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Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Rabbit Mobility’s Kamal ElSoueni

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Kamal ElSoueni, co-founder and CEO of Rabbit Mobility (LinkedIn).

My name is Kamal ElSoueni, and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Rabbit Mobility. I studied finance and economics at the American University in Cairo. Upon graduation, I started off as a business analyst at cab-hailing startup Easy Taxi, which was my initial hook into the transportation sector. After many a night spent talking to drivers at gas stations, and many calls with Easy Taxi’s branches in different markets, I learned lots about the gaps in the sector and how to capitalize on these challenges and maximize efficiency in Egypt and Africa’s mobility sector. I also worked at PwC in Dubai, where I was a senior management consultant, focusing partly on the transport sector, which again fed into my path to start my own business.

For me, being a startup founder is similar to being a firefighter. You always have new problems that you need to solve immediately. Thankfully, my consulting background gave me the stamina to be able work for 17 hours a day on these problems.

What I really love about my job is seeing our hard work coming to fruition. We initially started operating exclusively in gated communities because we were worried our vehicles would be stolen. We were unable to fully trust our technology and operations. Now, we operate in Zamalek and Maadi, and will be launching in two other neighborhoods by the end of March.

I love the fact that we’ve been able to impact users and change customers’ behaviors. We’re getting a lot of reassuring feedback from users who use our electric vehicles when commuting within their neighborhoods, instead of using their cars for short distances and needlessly polluting the environment. I can happily say that our vehicles have covered approximately 340k kilometers in the past 15 months.

Of course, I had to make sacrifices to focus on my journey as a startup founder. I hope my wife doesn’t read this article [laughs], but I had to give up a lot of family time to focus on my business. I had to miss the birth of my second child, for instance, because we were invited to join The World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh. I am blessed to have such a supportive and understanding family. We are pushing our team to have the right work-life balance, even if we aren’t doing that as founders [laughs].

My advice for any would-be founder is to manage expectations. You have to understand that there will be a lot of factors that will affect your daily job which you will have no power over. When you’re building a business from scratch, you will have no backing, and there will be no specific structure or system that you can adhere to. If you’re working for 30 days for example, 28 of these days may be tiring, consuming, and — to be frank — unhappy days. Then, you’ll find some solace in a day or two of peace and happiness. So brace yourself for hectic, firefighting days for most of the month.

Being a startup founder is not a lonely journey. I consider myself blessed to be working with my best friends. We started this adventure together, starting as a bootstrapped business on our friend, co-founder, and CTO, Bassem Maged’s roof. We used to carry our entire fleet, which was then 50 scooters, four stories up to Bassem’s roof, because there was no elevator [laughs]. Whenever we have tough days at work, we spend the long days and nights talking and solving our problems together.

We have also created a casual working environment. Because most of us had consulting jobs that required wearing suits everyday to work, we decided to change the dynamics entirely at our startup; last year, from April to October, we wore shorts everyday to the office [laughs]. Our neighbors thought we were a bunch of kids having fun, not adults running a thriving business.

The fact that we have friends at other startups who can relate to the problems we face has made our founder journey even easier. Talking to fellow founders is very relaxing and thought-provoking. They face the same challenges on a daily basis, so when we come to them with our problems, they can definitely relate and offer solutions and useful insights. It’s very comforting to talk to founders like Seif Amr and Ahmed Hamouda, the co-founders of Thndr, and Mostafa Amin, the co-founder and CEO of Breadfast — two startups I personally think are killing it. I’m very proud of their success.

Our vision at Rabbit Mobility is to have any trip under 8 km be fulfilled by one of our electronic vehicles, whether that be using our e-scooters for trips under 2 km, or our e-bikes for trips under 5 km, or an e-vespa for trips up to 9 km.

We focus on a number of KPIs. One of them is what we call a “kilo KPI,” which focuses on the number of rides completed through our app. Another KPI that we constantly look at involves the number of carbon dioxide grams that we save through our rides. Finally, we observe recurring users’ behavior. Interestingly, we noticed that 80-85% of our customer base initially download our app for joyrides that last for almost 50 minutes the first two times they use our app, but the third time around ultimately becomes a purpose ride that lasts 10-15 minutes. The purpose rides signify that we are actually solving a problem and are helping customers get from one place to another quickly.

We raised USD 360k in our pre-seed round from a mix of angel investors and Falak Startups. We’re currently fundraising and hope to close another round of financing soon. We hope this round will help us expand into at least 12-15 different cities across Egypt, which is part of our short term goals.

I think accelerators are extremely helpful for startups. They help founders track their KPIs, provide entrepreneurs with great potential for networking and can help you connect with the right investors for your business. That was our experience with Falak.

Our long term goal is to expand into the African market. We know that most of the continent has similar challenges in the transportation sector that we can capitalize on and there are lots of investments in transportation infrastructure. We hope to expand in North Africa first, and then the remainder of the continent.

If I had to pick an exit strategy for my startup, I would choose the acquisition route. We were approached by a player that was keen to enter the market, but we didn’t see eye to eye in terms of vision and culture. If we find a player who wants to enter the market; who shares our values and vision, then the acquisition strategy will likely be the direction for us.

In my downtime, I enjoy hanging around with my family. Playing with my kids is always a daily highlight.

The last great thing I watched was BBC’s The Hunt. I’m a big fan of nature documentaries, and The Hunt is my absolute favorite. David Attenborough’s voice is soothing enough to transport you to a world where stress ceases to exist [laughs].

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