Determined To Reform Egypt’s Art Scene – This Young Team Is Creating An eCommerce Platform For Artwork

Nzekwe Henry July 10

From a historical and archaeological perspective, Egypt’s reputation as the cradle of civilization can be considered to be both unrivaled and unmatched in a lot of respects. From the revered Sphinx, to the famous pyramids, to fine pieces of arts, and even the much-vaunted trapdoors and tunnels leading up to scores of Mummy-laden tombs believed to hold the remains of ancient Pharaohs, the North African nation’s ascent to the helm of global affairs, at certain points in history, appear to have been enmeshed with some flawless displays of artistry and architecture.

But fast-forward a few hundred years down the line from the era of ancient Egyptian dominance, and out went the “Art-Decor era.” In its stead, in came a chain of historical events; most notably, The Renaissance Era, The First Industrial Revolution, The Oil Boom, The Second Industrial Revolution, The New Millenium, and most recently, the Era of Globalization and Digitization. A lot appears to have changed since Alexander The Great and Cleopatra, but Egypt’s culture remains rooted in arts and crafts. And three young Egyptian entrepreneurs, straight out of college, are making headway towards exploring the potential of arts in putting the country back in contention for global reckoning and recognition (in an era where economic, infrastructural and social development is the yardstick).

This time around, the approach is different. Nothing outlandish or ostentatious; no gigantic Sphinx, no enormous pyramids, hardly any hidden trap doors or intricate nexus of tunnels that lead up to tombs or treasure chests. The current paradigm, as pioneered by these prodigious talents, is looking to incorporate entrepreneurship via arts, as a means to empower individuals and improve the country’s economy.

Their creation, Flareinn, could be considered as one of the first of its kind in the country and it represents a break from the norm. Founded in 2017, the e-commerce platform is looking to become Egypt’s go-to online marketplace for art. Flareinn targets young artists and provides artworks to customers at decent bargains. The platform provides artists with personalized accounts, which act as a shopping gallery for their pieces. The artists that are registered on the platform have the creative control over the pricing with the help of the pricing guide featured on the website. Flareinn does the job of ensuring the quality of the art pieces by subjecting them to thorough scrutiny before featuring them on the platform. The startup also charges between 20-35% commission on every artwork sale. With features which supports the easy showcase, convenient purchase, and doorstep delivery of the finest pieces of art from some of the country’s most promising artists, it is tailored to meet the needs of the creators, curators, and collectors of art. And it could not have come at a better time.

In recent times, entrepreneurship has been identified as a veritable tool for triggering people-oriented impact and development amongst people living in the developing parts of the world, and this is highlighted by a recent report published by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP), in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AFDB). As pointed out in the report, the African entrepreneurial scene has witnessed a lot of activity in the past decade, with a number of enterprises debuting in the startup ecosystem. This trend appears to have been helped by the enabling environment created by the influx of angel investors, grants, accelerators, incubators, mergers, acquisitions, seed investments, Series-A funding, and other vital enablers of the sector.  From the Egyptian angle, there has been a significant proliferation of these startups with interest in such areas as e-commerce, fintech, e-health, cleantech, and a number of other fields.

Quite fittingly, WeeTracker’s recent H1 funding report for African Startups and VC ecosystems indicates that the first half of 2018 saw a total of USD 168.6 Mn being poured into 118 deals across various African startups; figures that have already eclipsed the mark set by the entirety of the previous year. On a similar note, the said report highlights Egypt as the standout performer in the e-commerce sector having accounted for 6 out of the 9 e-commerce startups that attracted investment in the period under review. Overall, the North African nation ranks third in terms of top investment destinations on the continent; second only to Nigeria and Kenya, having seen startups headquartered in the country amass an impressive 21 deals (all of which are better figures when juxtaposed with that obtained from the years gone by). These premises give significant credence to the notion that the Egyptian startup ecosystem is coursing through an upward trajectory, and there may never be a better time to hop on the bandwagon than now.

