The entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Middle East has evolved beautifully in the last five years; so has the quality and impact of startups and entrepreneurs. Though there are countless incubators and accelerators enabling access to early-stage resources, gaps essential to evolving the ecosystem still exist. The lack of opportunities for follow-on funding, international expansion, and potential exits are still significant barriers to success. The TechWadi diaspora community has demonstrated its ability to significantly mentor, fundraise, finance and help achieve the objectives of MENA startups. Our community based approach to mentorship and acceleration gives entrepreneurs access to an ecosystem of resources, custom tailored directly to maximize impact. Launched in 2015, The Sprint Acceleration Program is a one-month acceleration program, sponsored by TechWadi, designed to assist the most promising Middle Eastern technology startups make the most of Silicon Valley resources. We provide participating companies with tailored-made programs to help them navigate the Silicon Valley waters and accelerate their growth with the help of our mentors and community. With the help of the Skoll Foundation and Google for Entrepreneurs, we are aiming to bring 8-10 companies to Silicon Valley in 2015. Other than office space and connectivity, we provide the following to our select companies:
- Coaching: A dedicated team of coaches provide consulting services to the Sprint companies on all aspects of growth including business development and customer outreach, and help them quickly integrate in Silicon Valley. Coaches regularly check in on companies during the program to make sure they are achieving their milestones and support them by making introductions to relevant constituencies of the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
- Mentorship: The program’s mentors include the TechWadi 100 members, some of the most successful and experienced entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, who are committed to giving their time and sharing their expertise with participating companies. Mentorship will take place in one-on-one settings as well as through small weekly dinners. Some of the mentors could become lifelong advisors to the companies.
- Positioning for fundraising: Help companies position themselves to become relevant to SV investors, and introduce them to corporations, angels investors, and VC firms to secure financing. Companies looking specifically to raise money from the Valley will be given the opportunity to present to top investors at TechWadi events, as well as to other partners during their “demo days”.
- Cloud Services: With the help of Google for Entrepreneurs, qualified companies can receive Google Cloud Services for up to $100,000 or one year of use.
TechWadi Sprint Acceleration Batch 1
January saw us kick-off our Sprint Acceleration program targeting MENA companies looking for expansion in Silicon Valley. Our first batch of companies included two exceptional startups from the Middle East, Band Industries from Lebanon and Wally.me from the UAE. The companies spent 1 month in Silicon Valley after a 1-month preparation period prior to arrival to define specific milestones for each company and connect them with the right mentors from the TechWadi network and beyond. Our new team member, Salwa Katkhuda who currently heads the acceleration program designed a 30 day Silicon Valley program for the companies, which included daily coaching sessions with her covering business mentorship and training in marketing, business modeling, customer acquisition strategies, pitch refinement and funding during their meetings. Salwa also built a customized program for each company to meet relevant mentors, receive structured training sessions, and connect with angel investors, customers, and strategic partners when applicable. Each company also participated in over 10 hours of 1-on-1 growth mentorship curated and led by TW100 Member Sharif El-Badawi, Partner Lead for VCs and Startups at Google and a key member of the AdMob team acquired by Google for $750M in 2009. The results of the program were stunning and the good news keeps coming! Batch 1 Startups:
Band Industries is building the next generation musician’s toolkit. Roadie Tuner (roadietuner.com) – the company’s first product – is an automatic guitar tuner that is both quick and easy to use, and three times more accurate than the human ear. Complemented by a mobile app, this hand-held tuner adds new dimensions to music-making by allowing musicians to freely experiment and save alternate tunings. Roadie is also the first device capable of tracking the quality of an instrument’s strings, notifying musicians when strings are about to snap and need replacing. Roadie tripled its crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter in January 2014, raising $179,000 in 40 days, and shipped more than 4,000 units to 55 countries in the same year. It also won TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2014 Audience Choice Award, London Design awards 2014, and got featured in Executive Magazine’s top 20 in Science and Technology and Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Brilliant Companies for 2014.
Co-founder Hassane Slaibi joined the program in the hopes of establishing presence and increasing sales in the US, Roadie’s biggest market. He also wanted to work with design experts on the second version of Roadie, as well as raise a growth funding round.
