When Mike Edwards received an email forwarded from Clint Nelsen, Co-Founder of Startup Labs and Startup Weekend with the Subject, “today is the happiest day in my life,” he couldn’t help but grin. An entrepreneur named Mohamed Alborno, who lived halfway around the world in Egypt, had just been approved to receive his Canadian Permanent Residency and according to Nelsen was “one of the hardest working guys” Mike would ever meet. To Mohamed, this life-changing milestone was over 10 hard years in the making and Mike was more than happy to provide him with the soft landing he needed to set up shop in Canada.
Mike & Mohamed in the GrowLab Office in Vancouver
I caught up with Mohamed recently to find out more about his entrepreneurial journey and why he set his sights on starting a company in Canada.
Maura: Welcome to Canada! Tell me a little bit about your entrepreneurial background:
Mohamed: In 2001, I was a telecom and computer engineering student in Egypt and fell in love with Bluetooth and wireless technologies. That same year, I entered the Computer Society International Design Competition with a Bluetooth-based system I created to aid the visually impaired. Shortly after that, I started my first company, Design Valley, a one-stop shop for design-based applications and websites. I applied for a Canadian Visa to bring Design Valley to Canada in 2004 but was denied access.
You are not only an entrepreneur, you are also a filmmaker. Tell me about your latest startup, Crowdsway.
Crowdsway is a crowdsourcing platform for film, video and media. It connects filmmakers and artists looking for projects with SMEs and NFPs wanting to create promotional videos, commercials and films. It started after I attended a Kino filmmaking workshop in Manchester, named Filmonik. I met and worked with amazing talents that produce quality films and videos but who can’t make a living from what they love doing. Hence, Crowdsway was incorporated 2 years later. After attending the workshop in 2010, I decided to become a filmmaker.
How did you get connected to Mike Edwards?
Clint Nelsen, co-founder of Startup Weekend and Startup Labs introduced me to Mike Edwards. Startup Labs is also an investor in Crowdsway Inc.
I wanted to come to Canada because it’s a place I knew I could call home. It’s also a technologically advanced, friendly country that welcomes immigrants. I knew I’d have a much better chance for me and my startup if I moved to Canada.
What was it like where you were before you came to Canada?
In February 2012, I was accepted into Flat6labs, which is one of the best Startup incubators in Egypt. Flat6Labs was the first step towards making Crowdsway a reality. Startup Labs also joined Crowdsway and gave it another great step forward by introducing me to Mike Edwards of Initio. Since Crowdsway is a company and movement that has a global reach it was a necessity to find a good place to reach the world, which is why I chose Canada.
What was the process like to get a Canadian visa?
8 years of preparation and dreaming and 2 years of applying and waiting. Bottom line, it’s not easy but definitely worth it!
Did you receive outside investment for your startup and how big is your team?
I received seed investment from Flat6labs and Startup Labs and have 2 full-time employees and 4 part-time freelancers. In the Crowdsway network we have hundreds of filmmakers and artists that we hope to help make a living doing what they love doing.
What are your plans now that you are in Canada?
Find my next investor, build a network of Canadian filmmakers and artists and take Crowdsway to the next level.
Mohamed landed in Vancouver, BC on May 23. He will be working out of the GrowLab office and couch surfing with Mike until he gets his bearings. If you would like to learn more about Mohamed, check out his website and follow his adventures on Twitter.