Part of our “How I Did It” series, featured in the January 2017 issue of Inc. Arabia. Insider stories from some of the Middle East & North Africa’s most innovative companies; and the grit and wisdom from their founders.
Could Egypt be the Arab World’s Silicon Valley? Nader El-Batrawi certainly thinks so, and he is running two tech startups in his attempt to make that happen.
From a very young age, I dreamt of having my own business. But then for most of the time, like others, I did not have the cash or the experience.
Besides, I also never felt like I had an idea that I could be passionate about.
It wasn’t until I started working at (online recruitment portal) Bayt.com—my first time working within the online industry—that I found something that I belonged to. My mind started overflowing with many different ideas for Bayt.com, but the management team there was not quite ready to take on all of them. So, I decided to go and do it myself.
And from there, the idea of Jobzella.com came about. I finally had the idea that I was passionate about, and I’d accumulated enough experience. I made the huge decision to quit my job, sell everything I had, and put it all into my new company.
Having gone from Bayt.com to starting my own recruitment and professional networking platform, I feel that there is still a big gap in the market for more such platforms to help tackle the region’s unemployment problem.
The potential is huge, and many untapped sub-markets are available. For example, there are not many dedicated resources in the region for blue-collar jobs, internships, or specialized professions. Also, the “shared economy” model is still in its infancy in the region, but we know it can create millions of jobs in no time.
In 2014, Jobzella’s majority shares were acquired by the largest learning and education network in the Middle East —the Saudi Al Khaleej Training and Education group of companies—and since then, Jobzella has been growing well. But as the company started scaling and stabilizing, I started feeling hungry—for newer challenges. Most people who’ve been to Egypt know that there is a catastrophic problem with our poor infrastructure, inconvenient transportation methods, high congestion, and an exploding population. OUSTA came about as a solution to that.
While transport and recruiting are very different industries on the face of it, but they are not too different to each other. For me, both Jobzella and OUSTA are related—in the sense that they both tackle pressing societal problems in Egypt.
“Jobzella and OUSTA are related—in the sense that they both tackle pressing societal problems in Egypt.”
They both offer ways to find new jobs, increase household incomes, and provide more convenient solutions to their customers.
OUSTA’s main mission is to be part of the global revolution in transportation, and it is the first Egyptian and 100% Arab company to provide such a service.
Personally, one of my big dreams is to put Egypt on the map and contribute in making it the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. And OUSTA fits in perfectly with that personal vision and mission.
OUSTA has been doing well since we launched, despite some competition from other companies like Uber and Careem. There’s no doubt in my mind that the secret to our success is our team. Everyone at OUSTA is very passionate about what he or she is doing, and we are all living the statement “One Team. One Dream”.
I was very lucky to get such great people on board while building OUSTA. My co-founder Omar Salah and I made sure we recruited people with the same passion and level of experience, and of course, an honest, hard-working ethic.
Another advantage we have is that we are 100% local. We know our market very well, and we know how to grow it in ways that our rivals don’t.
Also, the market is very big, and the demand is huge, and therefore, I think that no one company can really satisfy the needs of the market on its own just yet—accordingly there is huge room for growth for all.
I love both my businesses, and so it’s not too hard for me to have a hand in both. For Jobzella, I am the CEO, and I have my co-founder Jamal Suboh as the COO, and we are both managing the daily operations of the business.
For OUSTA, I am the chairman, working on the general strategy in terms of technology, marketing penetration, and business development, but the daily operations are run by my co-founder and CEO Salah, and his team.
Of course, there are critical challenges facing us—with the most severe one being funding. We are still lacking dependable investors in the region who are willing to invest millions or billions of dollars in our startup ecosystem, the same way that investors are doing in other parts of the world.
Other hurdles emerge from a lack of laws and regulations to facilitate and support our businesses. We also need the government and for the country’s major institutions to shed light on the growing SME community.
But again, if enough funding were available, then the rest would be easy.
My ultimate dream is to bring about significant change in my country. I want Egypt to be part of the tech revolution. And I want to build more startups in other fields, like green energy and the internet-of-things. My team and I are putting in everything to prove that we have what it takes to do this.
Photograph by: Sabry Khaled