February 2020 - Flat6Labs


Here Are 5 Reasons Why Governments Should Implement Startup Acts Like Tunisia’s

In order to create a more dynamic startup ecosystem that fosters innovation and encourages entrepreneurs to venture into unknown lands, governments, corporations, and policymakers must understand the benefits of employing new policies and passing new laws that supports the geeks behind each innovation.

While governments across the MENA region have been allocating funds and initiating programs to support early-stage startups, there is little to be seen when it comes to enacting standardised laws that maximize the entrepreneurs’ chances to success.

Yehia Houry, Flat6Labs Tunis Managing Director, on the left, lobbying for the Startup Act at the Tunisian Parliament

“New policies and regulations should take into account the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and the needs of the ecosystem. The timing of the Startup Act couldn’t be better as it stimulates and encourages entrepreneurship across the country. Ultimately, it will result in thousands of new jobs created, important advances in technology and national economic growth.” — Yehia Houry, Flat6Labs Tunis’ Managing Director

Tunisia is one of those countries with its eyes set on empowering its startup ecosystem, and allocating the necessary resources for its hungry and passion-driven entrepreneurs.

“The Startup Tunisia initiative is meant to put the country on the map of startup-friendly ecosystems, sustained by three main pillars: the Tunisian Startup Act; the 200m Euro Fund of Funds; and the ecosystem support. With these things in motion, a synergy effect is expected to be produced between three key players: Investors, as the growth engine; incubators/accelerators as the performance lifter; and Startups as the economic and innovative locomotive.” — Haythem Mehouachi, General Manager of Smart Capital, Startup Tunisia operator.

Through Tunisia’s latest Startup Act, it hopes to create a fertile ground for innovation that both encourages competition and propels individuals who seek to utilise their solutions to the benefit of the community in many industries through its pre-set criteria (as quoted from the Tunisian Startup Act).

– Its legal existence does not exceed eight (08) years from the date of its constitution

– Its human resources, its total balance sheet and its annual turnover do not exceed the ceilings set by government decree

– More than two-thirds (2/3) of its capital is held by natural persons, venture capital investment companies, and collective investment funds. investment, seed money and any other investment body according to the legislation in force or by foreign Startups

– Its business model is highly innovative, utilizing cutting-edge technology

– Its activity has strong potential for economic growth.

This criteria set ensures that only the innovative, competitive, and ambitious startups get the Tunisian “Startup” label, and according to Salma Baghdadi, Smart Capital’s Startup Ecosystem Manager, 210 startups have earned it; out of which were 20+  startups like, Dabchy, Tap4Glam, Sqoin, Junior Robotics Lab, Grabingo, Chantier, Logis, Trust It & many more.

Some of our startups getting the “Startup Label” from the Tunisian Ministry of ICT

Ali Mnif, the Country Manager of Silatech in Tunisia and a member of the ‘Collège des Startups’ and one of the pioneers that worked on the project since the beginning said:

“Clearly, the best thing that could happen is a Startup Act 2.0. All the learnings, the mistakes, the feedback will better shape the second iteration of the key measures to be included.

Startup act 1.0 is a breath of fresh air for many entrepreneurs, startups and investors. It is also a powerful wave that reached many other countries. We keep hearing good news mainly in Africa.

In any iteration, the startup act is capable of breeding more mature startups with solid teams, who are backed up by experienced investors. The challenge would be to quickly incubate, accelerate and support the next regional champions.”

This act should be employed or adapted by other governments because:

1) Promotes Unmatched Innovation of Young & Hungry Entrepreneurs

One of the main criteria of getting the startup label is to be utilising a highly innovative business model, and to use cutting edge technology as part of the solution you are offering, be it a service or a product.

2) Releases Entrepreneurs From The Shackles of Failure

Aspiring entrepreneurs are often burdened with the fear of failure, and it seems to shackle most startup ecosystems around the world, with the first thought being losing the main job that earns them a living, the sustained expenses that come with establishing a startup, and more. Tunisia’s Startup Act allows them to maintain the contract they have with their previous employer without the benefits and grants them a “Startup Leave.” This allows them to focus solely on their startup, and gives them a safety net to fall on if it so happens that the startup fails. It also allows for free local and sometimes international intellectual property registration for startups, and exempts them from corporate taxes.

3) More Innovation Means More Competition

Flat6Labs Tunis Fourth Demo Day Startups

While the day to day consumer or business is often limited by the choices of big corporates, and public services that might be either too outdated or lacks quality, startups pave the road for unmatched innovation at often reasonable prices. More startups usually means more competition, and more competition means better products and services for the community at lower prices.

4) Proves that Innovation Is Often Synonymous With Solving Current Problems

Younger generations think daily of their problems, and many have innovative solutions to the problems at the back of their heads. Utilising this power is instrumental to helping governments resolve the country’s problems. When these entrepreneurs innovate, they solve a problem.

