By Katie Marie
Stimulated by a desire to safeguard marine ecosystems and coral reefs, MBA student Aly Mohamed introduced Egypt’s first electric water scooter that uses only 3 kilowatts of electricity for a full one-hour charge, saving 8 tons of carbon dioxide emissions for every 100 hours. This stands in contrast to a traditional water scooter, which can guzzle 35 liters of gasoline per hour, with each liter emitting 2.3 kg of CO2.
The electricity needed to fully charge the electric water scooter’s lithium-ion battery costs only EGP 6 at current prices, and Mohamed’s team is exploring AI applications to extend battery life.
As the threat of climate change becomes more real, Egypt is one of many countries struggling to balance the health of its underwater ecosystems with that of its tourism industry. Carbon emissions and other forms of pollution from fuel-based water vehicles threaten coral reefs, which are essential for ocean health, protect the shoreline from erosion and provide a home for thousands of marine species.
Through his startup Seavo, which was selected by WSA global network for the Best National Digital Solution Award in the Environment and Green Energy category, Mohamed created an electric water scooter to eliminate the need for making any tradeoffs between tourism and marine life preservation.
“If our coral reefs were to die out, this would threaten the global food supply chain and cause a major loss in tourism, which is key for Egypt’s economy and the millions of Egyptians working in that sector,” said Mohamed, Seavo’s CEO and co-founder. “Seavo is trying to preserve this precious underwater environment while ensuring that tourists are able to come to Egypt and have a wonderful vacation experience.”
Today, the Orca electric water scooter is in its soft-launch phase, having already been rolled out at a handful of Red Sea resorts. It has a sleek, futuristic design and can zip through the water at up to 21 km per hour, allowing riders to dive up to 30 m below sea level.
Focusing on the next phase of the Orca launch, Mohamed and his team are scaling up to mass production and expanding Orca’s use across Egypt and, in the longer term, other countries in the region. “We’re also developing a ride-sharing platform for marine electric mobility products,” said Mohamed. “Travelers will be able to lease our scooter or another product for a period of time and manage it all on an app, similar to the bike and e-scooter sharing platforms available in some global cities.”
To make his startup a success, Mohamed had to assemble a team with diverse backgrounds, spanning engineering, tech, robotics and tourism. Finding investors also proved to be a challenge initially, and the Seavo team ultimately self-funded much of its early work.
“Most investors and accelerators in the MENA region are focused on e-commerce and software apps. Fewer people are willing to take on the risk of a startup with a hardware component, namely the cost-effective manufacture of a safe and reliable vehicle,” Mohamed explained. “We had to de-risk the hardware aspects of the company, prove that we had a market and develop different business models. We were then able to attract interest from outside investors.”
Notably, Mohamed credits his experiences at AUC with helping him as an entrepreneur. Prior to starting his MBA, Mohamed was a research assistant at AUC’s Department of Chemistry, where he worked with the University’s first spinoff, D-Kimia, on developing an automated diagnostic system for the hepatitis C virus. “Because my background is focused on research and development, I was always keen on developing the most technically sophisticated version of a product,” he said. “However, through my work as a research assistant and my classes at AUC, I learned to shift my mindset to products that are feasible, profitable, and can benefit not only customers but also the environment and country as a whole.”
Mohamed is hoping that Orca’s success will pave the way for opportunities to expand Seavo’s offerings in the marine space, enabling him and his team to develop products such as e-yachts or solutions for the shipping industry.
“Our goal is to help communities and protect the environment,” Mohamed said. “Society is going through a major shift now as we work to fight climate change, and we want to be a positive force within that transformation.”