AUC Launches Egypt’s First University-Based Incubator

At a press conference held at AUC Tahrir Square, AUC officially launched the first University-based startup incubator in Egypt, the AUC Venture Lab (V-Lab). Established by the School of Business, the V-Lab aims to transform Egypt-based startups into commercially viable ventures by capitalizing on AUC’s world-class facilities and knowledge base, connecting innovative startups with the University's alumni network and fostering a thriving ecosystem of innovation, education and business.

The press conference was attended by Lisa Anderson, AUC president; Amr Salama, AUC counsellor; Karim Seghir, associate dean of undergraduate studies and administration and associate professor at AUC's School of Business; and Ayman Ismail, Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship and assistant professor at AUC's School of Business. Khaled Abo Shady, chief executive officer of Mubser startup, and Mohammad Gouda, chief executive officer of Kashef startup, also spoke at the press conference. Mubser and Kashef are two of the six startups incubated at the first V-Lab round. “The business incubator at AUC’s School of Business provides a space for young Egyptian entrepreneurs to develop innovative business ideas and solutions to some of the most pressing problems in our community and around the world,” said President Lisa Anderson. “AUC is proud to provide the mentorship and support network that will give these talented young people an opportunity to make their dreams a reality. Already, the AUC Venture Lab has produced companies that have developed valuable products to address real-world problems.” The six startups that won the V-Lab Challenge last June have spent several months receiving hands-on training at the AUC Venture Lab, which provides startups with mentorship, business training, working space, access to AUC facilities and wide networking opportunities to help them launch successfully in the market. “This is our latest effort here at AUC to empower entrepreneurs, to foster innovation and to fill existing gaps in the emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Egypt,” said Ayman Ismail, assistant professor and Abdul Latif Jameel Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship at the School of Business. “Our aim is to capitalize on AUC’s intellectual capital and world-class resources, select a few high-potential innovative startups and help transform these teams into scalable companies.” And these startups are already making waves in the business world. Kashef Labs, created by Mohammad Gouda and Ahmed Hassan, recent graduates of Menofia University, and Swedish partner Iyad Al Khatib, is developing unmanned air vehicles to help detect landmines. “Egypt alone contributes 23 percent of all landmines in the world; therefore, there is a very big market need for this type of product,” said Gouda. Kashef Labs recently competed in the Intel Global Challenge Competition held at the University of California, Berkeley. Another technology-based startup, Mubser, enables the visually impaired to navigate easily in any location using a wearable gadget with Bluetooth capabilities, which would allow them to detect objects and find their way in any environment without depending on a walking stick or guide dog. “Whenever an obstacle comes into the user’s path, the belt would notify him or her about the presence of this obstacle through vibration motors,” explained Khaled Abou Shady, co-founder of the project with four other graduate students from Menofia University’s School of Engineering. Forbes recently selected Abou Shady as one of the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa, and his startup’s product was labeled by Forbes as one of the seven innovative products that Africa needs to know about. Mubser also won first place in the Information and Communications Technology track at the Idea to Product competition held in Brazil in November 2013. It was the only team representing Egypt, competing against others from the United States, England, Ireland, Germany and Brazil. “It was very exciting to win and see our team holding the first prize,” Abou Shady said, adding that he is grateful for the support that the AUC Venture Lab has provided for Mubser. “Graduate students from the MBA program have helped us, and we have had great mentors who have proposed ideas to enhance Mubser in order to make it more global and more profitable.” Other startups incubated at the AUC Venture Lab include Smart News, a multiplatform content application that provides localized news and allows people to contribute their own news content as citizen journalists; Alkottab, an edutainment studio that produces interactive games and cartoons; En2ly, an online transportation third-party logistics provider that connects carriers and shippers in an industry that used to be offline; and El Shahbander, the first specialized online platform and mobile community for the textile industry in Egypt. Ismail hopes that incubators like the AUC Venture Lab will help strengthen Egypt’s struggling economy. “I don’t think we can run out of ideas and if those ideas can be translated into products and services, the economy will be in a much better shape,” Ismail said. “Innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers for the competitiveness of the Egyptian economy, and for creating jobs and accelerating inclusive economic growth.” Sponsored by SODIC and the Arab African International Bank, the AUC Venture Lab is currently selecting new teams for its second round of startup ideas. For more information on the AUC Venture Lab,click here.