With its business model, drive, and vision, Flareinn seems poised to take advantage of the untapped opportunities that lay in wait in an uncharted aspect of e-commerce; the art scene. Egypt boasts a vibrant contemporary art scene with notable personalities in the likes of Britt Boutros Ghali, Ibrahim El Tanbouli, and Assem Abdel Fattah. There also exists an impressive crop of up-and-coming contemporary artists who are pushing the limits and writing new chapters in Egyptian art folklore, and it is this group of artists that are particularly integral to the Flareinn model.

What began as a eureka moment for an artist who was faced with the challenge of getting his artwork out there, now looks set revolutionize the art scene. Abdalla Amin, a 21-year-old final year student of Computer Engineering at the time, from the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University, Cairo, had some trouble finding the right market and buyers for his works, being an artist himself. Frustrated at the lack of opportunities which hamper the progress of artists these days, he collaborated with fellow engineering students at the same university; Omar Ibrahim (who majored in Electronics and Communications Engineering) and Emad Zowail (of the same discipline as Abdalla Amin); who were both 22-year olds at the time, to create a tool that will help artists like himself profit from their work.

With a view to solving this problem, the trio opted to create an online platform, which seemed a perfect fit and a no-brainer given the global tech revolution that is upon us and the tech-savvy nature of the founders’ academic backgrounds. These young, fresh graduates now represent the executive arm of Flareinn with Abdalla Amin at the helm of affairs as CEO, Omar Ibrahim running operations as COO, and Emad Zowail handling the company’s technology as CTO.

L-R: Abdalla Amin (22), Omar Ibrahim(23), and Emad Zowail(23) [Co-founders of Flareinn]

The journey has been a long and arduous one, bringing the idea to fruition has been anything but easy. Being that they were college seniors at the time, juggling their academic work with the demands of running a new business took a lot of effort. Sheer will and determination were all they had to get by at various instances during the business’ early days. Sometimes, the trio even resorted to delivering some of the art pieces themselves to maintain efficiency and service quality. The challenges have been daunting and seemingly-insurmountable at various points, but sheer will and determination have seen these three youngsters come a long way from many of those makeshift brainstorming sessions in some of those dorm rooms at Cairo’s Ain Shams University.

And there have been successes. Moments of triumph to reflect upon, tether to, and keep going even in the face of setbacks. Remarkable work ethic and dedication on the part of these youngsters have seen the Flareinn journey move from school dormitories and hallways, to the Injaz Incubation program, then to a booth at Riseup. Most notably, the trio and their startup were featured in last year’s edition of the prestigious StartupScene’s 25 Under 25; an event that is dedicated to unearthing and recognizing some of Egypt’s youngest visionaries and game changers of the entrepreneurial scene. And it gets even better. Most recently, Flareinn had the opportunity to pitch at the first demo day of EG Bank’s MINT Incubator program;  having done battle with 140 other Egyptian startups, seen off most of the competition, and emerging as one of the 10 startups who was given the chance to pitch in front of investors.



Going forward, Flareinn aspires to be more than just an online marketplace for art. The platform has set its sights on becoming an online art community that nurtures the presence and importance of art in the Middle-Eastern-North-African (MENA) region. As stated by the company’s COO, “we are doing this to raise art appreciation in the MENA region. We are also battling the ‘starving artist’ stereotype and trying to integrate being an artist as a job that can provide financial independence for the talented youth out there.” The young entrepreneurs hope to achieve this feat by incorporating a blog on the website further down the line, which will help artists interact and help each other via exchange of ideas, questions, tips, and other information. Central to the platform’s vision is the mission to help young artists garner the recognition they deserve; something the company hopes to achieve by featuring certain posts on selected artists and their works on the blog or setting up critiques that can help them improve their art.

