I spent time with Tamer Ahmed, Seeds Program Manager, Cairo iLab, for the French telecom giant Orange. We watched events together, hung out at the receptions and talked business and politics. I asked Tamer as someone on a global hunt for new ideas, services and opportunities, how Orange approaches innovation and what he looks for in his seed program.
Tamer suggested that one of the keys is openness, how employees can be encouraged to contribute what they think, and get senior management sponsorship. Accepting failure, even promoting and celebrating it. Tamer believes that when the company talks about innovation, “we have to go to the actual customer and the actual environment. Go to malls and cafes, see how people react to things”.
Orange is engaging in innovation for multiple cultures and places as they serve a big footprint, extending from Europe to Botswana, with people working from the U.S. to Japan, so they get the best from each culture and each country, in a truly global environment and company.
Sometimes a small improvement can make a big difference in the lives of people. Orange has a service called Internet for All, allowing people far away from a 3G coverage area to get connected. Tamer describes a trial the company performed in Uganda at an orphan school. Previously, the teacher would have to travel miles to Kampala just to get an email. “Innovation is nothing unless you have something that touches the lives of people. Then you feel you have made a difference.”
As an Egyptian, Tamer also talked about current developments in his country and prospects for progress and peace, the value of patience and the need hope in a time of dramatic change.
Here’s a look at the start-up competition that Tamer and his colleagues sponsored at the Summit.
A series of start-ups looking for VC funding have 10 mins each to deliver their pitches to an expert judging-panel of venture capitalists. Following their pitches the judges provide feedback on each business and declare the winning idea.
The judges in the video are:
Jacky Abitbol, VP Corporate Development, Orange
Tamer Ahmed, Seeds Program Manager, Cairo iLab, Orange
Nathalie Boulanger, Senior Vice-president, Start-up Ecosystem, Orange
Usama Fayyad, Executive Chairman, Oasis 500
Gilles Lapierre, SVP Investment, du
Sherif Safwat, Executive Director, 21st Century Digital Arabia
Love this Ryan Gosling riff in the new HBO film, Seduced and Abandoned, in describing how he got into acting.
“But that’s the best part about Los Angeles. It’s filled with all these Don Quixote type characters. Everyone’s left their families, their homes, their friends, their jobs, to pursue a dream. Where they know that the percentage of them achieving that dream is Never. And they do it anyway. And everyone has shared the same dream. And no one is sure if it is a premonition or a delusion. And there’s only one way to find out.”
I have been creating, innovating and marketing new forms of media for thirty years. My projects have ranged from senior executive roles in the United States and Australia and the founding of Silicon Valley-based digital media companies to international consulting assignments and globetrotting book projects.
I currently reside on the Thai island of Koh Phangan. I write books by the sea, conduct writing and visioning workshops, and help individuals and groups tell their stories. For information on personal and organizational coaching, visit The Vision Project.