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Egyptian Entrepreneurs Score Half the Finalist Slots in Facebook’s Bots for Messenger Challenge

Out of over a thousand entries to Facebook’s most recent developer challenge, 15 Egyptian developer teams beat out serious competition and snagged half of the finalist spots in the entire MENA region, including HireHunt in Egypt and Egypt-based Syrian Startup Mujeeb-Marj3.

Over 1000 entries.

30 finalists from the Middle East and North Africa.

Of those 30, half are innovative Egyptian developers, and they’re creating the best bots on Facebook Messenger.

The Bots for Messenger Challenge is Facebook’s casting call for the most talented developers in the Middle East and Africa to show off their skills by creating innovative messenger bots. Teams of up to three developers each pitted their work against their rivals in three categories: gaming and entertainment, productivity and utility, and social good. There are ten winners for each category in MENA and sub-Saharan Africa, bringing the total number of finalists to 60.

Winners won a Gear VR and mobile phone, one hour of Facebook mentorship, early-stage startup consulting services from Facebook resource FbStart, and $2,000. Beginning on June 2nd, there will be a final round of judging. After their mentorship sessions with Facebook, the teams will resubmit their bots for another round of judging, and three runner-up teams from each region will win $10,000 and an additional three months of startup consultation with Facebook.

Some of the challenge entries have global appeal, such as Harry Botter, an interactive Harry Potter encyclopedia; whereas others are regional, such as ChefBot, an Arabic language food consultant. Based in Egypt but founded by Syrians, Marj3 is a platform to connect students across MENA with scholarships abroad. Some of the other highlights from the Egyptian entries include MathHook, a math problem-solving bot; HarassMap Bot, an interactive harassment reporting and mapping tool; and LancerBot, a networking tool to connect individuals with similar professional skills.

HireHunt, a finalist in the productivity and utility category and founded by Egyptian entrepreneur and developer Basil Fateen, is a gamified job-hunting platform that interactively challenges its applicants. “The competition happened at the right place at the right time,” he explains. “I started developing our bot earlier this year, but there’s no real framework for bots, so I really had to build it from scratch. The conversational interface of messaging works perfectly with what we do at HireHunt because it jump-starts the interview process right away.” The messenger bot platform is a natural extension of HireHunt’s capabilities, as it lets users play and connect with employers on the go, anywhere and anytime. “It’s not only making the process fun, it’s making it more efficient for both employers and job hunters. We want to remove the hiring bias,” Fateen continues. “We don’t want to judge people by their CVs. What’s seen first on HireHunt is your performance.”

Facebook’s bot challenge was inspired by its grassroots, entrepreneurial origins. “Facebook grew out of a hacker culture and thrives by promoting innovation on new platforms. That's why we launched the Bots for Messenger Challenge, with the aim of rewarding entrepreneurs and developers for harnessing the power of bots to create amazing new services and apps,” says Facebook Head of Platform Partnerships for MENA Emeka Afigbo in a press release.

Main image: Creative Commons


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