Every year, the American University in Cairo (AUC) School of Business’s very own startup accelerator, Venture Lab (V-Lab) features dozens of the most exciting startups working in a variety of industries and sectors.
The environment and climate action are very high on the global agenda, which makes it no surprise that this year featured a number of Egyptian startups driving innovative solutions to boost sustainability both at home and across the region. Their areas cover a wide range of areas from ethical fashion to water sustainability.
Founded in 2018, Scarabaeus Sacer is an ethical streetwear clothing brand which uses 100 percent organic Egyptian cotton. Co-founders May Kassem and Ali El Nawawi established the brand out of a passion for sustainability and human development, believing that fashion can be used as a tool for social advocacy. With an entirely eco-friendly supply chain, Scarabaeus Sacer has sold their t-shirts all over the world and hope to capture 10 percent of the apparel market in Egypt in the near future.
An online one-stop shop marketplace for vendors to sell their eco-friendly products. Nadia Elmasry, co-founder of Green Cart, says their platform helps environmentally conscious producers by providing them with a streamlined avenue for connecting with customers. Eight of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the heart of their business model. More than just an online marketplace, the startup offers assistance with marketing activities, business development and environmental consultations to its vendors. By late 2021, they aim to have 150 vendors selling 1500 eco-friendly products.
We Care Eco-Friendly Solutions
Single-use plastics are a pervasive problem in Egypt. Both local industries and Egyptian households consume a lot of single-use plastics. 8.3 billion tons of plastic is produced worldwide with only 9 percent being recycled while 79 percent is dumped into the environment, much of it ending up in the oceans. According to Dunia Elmasry, founder of We Care Eco-Friendly Solutions, these dumped plastics will take anywhere between centuries to billions of years to decompose.
Launched in September 2019, the startup produces bio-degradable, compostable, recyclable, multi-use and plastic-free products. Their first products were paper bags for wrapping sandwiches. They now make wooden cutlery, paper straws, and plates and meal boxes made out of sugar cane which decompose in 30 days. We Care sell their products to consumers both directly and through partner supermarkets. They have so far developed 10 eco-friendly products with more in the pipeline for the near future.
The Kind Market
Every year, Egyptians throw away 80 million tons of waste, most of which are single-use plastics, making the country the biggest source of the Mediterranean Sea’s plastic pollution. Sustainable, bio-degradable and reusable products are hard to find as they are sold by a number of different businesses spread out all over the place. The Kind Market is a startup with an online shop that brings many different types of eco-friendly products to one place, says founder Reem Makeen. Their catalogue includes cosmetic products wrapped in plastic-free packaging, plastic alternatives such as metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes, and reusable grocery bags. Having just launched their website in March 2020, they have already sold more than a thousand units and received large orders from other businesses.
Egypt is already officially considered to be living in water scarcity with the Nile River’s water resources facing extreme strains which will continue to grow over the coming years. However, much of it wasted. Up to 30 percent of the water in Egypt’s potable water networks does not reach the customer or is not paid for, amounting to $750 million in lost revenue to the national economy, according to Mohamed Farouk, founder of Wai Technologies. Beginning their journey in 2017, this local startup offers smart and tech-based solutions to fix the leaks in Egypt’s public water networks. Their innovative approaches have so far been adopted by state-owned water companies, with a plan to expand to private gated communities and resorts.