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Thursday, 17 September 2020

My WFH Routine: Yehia Ashour, CEO and co-founder of Beltone SME

Yehia Ashour, CEO and co-founder of Beltone SME: My Morning / WFH Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Yehia Ashour (LinkedIn), CEO and co-founder of Beltone SME.

My name is Yehia Ashour, CEO and co-founder of Beltone SME: Launched in April of this year, Beltone SME is introducing a revenue based financing scheme for SMEs in Egypt. Some institutions provide loans, others ask for equity in exchange for financing. What we do is somewhere in between. We finance SME growth in exchange for a percentage of revenue for a specific period of time, all while offering variable payment. We benefit from the upside potential for growth while also sharing the risk with up and coming businesses. As a business, you sort of get the benefit of both worlds.

I was heading the Egypt operations of a South African SME fund management operation called GroFin for the past five years when I decided to make the leap last October, with my partner and former colleague, to get things moving on something of our own. The company financed SMEs from a developmental and impact perspective through quasi-equity instruments which got me thinking that maybe I should try creating a more Egypt-tailored institution.

Revenue-based financing for SMEs is a relatively new idea globally and one that's never been done before in Egypt. We spoke to a bunch of potential investors until we clicked the most with Beltone. So we agreed to partner with them to launch Beltone SME as an impact fund that could strengthen local manufacturers and businesses.

We’re lucky to have gotten this partnership secured mid-pandemic, but it wasn’t all that bad. Working on setting up Beltone SME in the middle of the pandemic gave us the gift of time. We were working to sort out paperwork and hiring without the pressure of needing to immediately deploy assets, which kind of alleviated some stress. Licensing, on the other hand, took way longer than expected.

We’re expecting to deploy our first investment as soon as next month. Once we deploy, we have enough of our own capital secured for a full year’s worth of financing. By next year we’ll start pitching to investors who are looking to get in on the fund, which we so far have 15 transactions in the pipeline for.

I wake up at 6am everyday and take my French bulldog for a walk while I start reading Enterprise. I usually make my way over to a workout with a group of friends from 7:30-8:30/9am where we do a functional training workout routine called On-track. Afterwards I take a shower and head to the office by 9:30/10am, at which point I start by checking emails and following up on pending tasks from the day before. The day really starts off with a series of meetings with finance and legal divisions from Beltone. Building strong relationships with potential investors or people that might be interested in partnering with the fund is also super important these days, so I schedule two to three calls or meetings to pitch our idea and tell them about my background.

On most days it's an early night in for me: Sometimes I’ll run some errands after work or meet up with some friends and family but usually I head home, chill with my wife and get in bed early to start the next day feeling refreshed.

On weekends I’m usually surfing on the North Coast: We’ve been lucky to see some great waves for some five or six weekends this summer in Sahel, which is a bit unusual but something I’m very grateful for. During the winter me and a group of friends head to Alexandria or Agami where you can catch some decent-sized waves, especially during the stormy season. I'm hibernating on most afternoons so I’m prepared for a good swell on the weekend.

I'm trying to read a lot more about impact investment as I'm working to build Beltone SME into a one stop shop for SMEs. Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, King of Capital David Carey and John E. Morris and Monkey Business by John Rolfe and Peter Troob have been some helpful reads. We really want to see local companies grow, so I'm trying to strengthen my knowledge as much as possible in the field. Salt and Suits by Phil Jarratt is another one about how surfing became the bn-USD industry that I'm currently enjoying. Otherwise I’ve been watching Flaked on Netflix and some random WWII documentaries whenever I get the chance.

I think my previous experience really emphasized the importance of having a local player like Beltone SME in the Egyptian market and I'm really excited about the challenge up ahead. I naturally find myself worrying, but in this journey I feel like I'm doing my best and I'm working on something that adds value. So long as I'm working towards this vision of where I want to go and where I want Beltone SME to be, I'm staying relatively calm and enjoying the ride.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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