Adam Hedengren
Last updated: 13 May, 2015

MENA roadshow stops in Cairo for #YMEstartup – and a celebration of entrepreneurial failure

After weeks of preparation, the Cairo Greater Library was lit up on 28 April by spotlights and passionate entrepreneurs for another pit stop in Your Middle East’s roadshow #YMEstartup.


The evening quickly turned into a confession of mistakes. The inspirational Wael Fakharany of Google X kicked off by saying that we (the entrepreneurs) shouldn’t be “afraid of failure”.


“The power of confessions is twofold – credibility and learning,” Your Middle East COO Aurore Belfrage added in her blog. “Successes are easy to google and read about, it’s the behind-the-scenes stuff on the bumpy road forward that gives success credibility and valuable insights for the ‘soon to be successful’.”


The talented and visionary co-founder and CEO of Careem, Magnus Ohlson, talked about the importance of team spirit and surrounding yourself with great people: You can’t do epic shit with basic people, became the punch line of the night.


Serial entrepreneur and Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Maher Hakim, made the same point. Have the guts and integrity to be picky about your investors and co-founders – it’s a marriage, and you need to have long and hard discussions about vision, expectations, passions, skills and dream scenarios before you sign anything. “Good investors/ VCs understand your space, the bad give you $$ & no help, the ugly don’t understand either,” he said.

The panel of investors in Cairo also knew what they were talking about: How to structure the story when pitching, how to establish what the opportunity is early on, the importance of demonstrating your passion for your business but also being credible in the space. Amman-based VC Emile Cubeisy reminded us of the importance of clearly explaining ”the problem you are solving”.

The successful entrepreneur, evangelist and investor Neveen El Tahri elegantly coached both entrepreneurs of the evening – Mai Medhat of the event planning/execution app Eventus and Maria Sanchez Munoz, cofounder of social shopping app Slickr – on the importance of demonstrating the potential of the business. She also urged us all not to forget the HUGE potential of the Egyptian market before going global.

“Equally important for the ecosystem is that the big corporates offer support and guidance so it was great to see PwC and Maged Ezzeldeen on stage offering a different view on Story Telling,” Aurore Belfrage notes.


Also, on the panel, was Munir Nabti, CEO and Chief Entrepreneur at Beirut-based Altcity, who meets and coaches startups daily and explained the power of brevity. The trick Altcity uses in their boot camp is to practice telling your story in 3mins, then in 1min, then 30 sec and finally in just 15sec – all to better massage your story (and business) down to a memorable punch line.


Special thanks from the #YMEstartup team to the entrepreneurial Swedish Ambassador to Egypt, Charlotta Sparre, for her support and opening remarks.

Abdelhameed and Riseup Egypt – this wouldn’t have been impossible without you. Shukran.