Since the launch of Flareinn’s beta version in January 2018, a growing number of artists have signed up on the platform already, and it now boasts a roster of over 120 artists and a catalog of over 250 pieces showcased on the website. And all that early success have come in against the run of play; without any textbook marketing efforts on the part of the company’s management. Indeed, the omens look good for the company, and there are inspirational and motivational stories which support that assertion. Jomana, an artist of remarkable skill and potential and one of the many now featured on the platform, was particularly skeptical about her chances of making a decent living from what was mostly leisure to her initially. She was not very optimistic at first because she had never sold a painting in her life. Now, here is the testimony: she sold her very first painting within her first week of signing up and setting up her shop on Flareinn and seven more paintings within the first month. Astonishing, isn’t it? Well, there’s more. Muhamed El Shanawany; one the platform ’s crop of buyers purchased six pieces of art in his first ever interaction with Flareinn, and eight more in his second. Both stories evoke emotion and inspire more intent on revealing to artists and buyers how art can be a pillar in their lives and how making this art easily accessible and profitable is a feat worth achieving. And it is not just for the connoisseurs, enthusiasts, and aficionados of fine arts, but also for those to whom the world of arts may come across as unfamiliar territory.

The startup aims to leverage the immense financial potential of the Egyptian and MENA art scene. Although poverty still poses a problem in certain regions within the target market, there is a sizeable market for the Flareinn team to zero in on. For starters, Egypt is also home to a large population with considerable wealth at the top, and one of the largest middle classes on the African continent. The market opportunity is evident in home decors, gifts, art collectors, hotels, hospitals, cafes, restaurants, startups offices, and even co-working spaces. Preliminary research on the global market reveals an estimated market size of USD 64 Bn, of which USD 7 Bn was accounted for by the e-commerce scene in 2017. However, only 2% of this amount is found to be coming from Africa, and the startup is looking to capitalize on this untapped wealth and potential that is in the offing from the rich art market in Egypt and parts of the MENA region. In view of that, Flareinn is looking to bridge the apparent chasm that exists between the art collectors and the creators of fine arts who are facing challenges in showcasing their works under the current market structure, within Egypt and beyond.

And it may take some doing. The current misconception about arts in Egypt and some parts of the middle east poses a problem. A number of young and enterprising artists hold hackneyed convictions about the profitability of their art, as some of them are wont to believe that their skill set could actually be transubstantiated into meaningful income. Throw that in with the idea of investing in arts is still regarded as something of an alien concept in some quarters within the region, and there appears another daunting challenge on the horizon. This is one area where the company has its work cut out for it, and Flareinn intends to channel efforts toward altering the mindset through the formation of a formidable marketing communications team.

And it could indeed pay off. As pointed out by the COO, “online platforms present today showcase and support creative talents. Content creation has been transformed into a full-on career, and we believe artists are missing out on the leaps technological platforms can help them make towards a stable income.” In those few words, the company’s vision and motivation are encapsulated.

Barely one year has passed since these youthful and vibrant entrepreneurs were clutching textbooks, carrying backpacks, and thronging lecture halls and workshops as college seniors at Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Engineering. Largely borne out of sheer dedication, will, and determination, the leap to their current position on the threshold of global reckoning is quite remarkable and somewhat unprecedented. It serves as an inspiring point of reference for young individuals who are scouring the fringes and frontiers of technology for new methods of solving identified problems in their respective communities.

Currently, the platform is operating a beta version of its website, and Flareinn’s official launch is expected in the last quarter of the current year. Even though Flareinn is yet to benefit from any form of an official capital injection or external funding, and despite still awaiting the platform’s official launch, the trio of Abdalla Amin, Omar Ibrahim, and Emad Zowail, have come a long way. From doing a number of odd jobs to learning from their experiences on the job to meetings with CEOs and investors, these young Egyptian entrepreneurs now look set to rewrite the narrative, revitalize an ailing sector, rock the establishment, and blaze the trail as young entrepreneurs in an emerging field with significant potential. And it all started at college. Now, there is a way wherever there is a will.


Image Credits: Flareinn

Incubators vs Accelerators: Identifying Which Is Right For Your Startup

Nzekwe Henry December 12

As an individual who just came aboard the entrepreneurship train and is still learning the ropes, it might take some time to get with the program. And a crucial part of getting with the program is having a good command of the business lingo.

Well, unless you can lay claim to some kind of background in finance, however rudimentary, it might take some doing to keep up with what those business-type folks are yammering about when they begin to spill all the jargons associated with startup vernacular.

