Silicon Valley companies nervous about Egyptian investments

February 2, 2011 7:06:33 PM PST
Many Bay Area companies are keeping close watch on the developments in Egypt. They have serious financial resources committed to that country.

Some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Cisco and Hewlett Packard are doing business in Egypt. On Wednesday, ABC7 spoke with the CEOs of high tech companies that have personal stakes. They're from the Middle East and are investing in Egypt's future.

Just days before the protests began, Plug and Play Tech Center, a Sunnyvale incubator, created a bridge to Egypt. Like other technology giants, it has opened an office in Cairo's so called Smart Village. It has taken seven startups under its wing, bringing the money and mentorship of Silicon Valley to the Middle East.

"I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg of the economic development in the region," says Saeed Amidi from Plug And Play Tech Center.

Amidi is monitoring the unrest in Egypt. Much of it is fueled by the young and the educated, who are frustrated by high unemployment, which is at nearly 25 percent.

President Barack Obama's Cairo speech in 2009 persuaded some of this nation's high tech CEO's to begin a concerted outreach. Ossam Hassanein, from TechWadi, attended a conference for Egyptian entrepreneurs in October and he's hoping the moves to launch startups will survive the current upheaval.

"It is to some extent business unusual, but it is still continuing. We are going to have to slow down for a month or two to make sure streets are safe," said Hassanein.

"The banks are closed in Egypt, but I think it's a very short hiccup to a big opportunity that lies between the Egyptian people and the world," says Amidi.

Amidi believes more high tech companies should evaluate the market once stability is restored. Egyptian native and CEO Constantin Delivanis, from the BDNA Corporation, says it's his personal mission to help bring about change.

"One single startup can propagate through the entire Egyptian opportunity landscape. I believe that in my heart," says Delivanis.

Delivanis talked about what he called "hope with a dash of desperation" that he sees in the younger generation pushing for entrepreneurial opportunities. That desperation is backed up by a United Nations report which found it takes more than two years for a young person in Egypt to find a solid job after graduating from school.