We recently caught up with Raye7 co-founder Ahmed NeGm for our Entrepreneur of the Month piece to chat about start-ups, ride shares in Cairo and what it take to build a digital business in the Arab world.
What inspired you to start Raye7?
The inspiration for Raye7 actually came from a lot of personal experience commuting in and around Cairo. As anyone who lives in the city knows congestion is a major problem; there are simply too many cars on the road. A huge number of people spend 3-4 hours a day caught in traffic travelling only slightly faster than pedestrians walking next to them. So I’ve known that this issue was a pain point for a lot of for a long time.
The real inspiration struck when my sister, who was in Germany at the time, started using ride sharing programs. She reached out to me and we decided to try to bring the concept to Cairo; we’ve been working on Raye7 ever since.
How did you secure investment for Raye7?
Raye7 was actually started off of my sister’s and my own personal savings. We really felt that this idea had potential and we were willing to work at it. We looked at the market place and saw that lots of ride sharing companies had tried to import car sharing from other countries but failed to understand the culture and lifestyle of Egyptians. The difference with Raye7 was strong market research and a clear understanding of the marketplace.
After bootstrapping the initial idea we entered and won several competitions which gave us access to additional grant money to grow. At this time we haven’t accepted a great deal of investment but we have been approached by a lot of VCs. At this time we’re more focused on building up the user base and establishing the platform.
Egypt is such a unique market for digital services; what is your marketing strategy for Raye7?
Well we a still very focused on making Raye7 successful across Cairo. The way we see it, Cairo is the biggest city in the Middle East and while it may be tough to monetize the potential for off for doing so is huge.
Right now we are very focused on marketing through sales. We’ve found that face to face meetings where we can really explain our service and how it benefit their business. We are interested in explore some consumer facing products eventually but for now it’s mostly B2B.
We also have the benefit of being based in the biggest business hub in Cairo so we fortunate that a lot of big businesses have heard of us. We really feel our service elevates a lot stress amongst for their employees and the improvements speak for themselves. The pain is so big that a lot of businesses are starting to come to us.
What would you say the key to succeeding in Egypt will be for Raye7?
Well, I honestly feel like the service is a success right now, we’ve come a long way and I think the progress we’ve made is really exciting, but I think you’re asking something more along the lines of ‘at what milestone will Raye7 be finished?’
It’s hard to say for sure, but I think I’ll be able say Raye7 is successful when people are able to create their own communities and the service can grow without me and the other founders. Really we want Raye7 to be known as the best option for urban commuting in the region and then the world.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to start in Egypt?
There’s no denying that Egypt is a tough market for digital start-ups to grow. There’s a lot of resistance to digital products and services and a lot of the Infrastructure required to grow is under developed meaning in many cases you have to create it yourself. With that said, like I mentioned earlier there is a ton of opportunity so I can understand why so many people are eager to capitalize on it.
In general I’d say consistency is the key to success; your need to keep your business goals alive if you want to succeed in Egypt. Awareness is important as well, be aware of problems faced by your community and even personally as these often lead to some of the most innovative ideas.
Finally, don’t just start a start-up for the sake of it; have a real reason behind your efforts. This project could consume the next five to ten years of your life; make sure you’re passionate about it.
What do you think will drive digital growth in the Arab World?
I really feel that payment solutions are still an obstacle in Egypt and across the Arab World. It’s a challenge we faced when considering B2C options and I know that a lot of businesses are dealing with similar issues.
The culture here is still adjusting to the digital world; people seem to very interest in new technology but they are still very hesitant about sharing personal financial information through these platforms.
I think these issues will likely resolve themselves wither through more innovation or simple more time to learn about the technology. Once that happens the potential for digital in the region will be huge!
Have a question for Ahmed? Be sure to leave a comment or reach out on twitter at @raye7egypt.