In 2012, Mohamed Farid Saleh (Quantitative Finance, 2008) founded Dcode EFC, a leading economic and financial forecasting and advisory firm in Egypt, which went on to grow successfully despite being established during a time of economic uncertainty. This commitment to help businesses and organisations to better face improve economic uncertainty across the country rightfully earned Mohamed the Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards in Egypt earlier on this year.
Following the awards, we caught up with Mohamed to find out more…
Congratulations on winning the Entrepreneurial Award at the Study UK Alumni Awards! What does this new title mean to you?
It means a lot to me. It is a recognition for an effort and risk taken in a period of extreme difficulty. Moreover, receiving this recognition after I left the entrepreneurial project indicates its sustainability of impact. Being a Study UK Alumni Award winner from the British Council is an honour and recognition that anyone who has studied in the UK would want to receive, especially that’s based on a competitive process.
If we go back a little, can you tell me about your time at Cass and what happened after you graduated?
My time at Cass was challenging and rewarding at the same time. The challenge came from the fact that my chosen course covered both rigorous theory and practice, which required several hours to be put into studies compared to other courses, and of course from the fact that 2008 was the year of the financial crisis. The rewarding part was being close to all investment firms and banks, which enabled me to create networks that are of great value for my career and are considered an asset.
After graduating in 2008, I joined the Egyptian Ministry of Investment (MoI) as a Senior Financial Economist and Head of Capital Markets and Economics Unit. The unit was mandated to handle several projects, including Egypt’s capital market development, and monitoring the performance of all regulatory bodies governing the non-bank financial services. In 2010, I was appointed as the Vice Chairman of The Egyptian Exchange to 2011, which was one of the most turbulent times facing Egypt’s capital markets as it was during the January 2011 revolution, the Arab spring.
After finishing my term in 2011, I decided with a group of entrepreneurs and economists to found the currently prominent consulting firm, Dcode Economic and Financial Consulting (Dcode EFC). It provided a wide array of consulting services among which is economic intelligence and rigorous economic forecasting in a period of serious economic ambiguity to cater for the needs of private businesses, international and domestic investors. Dcode EFC‘s economic forecasts and scenario analysis was a corner stone for many businesses to design responses to economic shocks and variables such as foreign exchange and interest rate movements, economic and consumption growth…etc. Furthermore, economic policy advocacy was another line of business that enabled the private businesses voice to be heard in a period of economic ambiguity that smeared all expansion and operational plans of companies in Egypt.
In August 2017, I left Dcode EFC to embark on another endeavour and I was appointed as Chairman of The Egyptian Exchange. What was really rewarding about my exit was the continuation and expansion of the company after I left. Founding a startup and ensuring that along the way you are setting the sufficient processes and institutionalisation is one of the biggest challenges in start-ups. Having succeeded in establishing a sustainable business that is not dependent on the founders for surviving is the most important aspect. It is one of the key successes that any entrepreneur should be looking for.
So, tell us how Dcode EFC came about?
The idea of this firm came about from analysing the economic and political situation in Egypt around end of 2011. The economic policy making set-up was tarnished by January 2011 revolution, and hence, the economic uncertainty regarding the policy and economic responses raised the questions about how would the policymakers respond from the one hand, and how would the economy, investors, consumers and other players respond from the other hand to such uncertainty.
Encouraged by the co-founders to be, we started the journey of developing a business plan and further analysing the idea and if it indeed, could be a revenue generating idea sufficient to found a business on it. The quest of further studying the idea started in December 2011, and the establishment of Dcode EFC took place in September 2012.
What were the most rewarding aspects of starting the business?
There are several rewarding experiences in this journey. The first and foremost, is seeing the company grow and the number of employees doubling from a year to another. The second, is witnessing the positive impact of Dcode EFC‘s advice on businesses that have been served and especially the small and medium enterprises. This positive impact is what Dcode EFC had targeted and even considered it its slogan; “Advice is judged by results, not intentions”. The third, is fostering the idea of Dcode EFC to grow, and the brand to grow within and beyond the borders of Egypt. The final rewarding experience, is the company growing despite exiting this venture, resigning from being the Chairman and CEO and seeing my successors continue building the processes of Dcode EFC to ensure its sustainable path.
What were the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge regarding the idea of Dcode EFC was to show potential clients with the value of services. Usually, start-ups always start with a semi-quantifiable market demand. At Dcode EFC, we initially created the demand, only to a point whereby the potential was unleashed when clients tested the services, and tested the rigours and accuracy of Dcode EFC‘s economic intelligence and policy advocacy services.
Do you have advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
My first piece of advice is not to follow mine, or anyone else’s footsteps. It always has to come from within. However, I can provide some points to be taken into consideration for any person willing to embark on a new business or venture as follows:
- A good idea is not enough, the co-founders and team are crucial for the initial success for any start-up. The team’s solidarity should be tested not only in good times, but it is during conflicts and bad times that would reveal how well is the team positioned to create value, and work on turning the idea to reality.
- Creating start-ups is not an easy endeavour, it requires perseverance, ambiguity tolerance, and most importantly resourcefulness and teamwork.
- Be ok with losing before being happy with wins. This is the only way that would enable the entrepreneur to stand on his feet after defeats, that would happen, and often.
- Finally, always remember, it is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t be overconfident with early big wins, it is about the repetitive wins, even if small ones.