5) More startups means more job opportunities.

Instead of depending on large and medium-sized corporations and governments to do the hiring, startups can offer fresh graduates a new path of learning that is both beneficial and more challenging with often better pay if the startup happens to succeed.

These factors help sustain economic growth and prosperity for the country and the startup ecosystem. They breed a nation driven by sustained innovation in every corner and every industry.

Flat6Labs Best Tips & Tricks Round Up To Get Your Startup Off the Ground

Throughout decades, many entrepreneurs, investors, acclaimed businessmen/women have talked about how perseverance, resilience, passion, and drive will get your company off the ground. While working hard and having a belief in your startup will get you far, working smart will get you further. To work smart, you need to identify the main pillars that help you sustain, grow, and scale your startup from idea stage to seed-ready stage. With that said, here is Flat6Labs 2019’s roundup of the best tips from all over the MENA region on how to get your startup kicking.

1) Hire These People

Choosing the right team is essential to your business’ success. You could be a brilliant entrepreneur with an awesome business idea destined for success, but if you don’t have the right people on your team, you won’t go far. Based on CB Insights report on the top reasons startups fail, which was conducted on 311 flamed-out startups, 23% of startups fail due to not having the right team — it’s also the third most common reason for startup failure.

Continue Reading: The Five Types of People You Need to Hire for Your Startup.

2) Use Networking As A Infinite Resource Of Opportunities

There are a number of catalysts that could elevate your startup and improve its prospects when it comes to scalability; and standing the test of time and lots of glorious examples, is networking. In a report by Forbes.com, their highlighted research concluded that on the way to entrepreneurial success, networking is crucial for 78% of the startups. So yes, it does act as an undeniably strong force on the way to shaping a well-rounded future for your startup, which will likely entail a network of friends, mentors, investors, professionals for hiring, and advisers.

Continue reading: 5 Tips on How to Use Networking as a Limitless Channel of Possibilities.

3) Get A Strategic Partner

With your innovative services or products trying to enter the space of one thriving startup scene, it is crucial to know where your startups’ best interests lie; and what is the best course of action that will revolutionise how people live daily through your tech-based solutions. Identifying what you need early on, and settling on partnering with those who can help you propel your startup comes a long way; especially, if you chose Flat6Labs, and the reasons are many.

Continue Reading: Four Ways A Strategic Partner Can Help Your Startup.

4) Learn To Deliver A Perfect Pitch

You’ve put in your all to kickstart your startup and now you’re after investors who can share in the vision you have for your business. A great pitch goes a long way in securing investments and the way you present can make or break your chances. If you’ve been to one of Flat6Labs Bahrain’s Demo Days, then you’ve probably seen that we do know a thing or two about giving an exemplary pitch. Here are some of our tips to pitching your way to securing investments for your startup.

Continue Reading: Five Tips to Deliver a Perfect Pitch.

5) Read The Investors’ Minds

According to CBinsights.com, running out of cash and the lack of investor interest in a startup are some of the common hurdles that stand in the way of early-stage startups. With Flat6Labs expertise in the startup ecosystem over the past 8 years, Flat6Labs’ CIO, Dina el-Shenoufy, and our Managing Partners and Directors from our offices: Flat6Labs Beirut, Flat6Labs Bahrain, Flat6Labs Cairo, and Flat6Labs Tunis, discussed how startups can maximize their potential and chances with local, regional, and even international investors. They have thoroughly examined, through both experience and knowledge, the conditions and preferences of investors when they are fishing for innovative, scalable, and all-around amazing startups. And, with the number and magnitude of events we hold each cycle for our startups, we’ve demonstrated our ability to give each of our startups multiple chances to meet with and actually secure deals with investors. Mainly through our networking events, pitch nights; our speed-date investor mixers; and through the Demo Days, which always hosts a number of local, regional and international investors and even mentors and government officials.

Continue Reading: Six Top Tips to Get Investors Invested in Your Startup.

Meet Joona — The Flat6Labs Startup Forging Its Own Path In the Beauty Industry

We sat down with Mounira El Halabi, Co-Founder & CEO of Joona, one of Flat6Labs Beirut’s Cycle 4 startup alumni, to get a better insight about their newly launched organic skin care products, the market size for them in the MENA region, challenges they face, and what’s in the pipeline for them.

Can you tell us how you started developing Joona along with your co-founder Farah Khaled, and the inspiration behind the brand?

I’ve had psoriasis since a young age. There was always a love-hate relationship between my skin and I. On one hand, I needed to take care of it and maintain it in good health, and on the other, I was very insecure about myself. I never considered myself fit to the ‘beauty scene’. So one day I had an idea. I wanted to make beauty fun, stress-free and all-inclusive.

