According to Arabnet, Egypt has a small but fierce community of female founders, with women making up only 7% of Egyptian founders. In order to meet these bossladies, and in partnership with Riseup and MO4, Womena hosted our signature #BossladiesBreakfast in Cairo as a pre-event to the annual RiseUp Summit. On the shores of the Nile River, at Cairo’s iconic Left Bank restaurant, a curated group of 35 female tech entrepreneurs (“Bossladies”) gathered – many meeting for the first time – to share stories of challenges and opportunities faced within Egypt and the MENA entrepreneurship ecosystem.
During the breakfast, Bossladies divided into groups according to company stage – growth, seed and idea stage – for a design thinking exercise aimed at identifying key challenges and steps for success as entrepreneurs. After visualizing commonalities in their responses about challenges, the entrepreneurs provided feedback to Womena how they would like to be supported through programming (i.e. trainings, networking) and other opportunities.
A clear theme that presented itself during the discussions was the resourcefulness and hustle the entrepreneurs had demonstrated in order to build their companies. Although some growth companies had raised money, most startups had bootstrapped thus far, and accessing funding sources was one of the largest challenges that entrepreneurs faced. Additional challenges mentioned included uncertainty about how to gain access to advanced tech, running a business with both cash and credit card payment options, and how to expand and export products/services beyond the Egyptian market. Both groups identified challenges relating to finding talent, corporate governance, educating the market, overcoming societal structures and stress, and realistic financial forecasting.
Keys to success
Entrepreneurs identified several keys to their success in Egypt, some of the highlights being:
- Community & Connections – Having the right partners, connections, investors on board for support and access to customer segments.
- Building Client Trust – Providing professional services and setting high standards will make you stand out in Egypt. For example, delivery services that can deliver in a timely manner and are trustworthy will be a critical factor in customer retention.
- Being creative in how to get noticed
- Being part of a great entrepreneurial community with support through incubation
One entrepreneur commented that her key to success is “persistence, passion, determination, hard work, being adaptive, flexible to changes, being curious, and getting my hands dirty in every department.”
Womena has recently launched the Bossladies Community which aims to connect, support, and promote the female tech entrepreneurship community in the MENA region. Members of the Bossladies Community have exclusive access to events and opportunities aimed at business, professional and personal development. Learn more about the MENA Bossladies Community here.
Overall, the tenacity, growth and adoption rates of the startups we met in Egypt were nothing short of impressive. We’ll be looking forward to rolling out initiatives to empower, support and build strong networks of support for female Egyptian founders in 2018.