An Open Letter Regarding the State of MUFIX Community

To whom it may concern,

As you may know, I have rejoined the MUFIX Community ranks as the community’s Social Media Manager earlier this year; taking charge of MUFIX’s online presence, including, but not limited to, the community’s Facebook page and Twitter account.

I asked to take on this position when it came to my knowledge that several people in my network- who were not affiliated with MUFIX or Menoufia University in any way- were aware of MUFIX’s existence, yet did not know much information about. It was- and still- my firm belief that maintaining a robust presence on the social media channels would significantly contribute in establishing MUFIX as a booming IT community in Egypt.

I was greeted with great understanding by Ahmed Nagy, the leader of MUFIX Community for the 2010-2011 season, to the extent of being given complete creative freedom over the social media strategy. However, during my four-month tenure, I discovered that MUFIX had much bigger problems than merely its social media presence. These problems, which I am pointing out here, in my opinion, present considerable challenges towards branding and establishing the MUFIX name.

1. The Lack of a Clear Goal/Direction: when MUFIX was first founded, it was billed as a community promoting the use of open source technologies, with great focus on the Java programming language and the Linux operating system, as alternatives to other non-free closed source tools. The sessions, events, and speakers reflected that theme. Currently, MUFIX has no focus, theme, direction, or clear goals. The weekly sessions held cover a variety of topics that have absolutely nothing in common. Saying that “we aim to provide the students with knowledge” is not a goal. There must be a clear and focused theme/direction for the community in order for it to be correctly categorized and as a result, branded.

2. The Lack of a Hierarchical Administrational Structure: this has been a problem with MUFIX since I first joined it in 2009. The MUFIX team consists of a community leader, a vice-leader, and about 20 organizers. Apart from two or three team meetings (max) held every year, the decision making process is almost entirely being done by the community leader. Such a management approach does not provide much room for creativity or growth. An alternative approach would be for the community to have a management team- each with a specific specialty- that gets involved in the decision making process with the leader and vice-leader. This approach was already in place during my tenure in the 2009-2010 season, where some of the experienced team members-me included- were managing different aspects of the organizational tasks, yet none of them participated in the decision making process.

3. The Lack of Inner Communication: This is a direct result of the previous problem. At any given moment of organizing an event or working on a project, the team members would not be on the same page, no one would be knowing the full details or who is doing what except for the event/project manager(s).

An example of this is when I was contacted on June the 5th by Ahmed Salem, MUFIX Leader for the 2008-2009 season, to proofread a document summarizing his tenure as the MUFIX Leader. On June the 19th, I received the same request from Basem Elsherbeny, MUFIX Leader for the 2007-2008 season. When asked about the purpose of these documents, I was told by Basem that the MUFIX Alumni group is working on a “web page” that illustrates their efforts. I explicitly asked Basem if they were working on the MUFIX official website (mufix.org) and I was confirmed by him that they were not. On June the 26th, I met Abbas Adel, MUFIX Co-Founder, at the Google Serve Not for Profits event in Cairo, where he told me that they were indeed working on the MUFIX official website.

4. Focusing on Brand Extension Instead of Brand Establishment: in six years, the MUFIX Community logo and slogan were changed over three times, making it extremely difficult to establish the MUFIX brand name. Instead, much attention has been given in attempts to affiliate MUFIX with other big “names”, such as JUG and GTUG. To well-establish a community, its logo and slogan must be consistent enough to stick in audiences’ mind, and then consider affiliating with other brands.

5. Taking Pride in Half-Baked Events: for about three years now, members of the MUFIX team has been taking pride in their ability to organize a “major” event in a few days. This approach results in predominately amateurish events that may appeal to the student of Menoufia University, but garner little or no interest from people unaffiliated with the community, and hence get no publicity and end up like they were never held.

A prime example of that is the Egy Techs Meetup event, scheduled to take place on the 23rd of this month. A quick look on the event website is a clear indication of the level of amateurism the organization of this event suffers from. I have absolutely nothing against the concept of the event, on the contrary, I think it is very interesting and I firmly believe that such an event would significantly aid in placing MUFIX Community on the map, but ONLY if it was held in September as I suggested numerous times to Ahmed Nagy, the leader of the organization team. The event is too big to be planned and organized in only one month. Pushing to do so will only result in another half-baked event that would only waste resources and eventually promote MUFIX as a community unable to organize an event that can live up to its promise.

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Due to problems aforementioned, and my firm belief that my efforts would be ineffective as long as these problems remain unaddressed, I have decided to step down as MUFIX Community’s Social Media Manager. However, I would still act as a consultant like the rest of the MUFIX Alumni members when needed and when my time allows.

