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Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Mozare3’s Hussein Abo Bakr

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Hussein Abo Bakr, founder and CEO of Mozare3 (LinkedIn).

My name is Hussein Abo Bakr, and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Mozare3. I studied international marketing as an undergraduate and went on to get my MBA specializing in operations management, both at AUC. I started working in my family’s business, Fridal, as an undergrad, scheduling classes so I could split my time between both worlds. In 2008, I founded my first startup, Fridal Wahat Herbs Farm, which was the first farm in Egypt to fully utilize solar-powered irrigation, and is currently the country’s top exporter of herbs.

Mozare3, launched in 2021, is Egypt’s first agri-fintech platform. We offer direct contract farming between corporations and Egyptian farmers, including digital invoices and deliveries. We also offer embedded finance, providing farmers with pesticides and fertilizers instead of money. Finally, we provide agronomy support teaching farmers how to produce high quality crops, through our app and contact center, and with visits to farms by our agricultural engineers. We plan to also offer non-agri assets — from cows to refrigerators — to those farmers who prove credible enough to expand.

We currently operate in 10 governorates, and our goal is to expand to five more by the end of the year. By 2023, we expect to be operating across the entire country. We serve around 3k farmers, and hope to grow that fourfold by the end of the year, and to reach 100k farmers in 2023. We’re also looking to grow our corporate client base from seven to 25 this year, and then to 100 by the end of next year. We aim to cross EGP 1 bn in revenues by the end of 2023.

We plan to continue operating in Egypt exclusively for the next two years, given the huge demands in the local market. The next step for us would be to expand into Morocco and Sudan.

We’re finalizing our series A funding round and expect to close in the very near future. Mozare3 raised USD 1.1 mn in our pre-seed round, and an additional USD 2 mn in a second round of financing. Our company’s three institutional investors are Algebra Ventures, EFG EV, and Disruptech Ventures, and we have six angel investors backing us as well.

My co-founders and I each brought something to the table when we decided to launch Mozare3. I know the agribusiness market and have experience with farmers. Tamer El-Raghy, who handles fundraising at Mozare3, (LinkedIn) has a wealth of knowledge on all things agtech, and is managing director of Acumen Resilient Agriculture Fund. Mohamed Okasha (LinkedIn), who is responsible for building our fintech products at Mozare3, is the managing partner at Disruptech Ventures and has immense experience in management, and great insights on who to connect with in the industry.

The most important KPIs I focus on are contracts signed with customers, successful deliveries from farmers to clients, the percentage of produce that passes quality standards, gross margin per contract, and the satisfaction level of both farmers and corporate clients.

I believe in the value investors can bring to the table from day one. My first two startups started off as bootstrapped businesses. For my second, Plantform Agribusiness, I got private equity firm Tanmeya Capital Ventures on board a year after I started. This made me realize how vital it is to have investors on your side.

Mozare3 is not a typical startup, in that we had investors, customers, farmers, revenues, and an operational team from the get-go. Because we had the right connections, a business model predetermined years in advance, and enough investment, we hit the ground running. A few years ago, the market wasn’t ready for an agri-fintech company. When the fintech market matured in Egypt, we felt that the agtech / agri-fintech market became ripe for growth and it was the right time to launch.

I don’t think I had to make sacrifices to focus on my journey as a startup founder; I would prefer to say that I had to pick my priorities. I had to shift my career to focus on my new ventures, and allocate my personal wealth and time to them. Of course, I did have to give up a lot of family time to focus on my startups.

The best part of my job is seeing the impact we’re having on people, from farmers to industry workers and agricultural engineers. I also love the fact that our team members join Mozare3 because they believe in the work we’re doing. It’s always reassuring to see the team as enthused as I am about Mozare3’s tremendous social impact.

The worst part of the job is managing expectations. Because Mozare3 is a market leader when it comes to agtech, stakeholders, the team, and the public in general sometimes have unrealistic expectations. They want us to solve problems that have been around for hundreds of years and often forget that we’re still a small startup [laughs]. Yes, we have potential, but we still need help.

I know a lot of entrepreneurs say that the founder’s journey is a lonely one, but I don’t quite agree. If you’re feeling alone, that may be because you’re not integrating the right people in your journey. Your co-founders, investors, and even your family can always help share your burden. I can understand feeling like you’re the most invested person in the success of the business. That’s normal — as a founder, you stand to gain the most from the prosperity of the business, so don’t expect anyone else to be as invested as you are.

It’s hard for me to pick an exit strategy for Mozare3 because of the company’s unique potential to boost Egyptian agricultural exports. Ideally, in the long term, I have a dream to democratize ownership of the company’s shares, enabling farmers and all the vested stakeholders to own a piece of Mozare3. I think a cooperative structure would ensure Mozare3’s longevity. Another great alternative would be a hybrid model that fuses a traditional IPO structure with that of a cooperative.

Startups that I think are really impactful and doing amazing work are solar player SolarizEgypt, trucking startup Naqla and B2B logistics firm Khazenly. We’re hoping to work with all three at Mozare3.

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