AUC Hosts Harvard MBA Students for Panel on Entrepreneurship in Egypt

Harvard MBA Students in Egypt
Harvard MBA Students in Egypt

“I, for one, will be keeping an eye on what’s happening in Egypt and how the economy is progressing as I go on with my career. I will stop and think about investing in a promising venture in Cairo or the Industrial Zone by the Red Sea when I have the means.”

Shokouh Shafiei, an MBA candidate at Harvard Business School, now has Egypt on her radar after a panel discussion organized by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at AUC's School of Business left an impression on her –– and more than 60 other Harvard students.

Shafiei was among a group of students from Harvard Business School who stopped by AUC during their recent trip to Egypt to hear from Sherif Kamel ’87, ’90, '13, dean of the School of Business; Ayman Ismail ’95, ’97, Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship, assistant professor and director of the AUC Venture Lab and Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Hisham El-Khazindar ’96, AUC trustee and member of the School of Business Strategic Advisory Board; and Ahmed Zahran ‘02, CEO and co-founder of KarmSolar. Moderated by Abdelhameed Sharara, co-founder of RiseUp, the lecture aimed at introducing Harvard students to the great number of innovative projects crystallizing in Cairo –– many of them with roots at AUC.

News articles abroad may be dropping hints about the developments unfolding in Egypt, but to hear firsthand about these projects and entrepreneurial visions is another story. "I was impressed by the amount of coordination and cooperation between key stakeholders –– the government, private sector and educational institutions –– behind a common goal: to build a competitive entrepreneurial ecosystem that can fuel Egypt's growth,” said Justine Hong, another Harvard MBA student.

Harvard students seemed to take note of an underlying thread that connects all of the panelists: one that perhaps extends to all individuals taking part in expanding the entrepreneurial field in Egypt

“The message was so clear, and the passion was flooding the room,” reflected Shafiei. “They spoke with heart –– no scripts necessary. My first impression of the panel was: ‘I can’t believe that such an elite and diverse group of panelists took time out of their busy schedule to meet with us.’ Within minutes of the panel starting, a light bulb went off in my head. No matter the age difference, education or career background, all have one common goal they [are working] toward: Make Egypt a Better Place.”

Two of AUC’s own, Moetaz Ebeid ’11 and Doha Tantawy ’13, made this event possible. Both are now MBA candidates at Harvard Business School and were eager to show their peers the pioneering spirit taking hold of their alma mater and finding its way throughout Egypt. “I believe the panel gave them access to firsthand experience in the Egyptian market,” said Tantawy, “It was enlightening, inspiring and transformational.”

One theme that made itself clear during the visit was the commitment AUCians and Egyptians in general feel toward their community. Shafiei noted that both Kamel and Ismail left North America to come back and see through visions of change they saw for their home countries. El-Khazindar and Sharara also saw opportunities to bring new ideas in Egypt. “Despite being at different stages of their ventures, whether the dream has been reached and surpassed or is just taking shape, they have given it their all,” added Shafiei. “I would love to follow up and see where these firms are in a few years.”

Events like these highlight the University’s position as a stage on which collaborative dialogue can begin to brew. “The highlight of the session for me was hearing Ahmed Zahran talk,” noted Shafiei. “There was a level of transparency in his message that was captivating. The whole time, I was thinking, he is the type of founder I would like to one day invest in.”

That well-known Egyptian proverb about drinking from the Nile seems to be holding true after all. The panel at AUC gave visiting students a taste of all that’s developing on the skirts of the historical river, and they want to know more. “This may have been my first trip to Egypt and Cairo,” said Shafiei. “It will not be the last.”