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Cairo Hosts its First-Ever Meetup for Syrian Entrepreneurs in Egypt: Startup Syria

The meetup will gather Syrian entrepreneurs with some of Egypt's most inspiring mentors and investors to connect and discuss solutions to the challenges they face.

“Syrian entrepreneurs are a living proof that nothing can kill the innovation spirit,” says Ahmad Sufian Bayram, founder of Startup Syria and MEA Regional Manager of Techstars, as he gears up to host the first-ever meetup for Egypt-based Syrian entrepreneurs in Cairo. Kicking off on February 3rd, the Startup Syria Meetup Cairo will connect them to some of the key players in the Egyptian startup ecosystem, including Flat6Labs' founder Ahmed El Alfi and RiseUp's founder and CEO, Abdelhameed Sharara.

The event, organised by Startup Syria alongside Startups Without Borders and Khatwa, will gather some of the key players in Egypt’s startup ecosystem to provide the entrepreneurial community with insights on the situation of Syrian entrepreneurs, learn from the experiences of senior entrepreneurs, share the stories of successful Syrian and Egyptian Startups, and facilitate networking and connections between Syrian and Egyptian startup enthusiasts. 

The meetup aims to shed light on the entrepreneurial initiatives of Syrian nationals in Cairo, as well as to explore solutions to address the challenges they often face in setting up their businesses. “Startup Syria meeting is a community gathering to enable the Syrian entrepreneurs and bridge the gap with the local community and build a platform of collaborating, where they share their ambitions, tackle the mutual challenges, design action plans, and empower each other,” explains Sufian Bayram, as he gears up to participate at the Jusoor competition for Syrian entrepreneurs in Lebanon next month. 

“Syrian entrepreneurs have had an immense impact in Egypt, contributing over $800 million to the country’s economy. Refugee entrepreneurs are not the exception to the norm; they are a new reality in the making,” says Valentina Primo, founder of Startups Without Borders. “Around the world, there are countless refugee and migrant entrepreneurs innovating and disrupting entire markets, and our research indicates that there are over 80 supporting organisations specifically designed for them. Startups Without Borders was born to connect them. We don’t want to give them an opportunity; we believe that they are the opportunity.”

"We all know being an entrepreneur is not easy. But being an entrepreneur outside your country is a much bigger challenge," says Syrian entrepreneur Sami Al Ahmad, the event's host.

Hosted by Cairo-based Syrian entrepreneur and founder of Syrian network Khatwa, Sami Al Ahmad, the event sets off to offer a platform for Syrian entrepreneurs to meet future co-founders, mentors or investors, as well as an opportunity to participate in the planning and implementation of activities and programs to support Syrian refugees to start their business initiatives. “I founded my first startup in 2013, and faced many challenges," says the young entrepreneur. "We all know being an entrepreneur is not easy. But being an entrepreneur outside your country is a much bigger challenge."

Having launched his first startup Khatwa shortly after landing in Cairo, Al Ahmad went on to create Marj3, an educational platform for MENA-based students to find scholarships abroad, which entered the Flat6Labs incubation programme in 2017. “I believe that Syrians have created great businesses in Egypt and other countries. If we can provide the knowledge of the Egyptian ecosystem, and merge it with their skills, we will have great startups in a mixture of Syrian and Egyptian talent that creates powerful results. That’s why I’m very excited for the first entrepreneurship meet up in Egypt. Today, there are a few Syrian startups in Egypt, but I believe we will have many in the future,” says the entrepreneur, who was named one of Startup Scene's 25 under 25 entrepreneurs in 2017.  

“Flat6Labs is committed to foster entrepreneurship in Egypt and in the Middle East more broadly; we are not focussed on Syrian entrepreneurs vs others," says Willie Elamien, Managing Director of Flat6Labs Cairo, the incubator that has partnered in the event. "We believe in providing a level playing field for talented all founders regardless of their background or nationality. We do however support our alumni startups 100%, and this initiative was led by one of our alumni: Sami al Ahmad, founder of Marj3 and a Syrian entrepreneur himself. We believe in Sami's vision and so decided to support this initiative,” adds Elamien. 

Syrian entrepreneurs have contributed $800 million to the Egyptian economy, according to a UNDP report. 

“Dealing with the refugee crisis is a huge challenge, and it should involve people from both host and refugee communities working together to create greater opportunities. We need to break down walls between people and build an inclusive and collaborative community and exchange of time, experiences and expertise to achieve mutually beneficial results,” says Bayram. “Beyond connecting them to the resources, we want to change perceptions on the refugee crisis. We believe it’s time it’s time they moved on from being seen as job seekers to job creators; from technology consumers to innovators,” adds Primo, who also acts as Editor in Chief of Startup Scene Middle East.

The event features a stellar lineup of speakers, including prominent investors and entrepreneurs such as Ahmed El Alfi, Chairman and Founder of Flat6Labs and Sawari Ventures, Abdelhameed Sharara, co-founder and CEO of the RiseUp Summit, Ayman S. Ashour, Board Member of Cairo Angels and Founder of Newton International Management LLC, Menna AbdelRahman, General Manager of Cairo Angels, Willie Elamien, Managing Director of Flat6Labs Cairo, and Hani W. Naguib, founder and CEO of Novus LLC. The panel discussions and fireside chats will be presented by writer, presenter and critic Nourhan Emad Eldin, at Al Maqarr co-working space, located at The Greek Campus.

Find out more and check out the event here.

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