It’s been a remarkable ascension from just four or five years ago when you could more or less count the number of female tech founders in Egypt. It would be hyperbolic to call what followed an explosion, but it would be understating it otherwise. For instance, female-led startups increased by eight percent between 2009 and 2017, going from three percent to eleven percent. Which is why, for instance, there was no real surprise when Egypt produced three of the final eight startups selected from 200 applications for the second cycle of the Womentum Accelerator.
A unique 4-month program designed to support the most promising startups from the Middle East and North Africa region, Womentum is a big deal. Founders reported 224 percent increase in website traffic after appearing on Womentum, for instance. Also, for Egypt to have three representatives in the final eight is an even bigger deal. It becomes even more impressive when you consider that in the first cycle, when there were 10 finalists selected from 175 applications, Egypt had just two: cashless payment innovation, X Pay, and Furnwish, an Augmented Reality app which lets retailers & design professionals showcase their products & services.
But then the numbers make sense. This year, Egypt accounted for 35 percent of Womentum applications, according to Womentum MD Christina Andreassen, who called Egypt “one of the fastest growing startup communities in the Middle East.”
Here are the three companies, providing essential services in agribusiness, medicine, and youth employment:
1. FreshSource connects smallholder farms to big markets, targeting improved food supply chain in Egypt. Their arrival coincides perfectly with the government’s recent move towards a digitalized agricultural system. The company was founded by Farah Emara and Omar Emara.
2. Chefaa is an artificial intelligence-powered on-demand marketplace for pharmaceuticals, making medicines available and delivered faster to chronically ill patients through a smart search engine. It has handled more than 77,000 requests from 27,000 clients. Doaa Aref and Rasha Rady are founders.
3. Pas-sport is a matchmaking platform that connects international athletes with sports scholarships at US universities and colleges. A very necessary invention, as most of the stars we watch today had to force their own way to recognition. Essentially, this adds African talents to the global pool. It has 441 athletes, 12 of which it has helped gain scholarships and has access to 188 Nada Zaher, Youssef Hammoud, and Rami El-Erian are founders.
Womentum Accelerator is designed for early-stage ventures. First, it immerses founders in a two-week in-person session in Berlin. Then, the founders establish their products and business model for these startups. Later, founders are placed on a sustaining diet of virtual “womentorship” while they fight to establish a presence in their home countries. A 2-week boot camp in Dubai concludes the cycle, where the founders are connected to investors and global markets. The top-performing startups get $100,000 from Womena and $60,000 from Standard Chartered.
Suffice to say Egyptian women in tech are burning the canon, and now making their own.
By Caleb Ajinomoh