It was never intentional to create Joona. I wanted to create a fun beauty lab where everyone can come and mix products together and have a good time. I applied this idea to Tripoli Entrepreneurs Club (TEC), a local pre-seed accelerator in Tripoli, and we fine-tuned it to become a beauty brand in a box — “Khan Beauty Box”. A year later we changed the name, rebranded and took off with a new mission in mind: to build a platform for women to feel beautiful and celebrate themselves.

How has your experience been so far with Flat6Labs Beirut?

Joona went from being a small business started by two women who had no idea what they were doing into a brand with a global view. Flat6labs were very patient and supportive. We were very lost at the beginning due to the difficulty of creating a product-focused company in a country like Lebanon. We flipped through many ideas and our team at Flat6labs Beirut were always there to listen. We’re very proud of what Joona is now and we believe it was a collective effort.

What is Joona currently offering product-wise that differentiates it from its competitors (local and regional)?

So here’s the thing, I was never a big fan of the beauty industry but at the same time I loved to take care of myself and look good. So I asked myself, what is the beauty industry missing that is making people such as myself unenthusiastic about purchasing beauty products? Was it the unsustainability, the dangerous chemical use, or even the branding that seemed to feature only certain types of women and exclude the rest of us? Maybe all of these reasons and more.

We want to take care of our women by focusing on skincare that ultimately enhances the skin’s radiance and glow — making them not only look good but more importantly feel good from the inside out. Our products are playful, natural and infused with stories from our culture. Our rose water face mist is collected from rural women and infused with organic aloe vera and glycerin for an extra boost than the typical rose water that’s available in the market. Our best-seller, the Liquid Moon face cream is formulated with rose water based on an ancient recipe discovered in Tripoli that the apesathcarists used to make. We also added some avant-garde ingredients like the plumping hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and vitamin E. We’re also currently working on a anti-stress aromatherapy oil combination made by a heritage perfumery in Tripoli. A lot of love, stories, and art goes into every product we make and we’re very proud of that.

What is the current market size of the natural cosmetic beauty industry in the MENA region?

The beauty industry in the MENA region is booming — it’s estimated to top $45 billion in the next five years. It’s one of the hottest topics on social media; most particularly, on YouTube, with a record of more than 88 billion beauty-related video views.

In the MENA region, women are becoming increasingly aware about the unfavorable effects of toxic cosmetic ingredients like parabens that are found in both drugstore and luxury products. As a result, they have shifted towards healthy and all-natural ingredients for their everyday beauty and skincare regimen.

How was your experience with the mentors that you’ve met throughout the program?

The best mentor, and our north star, is always our customers. Our community of early adopters were really able to provide us with genuine and instructive feedback and advice that we valued, since it gave us a deeper understanding of what our customers’ look for in skincare products.

We also enjoyed being at Flat6Labs Beirut, and met a lot of great key people in the startup ecosystem who constantly provided us with informative insights about how we can expand and scale our business in the MENA region.

Did you face any challenges (such as gender discrimination, age-wise, etc.) as a team of two young women who are forging their own path?

To be honest, we did. Our parents were very skeptical of what we do and so is society. We didn’t start off as beauty bloggers, but ever since conceptualizing Joona, we have been learning substantially about all-natural ingredients that we can incorporate into our products and believe that with the right team and qualified mentors, we are able to prove that we’re capable of succeeding with growing business. The hardest part is talking to male investors because most of them have no knowledge of beauty products, why they’re important, and that they do sell. We recently decided to take a step back and build traction rather than just pitch the idea so that investors can have a better understanding of our business and how it has the potential to grow.

What advice would you give aspiring women entrepreneurs who are interested in starting their own business, but are lacking initiative or are discouraged due to a generally low presence of women-led startups?

So what if there’s a low presence of women in the startup world? That’s an even bigger reason to start. Today, it’s easier than ever to start your own business. Just open an instagram shop and start selling! Create a landing page for your app, and see how many people sign up for it. Participate in local and regional competitions since there’s an abundance of them and they can put your startup on the map and give it visibility. The real challenge is not in starting, but rather in scaling and maintaining the growth of your business.

Do you have any collaborations in the pipeline, and what value will they be adding to Joona?

We’re currently working on some collaborations. There are several online shops and offline boutiques who already want to sell our products; however, we want to get acquainted with our customers first and learn more about them via our channels, such as our website, as well as expand our customer base. We’re also building a media platform that will feature intriguing women sharing their stories and experiences surrounding the beauty industry to further build our community. If anyone is interested, we’d love to hear from you.

The Flat6Labs-Powered StartEgypt Hosts Its 2020 Forum

StartEgypt, the pre-acceleration incubation program, established to inspire and support thousands of Egyptian entrepreneurs in the field of social impact enterprises, held its second annual forum to showcase its 45 graduating startups, from all over Egypt incubated in Cairo, Assiut, and Alexandria during 2019.

