25 Apr 2015
The road to mastery, how Si-Ware raised $10 Mil during Curfew in Cairo
By the end of 2013, when Curfew was imposed in Cairo, Si-Ware closed a $10 Mil investment round from TAQNIA and Ideavelopers. Probably the largest VC round in Egypt since 2011.
Fueled by the desire to discover for myself and share what helped Egyptian entrepreneurs survive the challenges of creating outstanding companies in the past decades, I sat with Co-Founders Dr. Hisham Haddara, Ayman Ahmed and Bassam Saadany to learn more about the journey of Si Ware.
The story of Si-Ware is not just about Si-Ware, the company came out of the womb of an interesting and inspiring journey, the collective experience of its Co-Founders has equipped the company to compete on a global level and position itself as an innovation hub with over 37 patents.
Raising $10 Million USD amides uncertainty and instability is not an accident, neither it’s an overnight success, you can trace down the roots of the story over 21 years ago.
In 1994, after achieving academic excellence, two engineers were invited by their professor to join a new venture, ANACAD a France-based electronics company expanded its business to Egypt in partnership with a group of electronics professors and professionals, then, acquired by Mentor Graphics, it was expected for the partnership to be dissolved.
As Mentor Graphics Executive arrive to Egypt to dissolve the company, the level of competence of Egyptian engineers triggered the sight of great potential, withstanding lots of challenges and showing great competence, Mentor Graphics decided to expand its operations in Egypt.
As Mentor Graphics expands and becomes more stable in Egypt, the same team continued to join challenging ventures, until coming together to found SWS which was then re-branded to Si-Ware.
Egypt as a brand
“When you want to buy a ring for your fiance, where do you go?”
Jewelry street where Jewelry shops are known to concentrate their presence in specific areas to attract buyers and make it easy for them to compare and find their most suitable designs. There is often an intense investment on the brand of the street and great value having the shops door-to-door.
The electronics sector is one of the largest in the world, even larger than Oil & Gas yet there are still few companies and success stories coming out of Egypt in the field.
One of the main challenges facing electronics companies in Egypt is that international clients don’t recognize “Egypt” as a destination where for the microelectronics industry. Egyptian companies has to exert extra effort to attract business and get over the hurdle of not having “Egypt” recognized in the global map.
Recognizing their own journey founding and working under different brands and umbrellas, the commitment of the founding team at Si-Ware goes beyond their own companies into nurturing an ecosystem for the microelectronics industry in Egypt.
The management team has contributed to developing the vision for the electronics industry in Egypt and serve in different positions in Etisal, ITIDA and sees that it has been becoming easier and easier for new entrepreneurs to enter the industry.
The road to Mastery
The interviews for Egypreneur’s Survival Guide seemed to get me more challenged, it’s not that I find it hard to extract and digest stories and relate it to business practices and pieces of knowledge that I’m acquainted with, this seemed to be the easy part.
On the surface, the stories that I heard could be labelled under persistence, courage, openness, smarts, but always there had been a theme a pattern that I neither understand, nor I’m able to express.
The only solution was to upgrade the level of knowledge and understanding that I have, a journey that often brought me by the edges of the Capital and into the search of new sources of knowledge and wisdom. One of the interesting findings that triggered a deeper understanding to the entrepreneurs journey was Mastery by Robert Greene.
Being part of a generation that’s used to speed, shortcuts, we often operate in the level of being a “distracted scanning animal” as described in the book. We could count dozens and dozens of stories for entrepreneurs who thought they have came up with the idea for the next big thing and were frustrated and decided to quit after initially losing traction, or losing the team or invalidating their business model.
We often think that having, a few gallons of intelligence and street smarts with 2 years of experience in whatever we do will grant us the wisdom and instant success.
Robert Greene analyzes the journey of true masters throughout history into three main stages.
1. Student / Apprentice
If you want to achieve mastery, passion should be the only driver to pursue a new field, passion will give you the energy to invest the time, effort and consistency in understanding and putting together all pieces of knowledge that makes up the full picture of the field, furthermore, you should apprentice to a mentor to have a first hand experience in the industry, you can never skip this step, neither your smarts, intelligence and social skills will make up for it.
If we look at Si-Ware story we’d find it clear that a University Professor and 2 of his best and brightest students exerted consistent efforts in accumulating knowledge about their industry.
2. Practitioner / Active-Creative
After understanding the full picture and its details, it’s often time to get active in pursuing experiments, accumulate experience that will then allow you to get creative and start creating your own innovations.
Persistence is the name of the game, Robert Greene assumes no less than 10 years until enough pattern identification is achieved which will then be the foundation for connecting things unusually and seeing things that no one else can see, the first step in Mastery.
The journey of the founders of Si-Ware has clearly showed the risk-taking, experimental approach in founding ANACAD, then Mentor Graphics, being early employees of MEMSCAP. A Journey through which the aspiring team had to endure lots of set backs and financial stress.
Being a control freak might probably keep you in business for a while, building a strict powerful system and controlling the execution with rationale might end you up with a rigid structure that will collapse in an ever changing world.
The main characteristic of Masters is their ability to go beyond the rational and use their intuition in coming up with new ideas and designing new innovations.
Si-Ware’s ability to win the trust of investors at a time of extreme political turmoil and their ever growing portfolio of solutions, products and patents is a clear example of how Mastery can be developed.
What my generation of entrepreneurs can learn from the journey of Si-Ware, is that it takes time to develop mastery, and only through apprenticeship and consistent efforts in the Active-Creative stage, breakthroughs can be made.
It also leaves my generation of entrepreneur extremely grateful to those pioneers who laid down the foundation for industries in Egypt, through the apprenticeship of those true masters, these industries can really develop and reap the economic fruit of their hard work.
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Learn more about the journey and stages of starting and growing your own business from Egypreneur’s Survival Guide, check more details and request an interview from: http://egypreneur.eg/survival