Last but not least, my recommendation for this period is to suspend all of MUFIX activities, including, but not limited to, the Egy Techs Meetup event. The MUFIX team for the 2011-2012 season should address these problems as soon as possible for a fresh and focused start in September.

Thank you.

Ahmed El-Sadek

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Reviewing Startup Weekend Cairo – Part II

This is the last part of my extensive two-part review of Startup Weekend Cairo. You can read part one here.

So day two started, almost all ideas that people voted for the night before had their teams formed, with stress on almost, as it seems that there were ideas that their owners did not find people that would join their teams, which I find odd since voting for an idea should indicate that people liked it, and liking it should indicate that people would want to work on it, so yeah. Anyway, most of the teams were formed and people started getting to work.

Now, I have to really hand it down to National Net Ventures (N2V)– one of the event sponsors- for the great work they did throughout the event. Not only did they have the coolest thing I have ever seen in an event/workshop called the N2V Car, which is a small cart filled with candy that… moves around campus for people to get candy!

But also the N2V people were walking around giving away juice to people while they were working. I cannot really say anything but R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

The second day went on- fast, may I add- and it was time for two quick speeches by Fadi Ghandour, founder and CEO of Aramex, and Bo Burlingham, Inc. magazine editor-at-large. Now, I have to be honest here, Bo’s speech was very good, but in my personal opinion, it was done injustice by making it come after that of Fadi Ghandour’s speech. Fadi’s speech was so interesting and he himself was so lively that Bo’s speech felt “pale” in comparison. Again, I am not saying that Bo’s speech was bad, I am just saying that Fadi’s left too big of an impact more than that of Bo, I mean, I have not been a big supporter of entrepreneurship before the event, but Fadi’s speech DEFINITELY made a believer out of me! To know what I am talking about, watch it:


Also, here is the speech of Bo Burlingham:

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One of the things I was wondering about before the event was how the mentoring system would work- one mentor per team? All mentors working with all teams? To answer my question, on the second day, each team was handed a piece of paper with the line “Mentor needed here” written on it. If the team needed a mentor, they would put the paper on their desk with the text side up; if not then the blank side should be up. I thought that was a great idea as the mentors- who were making rounds at the teams working places- would help the teams that needed help but not interrupt the ones that did not, except that it did not go that way. Things went very smooth on the second day, the mentors provided VALUABLE help when people needed and left them alone when they did not. On the third day though, it was not so smooth. Almost all of the mentors along with Omar Christidis– one of the judges- made rounds and asked each team to tell them about the idea they were working on. I am pretty sure that each team leader talked about their idea at least ten times on the third day. The interruptions sometimes were annoying and teams could not object because they had to be nice to the mentors and of course the famous judge, which makes me wonder; what was Omar Christidis doing?! The judges should make their decisions based ONLY on the final presentation, in my personal opinion; the judges should not interact with the teams before the presentations, as doing so would give some teams an unfair advantage. For example, assume that during his round, Omar liked the work/idea of some team, but during their presentation, the team did not successfully present their work and eventually did not “sell it” to the other judges. In the judges room, Omar would try to convince the other judges to vote for it because he knows there is more to it than what was shown in the four-minute presentation. To me, this translates to unfair advantage. As I believe the reason for having only four minutes to present you work is those four minutes are actually the period that an investor needs to decide whether or not to invest in your startup.

Busy? No? Good! Get up and tell me watcha doin'!

Another interruption, but one that was actually good, was when were told to head outside for group pictures, the results were AMAZING as can be seen here:

Now, I have to take a shot at my friend Abdelrahman Magdy, CEO of Egypreneur regarding something (and hope he forgives me!). As a media sponsor of Startup Weekend Cairo, Egypreneur people were responsible for things like tweeting and taking pictures and videos, those videos included quick interviews with some of the mentors and team leaders. That is good, I have nothing against that. My take on it though is that those interviews sometimes took place at the rooms where the teams were working. Obviously the rooms were noisy because PEOPLE WERE WORKING, so instead of taking the interviews outside- where practically no one was making any noise, Abdelrahman was actually asking people to be quiet! I know that Egypreneur is a sponsor and everything- and we are thankful for the exposure it was giving to the teams- but you just cannot ask people working their butts off to be quiet! It is just not… cool!

The third day went by- too quickly!- and it was time for the final presentations. A nice touch by the organizers was making the order of presentations random so that everyone gets a fair chance. Again, it was obvious that the specified time (4 minutes) was not enough for the presentation that the judges sometimes asked the presenters to use their 1 Q&A minute to continue their presentations.

