ArkDev: From Cairo to Chicago [Egyptian Success Story]

My Story in the outsourcing industry started year 1998. I was one of those few Egyptians who got 9 months extensive training in Internet and Communication Technologies through the ITI (Information technology Institute), directly after being graduated from Ain Shams University, Communication Engineering department.

Observation is the root of Innovation:

Few months after working as a web developer in a local ISP, I took a step back to look panoramically at what I am doing. So yes, I am building websites through a language called HTML (I was from this generation that used Notepad to build websites through Native HTML programming). “It is a cool job, I deliver my work online, I communicate with my clients in Egypt through emails and we are all connected through the Cyberspace…” I was saying to myself.

Wait a moment here! We are all connected through the Cyberspace. This observation has a value inside. If we are all connected through the Cyberspace, why I am focusing on providing my services to the Egyptian market? Can’t my client be abroad?

Derived by this thought, I reconsidered my assumptions. I need to create a smooth business model that allows me to target International clients. I Believe I can efficiently deliver work and meet clients’ demands regardless of their geographic location; whether they were in a room next to me or located in a different continent.

Success Journey
Your success journey is not always as easy as it seems to be …

Yes, I am capable

My second challenge was Capability, am I capable to really meet the International Standards in Web development? Again I took a step back to look panoramically at my own resources. “I am educated, got some experience, I believe in the Cyberspace communication model, but more importantly, due to this cyberspace I share the same resources of any Developer in Europe and USA. We read same online articles, we read same books and tutorials, so it is now about Courage, Dedication and ability to learn and these are true core values for All Egyptians. “I can win this battle…” This is what I said to myself at this time, years before having Thomas Friedman illustrates this same concept in his great outsourcing book “the world is flat”!

A Purpose Driven mission

So it is now about Courage, dedication and ability to learn.  I put a mission to myself “I believe that Egypt can play an influential role in the International Software Industry and I am determent to prove that”. Believing that Purpose is the cornerstone of any success, I set a mission that is “much higher” than just making profit. I need to prove our capabilities as Egyptians in the International Software Industry. Later on I discovered that this same mission was acting as the lens that focused all my energy to produce outstanding results! It was the motive behind staying working till 3 AM to solve an Issue with a USA client; it was reason behind these great words that our clients said years after “Our web Ninjas team In Cairo….The most devoted and responsible team we worked with…”

Luck is the marriage between an Opportunity and a Capability.

Age about 25, backed by my observations and my higher purpose, armed with my courage, dedication and ability to learn, I started to find ways to transform my mission into an action plan. I found business matchmaking sites for online freelancing jobs and decided to work in this as a part time job. After some unsuccessful tries I managed to catch a client. I committed myself to walk ten extra miles with him, I did an outstanding job , I gave him a $2000 value work and I took only $500 at this time, but this $500 I got year 1998 still have a great value for me. Far from its financial value, it did prove that my model can work! At this time I didn’t know that I was literary a “Technology Export Entrepreneur” who was technically working in the field of “Outsourcing”. I was just trying to prove my mission, to follow my purpose with full passion.

When passion Dominates:

Year 2000 I quit my full time job and I joined a Multi-National ISP in Egypt, with branches in USA, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. I worked as “Egypt Web department manager”, managing a group of 7 developers. In less than few months I convinced the higher management to centralize all Web development work for all branches in Egypt, in less than one year my team was providing all web development work for all branches. My Passion expressed itself widely, even at my full time job. We did a great success that made me more courageous and persistent. After few years I quit my full time job and I decided to dedicate all my power to my International Web Development business, leaving behind a very good package and stable life.

A new Start:

I opened my own first company. Being a one man show I stepped back from the seat of management and enjoyed programming again. I did a big case with an American client who became later a friend (He is currently the IT manager of one of the biggest airlines in USA), I confronted all the challenges of details (For USA and Europe clients, formatting, alignment and site layout are much more important than functionalities), I remember I was staying online with him 3 hours in his morning for 2 weeks just to adjust “the search engine” on top the page, so the page “doesn’t flicker” when being refreshed. There are key important things to care about while dealing with international clients. the most important one of them is caring about details, the second is clarity of communication, the third is being truly ethical and honest so you build eternal trust and the forth is to be direct and finally is to look at your plate and to never point fingers instead of seeking professional solutions to the situation.

Egyptian Team, international standards:

Mohamed Zidan scoring in Brazil - FIFA Confederations Cup 2009
Mohamed Zidan scoring in Brazil – FIFA Confederations Cup 2009

Building a team is never an easy job, especially when you want this team to “act differently”, to follow international standards (and behaviors). Difference of culture is a truly big challenge! I did all what I can to handover concepts I learned over the years to them, and to create a culture of innovation where everybody can express her/himself openly and suggest new ideas. I did everything to paint the

mission and its purpose in their mind.. Soon this team became much more dedicated than me. In many occasions they inspire me. There is a fact that I learn from them each day. We gathered our forces and we challenged ourselves to be more professional in our work. In 2009 we became both ISO and CMMI certified. Within 5 years from our start we were able to successfully deliver more than 300 projects in USA only.  But any success became truly small against hearing a European client saying “We are regularly awed by the magic the Egyptians achieve in their projects….”

Younger generation is MUCH better!

I never position my company as an outstanding Web development company. I never say “We are the best technical firm…” Being a mentor to many younger entrepreneurs I can say with full confidence that younger generation are more innovative, energetic and creative. May be they just need to be more persistent and care more about leadership and communication Skills, but I always see that Egypt has a great potential in the outsourcing field.

Ark Development Team Having Fun [Stella Di Mare, 2013]
Ark Development Team Having Fun [Stella Di Mare, 2013]

This is my mission that I am trying to prove either within my company working framework or by Nudging younger entrepreneurs to be more courageous and attack the international market like me. It is a hard mission but when you succeed you gain a true self confidence, you empower the economy and you create more jobs for other programmers. Just be passionate about what you do, follow your purpose, be a true leader to extract the best of your team and success will follow you.

Amgad Kaldas

Ark Development CEO, Technology Expert and an Outsourcing Entrepreneur. General Manager from an IT background. I have direct experience in Outsourcing, CMMI, IT project Management, Strategic management, Open Source Development for the non-for-profit sector & Developing Process Management Web based applications.