“We wanted to blend technology with the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, so we talked with the parents and social circles of such people. We know more about their problems and issues now, and we are trying to solve them through our channel Galsa,” said Aya Makharita, CEO and founder of galsa.com.
Makharita is a new graduate of the Faculty of Science at Zagazig University. She is a 22-year-old woman who has decided with her team mates to launch a mobile application that enables people with autism and their families to find the best emotional coaching available.
She and her team mates at galsa.com started their project last year, wanting to help to bridge the gap between professionals and people with disabilities.
“We wanted to help people with autism and people with disabilities because they are not the only ones who are suffering. There are also their families and their circles of friends. That’s why we thought of launching galsa.com, in which they can have one place to reach out to when they want to ask and consult about anything,” Makharita said.
Through its coaching services, Galsa has been able to reach out to more than 400 clients with 500 consultants, specialists, and professionals. It has also sought the assistance of the Creative Innovation Hubs, an initiative by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) implemented through the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (TIEC).
Through this programme, the founding team was able to get assistance in training and mentorship sessions so that they could kick off their own startup.
As a woman who is starting her own business, Makharita said she had got all the support she needed from her family and friends, who have now become integral parts of the business. By bringing digital transformation within the reach of industry sectors, she hopes she can help to bring virtual-reality (VR) programmes to offer educational and social services for children and parents.
Galsa offers hybrid services, online and offline, depending on the type of disability and the assistance needed. It has also gained the assistance of ICE Alex, the first incubation hub in Alexandria which focuses mainly on providing different services and facilities around social entrepreneurship through innovation and entrepreneurship programmes.
Makharita and her team were able to earn second place in the latest event at the ICE Alex Beyond Impact Showcase 2023, winning LE60,000 in so doing. “This is not the first time ICE Alex has supported us financially, as they funded us three months ago with LE20,000 to boost our application,” she said.
“We joined ICE Alex as it is one of the biggest incubators in Egypt. They made a difference in our revenues and our customers and outreach. We added other services to the application as well,” she added.
There are thousands of startups in Egypt where incubation companies and services offered by the MCIT are providing useful advice.
Like Galsa, InsuCare is one of the hundred young startups hoping to explore the Egyptian and Arab markets. It is a medical startup that helps provide insulin pumps to people with diabetes.
An insulin pump delivers insulin through a tube under the skin. It uses short-acting and rapid-acting insulin, since the pump is programmed to deliver a small amount continuously to keep blood sugar levels even.
“The problem with insulin pumps is that they can be very costly at around LE250,000, which is non-affordable for many Egyptians,” said Sanaa Hossam, founder of InsuCare.
“It is imported, which is why it is so expensive. Our idea is to manufacture the pumps here in Egypt and to provide them at reasonable prices,” the young female graduate said.
ICE Alex also helped the InsuCare team with their startup by providing technical workshops, project mentoring, digital manufacturing devices, and coworking spaces for freelancers.
Since 2019, it has had a mission to help startups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and social enterprises across Egypt, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular. Last week, there was the annual meeting in which it celebrated the graduation of 37 startups with more than 500 young entrepreneurs.
“Through the startups, we have helped in creating 2,500 job opportunities through projects and the expansion of projects,” said Ahmed Bastawi, founder and managing director of ICE Alex.
Bastawi, also a board member of the North African AfriLabs (African Innovation Labs), said that “we have more than 50 per cent female entrepreneurs. We are not aiming at investors as much as helping them to explore the market and acquire a greater number of customers. One of the startups has gained more than 300 customers although it just started in the first quarter of this year, which is a great accomplishment.”
ICE Alex itself focuses on social impacts, and it has been chosen to be among the 100 companies in the UN Global Impact Programme that targets the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We have successfully launched the first incubator for startups in Alexandria called ‘Startups of Alex.’ We have provided more than 75 rounds of incubation periods for different projects and companies,” Bastawi said.
ICE Alex is also providing support for more than 350 women in a programme called “Empowering Female Entrepreneurs.” This aims at helping female entrepreneurs to start their ideas and turn them into realistic business plans.
It also has a “Ladies Startup League,” which is a programme for female-led early-stage startups that aims at supporting the validation and scaling of their business ideas in addition to taking these ventures to the next level of growth.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 9 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly