Bringing Ideas to Life – Startup Launchpad: V-Lab’s latest success story in partnership with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology
“This experience gave me a better understanding of customer needs and brought me closer to the market, and the weekly dedicated mentoring sessions helped me refine my business model.” - Sara Hesham, Startup Launchpad Cycle 1 graduate and co-founder, Epod.
Last November, AUC Venture Lab (AUC V-Lab) launched its new initiative in collaboration with the Egyptian Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), Startup Launchpad, an eight-week online program designed to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to kick start their business. AUC Venture Lab delivered the online sessions as a member of the Babson Collaborative for Entrepreneurship Education. The program was organized in collaboration with the Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC). Four months later, 13 startups have graduated, and the second cycle of Startup Launchpad has already commenced.
“Egypt has made a huge leap forward in attracting investments in information technology,” highlighted HE Amr Talaat, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, during the virtual opening session which was held on January 18, adding that: “we have the responsibility to keep supporting more young people and help them create successful companies; helping the companies succeed locally, regionally and globally.”
The program helped startups find existing market gaps and tweak and refine their offered products or services to cater to these gaps. The first cycle received 258 applicants, of which 52 startups were interviewed, 15 were accepted, and 13 graduated successfully. The total number of entrepreneurs was 26, coming from all over Egypt, but mostly from Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, and Dakahlia.
Startup Launchpad is a successful example of collaboration between the AUC School of Business and the Egyptian government agencies. “Startups are the main fuel of the economy,” declared Amr Mahfouz, CEO, ITIDA and deputy minister for business development, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), Egypt. He stated that Cairo is one of the 50 most attractive hubs for startups globally, highlighting the urgent need to capitalize on this opportunity. “There is a huge competition regionally and globally and many countries are trying to attract the youth.”
The total duration of the cycle was 150 hours, divided into workshops, sessions, talks, coaching and mentorship, and matchmaking startups with various entities. Participants learned more about marketing and accounting for startups through the different sessions, design thinking, business modeling, and communication and pitching. To help participants improve their pitches, the total timeline of the program was extended for two more weeks upon their request.
In the end, the startups were able to pitch their ideas to the ecosystem’s top accelerators and investors, including AUC Angels, Flat6Labs, and Falak Startups.
“Now more than ever, the world needs entrepreneurs of all kinds who think and act entrepreneurially -- who can transform opportunity into reality, and create social and economic value for themselves and for others. It is entrepreneurs and small businesses that end up employing the vast majority of people in any one country,” stated Amir Reza, dean, Babson Academy, and Global Education, during the closing ceremony of the first round, which was held virtually on April 7.
As the program gains more potential and plans are underway for the next runs of the program, it seems only natural to highlight dean Sherif Kamel's note that “Egypt is a large country with a huge potential and many, many needs both in Cairo and outside of it. People need a chance, and this is the chance to create new jobs.” Kamel also added that digital transformation, something that the country is now working towards, is not separate from entrepreneurship. Both of them go hand in hand.