Congratulations to VC4Africa partner AUC Venture Lab! Egypt’s first university based incubator, launched last July at the American University in Cairo (AUC), will soon announce the entrepreneurs from their first batch who will continue incubation, and also the group of entrepreneurs selected in their second cycle. We had a chance to catch up with AUC Venture Lab’s lab manager, Sherif Shabana.
What is AUC Venture Lab?
“The AUC Venture Lab is a university wide business incubator in Cairo that was launched last July. We aim to translate technologies and innovations developed by Egypt-based startups into commercially viable ventures. The incubator is managed by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program of AUC University’s School of Business. AUC Venture Lab offers workspace, business trainings, networking events, mentorship, and access to faculty members, students and facilities of the American University in Cairo.”
Can you tell something about the start-up landscape in Egypt?
“Current hurdles include lack of enough success stories to benchmark metrics for company valuations. Another hurdle is the small size of the startup community, including entrepreneurs as well as investors and potential companies that would facilitate successful exits.”
What are some of the milestones you achieved with the AUC Venture Lab to date?
“We’ve incubated 6 teams to date. We completed our first cycle acceleration phase with 160 applicants last year, and gave out 120,000 Egyptian Pounds in award money to six selected company teams. At this point the acceleration period of four months has been completed, but the total eight-month incubation period has not been completed yet. By the end of this month the startups that met the first milestones will be announced and will stay for incubation. The demo day of the first cycle will be March 5.”
Please tell us more about the entrepreneurs at AUC Venture Lab?
“AUC Venture Lab’s network includes entrepreneurs from all over Egypt in different sectors. Our networks also include industry people as well as the AUC network of students, faculty, alumni, board members, etcetera. The teams who were selected in our first incubation cycle are Kashef Labs, Mubser, En2ly, Smart News, Alkottab and El Shahbander.
Mubser provides a new technology that guides visually impaired people through a wearable belt with a Bluetooth headset. (check out their VC4Africa venture profile)
Kashef Labs is developing an unmanned air vehicle for landmine discovery.
Smart News is a paid news aggregator mobile app that provides localized news by country and allows people to contribute their own news content.
En2ly aims to be the world’s leading online solution for shipping, offering a reverse auction marketplace on web and mobile, presently connecting Egypt’s fragmented freight transportation industry.
Alkottab is a studio that specializes in creating strategy games on Facebook and mobiles.
And El Shahbander is a network to connect all players in the textile industry.
Many successes have been achieved already. Mubser was recently selected by Forbes as one of the top seven innovative products you should know from Africa, and one of the top 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa. Mubser also won the first prize at the Idea To Product Global Competition Finale at Sao Paolo, Brazil, and multiple other prizes. And Mubser’s founder Khaled Aboushady won the first place of the Under35CEO competition.
Kashef Labs recently won the INTEL business competition MENA 2013, Abu Dhabi, and were one of the finalists in the Intel Global business challenge, UC Berkeley, California, USA. They also won Egypt’s Young Innovators’ Awards 2012, and multiple other prizes.
And En2ly is currently one of the semi finalists of the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Region Startup Competition. We aim to make teams secure investments or exits by the time the entrepreneurs graduate.”
What can we look out for?
“The applications screening for our second cycle had 190 applications and we are currently in the interviews phase. The second cycle is planned to start March 8. The application period for the next cycle will probably be between June and September 2014. Entrepreneurs can join by filling in an online application. And we are presently working on having a second location in downtown Cairo!”
Good luck to all of the entrepreneurs at the AUC Venture Lab! The VC4Africa community works with incubators, accelerators and other entrepreneurship development partners all across Africa. Read more about the VC4Africa partnership network.