Neil Patel

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In a captivating interview, Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga shares his incredible journey from being born in Cairo, Egypt, to becoming a key player in the global tech and business landscape. From the bustling streets of Cairo to founding and steering successful ventures like Fawry and Careem, Mohamed’s story is about resilience, innovation, and pursuing a dream.

Mohamed’s latest venture capital fund, Exits is a fintech investment banking marketplace that automates investment banking-like services to startups and SMEs.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Mohamed Aboulnaga’s journey teaches us the resilience needed to overcome initial failures and setbacks in entrepreneurship.
  • Mohamed’s diverse ventures, from restaurants to fintech and mobility, showcase the value of exploring varied sectors for business success.
  • The success of Fawry and Careem highlights the importance of identifying and addressing critical market needs for sustainable business growth.
  • Halan’s focus on social impact through technology underscores the potential for startups to create positive change in less privileged communities.
  • Mohamed’s trajectory as a serial entrepreneur emphasizes the importance of learning from failures and leveraging diverse experiences for future success.
  • The entrepreneur’s post-exit ventures stress the often-overlooked aspect of consolidation in the tech industry, paving the way for future growth.
  • Mohamed’s vision for a global marketplace for startups highlights the potential for a seamless and transparent platform for worldwide mergers and acquisitions in the tech sector.


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About Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga:

Mohamed Aboulnaga ” Nagaty” is an emerging markets venture builder, investor, and tech entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in tech entrepreneurship.

He is currently the founder and CEO of ” Pie,” the leading M&A advisory for startup firms in Egypt, the former cofounder/CEO of KLIVVR ( Egypt’s first digital agent banking platform), and the CEO of for fintech investment banking in the MENA region, co-founder of Halan.

Halan is Africa’s largest super app and Egypt’s most funded app in 2020, according to Forbes Middle East, and most funded in 2020/2021/2022.

Mohamed is also the Partner/cofounder in Cash Cows (the largest early-stage startup catalyst in Egypt) and Relations Advisor in Disruptech Ventures (the largest fintech fund in Egypt).

Prior to co-founding Halan, Nagaty served as Regional Director at Careem, the Middle East’s number one ride-hailing application recently acquired by Uber for more than $3 billion.

He also sits on the board of several Tech companies, including Koinz, Robusta, Waffarha, Checkme, and Drowzy, and is an angel investor in multiple tech startups, including Gameball, Sharwa, Sokna, Gameya, and many others.

Earlier, Nagaty started his career at Fawry in account management and business development in 2012 and headed the BD (Fawry was the first tech company to IPO in Egypt, reach $2B in valuation in public markets) as well as start Egypt’a first food and beverage fund in 2010.

Nagaty has completed the CXO Academy program at INSEAD, France, and a B.Sc., in Electronics Engineering from the American University in Cairo, Egypt

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Connect with Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So today. We have a um founder that has done it multiple times you know we’re going to be very much enjoying his journey. You know we’re going to be talking about building scaling financing and also exiting. You know he’s been able to see multiple billion dollar exits you know, happening. So. Very inspiring. You know the conversation that we have in front of us so without furtherdo. Let’s welcome our guests today nagati I will naga look up to the show. So originally born in Kaido in Egypt so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, hi how are you.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Okay, thank you for having me today. I’m always been a fan of this podcast. So I’m happy to be here I was born in Cairo and 1986 Cairo is a very hot city and Egypt egypt is and known for the permit. So I’m sure many people know egypt by the permits and the camels. It’s a very hot environment I was born and raised and my my childhood was mainly 80 s and 90 s. So it. It was. It was a tough ride at the beginning but I I got used to the city I got used to how busy it is and I now enjoy it.

Alejandro Cremades: So now. Obviously I mean being born there and next to the pyramids and and I mean obviously you you moved around a little bit there and joined also the American University So I Guess that that gave you also access to to a world view but I guess in your case, how did you get into. The whole world of computers because you studied computer science as well.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: When I was a young kid I was fascinated with the internet and the computers it was the beginning of an era of everything happening I remember the old way of. Loading the internet with all those stripes happening and very slow internet happening I I was fascinated with the cds with the technologies with the floppy disks and how everything is advancing and I spent most of my time on a very old Mac that my dad used to bring to me. And then as I grew up I started to do some trainings and in in places with that that put computers and pieces together and put Tvs together and that’s how I got fascinated. So it was a no brainer to get into computer science and engineering.

