The Arab Spring of 2011 ignited not just Egypt’s society and political landscape. It also lit touch-paper on the bonfire that has become its new tech startup ecosystem. Consider this: Prior to 2011, it’s clear no-one in Egypt had ever heard of AngelList. In that year, only three companies ended up creating a profile under Angel.co/egypt.
Then, as the country went through further convulsion in 2012, that figure jumped to 21. But through 2013 that figure jumped to 47, and a further 48 appeared in 2014. Another 19 were created in February this year alone.
What these previously unlighted raw numbers show is that the entrepreneurial scene is exploding. And it’s not just home-grown startups: Uber launched a couple of months ago and is gradually opening up the city to riders.
The mass of young, educated and enlightened graduates in Egypt are now turning out an array of startups. True, funding is hard to come by, but local entrepreneurs are figuring out their own ways, often via a number of accelerators which have sprung up, as well as crowd-funding campaigns. Among them, perhaps Flat 6 Labs is the best known. It gave birth to the startup Instabug a platform for in-app feedback for mobile apps, which has since moved to the US.
Last week, a stone’s throw from Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square where the Arab Spring reached its apotheosis, I participated in a tech startup conference – Startup Addventure – which brought in international speakers to help inject some more expert knowledge into the ecosystem.
The companies I came across included:
Slickr, a fashion social network.
Swipentap.com – a POS iPad app.
Integreight – which develops novel products for the electronic hobbyist and education market.
Filkhedma – A concierge for household services
Baby Boons – modern baby ecommerce
WallStreetChamber – Which claims to have an algorithm for automated share investing.
Zex – a mobile ad platform that serves offers to users smartphone via their lock-screens
Eventus – for creating and analysis social events.
Tennra – a A gamified crowdfunding platform.
UserTalk – An embedded call button for customer support over VOIP.
Others included Codly, ShareEquity (crowd equity platform), and a new project from the public sector: EgyptInnovate.com, an ambitious project to support entrepreneurs and investors which launches this summer.
At the Rise Up Summit in October, the organisers hope to attract over 4,000 participants to what will be Egypt’s biggest ever startup event.
There is still a long way to go for Egypt’s young society. The day after I met the startups, a prominent civil right activist was jailed.
But from what I could gather in just a short visit to Cairo, it looks like Egypt is now witnessing a new kind of Spring: The Egyptian Startup Spring.