"[removed][removed]" Mideast creatives

Intense competition at Disrupt!/Graphics!/ in Cairo

Several days ago, the Disrupt!/Graphics!/ workshop concluded in Cairo, and it was certainly a blast! With a diverse and competitive set of graphics innovators, top-notch mentors, and a solid judging panel, the competition has set the bar higher for Disrupt events.

The workshop took place on the first weekend of December, at the Darb 1718 cultural center, and despite being very close to the critical mid-year exams period, and end-of-year reviews at companies, this did not seem to phase the commitment of the participants or the mentors. Even many of the teams that were still incomplete during the kick-off, when faced with the challenge of building a team of 3 people, with the right mix of artists, technologists and business people, managed to pull through and show up to compete with a qualifying team. By the start of the workshop on Thursday morning, there were 20 qualified participating teams, consolidated out of the 31 teams accepted and invited to the Kick-Off. By the end of the workshop on Saturday evening, 18 of the teams were ready and qualified to present their project.

The competing ideas were quite varied. There were a number of online platforms for automating graphic design for anything from printing T-shirts, to printing notebooks and personal stationery, to creating videos for start-ups at a reasonable cost. There were a number of video games being developed, and there were animated educational tools. There was also a fair share of hardware-based products, including a team who is working on a concept for an electronic notebook for creative people.

In the end, the judges had to pick the winners, and it was a tough decision, resulting in the decision to add a 4th prize to resolve the very close competition in the top 4! The Ali El-Zeba’ team grabbed the first place, with their mobile game, based on the historical Arabian hero. In second place was The Hot Box who have built a design practice and printing/cutting workshop for sustainable packages for food and other products. Coming in at third place was the Plus 4 team, who have developed a product line of clothing with unique designs that is environmentally friendly and resistant to dirt and stains. And last but not least, Azamoka took the bonus fourth prize, with their Mazareeta mobile game based on a the popular Egyptian TV series El-Kebeer.


In addition to the 1500 Euro cash prize, the first place winner will go on to be incubated through Innoventures’ Startup Reactor program for 6 months, as they launch a company with their idea. The next 3 winners also received cash prizes of 1000, 500, and 300 Euros, respectively, as well as hosting between 1 and 3 months at the ideaspace innovators space, and the Designopia Zone artists space. The top 3 winners will also receive $500 of matched funding from Zoomaal when they launch a crowdfunding campaign on the platform, while all the participants in the competition will receive $100 of matched funding.

But this did not all come easy! Over the 3 days of the workshop, Hesham Wahby and Ashraf El-Sharkawy from Innoventures went over concepts related to building a business model, including customer development, branding, revenue model design, market strategy, financial planning, developing an action plan, and the art of pitching. In parallel, there were a number of sessions more specific to the graphics topic, covered by professionals from the creative industry. Joran Koster presented a session title Disrupt – Go Crazy, challenging the teams to take a fresh look at their ideas, and how they are going to make a change in the industry. Ahmed El-Laithy from the American University in Cairo gave a session covering intellectual property issues that concern the graphics industry. The team of the Khallat design agency, one of the event partners, gave a very well-produced presentation of how they built a design workflow for one of their clients, as part of the Graphics Spotlight case studies track. And there were also 2 very interesting case studies by Amr Hussein from Colors Group, covering a game they developed, and Hatem Soliman from Studio 306, covering the meaning of the design profession.

The workshop was very practical and hands-on, with the sessions all lasting around 30 minutes, and in between, the teams spent most of their time applying what they learned to develop their project better, with the help of some great mentors. The mentors were a mix of experienced design professionals, business people, artists and technologists, including Ahmed El-Banhawy, Ahmed SaadMarwa Sadek, Reham Shadi, Ranya Shalaby, Tarek El-Alfy, Mahmoud GomaaAhmed Tarek, and Amira Shawky, in addition to all the speakers mentioned above, some of the judges, and a number of others. Every evening of the workshop, the teams practiced pitching their business concept, with helpful feedback from the mentors, to get it just right before the final presentations!

Saturday evening was the big night. The judging panel was made up of a well-balanced mix of 7 seasoned industry figures, including artists from the graphics and creativity field, as well as purely business people. It included: graphics designer and entrepreneur Hani Mahfouz; comic author Magdy El-Shafee; creative director Mohamed Braish; Sameh Shaheen, COO of Innoventures; Ramy Hammady, Editor of Desguide; Sherif Monsef, Consulting Director of Logic; and Ziad Aly, Founder of Alzwad.

After announcing the prizes, everyone gathered up for a final picture, and demanded to create an online group to stay in touch. They all felt like winners from this experience of taking their ideas seriously and thinking of how to build a profitable business model, while making a real impact on the graphics industry that they love in Egypt. Innoventures, Mideast Creatives and ideaspace will continue to keep the dialog open with them, through the weekly ideacircle series of sessions, starting in January 2015, to see how to develop these ideas further and disrupt graphics!