Be honest; how many times have you been in that awkward situation where you falsely nod your head in affirmation during some business conversation even though you haven’t the slightest idea what some other person is talking about? Well, if it’s any consolation, you’re not the only one.

So here’s the thing; it is not uncommon for startup founders who are venturing into an industry for the first time to get somewhat bamboozled by the barrage of terminologies associated with that venture.

Getting comfortable with a whole new set of terms – say from angel investor to crowdfunding, seed funding, venture capital, pre-seed funding, Series-A, and a host of others – is not exactly a cake walk. And most people with no prior background in business or finance will struggle somewhat initially – at least, I know I did.

Moving on to the crux of the matter; there’s something of an unspoken debate on the subject of incubators and accelerators with regards to what they are all about and which is best suited to the needs of startups at certain stages.

Although this gets very little attention as most people tend to just sweep it under the carpet as a ‘no-problem’ and use both terms interchangeably as synonyms that can replace each other without raising eyebrows, it takes nothing away from the fact that this is an awful misconception. And many early-stage startup founders can be found wanting with respect to this unlawful marriage of these two distinctly different aspects of the startup business.

Of course, both programs are of immense benefits as they provide guidance to startups, as well as help refine their business models and strategies into sellable ones. Clearly, both incubators and accelerators play vital roles in grooming startups into profitable ventures that can garner investor interest. But it would be utterly misguided to conclude that both are one and the same as obvious differences exist between them.

The differences between incubators and accelerators are well and truly brought to the fore when their respective selection and investment processes are put into perspective. If you are an early-stage startup founder who is having a hard time getting to grips with both terms or deciding which is ideal for your startup, then this x-ray of their different features should come in handy.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Purpose

For incubators, the focus is on startups that have just entered the initial stages of building their company. Incubators are best suited to startups that posses an idea that can cut it in the marketplace, but with no business model and direction through which those “lightbulb moments” can be brought to life in the form of an actually profitable venture.

The key function of an accelerator, on the other hand, is to speed up or advance the growth of a company that is already in existence and it is pretty much functioning with a business model in place. That is to say, accelerators are tailored for startups that have already hit the ground running per se.

An accelerator program functions to consolidate the startup’s position and build on its foundations with a view to propelling them high enough for investors and key influencers to spot them and be wowed and wooed in equal measure.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Duration

In terms of duration, an open-ended timeline is the most likely case for an incubator. Incubators are sort of in for the long haul; they place more emphasis on the longevity of the startup as against its speed of growth. It is quite common for startups to be mentored by incubators for a period spanning up to a year and a half, or even more.

As their name implies, accelerators are all about speed. They are all about putting one’s feet down on the gas and so they don’t take as much time as their opposite number – typically lasting anywhere between three to four months.

Accelerators operate on a set time-frame and it is during that period that startups improve on their products and offerings with the support of mentors, as well as capital made available by the accelerator. And there is also an interesting bit in that startups get to pitch their businesses to investors upon the completion of accelerator programs and who knows what doors could crack open.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Application Process

Incubators are designed for the long route. In these programs, a significant amount of time and resources are devoted to advancing local startups. Incubators generally prove their worth in creating employment opportunities or making moves to license intellectual property. And startups do serve up a path through which both can be accomplished.

Incubators are not fixated on delivering startups that can develop and proliferate fast, especially as advancing the development of local startups forms the bulk of their offering. With that in mind, it is not uncommon for many seemingly slow-growing or evidently less-scalable businesses to find their way into an incubator program.

On the other hand, accelerators place a premium on scalability, investment-worthiness, and high growth potential. That is, only startups that check all these boxes can even begin to fancy their chances of getting in.

Accelerator programs are pretty competitive; seeing applications from a good number of startups and having to select only those adjudged to have the most potential. Hence, such programs use a more traditional and formal model for entry as interested startups have to apply for a specific number of slots in the program.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Environment

This is one aspect where both programs share similarities to a large extent. An environment of collaboration and mentorship is on the cards with both programs and this does a good job of bringing startups together, having them share a space, and affording them access to resources and peer feedback. And all these are known to be vital to the advancement of startups.

