Careem Egypt Managing Director Wael Fakharany On The Transition From Google To Startup Life


I first met Wael Fakharany at BECO Capital’s Boost MENA conference in November last year, and though we spoke for only a few minutes then, I remember being quite taken in by the exuberance of his personality- it was this individuality that struck me again when I got to have a longer chat with him in December. It’s really quite easy to see Fakharany’s passion and drive for his role as the Managing Director for Careem in Egypt, and for those of you who follow his blog posts on Medium, I can confirm that he is every bit as hopeful and optimistic as his writing makes him out to be. Fakharany joined Careem after a nine-year stint at Google, and while the startup’s unicorn status hadn’t been declared at the time of our conversation Fakharany was quite emphatic that the four months he had spent with his new employer had been a “phenomenal” experience.

“When I stepped into this role, I never expected the kind of impact that I would have, and the kind of impact I would be able to do, you know, in [a matter of] weeks,” he says. “But this business keeps surprising me with some incredible opportunities.” Given its massive population, Egypt is an important market for Careem in the MENA region, and the company has been steadily growing its brand in the country, with its services now available in the six cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Damanhour, Mansoura, Tanta and Hurghada. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing though- Cairo, for instance, saw drivers of the country’s traditional “white” taxis protest against ride hailing apps like Careem for eating into their business. But in September, Careem delivered a feat of sorts when it announced the integration of 42,000 “white” taxis into its existing fleet- it was a move that clearly indicated Careem’s emphasis on being a truly local institution that is integrated with and contributes to the development of the overall ecosystem around it.

It is this mission that is also driving Careem’s new initiative with the country’s youth ministry, which Fakharany reveals will potentially see the two parties work together on “economically empowering 70,000 people in Egypt in 2017.” It’s an impressively ambitious initiative, of course, but Fakharany believes that it signals only the start of the positive impact that Careem could bring to the country’s population. “We are not an employer- they are not employees, they are independent contractors,” he says. “But having 70,000 people in the network, who you can economically empower and give either part-time or full-time income, is an incredible force in 6-8 months of the operation. And I think this is the tip of the iceberg. There are probably nine million people in the working age in Egypt who are looking for opportunities. And if we can economically empower a million of them, it’s just an incredible feeling. So, when I give you hope that your future is going to be better, your surroundings are going to be better. You are going to become bankable… You’re going to do upward mobility in the society… There’s this incredible virtuous circle that is created when you give people hope. So I couldn’t be more hopeful about 2017. I think 2017 will be a springboard for some phenomenal activities for Careem in Egypt, for sure.”

Hearing Fakharany speak, it becomes quite apparent that he shares a lot of the same corporate ideals as Careem co-founders Magnus Olsson, Mudassir Sheikha and Abdullah Elyas have professed to in the past, and he confirms that this factor indeed played a key role in his decision to move from Google to the startup. “First of all, the company has an incredible mission, which is to facilitate the lives of people, and build an awesome organization,” he explains. “And these are the guys I would like to work with, in that they are good, ethical, hardworking, fair, tough guys. You couldn’t expect more from a colleague, or a partner, or a boss… I think great leaders are people who are just good in creating other leaders, and [they] almost have no control over this. So you don’t do this by design- you do it by basically just empowering people, being nice and civil to people, and [being] authentic and doing the right thing… So, Magnus, Mudassir, Abdulla, the three co-founders, are people that I highly respect, and you want to be with them all the time, because they’re just good, kind, hardworking, tough, and fair people. You couldn’t ask for more.”

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