The 2011 Egyptian revolution was a catalyst for many a thing in the Arab world. It brought about the thrust in the Arab Spring, along with protests in Tunisia. And it also changed how the country’s youth thought of the world and their place in it. Technology, too, was a big part of the Egyptian revolution, which was broadcast to the world on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube as much as it was on global television channels.
It was only natural then that it resulted in the first few green shoots of Egypt’s new economy, where tech and entrepreneurial events aimed at the youth began to pop up all over the country’s urban areas.
A software engineer by training, Mai Medhat loved her events, and not just the ones focusing on the tech community. She would attend an array of these ranging from business to entertainment along with her friend and classmate Nihal Fares.
But as more prestigious events like TEDx started coming to the capital, both couldn’t help but notice the clear gap between what the attendees had begun to expect and what the event organizers were offering.
What was this gap? According to Medhat, these events were designed to provide opportunities to network with other professionals but were failing to do precisely that.
Medhat wanted to approach people in her field of work, ask questions, but did not know how to—the agenda, information about the speakers and other relevant information about these events were also not readily available. And as it happens to many an entrepreneur, Medhat decided to do something about it along with Fares.
Together, the duo created Eventtus—an online platform aimed to mobilize any event via its app, working closely with the organizers to fully optimize the event’s potential.
Depending on what package is opted for by the organizers, Eventtus can go beyond standard event management platforms—it allows attendees to read up about speakers, send messages to each other, and even schedule meetings.
In addition, Eventtus can provide session details, formulate several kinds of reports, conduct polls, and run Return-On-Investment measurement exercises so that event organizers can make more efficient decisions.
Since the business launched in 2012, Eventtus has catered to over 9,000 events and 150,000 attendees. One of the formidable names in that list is the Dubai Expo 2020 and its yearly events.
In 2016, a lean year for most, Eventtus started the year with a seven-member staff but ended up almost tripling the staff strength to 24 people in 11 months.
Meeting the angels
Eventtus was launched in September 2012, a volatile time for any kind of business to set up shop. Back then, there was not much support to be had—even Flat6 Labs, the Cairo-based regional accelerator, which we covered in our last issue, hadn’t even been established yet.
Needless to say, both Medhat and Fares, the startup’s chief of product and co-founder, faced several roadblocks at the beginning in hiring, cash management, and fundraising.
Both spent the first year bootstrapping, traveling around the world, conducting market research on how comparable platforms were being executed in other markets.
“We spent almost everything we had…it is a life changing experience when you bootstrap your life for your work,” Medhat tells us.
Slowly, but surely, Eventtus started hitting its milestones. Once the mobile app was created, the team was able to step out and pitch for funding. In its seed round, it was able to raise $175,000 from Vodafone Ventures and Cairo Angels.
This opened doors to a large network of people for Eventtus and raised awareness for the startup at the crucial seed stage.
“I like how Cairo Angels work, they were our first investors, and we had five people from there investing in our startup,” adds Medhat.
As luck would have it, these five investors ranged from multiple backgrounds, such as the legal and consulting fraternities to name a few. Notable in this list is Hossam Allam, the founder of Cairo Angels and a senior executive at Hassan Allam Group, who equipped Eventtus with sound advice on launching the business, and Tarek Mansour, senior partner at consulting and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers Egypt, who offered necessary mentorship.
Once Eventtus started to break through the local events market and reached cities like Dubai, it went out looking for funding again.
It then raised a second, undisclosed round of financing from Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), a Dubai-based venture capital fund. Eventtus has raised a total of $650,000 to date.
What About Competition?
When asked if there are other event platforms that Eventtus has to share the market with, Medhat is clear that they have no parallel, and the only competition is from global firms coming to the region.
“There are businesses around us here that provide things like ticketing solutions for events, but nobody does what we do,” she adds.
Medhat claims that even over global clients, Eventtus has a unique competitive advantage on the ground as they can service events in Arabic, English, and many other languages.
Eventtus’ current business model is based on escalator pricing. At its most basic, the startup offers a free package, which gets an event organizer the standards such as a free listing, unlimited attendees, etc. And then you have three tiered offerings all the way from $599 to $1,399, where the more you pay, the more you can do with your event, with different and escalating levels of customizations and features.
A fair chunk of their revenue comes from the mobile app, and so the team spends their time and efforts heavily in optimizing the user experience and focusing on IU/UX design.
“In the market globally, the adoption rate for an app ranges between 10%-30%, but in our case, for most of our events, the rate is 60%-70%, and even the engagement rate after the app is downloaded is nearly 90%,” shares Medhat.
But apart from the off-the-shelf offering Eventtus also has a white-label vertical, which creates a fully branded private network for large scale events with attendees in thousands like the STEP Conference, one of the biggest tech and media conferences in the region.
In addition, the firm has handled other non-tech large-scale events such as the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, and the Big 5 (construction) event in 2016. The latter had about 80,000 visitors and 3000 exhibitors.
The latter also produced the next milestone for Eventtus. Held at Dubai’s gargantuan World Trade Centre, Eventtus had to work on a floor plan to assist in navigation at the confusing exhibition space.
For the first time, Eventtus added offline support for this map because a lot of attendees were from outside the country, without a working data plan on their phones.
This was significant because data consumption on the app is one of the startup’s biggest challenges. And if they have to fully crack the events market, as well as expand to other parts of MENA, they will have to prepare for scenarios where data connectivity is non-existent or weak, because of the sheer number of attendees.
Like the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, which the startup hopes to bag as a client along with the much closer and longer-running Dubai Expo 2020, which has a series of events leading up to the final year-long exhibition.
Medhat is confident that she can nail these events down and says that she is unwavering in her pursuit of these goals.
She narrates an event from her life, where she had sat on a panel with former US President Barack Obama and Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg, talking about the Middle East’s startup culture along with many other entrepreneurs.
Sharing space with top startup contenders from all over the world made her realize her place in that ecosystem, and that the Middle East is not far behind the Silicon Valley. “We have a lot of talent here, we just need more support and more fundraising [opportunities], and then nothing can stop us,” she says.