Susanne Wardani, EGBANK's Head of Youth Banking, walks us through the challenges MINT has faced in their 1st cycle and what they've prepared for their 2nd.
Inching closer to the deadline of the second cycle of EGBANK's new MINT incubator, we look back on the startups of the first cycle. On a breezy Tuesday evening, between the Italian architecture of of a majestic hall in Cairo's Zamalek Cinema, 10 startups involved in art, services, e-commerce, healthcare, and F&B presented their business models in front of a wide audience of investors, mentors, and fellow entrepreneurs. As they gear up for their second cycle kickstarting next fall, we take a walk with Susanne Wardani, EGBANK's Head of Youth Banking through their preparations as well as their reflections on their first cycle.
"Even though all our incubated startups were post MVP (minimal viable product) stage, each one of them was at a different growth level," Wardani tells Startup Scene. "While our workshop topics were diverse in nature and each startup had its own mentor to address the specific needs of the company, we felt that the programme needed an additional layer of hands-on support."
Therefore, MINT is creating customised tracks guided by a number of assessments to identify the needs and the kind of support needed for each startup individually in order to create a developmental plan to be followed throughout the incubation period. "Ultimately, targets and plans will be set jointly with the mentors at the beginning of the cycle to ensure achieving maximum results," she adds.
MINT Incubator is part of MINT, EGBANK’s platform for youth which goes beyond banking and is dedicated to bridging the gap between younger generations and banking. Through Wardani's observations, she finds that MINT Incubator specifically benefits her company, as a bank, on various levels; "First of all, it helps us deliver on our promise. But more importantly it helps us shift mindsets. Innovation does not happen naturally within larger organisations and through the incubator we hope to instill this culture. Banking will change significantly in the coming period and with our youth focus, we aim be to at the forefront of this change."
In spite of the risky environment the startup ecosystem is, with a 90 percent chance of failure, MINT doesn't see venturing in such a landscape as a risk, bus as a boulevard of of opportunities. "Powered by its youth, Egypt has witnessed a surge in startup activity over the past few years, leading it to become one of the fastest growing entrepreneurship hubs in the world. MINT Incubator is the embodiment of our initiative to be part of this movement and make a real impact on young entrepreneurs and the economy of this country," she says.
As a part of its intensive three-month acceleration programme, MINT Incubator provides a number of resources and benefits to its startups, including free tools, applications and networking sessions with top business professionals, partners, mentors, entrepreneurs, and investors. Wardani lets us in on some of the many advantages the programme has to offer. "Startups enrolled would have free access to a number of online courses and content through top Ivy leagues such as Harvard Business School," she says. "Some content is up to the choice of startups depending on their relevance to their industry, while other is part of the workshop material offered to them as part of the incubation programme."
MINT also has a diverse partner-network offering different support services to startups; some of which are tech-based such as Robusta, Unplugged, Payme, and Instabug while others are human resources and development based such as Wuzzuf. "When it comes to investment, we capitalise on our partners' network at Cairo Angels as well as customers and partners of EGBANK," Wardani continues. "As for our network of business professionals, mentors and entrepreneurs we work with a variety of them depending on the need. In efforts to bring to the startups relevant experiences and backgrounds, we leverage local success stories."
While it would have only make sense that MINT focuses on fintech startups, since it's rooted from a bank; the incubator is sector agnostic. The programme is open to receiving applications from startups from all industries at the MVP stage. The programme does not offer seed funding nor takes equity, easing the decision making process for entrepreneurs in the long term.
"Fintechs are very welcome to apply and it makes a lot of sense that they do," she agrees. "However, our goal is not to invest directly in the startups but rather to be an enabler to their success. If we find startups that we can partner with at the bank level, this is an additional mutual benefit to both us and the startup."
In their past experience with startups and applicants, MINT has found common mistakes in applications; which is mainly spelling out unclear answers that maybe the result of entrepreneurs not reading questions carefully or misunderstanding them. "Sometimes, we get long answers that don't cover the main points we're looking for," Wardani recalls. "The trick is to make sure to understand the question carefully and give simple, straightforward answers."
Another issue they often met was applicants applying when they don't fit the selection criteria, particularly when it comes to the post MVP stage criterion. "At MINT Incubator, we look at startups that don't simply have an idea, but already have a product or a prototype and/or a service that has been tested," she says. Also, founders must be between 16 and 35 years old.
Wardani advises potential candidates to identify the benefits they want to gain out of enrolling in this incubation programme. "It's important to be aware of the programme an entrepreneur is applying for, what it offers and why they want to be part of it," she explains. "It gives entrepreneurs clarity on what they want to achieve and gives us, the MINT Incubator team, confidence and reassurance that the entrepreneur is on top of their game."
Main Image: Susanne Wardani.
All images are courtesy of EGBANK.
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