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[INTERVIEW] Yasin Halawany, Cantalop, Egypt

Hi Yasin,

We’re really happy to have you on TechInAfrica, to tell us more about your startup Cantalop and your perspective on the new economy in Egypt.

First of all, can you pitch us your company in just a few sentences?
Yasin: Cantalop.com is the 1st Regional Job Search Engine dedicated to MENA Region. You can think of Cantalop as “Google for Jobs”
We aim to revolutionize the way people search for jobs and create a healthier Job Market place in the MENA Region.

Can you tell us more about yourself, your personal background, your experience and how you went to Cantalop?
Yasin: I’m a subject matter expert that come with more than 6 years’ experience in Sales, Marketing, Advertising and PR serving high end portfolio of clientele such as Coca Cola, Mirinda, Chipsy, Paris Saint-Germain and many more.
My Partner Karim Halawany is a computer science graduate with more than 10 years’ of experience in Recruitment, Consultancy and Talent Acquisition.
During the past period, Middle East and North Africa witnessed a lot of turmoil’s, changes and chaos. People of these countries decided to uproar against the obstacles they are facing in developing a better life and a better future.
And that’s where the idea of Cantalop came from; we aim to support the economies and people for a better life and promising future through tackling the unemployment issue, simplifying the process of job searching, bridging the gap between employers and job seekers.

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Can you tell us more about Egypt? Why this market?
Yasin: With over 90 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populated country in North Africa and the Arab World. With majority of population are youth, Egyptian market represents a huge potential pool for white and blue collars not only in Egypt but in the entire middle east.
While, cantalop was launched in Egypt September 2014, it grew it’s coverage to list all jobs in GCC in 2015 with plans to cover entire MENA before the end of Q1 2016.
What are the main issues you have been facing with Cantalop in Egypt and around?
I wouldn’t say we have been facing issues with Cantalop in Egypt. I would rather say business obstacles that any businesses any where are subject to specially when you are a start up such as slow decision making, even worse most fortune 500 companies makes their decision through their regional office in Dubai, the devaluation in Egyptian currency where most of our cost is in USD. Those are all business obstacles we are facing.

Who are your main competitors around?
Yasin: There are a lot of parties involved in online recruitment business which we consider as competitors including but not limited to Professional Networks such as Linkedin, or other old established job portals in the region such as Bayt and Gulf Talent. We see this as an advantage though because competition leads to innovation and creativity.

What is your point of view, as a startup founder, about Egypt?
Yasin: Egypt is very promising country with huge potential and beautiful minds, the revolution has started a new trend of entrepreneurships not only in Egypt but in the entire Arab world I would say. While the eco-system is still yet to see the desired maturity we looking forward to, yet I believe we are on the right track.
Challenges are still tough though and definitely access to funds is the biggest challenges of them all, none the less we have witnessed a few considerably good series A rounds.

Is it hard to find investors there?
Yasin: I wouldn’t say it is hard, but it is not easy. In addition there is a serious issue with valuation here.
The good news is Egypt has started to garb the attention of Silicon Valley Investors and Regional VC. In addition to some individual efforts at each corner to bring investors to Egypt. We recently had RiseUp event which was a very successful event in bringing entrepreneurs and investors together.
Cantalop was officially invited by SeedStartsWorld to pitch in RiseUp event. It was definitely a remarkable experience.

What do you think is lacking to Egypt to develop it more? What are the main barriers?
Yasin: I believe the routine and bureaucracy in taking decision. While we can see some efforts exerted by the government to encourage investments and starting up companies in Egypt. Still much more effort is required in the field and more efficient process optimization is necessary
From other side, we also need a paradigm shift in parents in Egypt to encourage their kids to pursue their dreams not only seek the security the full time job provide as you may find so many opposition from parents when their son/daughter come and tell them I’m quitting my fulltime secure job and starting a business.

What is your perspective for the next years on Egypt and more regionally on Africa?
Yasin: Egypt in particular and Africa in general are full of resources, either capable Human Resources or Natural Resources. I always believe our problem is a management problem. If only there is an efficient utilization of our resources I would definitely see a great boost in the regions.

As you know, we are always on the look of great startups, new products and amazing entrepreneurs, could you name a few locally or regionally in Africa?
Yasin: I’m always pro to startup tied to a good cause, Nafham Education is one of those. It is a platform for online education that provided student with 5 to 15 minute crowd sources educational videos.

Thanks for your time, and we’ll keep our readers up to date with your startup updates!
Yasin: Thank you for giving us this opportunity and for your interest in Cantalop.com and for spot lighting promising Techs in Africa. We definitely believe there are a lot of hidden gems in Africa awaiting to be discovered and see the light.

More about Cantalop?
www.cantalop.com

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