In Egypt turmoil, start-up firms find ways to flourish
By Andrew Torchia
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's revolutions have been kind to Ahmed El-Kerdany. The young entrepreneur has raised millions of dollars of funding and kept his business growing through the country's worst political and economic turmoil in decades.
In 2010, he and several friends in the city of Alexandria launched Mashaweer, a service which helps customers avoid the traffic in Egypt's gridlocked cities by running errands for them. In December that year, the firm began operating in Cairo.
Two months later, president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown by mass protests across the country, triggering an economic slump that has not yet lifted. This month, president Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the army during another wave of national unrest.
But Mashaweer has continued to grow, raising $4 million from Egyptian investors and expanding its staff to 300 people, whose orange scooters are a common sight on Cairo's streets. It bought a speedboat for deliveries on Egypt's north coast and opened an office in Beirut last November; it aims to open one in Dubai by the end of 2013.
"For some people, the revolution was a disaster for business. For us it was an advantage," said Kerdany, 27, speaking at Mashaweer's sparsely furnished Cairo offices on several floors of a shabby apartment building.
He said waves of political instability over the past 30 months had slowed growth; corporate clients periodically became more cautious about spending, and mass protests made it harder for Mashaweer personnel to move around Cairo and Alexandria.
But the unrest created opportunities, he said. The firm was able to start an advertising blitz in Cairo as media advertising rates sank during the uncertain period around Mubarak's ouster, and it could buy scooters from desperate distributors on 36-month payment plans instead of the usual 12 months.