In one month working with TechWadi mentors, CEO Hassane Slaibi increased online sales by 40% (compared to January after receiving training on optimizing online ads through TW mentors), on-boarded 4 new retailers, and reached commitments of $400K of a $1M round of financing from strategic investors and angels in both regions.
Rodie Tuner was recently featured in:
Wally is a money management app that takes a lifestyle approach. As users track their day-to-day expenses, they can tag friends, add photos, track sentiment and compare their financial patterns to people similar to them. The app has 600,000 organic users with 30% of total install base adding at least 1 expense each day. CEO Saeid Hejazi joined the program in hopes of establishing presence and growing in Silicon Valley and to specifically get help with re-bundling the various products in fin-tech under its consumer-facing layer: payments (ex. Venmo), borrowing (ex. Lending Club), wealth management (ex. Acorns), savings (ex. Digit). The program was a huge success for the company as they defined and refined their product strategy with leaders in the space, pitched to VCs including Citi Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Sequoia, refined their application to YCombinator with the help of past participants, and were able to dig deep into user behavior and better analyze their data, their biggest asset, based on best practices. Stay tuned for more good news from Saeid and the team at Wally.
A special thanks to our instrumental TechWadi mentors who were extremely engaged and helped Batch 1 achieve incredible results in such a short period of time:
Sharif El Badawi from Google, Zafer Younes from 500 Startups, Basil Darwish from Citi Ventures, Khalid Hussein from Tilt, Ahmad Ibrahim from Intuit, Mohammad Musa from Google, Ahmed Badawi from Badwi & Associates, Youssri Helmy from Robo Works, Mohannad El-Khairy from Nxt Innovation, Ahmed Tantawi from Flextronics, Aisha Sheikh from Ideo, Kyle Ellicott from Wearable World, Tamer Rashad from Humtap, Issam El Dardiri from Google, Christos Mastoras from Illiad Partners, Henri Asseily from Leap Ventures, Deena Shakir from Google, Hanny Rashwan from Ribbon.
We look forward to continuing to support the entrepreneurs in our community and we encourage you to reach out if you see room for collaboration!
TechWadi Sprint Acceleration Batch 2
Our second batch of the Sprint Acceleration Program had 2 very special MENA companies looking for expansion in Silicon Valley, Reveel founded by Amr Shady and Boximize founded by Mostafa Ashour and Sabry ElBadawi. The founders of both companies have built amazing technical products out of Egypt and wanted to validate their technologies before launching them full force in the US. Batch 2 Startups:
Reveel: is an analytics tool with patent-pending algorithms that helps any business with recurring revenues optimize their marketing spend. The algorithms, spun-out from Egypt’s TA Telecom (10M+ subscribers), identify business sweet spots; the combinations of products, customer segments, geographies and acquisition channels that have the highest retention. The tool can also predict which combinations are under-served in terms of resources, and can also predict which unexplored combinations will have high retention. For some customers, Reveel has improved their marketing ROI by 64% in just one quarter.
Boximize: is a mobile first structured note-taking platform that combines the simplicity and usability of note-taking apps, the power of personal databases and the online collaboration capabilities of online office suites. Both founders are ex-Microsoft engineers and its MVP, which is currently available on the app store, has been featured by Apple twice and has received over 230,000 downloads since its launch 6 months ago.
We worked with the companies extensively prior to arrival on defining the milestones that were important for them to achieve, and devising a program to help them meet the most relevant mentors as well as technical and sector experts to help them focus their offering and further enhance it to meet the needs of the US market before launching. In the first 2 weeks of their acceleration the companies met more than 28 relevant mentors and experts from their wish list of Silicon Valley companies. The companies completed the first part of their acceleration where they were able to achieve some critical milestones including meeting and testing their offering with potential clients, getting expert feedback, working on their product roadmap and marketing plans, and deciding on their target customer verticals. They also started preliminary talks with VCs and potential investors about funding opportunities down the line. Both entrepreneurs are back in Egypt working on finalizing their products based on the feedback they got in the program and will be back in the Valley in September to formally launch their products.