Accelerators and incubators also afford startups the opportunity to pick the brains of seasoned business experts and successful entrepreneurs who have been there and done that, and whose experiences can serve up invaluable business lessons.

Incubators vs Accelerators: Investment Capital

It is quite common for incubators to be sponsored by universities or organizations that are focused on economic development, and as such, it is not usually the practice for an incubator to provide capital to startups. And in a similar regard, equity stakes are not usually taken by incubators in the startups they support.

It’s kind of a whole different ball game for accelerators as such programs are known to usually invest a specific amount of capital in startups for an agreed amount of equity. Thus, in some circles, accelerators are assumed to play a greater role in startup success by virtue of this financial commitment. However, this takes nothing away from the importance of incubators.

It’s not really a matter of hopping on the bandwagon of any program that sounds like music to your ears, it’s about identifying what’s right for your startup and acting accordingly. In truth, even though an accelerator program does have some perks which make it seem more appealing, an incubator could do actually do more of a solid to most startups than an accelerator.

Incubators are associated with startups that are still in their formative stages, do not necessarily require investment, and are already part of a local startup community. Although it may require a longer route to commercialization, an incubator is the best bet if a startup’s business model and some other essentials are yet to be resolved.

Through expansive national calls, application processes, and other formalities which would typically involve screenings and vettings, accelerators select their participants. These participating startups are expected to prove themselves investible, rapidly scalable, and also reflect a willingness to migrate to the location of the accelerator for the duration of the program at the very least if need be. Accelerators usually provide funding to startups, typically becoming the company’s first external investor in many cases.

Both programs can undoubtedly be of immense benefits to startups but their obvious distinctions should never be muddled up such that they are considered one and the same. For entrepreneurs and startup owners, the trick lies in identifying which of these programs is best suited to the needs of their respective businesses at their present stages of development. And this can only be achieved through critical reflection.

Egypt’s Buseet Gets Seed Round Extension From Saudi-Based Vision Ventures

Nzekwe Henry December 12

It appears to be raining dollar bills for Egyptian transport-tech startups as the sector has witnessed a flurry of investment activity in the past few weeks and yet again, another transport-tech startup in Egypt has gotten in on the act.

This time around, it is Buseet; a bus-booking platform, that has roped in an undisclosed amount of funding from Saudi-based Vision Ventures. It would be recalled that the startup raised a seed round in September from 500 Startups, Cairo Angels, and some other angel investors. Following from that, the latest investment appears to be an extension of that seed round.

Buseet was established last year by a trio of Founders including Amr El-Sawy, Khaled Moawad, and Mohamed Abdel Aziz. The platform provides a means through which commuters can book modern and convenient minibuses at rates that are significantly lower than regular ride-hailing options while serving up luxury and comfort that is not afforded by public transport options.

The startup’s bus-hailing services are currently available on some fixed routes in parts of Cairo and Alexandria. After its initial launch, the startup’s services were only available through its web-based platform but improvements have since been made and Buseet now boasts mobile apps for both Android and iOS.

Speaking with regards to the development, Kais Al-Essa, Founding Partner at Vision Ventures, enthused that Buseet is unique in that it offers a simple and no fuss solution to a worrying problem by affording commuters an easy, clean, comfortable and cost-effective option which trumps public transport and personalized solutions. He also expressed confidence in the ability of the startup to assist in solving the transportation conundrum in cities with dense population.

The timing of this latest investment could be thought to be quite interesting as it appears to be coinciding with a number of recent developments which have seen Uber and Careem launch bus services of their own in Cairo.

Buseet’s latest investment is also coming at a time when another bus-hailing startup, Swvl, has announced raising “tens of millions” in its Series-B at a valuation that is believed to be on the threshold of USD 100 Mn, with expansion into Southeast Asia also on the cards for the startup. But that appears to be no cause for worry for Buseet’s latest investors who seem to be unfazed by these parallel developments and only poised to grab a significant market share.

