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Recently, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Mostafa Belgaty, head of marketing (and co-founder) for Bey2ollak. You might wonder what Bey2ollak is- an award winning mobile app from Egypt that shares real time traffic information in Cairo and Alexandria (website here). And why the name- it’s an Egyptian expression used when talking about something you’ve heard with someone else. And what have they achieved-46,000 registered users across 3 platforms, a sponsorship from Vodafone, an ever growing list of global supporters who want to replicate their concept.
So, while things might look bad in the context of what’s happening in the world, it’s never been more important to listen up to those youth who are paving their own way forward, and Mostafa is one of these aforementioned youth. Below are my questions posed to Mostafa with his own answers, thoughts, and reflections on how he has helped take his business, and himself, this far, so far, with no limits to success in sight.
N: Where did this idea stem from?
M: Driven by the deteriorating traffic problem in Cairo the need to be aware of the different traffic conditions grew among all those who live in the city and its outskirts. The need has been there for years but no solution till today has been adequate in solving the problem.
Socially people communicated, friends, family, and coworkers would contact each other in traffic situations of significant impact mainly to warn each other and potentially suggest alternative routes. This simple piece of information passed on socially by the observer could potentially benefit a much larger audience. The idea of Bey2ollak grew from here, leveraging the power of mobile technology and the internet we thought to take that same very simple message and broadcast it to a much wider community of people who would gain important insight regarding their routes.
The idea originated a few months before the launch of the service by one of the five co-founders, who went on exploring its potential in family discussions. As the idea developed further, the enthusiasm about it seeing the potential and the need eventually led to the formation of the “Bey2ollak Team”. Each member brought a different set of skills and expertise to the table so that between us we had expertise in the fields of computer sciences, advertising, and marketing. By doing so we had covered all the core functions necessary to build and launch the service, and more importantly we had put together with strong personal synergies as well.
We had been working on developing the idea but were taking our time to launch when we saw that a similar idea - though less developed and lacking creativity - by a competitor had appeared on the web. The competition was still in its early stages as well and had not yet accumulated a significant mass of users (they had very low frequency of updates). The immediate success of our application upon launch definitely encouraged us to work faster towards developing the application further seeing the market opening its arms wide to receive our product..
N:Who inspired you to make this happen?
M: What really inspired us is the fact that many young people of our own age and even younger were able to become a success using new technologies and their own creativity. We knew that we had both coupled with a great idea that answers to a real need in our society.
N: Did you always know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?
M: We all knew that we had the ambition and that we want to build a successful career and a different path. We were all determined not to be just another number or face in the crowded streets of Egypt. Venturing into building our own start-up is a first step towards making a difference in society. Our dream is not about being entrepreneurs, it is about making a difference.
N: Was the school you attended very beneficial in encouraging these ideas?
M: This varies, but unfortunately as far as I know no school explicitly encourages entrepreneurship. Actually, it was our family that had a great impact on us!
N: What was the hardest step in making this dream become a reality?
M: Initially launching was not very difficult due to the mix of skill found in the team. After the initial success, growing into wider markets with no funds, just our own zealous work and creativity is the real challenge. Especially since currently with no funding and no established revenue stream almost all the team members have another full time job.
N:Where do you see your company in 5 years?
M: We hope to have improved our product and take it to many of the mega cities in developing countries that are in dire need of such a service. Bey2ollak is more than a service it is a great experience of sharing ideas and advice and networking, any-where any time, on the move. The potential of such a tool is huge and the different applications that can stem of this one simple idea are infinite. .
N:Who are the most important people you work with to make sure this application stays progressive?
M: Since all the needed skills can be found between us we mostly rely on each other and our guts to make the right decisions. Since the team has a mix of dreamers, realists, and the more pragmatic members it adds strong and much needed diversity in opinions which is critical part of our decision making process. What we need further is getting exposure to other creative ideas, in different parts of the world, to enrich our imagination and to see how things can be done differently.
N: What message do you have for youth in Egypt who want to do something similar? How about youth around the world (who may not have this kind of opportunity, yet...)
M: There are a few key words that looking back seem to be the backbone of our own success story so far. The need to make a difference is one as it implies character, ambition and creativity, such a need is more of an urge that motivates and mobilizes and empowers any one who feels deeply that he wants to help his own community and make a difference in the lives of people. Persistence is definitely the biggest and most important magical word of all. Team work is another, we used to have many heated discussions and different ideas and opinions, all throughout though we were and are determined to stay, work and grow together. Even individually on a personal level we are keen to share our own successes and lessons learned, we help each other and also forgive each other.