The brainchild of Egyptian serial entrepreneur Karim Elsahy, the Elves app is disrupting the e-commerce sector by bringing a real-life 'personal little shopper' to the chat window.
It is more than a personal shopper; it stretches far beyond the limits of geography, and can guarantee thoughtful gift ideas – that do not come out of a machine. A freshly launched phone app pairs users with real-life assistants to search, book, buy, and deliver presents at the click of a “chat” button.
The brainchild of Egyptian Angel investor and serial entrepreneur Karim Elsahy, the app has already racked thousands of users around the globe, disrupting the e-commerce market with a trend that many already term “the concierge economy.” In other words, the return of the middleman to the time-consuming, and often chaotic, purchasing experience.
From booking flights to finding rare gifts, to arranging dinner, flowers and chocolates for Valentine's Day, the app is unique for everybody. “You basically can do anything with it,” Elsahy tells CairoScene. “I was showing it to a friend as we travelled to Singapore; he wanted to rent a boat for fishing, and his elf got him information on the weather conditions for the next day, the kind of fish he would find, the service to do and, and even a rental car dropped off at the hotel reception in the morning. All of this was done as we were having dinner,” he explains.
One of the main upsides is there are no pre-curated recommendations. “We pair up you with a real person who gets to know you. You simply tell them what you're looking for, and they look for it,” the entrepreneur says.
Launched last December, the app is also integrated to Facebook Messenger and soon Whatsapp, following a trend that, according to experts will see the death of app marketplaces and the inception of more and more built-in applications. And, far from limiting its repertoire to a specific e-commerce platform, be it Amazon, Souq.com, or Jumia, the application has no partners, in a bid to embrace the customers’ need and budgets.
Karim Elsahy speaking at this year's Riseup Summit.
“We don’t restrict ourselves to any company. The real assistants are the elves; real people who are killing themselves to find the best solution for each client. That’s where most of our energy is going, to develop a platform where you will have elves around the world to understand people’s needs better,” Elsahy explains, as he points out the existing assistants in Dubai, Turkey, and Egypt. “They speak the local language, understand the local culture, and can work on these global platforms. It's like the Uber drivers; every location will have their own elves,” he adds.
An architect by profession, Elsahy is not the average Egyptian entrepreneur. While most young businessmen set off to establish their businesses and search for markets abroad, the entrepreneur - who was born and raised in the USA - came back to Egypt in 2006 to develop their business. “I had a business called E-group.com that required a lot of work, so I came back,” says this business wizard, who led two discussion panels at the Riseup Summit last December. He is also currently a Kauffman Fellow, mentored by prominent investor and founder of 500 Startups, Dave McClure.
Elves is the fruit of Konnecti, a startup he conceived over a year ago which has raised the largest seed round across Egypt last year, securing $600,000 dollars from 500 Startups and Cairo Angels, among other investors.
Conceived as “a Facebook for companies,” Konnnecti is a global a service that matches businessmen to new customers and business partners through a three-way chat service among trusted users. “It's a marketplace for startups,” Elsahy explains. “But during the holidays, there was not much work, so instead of going on holiday we began brainstorming on developing an app,” he says. In a few weeks, Elves had become a reality, as co-founders Kareem Diaa, Khaled Gomma, AbdelRahman Zohiery, and Abeer Elsisi set off to work.
Next Valentine’s Day, the app is partnering with Uber to allow forgetful users to order a last-minute surprise present for their beloved one. By scrolling right on the application, Uber will order a car equipped with flowers and presents inside, delivered personally nothing less than by a – real - elf.