26 January 2017

Six years after Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has yet to live up to its potential, but around the world, many lessons can be drawn from the achievements of the tech startup community.

Being an Egyptian student of public policy and working in the field of technology and startups, always leaves me with some kind of a conundrum. Two very different fields with an extremely different pace and very different success outcomes.

Six years ago today, I joined the millions of Egyptians who took off to the streets to effectively change the countrys public policy: improve how the country was ruled, increase economic opportunities and social justice.

We wanted to create more chances, freedom and hope for the present and future generations, develop as a country in education, healthcare, economy and also in scientific discovery and technology, among many other things. And we wanted all of that right now.

This was a fascinating period for all of us: we wanted change, we wanted improvement and we wanted it now. Three weeks later, those protests led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, a regime which ruled for 30 years, and we all felt invincible. I remember the day following Mubaraks resignation when we all went to clean the streets of Tahrir Square: we thought, with naivety, that the job was done and now was the time to reap the fruits of the changes we had badly wanted and fought for. We thought it would be a matter of a few years before we saw Egypt at the forefront of positive change, which will would take the world by storm.

Six years later, we have not been able to witness real change, to say the least. Some people say its even worse today, others say change takes time, while remaining slightly optimistic and others no longer care and have become indifferent. For them, change doesnt really matter anymore.

I decided to move into to my other area of interest: technology, in an attempt at a more achievable goal and be part of a change in the promising world of startups and technology. The change and inspiration I found in this industry is what I had aspired for as a student of politics.

Since the eruption of the Egyptian popular uprising on January 25, 2011, Facebook has grown from 700 million users to 1.8 billion users. Uber went from being a $60 million company to a $70 billion company. Instagram went from 1 million monthly users to 600 million. Snapchat went from being non-existent to being a $20 billion company and Twitter increased its users from 150 million to 320 million. Moreover, companies like Slack and Stripe which did not exist at that time became billion-dollar ventures.

And the list goes on and on.

Closer to home, in the past six years, two Middle-Eastern companies, Souq.com, the e-commerce platform and Careem, the ride-hailing app, became billion-dollar businesses, achieving unicorn status, scoring a fantastic achievement for the region and showing us all, Egyptians, how much dedicated leaders and teams with vision and determination can achieve in a few years.

What did all these companies do to achieve so much in the past six years? And what did the people running them have in common?

The answer lies in a few aspects: clear vision, set objectives, leaders tremendous belief in their abilities and the talents of the people who work with them.

Most importantly, the leaders of these companies, did not let anything push them away from their ultimate vision and never substituted hard work for anything else.

So I keep thinking, in the most simplistic manner that may be there is a lesson for Egypt. Maybe Egyptian leaders and citizens, need to take a closer look at those entrepreneurs and their companies, adopt their faith and work ethic, and commit themselves to a vision for the country that everyone can follow and appreciate.

So that maybe in another six years, Egypt would not be where it is today.

Just a thought.

Any opinions expressed here are the authors own.