Bringing the entrepreneurial spirit to Egypt is Shark Tank, the popular American reality show that takes on ambitious young entrepreneurs and gives them the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of prominent founders and CEOs. Back in January, after the show aired in Egypt it gave opportunities for many small starting projects to grow, one of which was the e-commerce platform Virclo, the brainchild of Shark Tank contestant Mohamed El Khouly. Two months after the episode aired, we sat down with El Khouly to learn more about the journey of Virclo and where it is today.
Virclo was born out of a need to fill an obvious market gap. With our current economy and the hike in prices shopping has gotten very expensive and that is where Virclo comes in. Virclo offers a creative solution through a “digitized form of thrifting” helping to make the shopping experience more affordable and accessible to the community. “It’s basically an online platform where users can buy, sell or swap used or new fashion items online including clothes, belts, caps, shoes, jackets and the like, considered a new take on thrifting.” said El Khouly.
When El Khouly came on Shark Tank and made his business proposal, he was able to make a deal with Ayman Abbas, chairman of INTRO group and Ahmed El Sewedy, CEO of El Sewedy Electric to co-invest 2 million Egyptian pounds in Virclo. What made the platform stand out and earn a deal is that it had many perks, the biggest being its quality control and how it’s known to evade online scamming, “we do not put any product on the website unless we ensure that it is from a real photo, not a screenshot or an edited picture.”
Today after the show was aired Virclo grew in more ways than one, “at the time of the show, Virclo had been already been up and running for 2 years but we’ve never done any campaigns or any sort of marketing to promote the platform”. At that time, Virclo was merely a mobile application that had a lot of room for growth, “we had 4800 users before the show, after the show that number grew to 10,000”.
“The exposure we got through Shark Tank opened many doors for us and gave us even more investment opportunities from foreign and regional investors” explained El Khouly and he went on to say that beyond the deal, having Ayman Abbas and Ahmed El Sewedy as partners gave Virclo a huge push as their names alone carried a lot of credibility as both were prominent successful businessmen with powerful companies. When we asked how potential funding of Abbas and El Sewedy will help, the topic of AI came up; El Khouly told us he has big plans to use AI and algorithms to personalize each user experience on the platform so that each user would have a completely different experience on Virclo based on their preferences. It’s the same as how everyone has a different user experience when using Netflix.
When looking to the future, El Khouly has even bigger plans for Virclo of further securing the buying process for the customers using AI, “at the end of the day we want to make Virclo as convenient as possible for everyone”. Through our talk with El Khouly, we got to see how a smart business idea can grow and prosper into a full-fledged project. Seeing how much success Virclo earned through Shark Tank, we think that the concept of investing in young entrepreneurs should grow beyond the show. Its great to already see initiatives like Techne Summit, an event all about entrepreneurship, taking that leap and bringing together tech startups and investors to help secure deals and opportunities. Here’s hoping for more investments and opportunities in the future.