2 minutes with Abdelhameed Sharara: Unearthing disguised entrepreneurial potential in Upper Egypt

AbdelHameed Sharara-Photo Courtesy of Riseup

In recent years, multiple entities have been working to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Egypt. With Cairo under the microscope, resources are often allocated to the country’s capital – hence, leaving other parts of Egypt almost unremembered.

Having been in Cairo since 2013 and establishing itself as one of the biggest entrepreneurial summits in the Middle East, RiseUp has decided to burst its Cairene bubble and look into what is happening all around – both in Egypt and the region.

Business Forward speaks to RiseUp founder and CEO Abdelhameed Sharara to know more about the entity’s next hackathon in Upper Egypt, why it chose to go there and what outcomes to expect

Why did you choose Upper Egypt specifically?
RiseUp has been focusing on Cairo for many years and its first option of expansion was Upper Egypt. Upper Egypt has the largest critical mass in Egypt and all of its governorates are connected, while its geographic location is perfect and not very far. They also have very advanced universities. We have two to three RiseUp team members from Minya and they took the initiative to kick off in Upper Egypt. Also, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the GrEEK Campus were part of a consortium supporting entrepreneurship and innovation in Upper Egypt, and they paved the way for RiseUp to go there.

For RiseUp, we want to work in more tangible places and with different people who actually speak Arabic – Upper Egypt has youth that needs this impact. This is why we chose Upper Egypt as a destination.

What are the challenges in Upper Egypt?
There are various problems. The economic empowerment in Upper Egypt is not at its best. University graduates are of high caliber and rather qualified, but due to the lack of means, they choose to travel abroad. The population suffers from brain drain and the economic machine is not operating properly. Additionally, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Upper Egypt is still at an early stage, unlike Cairo – hence, the latter enjoys the attention of media and support organizations over the former.

What is the edge of RiseUp and what is the long-term plan?
RiseUp is a resourceful network. We could help startups later on in advanced stages. We do not organize an event and then sleep on it. We will support startups and ideas all year round. Also, the main idea of hackathons is to heavily challenge participants as they are more serious than regular events. People need to find real solutions because they will be judged as a business, not just as a creative idea – hence, we are looking for something that is business-oriented.

Our long-term plan is to have hackathons that happen all year round, everywhere, and then it will go global. We will connect all the successful ideas from the hackathon to all the resources they need – be it incubators, accelerators or investors. Later on, we will partner up with other stakeholders to catalyze the improvement of the ecosystem in Upper Egypt.

How is RiseUp expanding?
RiseUp is currently moving from being “RiseUp Summit” to building an annual calendar of events. This started last year with the largest hackathon in the world – the Hajj Hackathon in Saudi Arabia with 3,000 attendees. Then, we had a series of hackathons. At the beginning of the year, RiseUp organized a digital financial inclusion hackathon with United Nations’ (UN) International Telecommunications Unit, and we have other hackathons in the pipeline. The idea of hackathons is that they allow early-stage creatives and entrepreneurs to be a part of the ecosystem. Also, they are relevant; hence, giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to have solution-based ideas that are also economically viable.


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