With roughly 5,000 attendees, RiseUp Summit 2017 took over Downtown Cairo for the fifth installment of the three-day entrepreneurship event, bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, support organizations and speakers from all over the world.
The Middle East and North Africa region was heavily represented this year, with several governmental and private sector organizations using the platform to announce launch new projects and partnerships as well as share opportunities, successes and data on the ecosystem.
Under the theme “Innovation to improve Human Experience (HX),” the RiseUp team provided a Launchpad series showcasing the top news set to propel the ecosystem forward. Here are the top 10.
1. Udacity Connect forays into MENA with AUC partnership
Udacity, a for-profit educational organization offering an array of online courses, partnered up with the American University in Cairo (AUC) to launch Udacity Connect @AUC Campus. The program, which is Udacity’s first partnership with an educational institution in the MENA region, will initially focus on data science and mobile development by adopting a curriculum that combines online material and resources with physical classrooms.
“Udacity is honored to work with the AUC, the leading academic institution in Egypt. Together, we will help students learn the skills that are in demand in the tech industry as we bring the most future-ready technology courses from Silicon Valley tech giants to the region,” said Clarissa Shen, COO of Udacity.
Udacity collaborates with companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook to offer educational programs in specialized fields, such as machine learning and robotics.
AUC President Francis Ricciardone announced the partnership at the RiseUp Summit, saying, “We have a certain global brand, and so does Udacity. Putting us together will be the essence of any great partnership. It’s not simply additive… but it’s transformative.”
“We want to use Udacity’s know-how in the field of artificial intelligence, online learning, blended learning, machine learning — the way learning is going in the future,” he added.
2. Elves raises largest MENA seed round of $2 million
Elves, a personal concierge app founded by Karim ElSahy, raised $2 million, the region’s largest seed round, from Emaar Industries and Investments, The Dubai Angels, the Kauffman Fellows Syndicate and several other regional and US-based investors.
“We’re excited to get this funding from Emaar and the rest of our investors. Their investment – coupled with rapid adoption and our plans around marketing and product development – is a strong endorsement of our vision,” said Ahmed Kassem, Partner and CBO of Elves, who led the seed round.
3. Abraaj Capital launches Bakery
Dubai-based Abraaj Group announced the launch of Bakery, its growth market early stage investment and ecosystem building platform, which will set out to help build scalable solutions. Using the platform, entrepreneurs can gain access to a variety of global resources and local support through a toolkit.
“At Abraaj, we have been investing in great entrepreneurs for decades – we have always been fierce advocates for our markets and building ecosystems,” founder and group chief executive Arif Naqvi said during his keynote speech at the summit.
4. Minister Sahar Nasr announces Entrepreneurs Services Center
The Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation launched an Entrepreneurs Services Center at its headquarters with the aim of cutting red tape, removing bureaucracy and streamlining a lot of the steps needed to do business in Egypt.
“I wanted to keep my promise and commitment and passion to support startups, entrepreneurs and young investors,” minister Sahar Nasr said at RiseUp. She added that she is keen on listening to the concerns in the market and wants to address them by working with stakeholders to ensure that “the right ecosystem” is created.
5. Levari launches pro-bono legal clinic
Law firm Levari LLC announced the opening of The Legal Clinic at The GrEEK Campus, which will have an open-door policy for startups and entrepreneurs who need legal advice.
They can set up a meeting with one of the lawyers at any time and will receive legal advice for free, as well as gain access to legal templates, such as memoranda of understanding, employment contracts and other documents free of charge. The Legal Clinic can also be contacted through a chat app that is operated by qualified lawyers.
6. Stripe Atlas grants access to RiseUp attendees
Global technology company Stripe officially opened up Stripe Atlas to the RiseUp community, marking its launch in the MENA region. The invite-only service facilitates the process of establishing an internet business by offering tools and resources on legal and banking infrastructures.
Starting a business does not have to be a “complex and daunting process” for first-time founders, said Sarah Heck, senior leader at Stripe and former White House advisor on entrepreneurship. “By removing barriers for more founders across MENA, we hope to help accelerate their businesses on the global stage,” she added.
The aim of Stripe Atlas is to open source expertise in one consolidated place for founders of internet businesses.
7. Seedstars to set up in Cairo
The seed stage startup competition for emerging markets Seedstars returned to RiseUp once again this year to reveal that it will open a space in Cairo in January 2018. The Swiss entity presents itself as an incubator of educators and investors, celebrating disruption by tapping into emerging markets across five continents.
8. Saudi’s MBSC to accept male and female MBA applicants
The Prince Mohammad bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship (MBSC) announced that its MBA program is available for both male and female students, with registration for the academic year 2018 open now. The college is the first private institute of higher education in Saudi Arabia with focus on entrepreneurial education, which was founded by a number of international organization.
9. EdVentures joins forces with Nahdet Misr
Egypt’s EdVentures, an education-technology corporate venture capital, revealed its partnership with publishing firm Nahdet Misr Group to launch an investment fund dedicated to education and ed-tech investments. Companies enrolled with EdVentures will receive technical and marketing support as a result of the partnership.
10. Magnitt reveals #FundingEvolution report on MENA
Magnitt, a platform and startup directory aiming to connect the MENA startup region and make it more transparent, used the RiseUp stage to disclose the findings of its report on how funding has evolved in the region over the past 12 years (read our story on the report here).
By putting 200 funded startups under the microscope, the “MENA Funding Evolution” report showed that collectively, regional startups have raised more than $2.1 billion.
“To be able to share such insights at RiseUp Summit has […] created interesting dialogues between startup founders, investors, corporates and anybody who is interested in the ecosystem,” said Philip Bahoshy, CEO and founder of Magnitt.
Egypt only saw 6.2 percent of total MENA investments at $131 million while the UAE fared best in the region throughout all stages and in terms of investment volume at $1.56 billion in total funding. The most attractive sector across the region was e-commerce.