Hearing the news that American and Danish entrepreneurs were flying in to Cairo, to host a seminar especially for Egypt’s up-and-coming start-ups, one of Bey2ollak’s five co-founders, Mohamed Rafea snagged a spot at the table.
Bey2ollak is the brainchild of five cousins. Aly Rafea, Mohamed Rafea and Gamal Sadek, all computer science graduates, were responsible for development. Mostafa Beltagy, a business administration graduate, took on marketing, while Yehia Ismail, an architect by profession, was responsible for the design and UI.
Bey2ollak is a cross-platform mobile app allowing users to share real-time information about Cairo and Alexandria traffic. Available as free Blackberry, Android and iPhone downloads, the service can also be accessed using the mobile site.
Sadek came up with the name, Bey2ollak, an Egyptian expression used when telling someone about something you’ve heard. The name was chosen because it is quintessentially Egyptian. Aly Rafea explained to the The Next Web, “It’s part of Egyptian culture, and the app is all-Egyptian.”
Bey2ollak started out as a concept to share information among friends. Like any other Cairo resident, Rafea faced the very real problem of spending far too much time sitting in Cairo traffic. Thinking of how friends and family often warn each other which route not to take, he thought, why not create an application that caters to that very need.
Talking about the initial challenges they faced, Rafea explains, “We were lucky ’cause we didn’t have any costs. The only cost was our time. The difficulty we faced in the beginning, was that we weren’t experts in Blackberry development. But despite that, we managed to develop the app in two weeks.”
Rafea and his cousins very quickly found themselves with an incredibly popular app on their hands. The Blackberry version was the first to launch in October last year, and it received an influx of 5,000 users on the very first day.
Rafea admits, “I didnt expect this reaction, but some of the other team members saw the potential in the idea.” And they were right. In less than a year, the number of registered users has shot up to 46,000 across 3 platforms. And this figure doesn’t take into account the people use the service on the mobile site without registering.
On the very day Bey2ollak launched, Vodafone Egypt approached the founders with an offer to sponsor the app. Rafea explained, “We received an email from someone at Vodafone and they told us ‘We want to get together and see how we can help you.’ Three weeks after the launch we finished the deal with Vodafone.”
Vodafone promoted the app, spreading the word to its customers, posting information about it on its official Facebook page, and launching an advertising campaign on Sarmady‘s websites, including FilGoal.
Asking Rafea about future plans for the app, he said, “If theres an opportunity in any other city we will go. We want to help as many people as we can, and if there are global opportunities, why not?”
With the summer vacations in Egypt in full swing, Bey2ollak has recently added more local traffic information for popular summer destinations in the North Coast.
Taking part in the NextGen Bootcamp was an inspiring experience for the founders, and there were of course plenty of personal benefits for the team. “We got in contact with successful European and American entrepreneurs, who made us think globally. They made us open our eyes to new things, like looking for international markets. They helped us to start thinking about the app in different ways.”
As one of the winning start-ups, the team will be travelling to the US to participate in a 3 week internship at iContact. The trip will give them an opportunity to take a tour of the company, visit the various departments, and also get a sense of the business culture abroad.
The experience has also given Rafea high hopes for Egypt. “We want to help each other, and improve the entrepreneurial society in Egypt, because this is the future. We can’t depend on the government to secure jobs. We have to take part in this ourselves if we want to make Egypt a better place.”
Rafea also wants to use Bey2ollak’s own success story to push other entrepreneurs in Egypt to take the plunge. “We want to encourage more people to start their own business because it will help. After the revolution, we want people to dream. We’re lucky that we came up with an idea and actually made it come true. It was easy and we want to encourage people to dream, and achieve their dreams.”