Since I’m new to this entrepreneurship world, I will not talk about the ideas, presentations content, or my opinion regarding the judges’ choices of winners here (you can see a complete list of projects and winners here). What I will say, however, is congratulations for all the winning teams- specially the Inkezny team, my favourite idea :D- and for everyone who worked hard for the weekend to turn out the great way it did. It was definitely an amazing experience, one that surely got me and everyone that participated very excited about entrepreneurship.

Some photos from days 2 and 3:

The great view at the AUC campus

Fadi Ghandour

Bo Burlingham

Judges: Hanan Abdel Meguid and Omar Christidis

Inkezny team, moment of announcing the result

Inkezny team, the winners of Startup Weekend Cairo 2011

And finally, a BIG group picture:

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon at the next Egyptian Startup Weekend :)

Reviewing Startup Weekend Cairo – Part I

Startup Weekend is a non-profit organization that organizes 54-hour weekend events in various cities around the world. During the event, groups of developers, designers, marketers and startup enthusiasts pitch ideas for new startup companies, form teams around those ideas, and work to develop a functioning prototype, demo, and/or presentation by the end of the weekend. The event judges pick the winning startups, which receive various awards. The event also attracts speakers and panellists, as well as mentors that help the teams on their startups during the weekend, who are usually highly-respected members of the local startup community or notable names in the tech industry.

On the April 28th, 29th, 30th weekend, Startup Weekend came to
Egypt for the very first time, held at the new campus of the America University in Cairo in New Cairo. I was lucky enough to attend the three days of the event work with a team on developing a startup. In this two-part review I shall talk about the highlights of my GREAT experience at Startup Weekend Cairo.

First, I really liked the choice of the AUC new campus for the event venue. It provided a great working atmosphere with the very neat working rooms and outstanding outdoor scenery far away from Cairo’s downtown madness. It was a very well-thought decision by the event organizers, which brings me to my second point; the organizers. In my opinion, the event organizers and volunteers were the heroes of this event. Startup Weekend Cairo was the best-organized event I have attended so far. It was almost perfect. The only thing that I did not like was the fact that not all event ID cards were printed even though confirmation e-mails were sent a whole week before the event. Also, something that really puzzled me was that it was mentioned on the event’s website is that attendance costs 100 EGP (75 EGP for students), yet neither me nor anyone I knew there paid anything! Other than that, everything was just in place and the organizers and volunteers made sure that we had everything we needed. Chapeau to them!

The Heroes of Startup Weekend Cairo

After registration, the event kicked off with a couple of speeches, one of them was really boring that I cannot even remember who gave it or what it was about. Something worth mentioning though is that ALL the speeches, even the ones delivered by Arab speakers, were almost completely in English, which I found particularly annoying. One tried to recap the speeches in Arabic, but apparently someone gave him a “look” because he abruptly stopped midway and continued in English. Way to preserve and take pride in our Arabic identity.

Next were the pitches; individuals and teams had 60 seconds to pitch an idea and attempt to convince the audience to vote for it and join their team. When I first heard about this 60-second time limit, I thought it was unfair; the first ideas pitched will be forgettable, the last ones will stay fresh in the audience minds. However, that was not the case, it was even worse. Having to sit there and listen to about 50 ideas in a 60-second rapid succession was a chaotic nightmare; no one was able to keep up with the ideas or properly evaluate and compare them to decide which to vote for, not to mention that the ideas themselves were a bit disappointing, not what you expect after a GOING THROUGH A REVOLUTION. The ideas themselves were not bad, just… ordinary.

Your time is up, kid! NEXT!

After everyone pitched their ideas, it was time to give our votes, the old school way. Knowing practically nothing from the 60-second pitches, people had to cram up the voting space to talk to pitchers and know what they were talking about. The most-voted 32 ideas were chosen to continue and the pitchers had to build their development teams. A really weird phenomenon was the shortage of designers at the event; people were literally fighting over designers and eventually had to call for help from their own designers outside the event. In my opinion, this can be interpreted in only one way; designers are NOT interested in entrepreneurship, which I believe is an issue that should be addressed by the event organizers.

The first day ended with great dinner under the lovely night sky of New Cairo, it provided opportunity to chat with people that we do not usually see in our everyday lives. Startup Weekend Cairo was actually a huge Cairo Tweetup with an entrepreneurial theme!

Some Photos from Day 1:

Registration

Geeks love sugar, specially when in the form of cupcakes!

... or ice cream!

Event Sponsors

 In part two I will be talking about the second and third days of the weekend as well as my experience in working with the “Ma3Ba3d” team. Stay tuned!

Update: part two is now available, read it here.