Last Tuesday, members and supporters of VC4Africa came together for a VC4Africa meetup in Cairo, hosted at The District Egypt. The next VC4Africa meetup will be on Friday April 26th in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We had a chance to catch up with Cairo meetup organizer Mazen Helmy of The District Egypt to find out more about the VC4Africa meetup in Cairo. “We should build stronger relations between Sub Saharan countries and North Africa: we have so much in common, and so much potential!”
Please introduce yourself and The District?
“My name is Mazen Helmy, I studied construction at Cairo University and worked on various businesses and other activities. In 2011 I started The District, one of the first co working spaces in Egypt, and among the very few in the region. Since we opened in February 2012 our community of entrepreneurs is growing steadily. After 11 months we increased our space capacity and we’ve now reached a total area of almost 1000 square meters.”
Please tell us something about Cairo and the local startup scene? What’s happening?
“For the last 2 years entrepreneurship and startups are booming fast in many sectors and all over Egypt. Revolutions empower people. You can feel the vibe of innovation, determination, strongly within Egyptian entrepreneurs, especially young Egyptian entrepreneurs, starting their own companies and following their dreams. This goes from catering business to IT services, transportation services and so many others.”
What kind of entrepreneurs can join The District?
“The District is open to all types of entrepreneurs; as long as they share a common set of values: being doers, positive thinkers, innovators and collaborators. That’s why we are having an interesting mix of entrepreneurs working in different fields: roof top gardening and urban farming, product design and hand craft, IT, telecommunication, social entrepreneurs, sustainability, etcetera. From the first glance theses people don’t have much in common but we do believe in serendipity: all these people are very open to new encounters and we are already having different examples of interaction and innovation happening between our coworkers while they are part of our community.”
How did the meetup go?
“I do believe the event went very well! The venue and the weather were amazing, nice food served, chilling music on the background. As we are already active in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, many of the participants were familiar faces, but the cool thing was we saw many new faces! It was very inspiring seeing all these people, all very positive and open for networking and interaction; people introducing themselves to each other, sharing their work, achievements and contacts. I would say the number was somewhere between 30 and 40. And even when the event was over we found some people gathering together on the rooftop until late, mingling and enjoying their times.”
Who was the most interesting person you met and why?
“I met really lots of special and inspiring persons. Among them was Adam from IceCairo. I’ve known Adam already for some time, but surprisingly during the meetup we had actually the chance to speak more about our work. It was great sharing plans and visions.
What are your conclusions, final thoughts and message to the VC4Africa community?
“Relying on the power of community is a very powerful tool. Very good to have online communities, but we should not forget the physical encounters that can happen in meetups like these. The second point from my point of view was the raised awareness about what is happening in Africa, it’s not just about Silicon Valley, there is lots of momentum and there are lots of activities happening elsewhere, especially in Africa at the moment. We really need to start investing more time and effort in building stronger relations between Sub Saharan countries and North Africa: we have so much in common, and so much potential!”
Thanks Mazen for a great job! It’s great to see the local VC4Africa community come together like this!
The next VC4Africa meetup coming up will be on Friday April 26th in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! Other VC4Africa meetups coming up are in Dar, Abidjan, Lagos, Abuja, Nairobi, and other places.