AUC Venture Lab’s Third Cycle Demo-Day

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The American University in Cairo’s (AUC) Venture Lab held Demonstration Day for its third SODIC cycle on Thursday, 5 March with nine start-ups participating. 

AUC Venture Lab (V-Lab) was first established in June 2013 as part of AUC’s School of Business Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. In March 2015, it celebrated its third cycle. The third cycle, as the first, is named the SODIC Cycle.

SODIC, the real estate and human development company, and the Arab African International Bank (AAIB), are the two leadership corporate founders of AUC Venture Lab.

(photo: Osama Mohamed)

V-Lab aims at commercialising technologies and innovations developed by Egypt-based start-ups into commercially viable ventures.

Encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurship in Egypt, V-Lab incubates Egypt-based start-ups. It assists them in researching and marketing for their projects, and provides them with allotted funds that in turn aid young entrepreneurs in expanding and sustaining their projects.

Venture Lab thus provides the entrepreneurs with the necessary support they need, both financially and technically.

Top Choice Admissions (TCA), one of the nine participating start-ups, is an educational consultancy, whose aim is to assist students with all aspects of university applications, both undergraduate and graduate. TCA also provides professional-level academic tutoring to high school students, in standardised tests such as the SAT.

TNN spoke to a number of participating start-ups and asked them about V-Lab’s assistance for their respective projects.

(photo: Osama Mohamed)

To Omar Khashaba, TCA’s chief executive officer, V-Lab helped in refining the project’s technical details. It enabled him to get in touch with business experts who were able to assist with the project’s technical details and were thus, according to Khashaba, a significant “value-add”. In addition to the resources, V-Lab provided TCA with constant follow-up on the start-up’s progress, what Khashaba found to be most helpful.

Ahmed Shuayb also spoke of V-Lab’s assistance to his start-up, Gymawy. Gymawy, an authentically Egyptian word that is the colloquial equivalent of the English ‘gymaholic’, is a free smart-phone application that offers its users a personal trainer along with an Egyptianised diet system. Thus, it is primarily aimed at an Egyptian audience.

To Shuayb, V-Lab’s assistance was decisive when it came to both marketing and sales. “It helped us develop our business model correctly,” he said of V-Lab. It thus perfected the start-up’s “theoretical part”, and in turn enhanced the founders’ capability to better market for Gymawy.

(photo: Osama Mohamed)

Jozour, a participating start-up that adopts “green wood from local material” as its slogan, also spoke to TNN. What the founders of Jozour found most helpful on behalf of V-Lab was the latter’s assistance with “[the] trainings and the mentorship [the group] needed”.

The founders of Jozour describe it as “a social enterprise” that aims at “getting the best use of agriculture residues in Egypt”. Date palm midribs are one such agriculture residue Jozourworks with. The enterprise developed a machine that transforms such palm midribs into wooden boards that are then used in furniture and house constructions.

In that respect, V-Lab provided Jozour with the funds needed to develop their machinery, and the venues required for such a technically and spatially demanding endeavour.

(photo: Osama Mohamed)

The diversity Venture Lab encompasses and encourages is strongly evident in the nine start-ups it incubated for its third cycle. In addition to TCA, Gymawy, and Jozour, travel companies, game developers, and e-commerce websites were also part of V-Lab’s third cycle. Selected start-ups play “an active role in the AUC community and Egypt”, ensuring the diversity of their ideas.

Offering the start-ups with a wide array of opportunities, resources, funds, and technical expertise necessary for any entrepreneurial undertaking, V-Lab catered to these entrepreneurs’ various needs. It indeed aided them on their way from “a start-up to a rise-up,” as News@AUC put it.

V-Lab will start its fourth cycle in two weeks with the aim of incubating around 8 to 12 Egypt-based start-ups.