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Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Sylndr’s Omar El Defrawy

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Omar El Defrawy, co-founder and CEO of Sylndr (LinkedIn).

My name is Omar El Defrawy, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Sylndr. I started my professional career as an intern in the Central Bank of Egypt’s reserve management department, then went on to work in investment banking at EFG Hermes for six years. Right before co-founding Sylndr, I joined Elmenus’ team and became the CFO and a board member.

My experience at EFG exposed me to a myriad of industries. My tenure there also helped me hone my presentation and selling skills. I was on the investment side of the fence, and witnessed how you can successfully pitch and sell a company to investors.

Elmenus, on the other hand, enabled me to learn the skills needed to lead a tech startup. I learned the ins and outs of the operations side of the business, and learned how to manage a rapidly growing business. I was not a traditional CFO in any sense of the word; instead, I worked with the growth team, the commercial team, and the operations team.

It was in August 2021 that I decided to start a business of my own. Coincidentally, two days before I decided to resign, my wife informed me that we were going to have a baby. I had just finished reading The Hard Thing about Hard Things, the awesome book that so many founders have recommended in the Founder the Week column [laughs]. It inspired me to build a startup from scratch. I didn’t have a business model in mind yet, but knew that starting my own business was something that I had to do while I was still young.

We founded Sylndr in November 2021, with the aim of making the process of buying and selling used cars trustworthy and without any hassle. We are currently focused on buying used cars and offer inspections at no cost to the customer from the comfort of their homes. After we’re done with the inspection, we offer a price for the vehicle and the customer can be paid via a variety of instant payment methods.

The two problems that we want to address: The lack of trust between buyers and sellers in the used car market, and the lack of accessibility to deferred finance. Our aim is not to be the biggest used car retailer in the market. Instead, our goal is to be the most trustworthy retailer in the market.

I began looking at countries that are similar to Egypt in terms of demographics, challenges, customer behavior, and so on. While doing so, I came across a company called Kavak, the first Mexican startup to attain a USD 1 bn valuation. I stumbled upon an interview with Carlos Garcia, the company’s CEO, who explained the challenges faced by Mexico's used car industry. The challenges were identical to those we face in Egypt. Among other things, Garcia explained that there was complete mistrust between buyers and sellers, and that resonated with me. After reading a lot about second-hand car startups abroad, I delved into the business models that failed and into the ones that continue to thrive. I became determined to start a business that would tackle that same problem in Egypt.

We will start venturing into the selling side of the equation by the end of 2022. We will offer a seamless online experience that will enable users to fully view used cars, both from the inside and outside, prior to making a purchase. We will also be offering our users a warranty for several months on the used car they are buying, and a money-back guarantee.

The most important KPIs I focus on: These include monitoring the health of our conversion funnels, the level of customer satisfaction, and tracking our burn rates and our income margins.

I don’t think solo-founded startups can be as successful as ones started by a solid team of co-founders. The founder journey can be very lonely and stressful, so you need to surround yourself with competent co-founders who can compliment your weaknesses, and who you can always turn to for advice. I knew that my chosen line of business would be quite operationally- intensive, so I decided to find the right co-founders who would be able to help me navigate this journey.

We raised USD 12.6 mn in our pre-seed round earlier this year. The round was led by RAED Ventures and featured others like Algebra Ventures, Nuwa Capital, 1984 Ventures, and Global Founders Capital. We are not planning on raising new funds soon. As a team and a company, we have a lot of building to do and a lot of milestones to achieve before raising more capital.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still go down the investor route. Our business is very difficult to bootstrap. Ours is a very capital intensive sector: we had to build a very solid operational foundation, equally solid technology infrastructure and create a platform that provides a seamless customer experience. Investors obviously bring capital to the table and I think that’s the least important asset they bring. They also provide strategic advice, market insights, professional support, and so much more.

Our long-term goal is to become a multi-market, vertically integrated business and a one-stop shop that enables users to buy and sell used cars and one that provides deferred payment options for our customers. We will be partnering with banks and various financing stakeholders to ensure that the customer experience is simple. We also want to provide various solutions including body and paint protection, roadside assistance, and so much more. To ensure that the quality of work is top tier, we plan to build a refurbishment facility of our own as well.

Startups that I think are killing it include MaxAB, Rabbit, and Trella. They are solving real problems and I love how impactful they are.

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