Exclusive: Meet the Two Egyptian Finalists at SXSW Pitch 2020

For the first time, two MENA startups make it to SXSW Pitch.
Exclusive: Meet the Two Egyptian Finalists at SXSW Pitch 2020
SXSW is the leading event for founders from all over the world. Source: SXSW

Egypt-based startups, Trella and Agrona, have managed to make it to the top 50 finalists – in a record-breaking year of applicants. Since its inception in 1987, South by Southwest, SXSW, quickly became the defining event for many industries including music, film, tech and interactive media. The SXSW Pitch is the top competition for founders all over the world to showcase their companies. The 12th annual pitch competition will take place on March 14 and 15 at the Downtown Hilton Austin, Texas.

“The MENA startup ecosystem is often overlooked and underrepresented at global events.”Dalia Kamar, CPO at FOUNDERSMEDIA and Board Advisor at SXSW

The two companies were selected from a record-setting 900+ applications, representing some of the most cutting-edge companies from around the world in the largest group of applications since SXSW Pitch’s beginning. The 50 finalists were selected to compete across 10 categories, in front of a live audience and panel of expert judges from notable companies such as NEA, Accel Partners, Backstage Capital, Mayfield Fund, Google X, Flybridge Capital, Kapor Capital, and more.

Commenting on the news to WAYA, Dalia Kamar, CPO at FOUNDERSMEDIA and Board Advisor at SXSW said “The MENA startup ecosystem is often overlooked and underrepresented at global events. As a board member for SXSW Pitch, I wanted to ensure that there was adequate representation from the Middle East and Africa’s diverse ecosystem.” Expressing her pride over both startups making it into one of the toughest competitions in the world she added, ” I am very proud that two of Egypt’s highest potential startups were selected, and will truly represent the incredible innovation coming out of the region.”

“We hope that by representing the region at SXSW, we can direct the spotlight to the brilliant talent and solutions coming out of MENA to accelerate the maturity of the ecosystem.”Ali El Atrash, Co-Founder & COO, Trella

Trella was founded by Omar Hagrass, Muhammad El-Garem, Ali El Atrash and Pierre Saad in 2018. It connects shippers to carriers in the fragmented road freight industry, to create transparency, efficiency and reliability, empowering carriers to find regular work with many shippers, eliminate excessive broker margins, and maximize truck utilization, while allowing shippers to book affordable loads, minimize matching time, and greater visibility on their shipments. Expressing the team’s excitement over getting into the competition, Ali El Atrash, Co-founder and COO at Trella said “SXSW is the place to showcase the complex problem that we’re solving in the region and network with peers to bring global insights that can enrich our team and accelerate our learning. Startups in emerging markets, especially MENA, are infrequently represented on the global stage. We hope that by representing the region at SXSW, we can direct the spotlight to the brilliant talent and solutions coming out of MENA to accelerate the maturity of the ecosystem.”

Source: Trella

SXSW Pitch isn’t a fundraising event, but rather the place to be seen and heard by a dream audience including high profile media, potential investors, innovators and future customers. Last year, UAE-based startup Derq, won the Artificial Intelligence category.

Out of the 503 companies that participated in SXSW Pitch over the past decade, over 75 percent have received funding, with combined funding in excess of $6.6 billion (not including undisclosed grants, angel and seed funding). Of these companies, 16 percent have been acquired by established leaders like Google, Apple, British Telecom, Huffington Post, OpenTable, Live Nation and others.

Our solution tackles a global environmental issue. We’re excited to pitch at SXSW and hope to access investment opportunities, connections and partnerships with industry leaders to help us growMohamad ElKafafy, Co-founder and CEO, Agrona

Agrona was founded in 2018 by Ahmed Mehey, Mohamad ElKafafy, and Hisham Sobhy. The company manufactures particleboard wood out of vegetable-crop residues such as tomato and potato stems. They reduce the need of cutting forests, reduce carbon emissions. provide new sources of income for farmers as well as creating thousands of indirect job opportunities in rural societies. Agrona’s patented technology, reduces manufacturing cost by more than 30%, solving problems that face manufacturers such as seasonality, high energy consumption and low quality. “We are at a crossroads because we’ve validated our product, but now want to diversify our revenue streams. We want to accelerate our growth in Egypt and in global markets because our solution tackles a global environmental issue. We’re excited to pitch at SXSW and hope to access investment opportunities, connections and partnerships with industry leaders to help us grow,” said Mohamed ElKafafy, Co-founder and CEO at Agrona.

Source: Agrona

You can find the full list of the 50 finalists and read more about what they do on the SXSW Pitch website.

If you see something out of place or would like to contribute to this story, check out our Ethics and Policy section.