SWVL: The Egyptian unicorn acquiring startups from Turkey to Mexico
Combining emerging market expertise and global ambitions, SWVL's expansion is clearly underway
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Founding story and original premise
The story of SWVL starts in 2017 with three Egyptian youngsters, Mostafa Kandil, Ahmed Sabbah, and Mahmoud Nouh. We will focus on Mustafa’s story, as he is the CEO, the face of the company, and the only original founder remaining at SWVL today.
Kandil was never one to waste time. Following a degree in oil&gas engineering, the ambitious youth was in charge of launching what would become a successful classified car site in the Philippines for Rocket Internet. He was then tapped to become a market launcher for Careem, Uber’s MENA competitor. In that role, Kandil launched a breadth of diverse cities, including Istanbul (Turkey), Mansoura (Egypt) and Hyderabad (Pakistan). According to the story, his boss at Careem told him, ' if you try and launch your own company, you’ll always have a spot at Careem if you want to come back”.
In 2017, at age 24, Kandil had accumulated experience working at fast-paced startups, with an added expertise in emerging market transportation. More importantly, Kandil had discovered a problem he wanted to solve.
Indeed, while opening new cities for Careem, Kandil felt as if he was solving a problem for only a small swath of the population. After all, private ride-hailing isn’t affordable to everyone and, apart from the drivers, left significant segments of the population out of potential improvements to their lives. Staying within the transportation realm, Kandil had his problem statement: how do I solve transportation for the masses, in emerging markets, using the principles I’ve learned at Careem?