Al-Essa also revealed his awareness of the Uber and Careem situation but is taking it in good stride. He referred to the development as being more than anything else, a reflection of the size of the market and the opportunities on offer. He also expressed convictions in the startup’s ability to deliver when he stated that the efficiency of Buseet’s operations compared to its competitors puts in better stead.

While it remains to be known exactly how much funding has been raised by Buseet so far, it is hard to look past the fact that it is probably a long way off from the amount of financial power its competitors have been able to summon in recent times.

And even though the startup may have to reload its financial arsenal pretty soon, it sure looks like Egypt’s bus-hailing segment is about to get a hell of a lot more competitive. If anything, that bodes well for the customers of the service.


This development was first covered in a publication by MENAbytes.


Image CourtesyMENAbytes

Egypt’s Sawari Ventures Scores USD 35 Mn In First Tranche Of Its New Fund For North Africa

Nzekwe Henry December 12

Egyptian VC, Sawari Ventures, has announced a first closing of USD 35 Mn for its latest fund called Sawari Ventures North Africa Fund I (SVNFI). This development is coming in the wake of reports from earlier this year which suggested that the company will be launching a fund worth USD 70 Mn, and this latest investment is coming as a first tranche.

Technology and knowledge-driven companies in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, are expected to benefit from this latest fund from Sawari Ventures.

A number of global financial institutions including the European Investment Bank (EIB), UK-based CDC, Proparco; the private sector financing arm of the French Development Agency, as well as Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF); a fund managed by Triple Jump, are all listed as investors in the fund.

Plans to announce the closing of another ‘Egypt-only’ fund by Sawari Ventures is also believed to be actively in progress. When launched, this fund will run simultaneously with the SVNFI so as to boost the company’s investments in Egyptian startups.

Some of the largest public sector banks, as well as governmental bodies such as National Bank of Egypt, Banque du Caire, and Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), are believed to be the lead investors in this fund which will be exclusive to Egyptian companies.

“We are creating the first of a kind VC vehicle to combine top-tier international and local institutional investors to cement VC as an asset class in Egypt; we are initiating a sustainable Egyptian VC industry to ensure availability of funding for future entrepreneurs,” said Wael Amin, Partner at Sawari Ventures.

Such areas ICT, deep technology, fintech, education technologies, healthtech, and renewable/green energy, are expected to form the list of sectors targeted by the fund which aimed at making investments in 25 growth stage companies across those sectors with an average ticket size of USD 1.5 Mn.

“Investment appetite in Africa is growing aggressively, with an abundance of high-growth opportunities waiting for the right funding, and the right partners,” said Amin. “At Sawari Ventures, we have been building knowledge economy companies in this part of the world for years, and our role today will be to channel the available capital to the right entrepreneurs.

Sawari Ventures Partners, Ahmed El Alfi, Wael Amin, and Hany Al-Sonbaty, were all present at the signing ceremony which took place on the sidelines of the 2018 Africa Business Forum which was held at the Sharm El Sheikh International Congress Center. Representatives from both the local and international investors in the fund were also in attendance.

According to one of such investor representatives – Milena Messori; Head of Intermediated Finance for MSMEs at EIB, SVNFI will be used to assist early and growth stage innovative SMEs that have the potential to scale rapidly and grow regionally.

She also expressed her confidence in the ability of the fund to boost the local tech ecosystem, while also stressing that the support to local SMEs and dynamic startups afforded by the new fund will do a solid to economic growth, private sector development and job creation for the young generation.



Image Courtesy: Wamda

Google Free Wi-Fi Station Launched In Abuja

Andrew Christian December 11

In a move to foster internet connection in Nigeria, Google, in partnership with Nigeria’s Backbone Connectivity Network, has launched a free, high-speed and public Wi-Fi hotspot in Abuja, on the backs of its Google Station Initiative for Nigeria.

The station, which was launched last week, was the kickoff of Google’s intention to rollout free internet service in Northern Nigeria, as it was launched in three strategic parts of the FCT, including Wuse Market, Enab Plaza, and Banex Plaza.