Alejandro Cremades: Now for you once you finish your degree I mean during that time. Obviously you got a little bit of taste of the business world I mean you did brokerage a restaurants a real estate all types of stuff now. 1 thing that you did though is. Ah, soon as you graduated you literally started 3 companies at the same time I mean that sounds a little bit crazy and I know that they didn’t unfold the way that you had expected. So why? 3 at the same time and what did you learn? you know, especially from from that experience.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: When I graduated I was all over the place I was fascinated by entrepreneurship and I thought that managing a company is something easy and I had 3 main ideas so I went out and started the 3 together. Ah, each of them with different partners and they all flopped in 2 years I wasn’t dead and they were all gone.

Alejandro Cremades: So what did you learn from I would say because it’s either you succeed or you learn right? I think that the more you fail the more that you succeed. So I guess from perhaps that that failure now it was your first time going at it. You went at it with 3 companies I’m sure that it was painful.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yeah, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: Right? The lesson that needed to be learned.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yeah, it was actually very tough because I borrowed some money from my sisters I have 3 sisters from my dad from my cousins to start those companies and now those companies were gone and they owed my family money so they thought that. This guy is crazy and he’s just losing money and I think it’s also elimination I Knew what I don’t want to do by losing money at those companies and failing 3 times at the beginning of my career.

Alejandro Cremades: But you know one thing let to the next as an as an entrepreneur you know you’re always gonna be an entrepreneur and out of all things you get into restaurants. You know the restaurant business by opening a Lebanese restaurant there that ended up growing a little bit faster than what you would have hoped. But.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: Restaurants I mean restaurants don’t scale that easy, but it sounds like that was a pretty interesting journey for you.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yeah, like restaurants was I was a very social person I had a lot of connections and contacts and during my university years a guy who owned the restaurant and told me to come and help him with the reservations of the marketing so this was the main thing I started to click with. So this is why I and I was lebanese food is very famous in our part of the world. So I thought a lebanese restaurant is an old-brainer and this is we were just out of the revolution and we had a lot of problems with the economy in Egypt. So this was my my aim to do it and it moved. 1 very well actually.

Alejandro Cremades: Now it sounds like faudy is what changed the courserus of things because that also got you thinking on restaurants versus St So what happened.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yeah. I was doing the rest business and then this started at like 3 four PM every day the night the morning was very slow and the restaurant and a friend’s dad was the guy who started trey so and we were like 3 very close friends at 1 of us. 1 one of us that started the companies ways like join and help us with sales and the in the morning since you work in the and the afternoon and even I use the restaurant to host the people to sell to them. So I started to work in februaryy in the morning from like 9 to 2 3 PM and then after this I ran to the restaurants to hustle and do the rests and I stayed juggling both together for around two and a half to 3 years till I till I decided I’ll focus on tech. I I will I will I will move out of the restroom business.

Alejandro Cremades: Now Faudy it sounds like you really wanted to get all in because you sold the restaurant portion and then you bought more shares of Faudy. So what gave you that conviction. You know faudy. Yeah.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yes, ah, honestly, my dad was always against the rest in business. He didn’t like it. It didn’t like how I operated and he thought like any dad like you studied engineering you have to be working in technology and engineering. So he was pushing me away from the rest of the business whenever I did something he was like no matter how much money you make in restaurants you have to leave it. So at the point in time I just felt that I had to choose 1 of them like I I weren’t able to keep going with both so ah and family at that time was. Being known more and more and I was getting more attention and I was not doing very well honestly on the rest of but I tried to turn the better term business into a fund I was managing 48 restaurants instead of 1 and I didn’t have this know how back then so I threw the towel of the restaurants I just said. I’ll just sell my shares I sold my shares I went to my manager and told that I want to buy some shares in family I took some money that I borrowed to store the rest to give back to my family and then I put the rest in family.

