Reality entrepreneur show Al-Mashrou3 launches on Al Nahar, but can it help launch the careers of graduates with dreams of their own startups?
By Farah El Akkad
With unemployment at an all-time high and the traditional job market seemingly locked to fresh graduates, today’s youth are quickly finding that starting up their own initiatives is an attractive and promising option. Hoping to harness some of that entrepreneurial spirit is Al-Mashrou3 (The Project), Egypt’s first reality show. Hosted on Al-Nahar satellite channel and sponsored by Samsung, the program is the brainchild of Anna Elliot, founder of Bamyan Media, which helps local networks produce reality TV shows that help drive social change.
“The idea of the show was chosen to be relevant to the context of Egypt and help support young entrepreneurship,” explains Al-Mashrou3’s Partnership Director Dalia Said, adding that the program hopes encourage more youth to pursue their dream goals through an edutainment format that combines the high drama and thrill of reality shows with educational and productive content.
“It has taken 18 months of hard work and we are so excited to now share the final product with Egypt. We hope the show will encourage thousands more aspiring entrepreneurs to start new projects and more importantly, to realize their potential,” Marwa Moaz,
managing director of El Mashrou3 LLC, said in a media statment. “Our vision is to support the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem by
On December 21, the 14 contestants filmed their final episode of the program at the Grand Nile Tower hotel ahead of its debut on air that very same night. Every Saturday at 11pm, viewers tune in to see how each contestant handles missions designed to test his or her entrepreneurial skills and identify weakness and areas they need to work on. The contestants are split into 2 groups and work together to complete their challenges, which take them around Cairo. Guest mentors share their expertise with contestants each week, and celebrities the likes of Khaled Aboul Naga and Nelly Karim stop by as well.
Their performance is assessed by a panel of judges from the highest ranks of business, including including Fatma Ghaly, managing director of Azza Fahmy, Wael Fakrany, CEO of Google Egypt, and Hany Sonbati, managing director of Sawari Ventures. Each week, the judges will eliminate one contestant from the team that lost that episode’s challenge, until there are only three finalists left. Contestants have two shots at winning: The judges will pick the winning entrepreneur for the season, and viewers will vote for their favorite entrepreneur and project via SMS.
Ultimately, everyone goes home a winner. The grand prize winner gets cash and technical help to get their project launched, while each episode features prizes such as cash, tech services, mentoring and other incubation services from El Mashrou3 ecosystem partners. The Grand Prize and Viewer’s Choice winners will be announced at the season finale.
Applicants were chosen based on two important factors. First, Said explains, “We went to different Egyptian cities including Sohag, Sinai and Aswan in search of applicants from diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds, with a big dream they wished to execute.”
Among El Mashrou3’s first batch of entrepreneurs are a Bedouin from El Arish who is setting up an olive press to an Alexandrian who has started an e-learning platform, to a young T-shirt vendor in Talaat Harb who wants to start his own clothing factory.
Another deciding factor was the candidates’ comfort in front of a TV camera. “We had to make sure applicants did not act like a cat on a hot tin roof, they had to be cool and appear natural,” Said explains.
El Mashrou3 is interested in more than just the 14 contestants on the reality show, though. El Mashrou3’s Outreach Movement includes more than 40 on-the-ground partner organizations that support entrepreneurs with mentorship, finance, training, technology and other tools to help catapult viewers’ projects from dream to reality.
In addition to sponsorship by Samsung and Silatech, El Mashrou3 is supported by USAid, Google, Volkswagen and a wide network of partners including Injaaz, Ashoka, Mercycorps Egypt, Microsoft, and Endeavor.
In a media statement, Omneya Nabil, business development and communications director for El Mashrou3, said “El Mashrou3 is about the power of entrepreneurship as a catalyst for positive change. Our hope is that viewers will be inspired to connect to our partners and realize that they too can launch successful mashrou3s, which is what Egypt desperately needs right now. More people tackling problems and finding opportunities through solving them.”
As one of El Mashrou3 celebrity judges, Actress Menna Shalabi says “I am really impressed by their diverse characters”, “yet they all share the same dream of wanting to a make a difference in this country, each in their own unique way” adds actress Nelly Karim.
Yehia Tarek, an entrepreneur who founded his own architecture company, came out to the December 21 launch party to support his friends. After seeing the first episode, he says, “I think the program’s idea is a great way to put a spot light on the field of entrepreneurship in Egypt, I see it as a major success and the beginning of a new era in the field.” et
Follow the Projects
Tune in to Al-Nahar TV every Saturday at 11pm to see how your favorite project is doing. You can also get updates from the website elmashrou3.tv/ and the Facebook fan page www.facebook.com/ElMashrou3