The Biggest Startup event of the year at AUC
By Nahla El Gendy
AUC was the main partner and host of #RiseUpSummit19, the one-stop-shop event connecting startups in the Middle East and Africa. Held at AUC New Cairo for the first time, the event featured more than 20 of AUC’s alumni and faculty members as guest speakers.
In his speech at the opening of RiseUp Summit 2019, AUC President Francis Ricciardone emphasized the University’s role in inspiring its students to utilize their education to better serve Egypt and the communities around them. “At AUC, Egypt’s global University, we bring the world back to Egypt and we bring Egypt to the world — and not only for tourism, which is a wonderful thing, but for learning, creating, researching and developing projects and products that will improve lives. That’s what AUC is about. This is the right place for RiseUp Summit 2019,” said Ricciardone.
In its seventh edition, the summit bustled with the region’s top entrepreneurs, startups, investors, creative masterminds and Fortune 500 companies. This year’s summit built on past ones, focusing on the Journey to Growth as its main theme, as well as drawing the line between the past, present and future. The three-day summit included talks and panels, in-depth workshops, boot camps, networking sessions with hundreds of investors, as well as talent matchmaking and exclusive satellite events.
Alumni in leading positions across different fields spoke at the event, including Maged Farrag ’93, creative and managing director of 5dVR; Sahar Salama ’95, founder and CEO of TPAY Mobile; Mohamed Rahmy ’03, managing director of Endeavor Egypt; Yaseen Abdel Ghaffar ’10, founder and managing director of SolarizEgypt; and Myrna Fahim ’16, lead developer advocate for IBM in Egypt and Morocco.
International figures in various fields also took to the stage, including Brian Collins, chief creative officer and founder of COLLINS; Gerardo Mazzeo, global innovation director at Nestlé; Karen Cheng, head of social at 9GAG; Marcel Muenster, founder and director of The Gritti Fund; Raya Abirached, TV presenter; and Samih Sawiris, board chairman of Orascom Development Holding.
“It feels very nostalgic to be back on campus for the RiseUp Summit this year,” said Islam Shawky ’15, CEO and co-founder of Paymob, an infrastructure technology enabler providing payment solutions. “I began school in 2008, so AUC New Cairo is the only campus I know. We started our company on this campus, as the six members of the founding team are AUC graduates — so we are extremely nostalgic.”
Among the workshops that took place throughout the entrepreneurial marathon was one held by Kim Fox, professor of practice in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, titled What You Need to Know About Starting Your Own Podcast.
“I’m such a fan of the RiseUp Summit because it brings together the vibrant community of thought leaders, creatives and more,” said Fox. “The energy is contagious and inspiring. The ability to reach out to other attendees and speakers for potential collaborations and knowledge sharing is achievable and encouraging. It was nice to see so many of my former students and colleagues there.”
Ramez Youssef, chief creative officer and co-founder of Tayarah, a creative production agency, also held a workshop titled From Trendsetters to Trend-Seekers. “RiseUp Summit feels so different this year being at AUC New Cairo. The content is also different,” he said. “Overall, it was a great experience.”
Startups from the AUC Venture Lab (V-Lab), Egypt’s first university-based startup accelerator and a leading accelerator in the Middle East and Africa, also participated in the summit. In a special booth for the V-Lab, graduates of this year’s cycle shared their experiences with the attendees and highlighted the impact of their businesses on the Egyptian economy.
“The AUC Venture Lab had a strong presence at the RiseUp Summit this year, with more than 24 startups presenting their innovations to the summit participants, investors and international partners,” said Ayman Ismail ’95, ’97, Abdul Latif Jameel Chair in Entrepreneurship, associate professor at AUC’s School of Business and founding director of the V-Lab. “AUC also announced that it will be launching a new platform for innovation, focusing on attracting corporate innovation labs to be based on campus and expanding collaboration with AUC faculty and students. Our end goal is to create a collaborative community of entrepreneurship and innovation at AUC and Egypt.”
RiseUp Summit 2019 held a competition for the best educational applications at the event, where AGORA, a V-Lab startup, ranked first and won the African App Launchpad Cup and a monetary prize. AGORA is an ed-tech app that empowers children to explore the world around them and learn from it through augmented reality. The summit also included a Creative Marketplace featuring some of Cairo’s creative startups that displayed their products, including Doodle Factory.