Since early November, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) has been in full swing, helping entrepreneurs of all ages explore their potential through dozens of events and activities. Although this isn’t GEN’s first time in Egypt, this year they teamed up with leading real estate developer, Tatweer Misr, to develop MENA’s first GEN-operated entrepreneurship and innovation hub.
Yesterday at a groundbreaking event, Tatweer Misr and GEN executives were met with Dr. Sahar Nasr, the Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, who presided over the MOU signing.
Together with Tatweer Misr’s CEO and Managing Director Dr. Ahmed Shalaby, GEN Egypt’s President Amr Abou ElAzm, and GEN President Jonathan Ortmans, the Minister set the first stone for the new hub.
The hub will be located on a 90-acre college campus in Tatweer Misr’s newest project, Bloomfields in Mostakbal City.
Named GEN@Bloomfields, the hub is expected to be operational in 2021. The hub will feature several tech labs, co-working spaces, think tanks, a gym, lounges, boardrooms, training rooms and an atrium.
“Empowering innovation is the key to empowering entrepreneurship, and through our partnership with GEN Global on this campus, we aim to create a space that generates innovation opportunities for developing a better future for our youth in the region” said Tatweer Misr CEO Ahmed Shalaby.
“Egyptians are building some of the most engaging, proactive and dedicated entrepreneurship communities around the world that are working towards innovating for real impact for the nation’s benefit” said GEN President Jonathan Ortmans during the groundbreaking, “we could not be prouder to stand with our national affiliate, GEN Egypt, alongside Tatweer Misr and other partners in opening GEN@Bloomfields, we look forward to empowering entrepreneurs throughout Egypt and connecting them to the global ecosystem that will help them thrive.”
When asked about why Egypt, Ortmans told us that “… [Egypt] is on the cusp of growth for the entrepreneurship eco-system… so we decided this was the right time and the right place because we are confident there is demand, opportunity and support from the traditional elements of society to see this happen.”
Ortmans on helping other entrepreneurs
We also asked Ortmans how could other SMEs help budding entrepreneurs.
“Some [SMEs] are still scaling and growing, but the majority of the ones I come across, they may be plateauing at some point. So I think with a lot of SMEs, it is valid [for them to] get together with a startup and look at the next generation of that product or service.
So, a lot of big companies for example will hire startups because they want to disrupt their own industry and keep innovating, and I think the same is true with SMEs. It’s like ‘let’s bring someone who has some radical ideas in and let’s think about how we are growing to grow.’
Now, a lot of SMEs don’t want to grow, but I think that, whether they want to grow or not grow, the value they bring to the startups is they bring knowledge of operating in that industry, so you can’t really just say ‘oh, well, I want to enter this industry and I am going to disrupt it, because I think it doesn’t do this well’ but you don’t really understand why it doesn’t do it well right now.
So, you need to partner with either existing companies or SMEs and work out how does the current business works, and in order to make it better, [you] got to understand why it’s not working the way it is.”
According to Ortmans, “the best support for entrepreneurs is going to be other entrepreneurs,” and reminds us that there is a “massive amount of free support, there are programs, online content, communities of people who want to answer questions, so take advantage.”
GEN@Bloomfields will be part of the university area in Tatweer Misr’s newest project, Bloomfields, a mixed-use residential project spanning around 325 acres. The university area in the project adds an additional 90 acres.
For 2 years, the real estate developer searched to partner with a university or colleges that would focus on entrepreneurship and SME development, a mix of the developer’s twin objectives of entrepreneurship and education.
“Since its inception, Tatweer Misr has been strong proponents of entrepreneurship and education with a strong track record of activities supporting their vision to create a base where entrepreneurs can emerge with the requisite skills base and support that would propel them to a higher level enabling them to contribute to job creation and poverty eradication, whilst harnessing the values and principles of a true entrepreneur,” asserted Shalaby.
According to their press release, the college will be the first global “hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Tatweer Misr has been a main sponsor of GEW for a few years now, and has recently signed an agreement to sponsor the event and its activities for another 3 years.
The Global Entrepreneurship Network operates in 170 countries, aimed at fueling “healthier start and scale ecosystems that create more jobs, educate individuals, accelerate innovation and strengthen economic growth.”