Fostering High-Impact Entrepreneurship in Egypt
By: Matias Leguizamon, Associate Consultant at Bain & Company.
As part of their Social Impact program, Bain & Company partners with Endeavor by providing consultancy services to the organization and its affiliates, as well as support to Endeavor Entrepreneurs. Under this partnership, Bain Consultants are given the opportunity* to apply for the Externship program, where they are allowed to leave the Company for six months to work with an Endeavor affiliate office for three months and for an Endeavor Entrepreneur for another three months.
I decided to apply for the Externship program, take a 6-months leave of absence from Bain & Company and go to Egypt. I wanted to learn more about the Endeavor model and high-impact entrepreneurship, get out of my comfort zone and explore a region of the world I had never been to before.
The only thing I knew about my new life in Cairo was that I would spend my first three months working with an Endeavor Entrepreneur, Amir Barsoum and his healthcare company called Vezeeta.com, after which I would work with the Endeavor Egypt office for the remainder of the program’s duration.
The day after I arrived to Cairo I was shown around the Vezeeta offices and got to meet most of its 150 employees. I was the second non-Egyptian to join the office but everyone went out of their way in order to make me feel at home and get me as Egyptian as I could get. During my first month at Vezeeta I was taken to see the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, and we even grabbed a bite of ful and betengan (beans and eggplant) from a traditional street cart on our way to work back from the beach town of Sokhna. I got a crash course in Egyptian cuisine at the office. I still remember the first time I finished a portion of koshary and thought I would be full for the next three days. The Vezeeta office was a dynamic and fun place to work where I made a ton of wonderful friends whom I felt I had already known for years.
I had arrived at a very exciting time at Vezeeta. The office was being renovated and enlarged, HR was in a hiring spree and the company was in the midst of an international expansion to other countries in the region. Their initial goal was to expand their main product, online bookings for medical appointments, into Lebanon and Jordan. Throughout the project I worked mostly with its CEO, HR and the expansion team, helping Vezeeta transition from being a successful local startup into a multinational company with capabilities to rapidly expand into new markets. I had to meet with virtually every department at the company and learn the business inside out. I got to experience life at a startup, where everything is of immediate and practical importance, there is no time for nonsense work or babysitting, and where everyone is ultimately responsible for taking pride in their own work. I learned more than I could ever have hoped for in such a short time about how to successfully build and operate a startup and completely surpassed my expectations.
After saying goodbye to the place that had become my home for three months, I left Vezeeta and moved to the other side of Cairo, almost a whole world away, to start a new chapter with the local Endeavor office. Once again meeting and working with the incredible team was the highlight of my experience. I was received with the same friendliness, warmth, and hospitality that I had been exposed to throughout my time in Egypt. The Holy month of Ramadan happened to coincide with my first couple of months with Endeavor, when we would get together for Iftar and late night Suhoor meals and enjoy the festivities of the season. I also took full advantage of the Egyptian summer season after Ramadan, traveling with the team to the pristine beaches of the Egyptian Mediterranean coast. I even accompanied the team on a trip to Lebanon where Endeavor was hosting an International Selection Panel to identify a new class of Endeavor Entrepreneurs to be added to the global network.
Needless to say, I felt part of the Endeavor family since day one. Endeavor specializes in identifying and selecting high potential entrepreneurs, and delivering services that would enable them to maximize their impact in their markets; an impact measured by the wealth and high-quality jobs these companies generate, but also through the role-model influence entrepreneurs create in their local ecosystems. I was given the task of helping Endeavor Egypt draw up a strategic path that would inform its work over the years to come, to continue serving the Egyptian ecosystem with ever increasing impact and sustainability. As part of this work I’ve had the privilege of meeting other Endeavor Entrepreneurs at a Ramadan iftar, learned how Endeavor creates value to its network on a day to day basis, and even met with the Endeavor global management team and the local Egypt Board of Directors and managed to discuss with them our ambitions and plans for the future.
This has been a tremendously rewarding experience, not only because helping out the Endeavor mission is by itself extremely motivating, but also because I’ve had the chance to see first-hand through Vezeeta the impact that an Endeavor Entrepreneur can have, and know that all of my work will ultimately help the office find and nurture the future Vezeetas of Egypt.
I think I could not have chosen a better place to take my leave of absence from Bain than Endeavor Egypt. These past six months have passed by more quickly than I would have liked, but the amount of things I’ve learned from this program have been priceless both for my professional career and personal learning. I would like to thank the Endeavor and Vezeeta teams for helping me adapt to a new country and culture so well, helping me explore everything this incredible country has to offer and making this such a memorable experience.