Valley-based diasporas to provide effective, targeted business mentorship, support, and angel financing to high impact entrepreneurs.

TIEC The Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) was formed in association with academia, the government, and the private sector to develop and support Egypt’s workforce through educational, technological and financial resources. As part of the IEC, viable ICT start-ups can receive support such as funding space in the Smart Village incubator buildings, expertise in taking a product or service to market, and help with intellectual property protection. sv

The American University in Cairo (AUC) is a premier institution of higher learning. The university is committed to teaching and research of the highest caliber, and offers exceptional liberal arts and professional education in a cross-cultural environment. AUC builds a culture of leadership, lifelong learning, continuing education and service among its graduates, and is dedicated to making significant contributions to Egypt and the international community in diverse fields.  Chartered and accredited in the USA and Egypt, it is an independent, non-profit, equal-opportunity institution.

TechWadi Logo Header

PlugandPlayTechCenter is Silicon Valley’s leading incubator, having helped 500+ startups raise $750M+ and contributed to notable successes including PayPal. On October 25, PlugandPlay will launch the first PlugandPlay Cairo incubator as the center of a region-wide support structure. At PlugandPlay Cairo, entrepreneurs will freely exchange ideas and mentors will share their knowledge and experience. Each PnP will have resident corporate partners, venture capitalists, banks, and other partners – these groups enrich the incubator ecosystem as clients, suppliers, financiers, or partners, but also reap benefits themselves from their proximity to a source of high-quality start-ups.

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