Alejandro Cremades: So faudi was essentially the paypal equivalent in the Middle East and definitely was ah a rocket ship. So how was that experience of of being able to experience something that was scalable and repeatable. You know in such an incredible way.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yes.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: I remember the first days of February when we were sharing 2 apartments in a small building with another company and those very small, very limited resources and then we started to get interaction. Ah funds started to put money with us. After I bought the shares I felt like I have money here I’m part I’m a shareholder I’m part of the company I remember the day that one of the one of my colleagues told me I’m a shareholder in the company I felt very jealous. So the moment I bought the shares I felt now I’m part of the company. This made me work more and fight more. And I reached a point it was doing north of 2000000 transactions a day and the part I was running was a startup within the startup it was the b two b part of the business that I started. Um I start to work ah on on my own and I scaled so I learned and what’s Hr. . what’s finance how tech. Is involved in business. How can you grow a company I I wasn’t aware of the word fintech like it was like it was still financial technology. It was not a slang word for fintech back then and boom boom boom it made it very big. And Fai Ipo and 2018 and at the appointed time it was had a $2000000000 valuation now. It’s much less because of what’s happening all around the world but faudi is a household name and in Egypt and the Middle East

Alejandro Cremades: How big how big did foul he get I mean are we talking about unicorn status here. What are we talking about.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, yeah it it crossed it reached around $2000000000 in valuation in the public market but it was a public company.

Alejandro Cremades: So what was your what was your biggest lesson from experiencing an amazing Rocket ship like that you know what were some of the patterns that you recognized.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: First thing is cash flow is very important a company with a lot of cash is a strong one. The second thing is it’s all about the team. The team in floury was one of the best teams I’ve worked with if not the best it was the creme de laram of the engineers and the salesman in Egypt and the third thing is that. Ah, the larger the market the more the opportunity you just keep have to keep going so till today I’m not part of ah the company but it’s growing and growing every year this year. It’s going across $10000000000 of gv so it’s growing and growing even today because there was a big need. When you have a need you have the cash you have the team then you go.

Alejandro Cremades: So in your case, it sounds like you were already in a rocket ship. So why taking the call from a company that ended up becoming Kareem.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: And Faudy. Ah I’m better in the in the and the starting phase I’m ah more ah in my comfort zone when the company is starting. We write on the boards with markers and we dream together. It became a three thousand four thousand employee company and we do like team building stuff and stuff like that I’m um, I’m not a fan of this I’m fan of the first goal moving the ship out of the hole. You know? So when I was approached by the karim team or thater hadir. They told me we want you to help us grow the Egypt ah ah office for Karim I felt okay this is something new. It’s mobility I did financial technology. Let’s do mobility. So and then mobility became a trojan horse and Karim also became. Ah, unicorn so handle that was huge. Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: So so so Kareem maybe see you know, incredible um, unfolding of our story I would say because it was aquireal ultimately by uber by how much.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, yeah, yeah, three point one billion dollars

Alejandro Cremades: So what? What? what? What were some of the things that you saw repeating from faudy to Karim now because I mean 2 companies, $2000000000 companies what what were you seeing there.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Also huge need because the taxi service was very bad in our country and very bad most of the countries around us and Egypt has one hundred and ten million dollars population ah the the region that karimm operated in was even bigger than fawy because it was a middle eastern company. So you’re speaking about. From Morocco to Pakistan. It’s speaking about 600000000 people. It’s a big thing. It’s it’s bigger than the United States and in terms of people. So ah, they need the huge need and the good funding and the great team as I told you so it was also those 3 things money team need money team need. And you put technology and boom you get a unicorn or a spoof.

Alejandro Cremades: As spoof now in your case it was a really big success. Ah, but most importantly is what was a sick way that needed to happen for you to start your next real big company which was Holland you know and this happened.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, yes.

Alejandro Cremades: After you had your son. So obviously it sounds like you know, definitely having a baby you know is what they push you to having another baby another baby in this case in business. Ah, but but but how was that like because obviously you had your prior experience with the restaurants with the failed companies.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: Why did you think at that point that you were ready to start another company of your own.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, let me be honest start during my karimm days that the end of karim days I wanted to do karimm for the masses like there is something called Toctok which is a three- wheeler. It’s a small car that goes into bumpy roads in less privilege that is in Egypt. And there are motorcycles I thought that those products have to have something like karimm we have around two and a half million of those in Egypt we have everywhere in our continent from those so when I was approached by my ex-collegue. Ahmed Mosun who was who used to teach me also at University Computer Science and told me there is a guy who has a dream of doing this and he is the partner with the largest distributor of those 2 and 3 wheelers and then I started reading wrong and and found that. When the the Rogers distributor of the product is part of the startup it. It is better for the distribution. So I went to him I showed him my card as the region director for Karimmi told me man we want you to cofound this company with us. You complete us someone will do the technology. This guy was the Ceo. He told me I will raise money and wasustin will build and you will do the business side and the commercial side and the partnerships and this age and boom we started and it also became a billion dollarre company. Somehow.

