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RiseUp Summit 2015: The Sudan Story
3 of the biggest investors from Silicon Valley; Techstars, Y-Combinator & 500 Startups
2 days of entrepreneurial oriented workshops, networking and investment opportunities
1 Delegate from seven different countries…and,
Sudan Was a part of this happening, for the 1st time
The JourneyIt all started when Tenchologya -a startup that provides high end digital services - became the country delegate for the RiseUp 2015 Summit. The process consisted of Startups and Country Leaders being selected to join Tenchologya in representing Sudan at the Summit. After a lot of discussion, it was settled that these four teams would represent Sudan:
1- Impact Hub Khartoum
2- Innovation and Entrepreneurship Community (IEC)
3- Smart Delivery
4- Zol & Zola Club
But...Due to unexpected turn of events, only one of the teams was able to attend the Summit. IEC alongside the country delegate, Tenchologya showed up. With only five and a half weeks of preparation, hard work and last minute alterations Tenchologya and IEC were finally prepared to make an appearance.
Even though there were Complications and Struggles…The value that the Summit added to the Sudanese Entrepreneurial ecosystem was beyond measure. From the educational and inspiring workshops to the acceleration programs that took place. There were also interesting competitions, crowd funding platforms, angel investors and several other growth opportunities made available. Downtown Egypt and The Greek Campus provided a hospitable, idea generating environment that motivated the Sudanese team.
Sudanese startups were given the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about the problems entrepreneurs face and how potential investors can work around these restrictions. Parts of the ecosystem were demonstrated through the Country Booth and a keynote presented by Moumen Mohammed about Sudanese Ecosystem. The event had an encouraging effect on the Sudan entrepreneurs that attended.
The Potential of the Ecosystem in SudanThe entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sudan is developing rapidly. Recently, innovation communities have come together in various events and created atmospheres that support the entrepreneurial development. Such events allow startups to share ideas find local investors and further grow their businesses. This includes Startup Weekend Khartoum, Get In The Ring (GITR) and Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) all under the umbrella of IEC. There is a lot of raw potential in Sudan that requires tolerance and perseverance to bloom.
Meet some of our Change Drivers…1- Impact Hub Khartoum : A platform that provides both space and content that encourages creativity, networking, and disruption.
2- The SSH – Sudan Startup Hub is a business and technology incubator that provides bundles of support services to help transform ideas into feasible businesses.
3- The Zol & Zola Club is a community club that provides its members with an array of exclusive educational, recreational and sporting programs, activities and events.
4- Smart Delivery - a technology venture that makes home delivery of food accessible to the average Sudanese families at affordable prices. They are also the winning team for GITR Sudan competition
Some of the Obstacles Sudanese Entrepreneurs face…Even with these developments, there are still many obstacles that hinder evolution of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Startups in Sudan will always face these dilemmas. The largest restriction on the ecosystem is the economic sanctions that have been placed on Sudan since 1997. Among others, the embargo stops financial transactions, so startup companies cannot use credit cards transfer money or deal with businesses and individuals in the United States. These sanctions were set by the US government against the Sudanese government. However, the real effect of these restrictions is on the individual Sudanese citizen and those trying to build international connections and businesses. Other complications that startup businesses face are regulatory and legal problems. In Sudan, a startup company is considered its own separate legal entity and treated the same way as a big business (public limited company) this leads to taxation and registration issues which the startups must deal with.
The Socio-Cultural Aspects of the DilemmaSocial and cultural factors also obstruct the growth of the startups. Due to the harsh economic conditions having a job with a stable income is the priority. It is considered a luxury to attempt to quit the everyday job to purse a selfdeveloped business. Even if individuals have a mindset fit for building a successful Startup, he or she are obligated to abide by the perceived norms. So, there are less business men and less success stories and therefore less encouragement. The significance of self employment and its potential on the Sudanese economy is underestimated. The hubs and business communities recently introduced are trying to increase the awareness of the public through talks, events and business competitions.
How RiseUp 2015 Positively Affected the EcosystemThere are many other enigmas and problems that slow down the progression of Sudanese Startup companies. These are usually discovered by the individuals as they go about the process of building themselves up. However, international Summits and Conferences such as RiseUp Summit help shed the light on Sudan and show the progress and advancement of the existing environment. It allows Sudanese industrialists to meet with potential investors and mentors which open up gates for more businesses to come to Sudan. This will have a ripple effect on the business scene in Sudan and eventually the country as a whole. The benefit that the ecosystem receives from contributing in such successful events cannot be underestimated.
Also… One of the Interesting Side Events heldStartup Band joins musicians, vocalists, songwriters, sound engineers and composers together to start up a band without knowing each other! From this formation great talents emerged and created original songs in just 48 hours. The songs were then performed live and the audience voted on their favourite Startup Band via twitter. There were 6 bands that participated in Startup Band Cairo; Fantazia, NaJazz, 3ozla, Kheit sayeb, Sodfa and Rock by Island. The CEO of Tenchologya Moumen Mohammed, was the lead singer in the band Kheit Sayeb. The bands performed live at Cairo Jazz Cafe. The competition was very high and in the end NaJazz came first, Kheit Sayeb second and Sodfa was in third place!
So, the Growth Potential of the EcosystemThe current ecosystem in Sudan is on the rise and at a speedy pace, especially, in the previous five years. Global contributions, investors and acceleration programs can have a substantial effect on the growth rate of this ecosystem. Through increasing investments on Sudanese individuals in terms of finance and mentorship, the entrepreneurial ecosystem will grow stronger and become more recognized. The competence of the Startups in Sudan is showcased in their ability to overcome the sanctions and restrictions they face on a regular basis.
It is difficult to attempt to summarize all the setbacks and potential Sudan has due to its versatile nature. However, positive global contribution and involvement will give Sudan the boost it needs.