StartEgypt Forum is an annual showcasing event that presents the incubated startups culmination of efforts during the previous year. The startups get the opportunity to present their businesses to investors, leading business professionals, government officials, press, and coaches & mentors to expand their business connections in order to take their ideas to an even more advanced stage.

The four-month incubation program, funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and powered by Flat6Labs, provides training, educational mentorship, and coaching by industry leaders. As well as, technical and business support to social impact startups in the fields of Education, Agriculture, Healthcare, Renewables, Environment, Transportation, Financial Inclusion and Marginalized Communities.

The program had originally launched in Cairo in 2017, with the first cycle starting in June, 2018. After their launch in Cairo, StartEgypt recognised the potential that entrepreneurs in non-centralized cities had. Therefore in 2019, the program has expanded to Assiut and Alexandria, graduating 45 social impact startups over the course of two cycles in Cairo, two cycles in Assiut, and one cycle in Alexandria, with entrepreneurs coming from all over Egypt, and startups working across various industries offering innovative solutions to disrupt the market.

Hassan Mansi, StartEgypt Program Director, said: “I am extremely proud of the efforts exerted in this program, we have undergone an amazing journey with amazing achievements. To date we have executed more than 45 events, reaching out to over 15,000 participants, partnering with caliber community partners in the ecosystem, receiving over 4,000 applications, and finally incubating 72 competitive startups from across Egypt. Moving forward, the whole team is excited and ready to increase the efforts to excel and reach out to more entrepreneurs across Egypt and inspire them into this new promising futuristic market in Egypt.”

The Forum is designed, along with showcasing the incubated startups, to provide an outstanding experience for over 1,000 guests interested in entrepreneurship, starting with a morning Startup Huddle, engaging activities like the Fight Club Competition and Ecosystem Activation Game, exceptional panel discussions about Female Founders and Impact Investment, and different hands-on workshops provided by Google, Dell Technologies, Cleopatra Hospitals, and Shell.

Eleven startups, out of the 45, have been qualified to end the day with a thrilling pitch competition in front of a judging panel for a chance to win EGP 200k in total, awarded to the following top 5 startups:

  • 1st Pyro awarded EGP100K
  • 2nd Biofeedx awarded EGP50K
  • 3rd Mycelium awarded EGP20k
  • 4th Banalistic awarded EGP10K
  • 5th Shalta awarded EGP10k

The eleven social impact startups come from a variety of industries and use different technologies, including:

  • Mycelium: A biotechnological company that grows eco-friendly biodegradable bio polymer (mycelium) on agriculture waste to make sustainable products that can replace the plastic in the field of packaging, construction, and furniture.
  • Shetla: A mobile application that assists farmers in agricultural operations, irrigation and fertilization and the detection of diseases.
  • Smart Farm: Utilises unused roofs across urban areas to make way for a small roof garden that provides food for the tenants.
  • Hadotopia: Hadotopia offers a plethora of content including stories and information for all ages. Content is offered in traditional arabic, slang arabic, and english. The platform targets parents in an effort to help them educate their children.
  • Mashro3i: A website platform that connects student’s graduation projects with entities that helps them to commercialize it.
  • Banlastic: Banlastic introduced the eco-friendly shopping bag(cloth): an alternative to the plastic shopping bag, which will be a strong starting point for people to stop consuming single use plastic bags which has a very adverse impact on the environment as each Banlastic bag is reusable.
  • Ero: Ero is a waste management startup that was initiated to create innovative solutions for paper leftovers. We collect, recycle and produce paper commodities to substitute environmentally irresponsible materials. Ero is a Finnish word for difference, which is what we plan to create.
  • Pyro: Pyro offers an on-site customized Pyrolysis system which works on any agricultural waste to generate bio-charcoal. The system takes in the cellulosic agricultural wastes and produces bio-charcoal as briquettes.
  • Biofeedx: A wearable gadget that accurately measures the muscle’s electrical activity during workout. The measured data is visualized on the user’s mobile app in a gamified visual feedback (mobile phone game). The app sends a report to the coach/doctor about the user’s performance with the ability of the coach/doctor to modify the user’s training parameters. It also allows current physiotherapy access and monitors a larger number of patients, reduces the cost of rehabilitation on patients and offers a more efficient and objective way of remote patient monitor rather than home care which accelerates the healing process.
  • i-Sew: A mobile app that connects the disabled community with fashion designers who want to make their designs in a professional, cost effective manner in a short time. We help involve people with disabilities in our society while providing a reliable income they could live off. SDS offers a workshop space where disabled people assist designers in creating their products.
  • Naql Misr: A digital online platform for providing logistics transport services to serve individuals and commercial and industrial institutions through the operation section to management and operate a fleet of different transport trucks.