Alejandro Cremades: What was the ah business model there of Holland how were you guys making money.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Honestly, it started off as something and now it’s something else. It started off as the uber of the toct tos or the 3 and 2 and 3 readers and then we we we got a million downloads. We started to do a lot of trips and we raised. Ah, $10000000 then released $23000000 we became on the cover of Forbes we went to made it to Cnn. We were awarded everywhere because Egypt is not used to those big crowns and then after this ride hailing started to fade away. So ah, while I was moving out of the company. They created a more bigger conglomerate. Where hele became part of 3 other companies which is called now m and t hadenut are the first letters of the of all of the 3 other companies and that’s now Egypt’s biggest lender so mobility was a trojan horse for users and now it became like a super app for lending with the largest lombok in Egypt. It’s it’s sort of a we chat of our region.

Alejandro Cremades: Now How was also I mean the the journey here because I know that it was a tough beginning then he got picked up, you know then he was tough again. You know how how did you ride that roller coaster of emotions to us. Ah as a founder especially during the tough times.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yes.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, at the beginning I was in a lot of denial I was what I’m doing ah 1 day I wake up I feel I’m going to become idu musk you know and the other day I feel that I’m flopping what the hell I’m I doing and then there was you know there is a moment of aha moment and this was. The moment that we close our big ground which was $23000000 which was the largest round in Egypt back then and we started to be awarded so there is a lot of validation happening and the president in Egypt awarded us and the forbes magazine put it on the cover and stuff like that. So when this happened. I felt okay now I’m going to leave like I finished my role I want to go into the board and the markets again and this more room again. So it was. It was a tough experience was a very tough experience but it what. It it was a very good school for me.

Alejandro Cremades: Well no kidding I mean especially being the co-founder of what ended up becoming um unicorn company now you know after that you know there was quite a bit of stuff that that you did you know from starting an accelerator to doing a fintech fund to developing a venture builder. I guess from all those experiences that ultimately led you to exits which is the company that you are are running today that you acquired and and that you’re leading what were some of the a I would say key ingredients that you saw on all these different teams that you either invested or that you helped build.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Yes.

Alejandro Cremades: You know that really were the key recipe for success. What were some of those things that you were seeing as patterns on those teams. So.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: The team has to complement each other and not fight with each other so each member of the team has to know that they each have a superpower that the other doesn’t have and they have to work together but the superpower makes them unable to understand most of the things that the other team members want to do or want to say. Because if you’re a tech guy I’m a business guy. There is another lady who’s doing marketing For example, you speak technology I speak business and growth and she speaks marketing and spending so we will we will have to agree to disagree and to accept. The superpowers of each other and to listen to each other in the strengths that we convey and this is what I focused on since then so the accelerator actually yesterday you were celebrating the seventh year for the accelerator we incubated 16 companies. It’s run by my partner and now. And I was fascinated that this exp acceleratator also graduated 10 companies that crossed $10000000 of valuation in Egypt. This is a big number and 2 of them crossed 100000006 closed and then the the fund fund was started. Ah, by um, my ex boss in Foy with me and 2 others and after ah, moving a while I realized that no I’m I’m not I’m not good enough to manage people’s money now I’m better at doing m and a and this is where I felt I want to do exits because.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: In our part of the region. There are no mergers and acquisitions properly done and there will no way be very big, big big tech companies or any types of companies without big consolidation and the the big investment banks and the big. Ah, the Morgan Stanley is and Jp Morgan of the world won’t go to a $2000000 company in Egypt to merge it with a $3000000 company in Morocco or a $5000000 and saudi company to measure it with someone euee. So I saw those guys doing this exit thing and I felt that this is the most. Valuable component. So I just bought the website that this did this matching turned it into a company got 2 very good co-founders with me a guy x ic and e b r d who needs the investment bank a lady from Google and I’m doing that today. We did like 70% of the a and and and our area of the world and and technology.

Alejandro Cremades: So so tell us about tell us about then you know, let’s let’s say what? what was that segue into exits why why was exits you know so like I guess like ah like a problem that you thought it was meaningful enough. You know to really tackle after the experience that you had before and.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Are.

