Summary of Major MENA Startup Summit that Went Virtual by Richie Santosdiaz for The Fintech Times
Events Fintech Middle East & Africa

Behind the Scenes at the Major MENA Startup Summit That Went Virtual

Founded in 2013 in Egypt, RiseUp became a grassroots movement that spread across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and beyond. It helped ecosystems and connected regional startups with global resources, beginning with RiseUp Summit (an annual entrepreneurship event) and growing into a range of products and activities supporting startups and developing ecosystems throughout the year, including RiseUp Connect, RiseUp Explore, and RiseUp Meetup. How then, with the current COVID-19 situation, does that carry on?

RiseUp from Home is a special edition digital event responding to the coronavirus ecosystem impact. Under the banner of “Got Grit?” It was recently held from the 13th-15th August virtually, which had 2000 attendees, 30 nationalities,  269 startups, 22 workshops, 47 investors, and 105 speakers over the past three days. The event was a channel that bridged the gap between new stakeholders and the entrepreneurship ecosystem, bringing innovation to traditional markets and offering new investment opportunities to startups.

RiseUp from Home happened from 13-15th August 2020 in light the current Co-VID 19 situation - The Fintech Times by Richie Santosdiaz
RiseUp from Home happened from 13-15th August 2020 in light the current COVID-19 situation – IMAGE SOURCE PROVIDED

According to RiseUP‘s CEO, Abdelhameed Sharara, “RiseUp from Home is testament to the innovation that emerges out of challenging circumstances. COVID-19 has tested all businesses, but I am proud of the RiseUp team for ensuring a smooth online to offline transition, organizing a highly successful event with advanced virtual features that allowed hundreds of startups to connect with customers, investors, and global experts. In our virtual Startup Expo, exhibitors customized their own Virtual Booths and interacted directly with potential clients and investors, while Startup Office Hours allowed participants to book consultancy sessions with industry experts, and Networking Circles gave people the opportunity to meet and interact, sharing ideas and resources on how to overcome current business challenges.”

During the virtual event, Etisalat announced its collaboration with RiseUp to support entrepreneurs by sharing decades of knowledge and experience that will help them be more resilient in the face of challenges. According to Mohamed Zohni, SME & SOHO Business Director at Etisalat Misr (Egypt), “It was my pleasure to participate in RiseUp from Home and be among this group of bright minds who will shape Egypt’s future. Etisalat Business is always keen to support the SME and startup community through focusing on their needs and offering the best products and services that Etisalat can provide. Thus, due to the current global situation and out of our responsibility to support our local entrepreneurial ecosystem, we’ve collaborated with leading entrepreneurial platform RiseUp. Our collaboration will benefit & support the ecosystem through an ongoing series of webinars that we have already initiated in RiseUp From Home.

Some interesting highlights and announcements happened. First, CEQUENS, a leading Egyptian Communications-Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) provider, announced that it will provide Whatsapp Business globally, where companies will connect and engage with 2 billion customers worldwide, raising the level of their communications and scaling their businesses. CEQUENS also launched its CEQUENS Chat platform, where businesses can reach and engage with their customers on their preferred messaging app, including SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp Business, Apple Chat, and Google Chat.

Second, Echoing the digital shift taking place in Egypt today, Akef ElMaghraby, the Vice Chairman of Banque Misr (a large leading bank from Egypt) announced that they are developing the infrastructure to launch its first digital bank, which is expected to replace the traditional model and accordingly is in talks with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). The bank is also planning to launch a digital mobile application through which small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups can apply for loans without having to visit a branch. During the fireside chat, ElMaghraby highlighted the phenomenal growth of the bank’s investment in SMEs to 36 billion EGP ($2.26 billion) – compared to EGP 2.5 billion ($160 million) 4 years ago.

Finally, despite the challenges of Co-VID 19, companies such as Instabug, Homzmart, almentor.net, and Abwaab had their CEOs and/or other senior leaders talk about their experiences at present.

Egypt is the largest country in the Middle East with over 100 million people. Also by population, it is the third-largest country in Africa behind Nigeria and Ethiopia; globally it would be the 14th largest. Being a hub and bridge for both the Middle East and Africa, it is inspiring to see an event like RiseUp happen, despite the current challenges of COVID-19.

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