Google Nigeria’s Head of Partnerships for Next Billion Users, Saidu Abdullahi, reported the program as a move to provide high-quality Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, and a simple tool-set to bring Nigerians closer to the internet in busy locations such as bus stations, airports, shopping malls, and public transit points. According to him, partners have leveraged Google Station’s business model to enable venues, system integrators, businesses, and ISPs to access fiber setup, maintain and monetize their internet hotspots.

Because numerous venues with public Wi-Fi need to stitch custom solutions together for separate locations, the internet services are cumbersome to use as log-in processes are one-off, connections are slow, and an abundance of networks can be porous security-wise. Venues usually encounter hurdles in the aspects of providing extensive networks, enabling high-quality service for users, as well as monetizing its usage.

Bringing a solution to the series of challenges facing the ISP industry in Nigeria, Google Station offers a platform on which the providers, venues and hardware partners can work to reduce deployment costs, operations and ongoing support. In a speech delivered at the inauguration of the station in Abuja, Saidu Abdullahi said that residents of the FCT can now experience top-drawer internet connections in airports, malls, and universities.

In an interview, Backbone Connectivity Network – an Abuja-based integrated communications and data management company – told Weetracker of the reception of the newly launched Station a Wuse Market. The CEO of BCN, Ibrahim Dikko, visited a part of Wuse market prior to the launch of the WiFi Station and interacted with a young boy who was pushing his wheelbarrow. He took time to ask the boy if he knew what the base stations accommodating the Wi-Fi access points were, alongside their functions, finally announcing to the boy that through them BCN was making the Internet freely accessible. In the twinkle of an eye, the boy informed others like him and there was a crowd browsing the Internet for various communication needs.

“That great desire to get online with their phones was clearly visible, and it was heartwarming to see that the work BCN is doing with Google – bringing Wi-Fi to many – has a great societal impact, one that touches lives and can touch many more, and even further transform the way we do business”, BCN reported.

BCN also told Weetracker concerning the future of the Abuja Station, revealing that there are definite plans to extend the Wi-Fi service to many more sites in Abuja, which would be done in phases and completed in 2019.

“It has recently been reported that Nigeria has about 100 million people yet to access the Internet. The future is a digital one, and BCN is proving the requisite fiber network infrastructure to support the Wi-Fi Station that can enhance Digital Inclusion and grow Digital Economies”, the company enthused.

In May, Google announced its plans to establish 200 Google Station locations to millions of Nigerians, and fulfilling that promise; it commenced the project by launching the free service at 11 venues in Lagos in July – making Nigeria the first West African country to have Google Station. While Abuja is the second city to receive the initiative, Google reaffirms its commitment to providing prime internet connections to citizens of the country.

Prior to the launch of the Station, connectivity Abuja was relatively available considering that internet connection is provided by different Service Providers. BCN, however, reported having been in the lead in the F.C.T when it comes to providing the best of Internet Connectivity services leveraging on its vast Optic Fibre Network Infrastructure which spans over 500Km and relied on by Telcos, ISP’s and Enterprise Organizations for Connectivity and Quality Service.

“We strive to bridge access gaps by providing the requisite infrastructure, one that can yield the quality of service the customer desires and one that enhances Digital Inclusion”, said BCN.

At the launch of the Station, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo remarked the event’s incredibleness as places including Wuse Market can now enjoy free Wi-Fi facilities in effectuation of Google’s pledge months ago. He affirmed that the initiative is essential because of Nigeria’s policy to ensure the democratization of access in assorted ways in order for the common Nigerian to access services available to other people. Citing developments in Nigeria’s tech space, Osinbajo alluded to the shops in Sabon Gari market being powered by solar panels and biofuels. He also mentioned Ariaria Market’s solar plant in Abia State and Sura Market’s gas-fired initiative in Lagos, among other markets in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Vice President revealed that the reason for these tech developments is the need for economic sites to powered and availed similar success as that of larger industries. He reiterated the need for the bottom pyramid and street people to have access to the same free Wi-Fi as urban residents. He pointed out that the free Wi-Fi initiative is anticipated to spawn more economic opportunities for Nigerians by bridging societal gaps and providing free internet access to the underprivileged to have more access to information, educational tools, improved businesses, job opportunities, and ramifying expansions.

