El Gouna continues to show support for startups and entrepreneurs.
El Gouna, a resort in the Red Sea built by Samih Sawiris’ Orascom Development, may seem like your typical holiday destination; a utopia if you will. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realise that it’s much more than that. The real estate giant is now trying to attract a very specific type of full-time resident - the innovator. The city’s vision, according to an Orascom Development representative, apart from environmental protection, is to encourage new ideas and creativity.
The latest in El Gouna’s strong push for entrepreneurship comes in the form of a conference, the first annual Middle East Conference on Business Angel Investment by the Middle East Angel Investor Network (MAIN) at TU Berlin and Gspace, and it officially opened its doors this morning. It’s a two-day training conference intended to support new startups financially, as well as network with other people in the region. “This is clearly a very important event, because for entrepreneurs to succeed they need investors so for us to enable or facilitate something like a Middle East Conference on Business Angel Investment, it was a no-brainer,” said Orascom Development CEO Khaled Bichara.
Encouraging entrepreneurship has been El Gouna’s vision from the start, ever since its inception in 1989, and today most businesses in El Gouna are run by entrepreneurs. It would be naïve to still think of El Gouna simply as a holiday resort. “We already have around 22,000 people who live in El Gouna so it’s not only a tourist destination, it’s an actual live-in town. We now have Gspace, a working space for entrepreneurs, and we have a lot of startups; from an Irish software company to a German self-driving car company, an advertising agency and so on. El Gouna was an entrepreneurial idea to start with and we have always been encouraging entrepreneurs, and all the businesses are basically managed by entrepreneurs, so you don’t see big brands like McDonalds, for example. Everything here is homegrown and this is how we want it to continue being, and that’s why we’re very happy to host this event where we have angel investors who will be investing companies. But we also hope that they like El Gouna and push their companies to come here,” added Bichara.
GSpace, built by Ramzy Makram-Ebeid, one of Egypt’s most prominent designers, is a beautiful villa that rents desks and offices to entrepreneurs and freelancers, and it shows a definite attempt at accommodating new businesses. El Gouna is constantly learning from its experiences and constantly implementing new ideas to encourage startups and entrepreneurs.
“We’ve had a lot negative experiences in the past where people would want to come to El Gouna and have their own project, but would be faced with certain hurdles and not know what to do or who to talk to in order to implement an idea they have,",” said Mahmoud El Baroudi, General Manager of El Gouna. "We now have a more structured way of doing business in El Gouna - we have an email address where people can send all their concepts and ideas to, there’s a committee that’s been formulated to look into all the requests that are being sent onto this email, and finally we also try to advise people on what is required in El Gouna in this current phase. We’re also tapping into other sectors or other areas, such as Gspace, and we’re also trying to help startups in terms of creating a great ecosystem for them, managing their living expenses, offering different types of housing, and so on and so forth.
Aside from the business side of things, El Gouna has understood that for people to decide to go and live in the city, it needs to be a place where people can live, work, and play. “For people to work here they need to find schools for their kids, they need to find a place to work, they need to get the right medical support and all of that. So we’re looking at all facets of life and trying to cover all of them,” added Bichara.
El Gouna is well and alive, and entrepreneurs and their startups are the engine that allow it to keep running sustainably.
Images from Cairo Zoom