Alejandro Cremades: And how did the whole thing you know come about.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, during my tech journey I passed through around 11 exits. Ah we we? Ah, we always had a problem that there were no bankerss to work on this like the karim deal was done by Kridi switch which is a very big banker. But it was very expensive in fowy we we wanted to acquire some companies along the way we didn’t find anyone to help us. Do it. We had to go orself and do it and I was also an advisor to a company called get up south you which does arabic code your books we sort it to storytell. The the the se was very tough because there were no mediator in between and and and and many others that we sold without a mediator. It was tough because the big mediators are very expensive. They ah they might their commission sometimes is more expensive than the deal itself so they won’t do the deal and no one knows. Our ecosystem more than ourselves. So I thought okay, then someone has to do this and it will be me and then when I found those guys doing it actually but not making revenue from it just putting I want a seller I want to buy and matching people I thought okay I’ll buy this I’ll buy the database I’ll give them the credit for starting this I’ll give them. Whatever money I can and then I’ll turn it into something bigger and bigger and bigger and this this year we made it a bit big.

Alejandro Cremades: So tell us about what is the business model there. How how are you guys making money then on exits.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um, we take 5 % from selling or buying. We take 5 % from transaction ah from 3 to 7 but our speed our street spot is 5 we sell ah secondary shares or primary shares any company that wants to raise money sell do m and a they come to us. Or they go on a website and say I want to sell I want to buy they send a manate by son an Nda we’re trying to automate this now actually and then we have something called the virtual data room. You get a username and password go in check everything about the company, get an automated not an automated but a semi-automated valuation approved by us. And then if someone buys we take around 5 this year we closed 7 deeds. We’re now trying to close the 8 before the end of the year ride out we will but we’re trying our average ticket size is around one point five million dollars per transaction. Our top line is crossing $10000000 and we’re touching into $800000 of revenue this year which is in in Egypt. This is a very big number for our second tirop operation.

Alejandro Cremades: So so I guess say for the people that are listening to what would you say is the biggest misconception when it comes to startup M and a.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Is that you don’t need a banker. You don’t need someone in between. We will do it our own this always fails. Someone has to do the work that because it’s a job at the end of the day. It’s like a broker for real estate It’s like a car dealer. And what we want to do is we want to create a marketplace for startups where you can from the United States open open our website or open our platform choose a company in Egypt buy it like you’re buying a phone. This is our dream. We want to turn it into like the ecommerce of. Ah, company transactions. This is what we are aiming at.

Alejandro Cremades: So so I guess say imagine if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of exits is fully realized what does that world look like.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: I I would dream of a world where someone from Mexico can go and exit and buy a company in the Philippines through us and someone from the United States who thinks that Middle East is rising. So instead of buying a bitcoin they go and buy a sa product from Egypt where it will make a lot of money because of difference in and and currency from exporting software and. I want to create like a big big big marketplace for buying and selling shares of private companies across the world with full transparency with full diligence but where people can actually invest in companies either to give them money or to buy secondary shares. And I think that this is not tied.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then now we’re talking about the future I want to talk about the past but doing so with a lens of reflection. Okay, so let’s say I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back to the moment that you’re graduating from American University and then you know with your computer science degree right before.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um.

Alejandro Cremades: Going crazy at starting 3 companies at the same time and let’s say you’re able to stop that younger self on the tracks and you’re able to say to that younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Um.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Ah, my my my piece of advice would be do not be fascinated with famous people and people who are big in business. This is the thing that created most of the problems for me like I got fascinated with a very known Businessman A very known interpreter A very known figure. And this makes them make me work very hard for them and do my best to please them and then they make a lot of money out of me or out of the team and then once this happens when you try to ask them for something then you see usually you see the other side. Which is you’re a go Away. You’re done So What you should stick to is your values and your business model and your business needs and don’t wait for validation from just famous people because they became famous.

Alejandro Cremades: So for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so that’s correct.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: To me I reply on Linkedin quite quickly I reply on my email and and about two or three hours ah this is the fact these are the fastest 2 things that I reply to.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey, Nagati thank you so much for being on the dealmakerr show today. It has been an on earth to have you with us.

Mohamed (Nagaty) Aboulnaga: Thank you, thank you very much and I really have a dream to connect the west part of the world with the east part of the world through transactions and exits and hopefully next time we meet in my office in the United States thank you

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing.


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