Featured Image: NaijaTechGuide

Egypt’s Nawah Scientific Gets USD 1 Mn Funding Boost From Endure Capital

Nzekwe Henry December 10

Egyptian research startup, Nawah Scientific, has secured an investment worth USD 1 Mn in a pre-Series A round led by Endure Capital, with 500 Startups, Averroes Ventures, Egypt Ventures, and angel investor, Dr. A. Abdelhamid, also joining the funding round. This is the first time the startup is raising external investment.

Nawah Scientific is a Cairo-based startup that appears to be carving a niche for itself in the area of scientific research. The startup which was founded in 2015 by Dr. Omar Sakr; a PhD holder in the field of Pharmaceutical Sciences, boasts a collection of advanced equipment that is suited to the research and development needs of both natural and medical sciences.

Nawah Scientific helps scientists and universities who do not have access to sophisticated equipment and facilities carry out critical research tests that would be otherwise improbable or too much to ask.

The startup goes about this by receiving experiment requests via its online platform. Through a courier, the test samples are moved under prime conditions from the address of the client that made the request to premises of the startup.

A team of competent in-house scientists then take the reins from that point onwards as the required tests are carried out and the test results are relayed to the client via the startup’s online platform. Through this simple but effective mode of operation, Nawah Scientific is able to cater for the needs of researchers as it affords scientists access to top-notch research facilities, whilst fostering scientific research in both Egypt and beyond.

Having been established barely three years prior, Nawah Scientific claims to have offered its services to clients within and outside Egypt. So far, the startup claims to have analyzed as many as 15,000 samples from 32 universities. But the services of the startup do not stop at scientists and academia as it also carries out complicated research projects and simple analysis for chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

Commenting on the development, Dr. Omar Sakr, Founder and CEO of Nawah Scientific, tethered his motivation for establishing the startup to the need to make access to cutting-edge research and high-tech equipment more available.

He also noted that a lot of time that should otherwise be put into meaningful work is spent by scientists shuttling between cities and universities to have their samples tested. And in the process, yielding unreliable research projects that are shallow at best. According to the CEO, this has put a strain on the trust between industry and academia resulting in a poor ‘research-to-product’ conversion rate. He, however, believes that the startup is now better poised to fix these problems.

With the latest development, Nawah Scientific has now become one of the first life sciences startups in the MENA region that has achieved success in raising significant investment. Since its inception, the startup has posted an impressive year-on-year growth and this can be thought to have gone some way towards attracting and closing the investment deal. And this bodes well for other science-based startups in the region as the company appears to have broken the proverbial glass ceiling.

Speaking with regards to the investment, Tarek Fahim, Managing Partner of Endure Capital, opined that biotech startups share a lot in common with software startups before AWS and rapid development tools. He also stressed the importance of infrastructure players who can push boundaries to the growth and sustainability of biotech enterprises, stating that they can help “lower cost for starting and increase the speed of prototyping.”

Egypt Ventures; a VC that was launched recently by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment, is believed to be the biggest investor in this round. Hema Ali, Managing Director of the newly launched VC, expressed the company’s excitement at being part of the startup’s journey as it looks to scale its offerings and expand into new markets.

It was this time last year when Nawah Scientific clinched the grand prize in the pitch competition at the 2017 RiseUp Summit. Having emerged winners of the competition, the startup roped in a USD 50 K cash prize.

Now, barely a year on from that night of blitz, the startup appears to be holding its own quite well, and the latest investment worth USD 1 Mn (which is quite substantial given that the startup is raising external capital for the first time) is a testament that Nawah Scientific is on the right track, as this connotes investor confidence.

Plans related to expanding the startup’s services and growing its marketing activities outside of Egypt are expected to get most of the attention with the latest capital injection.



Feature image CourtesyNawah Scientific

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