Under 30 and This Young Professional Already Has Five Startups Under His Belt

He credits IEEE with providing him with public speaking and leadership skills that have been vital to his success

4 min read
Photo of Mohamed El Dallal
Photo: Mohamed El Dallal

THE INSTITUTE When Mohamed El Dallal was 16, he probably would not have described himself as an entrepreneur. But the shy, self-described “software and technology geek” was already running a small business from his home in Alexandria, Egypt.

That was in the 2000s, when Egypt had a closed economy. Access to computers wasn’t easy. El Dallal, now an IEEE member, sold and maintained cellphones as well as personal computers that he built by wiring together processors, hard drives, monitors, and other components. His bedroom resembled a warehouse. “I didn’t have a business model or strategy,” he says, “but I was good at it.”

Now almost 30, he has founded five startups in Alexandria. He runs a series of international business conferences, and he has given hundreds of talks on entrepreneurship and marketing in 28 countries. He is also an avid volunteer and has been a part of several nongovernmental organizations and active with local youth initiatives.

He volunteers for IEEE as well, serving as a member of several groups in IEEE Region 8 including its Action for Industry program, Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Professional and Educational Activities subcommittee. He is the IEEE Young Professionals liaison to the 2021 IEEE Entrepreneurship Steering Committee.  

An early brush with IEEE as an undergraduate at Alexandria University changed his life, he says, setting him on an entrepreneurial path. He says it gave him confidence and taught him the public speaking, communication, leadership, and negotiation skills that have been vital to his success.

“I believe in the IEEE, and I believe in giving back,” he says. “It’s a cycle.” Knowledge increases by sharing, he says: “You learn more when you give.”

THINGS JUST CLICKED

El Dallal comes from a family of engineers. His father and most of his uncles and cousins are engineers. “Engineering was a natural career path,” he says. He studied both computer engineering and communications at Alexandria University while running his computer business on the side.

With the money he was earning, he decided to indulge in his other passion, photography, and bought himself a professional-grade camera. After trying his hand at photographing weddings and other events, he turned to photojournalism. He documented the 2011 Egyptian political revolution. His images were used by international news outlets and have been exhibited around the world.

His zeal for photography introduced him to IEEE. At the end of 2010, the university’s IEEE student branch approached him to photograph the speaker at a session being held by the IEEE Entrepreneurship group. The branch couldn’t pay El Dallal, but he decided to accept the assignment anyway.

“I believe in coincidences,” he says, “and this was meant to happen.”

Instead of leaving after the photo shoot as he usually did, he stuck around to listen to the talk, and he became fascinated.

“This was a tipping point in my life,” he says. “I started to see myself as an entrepreneur.” Even though he had been making money at his business for about seven years, he says, he didn’t really understand how to run a business.

El Dallal became an IEEE student member and then a volunteer for the branch. In 2012 he founded his first official startup, View Finders, a club that teaches the art of photography and videography. The venture is still in business, but El Dallal moved on.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2014, he helped to create Innovideas, a marketing consulting company that does branding, marketing campaigns, event and content management, and media production. His clients include embassies, governmental departments, and multinational companies in the Middle East and Europe.

El Dallal went on to enroll in an MBA program at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport (AASTMT), also in Alexandria. While going to school, he helped to found another company, DCodes, which provided software solutions for Web development and mobile apps. It has since become part of Innovideas, where El Dallal is CEO.

He is a cofounder and board member of Techne Summit, a large, international entrepreneurship event that brings together technology innovators and business leaders.

“Imagine academics, local investors, startups, early-stage and mature companies, multinationals, government representatives sitting at the same table, networking, and learning from each other to build a better business ecosystem,” El Dallal says.

SKILLS FOR SUCCESS

El Dallal says he has learned just as much from his successes as he has from his failures. So, what does he think it takes to launch a successful startup?

“The team, the team, the team,” he says. “Investors pay for the team. Ideas are worthless on their own. I can give you a ton of ideas right now, but it’s all about implementation and presentation.”

In addition to a strong team of founders, another key to success is finding good employees—which can be difficult for startups because they are competing with large companies for the same talent.

“You might not get the best talent, but you need to get good talent and develop them,” he says.

El Dallal’s relentless focus on work took a toll on the high school swimmer and taekwondo champion. He fell ill and recuperation required months of bed rest and treatment. He recently started playing sports again and is training for a triathlon.

The serial entrepreneur has no intention of stopping. In January he started his doctor of business administration program at AASTMT. He says he is a planner and regularly establishes five- and 10-year goals. Pinned on his bedroom wall is a sheet of paper outlining his ultimate dream: to start a foundation that betters people’s lives by providing them with the knowledge, education, and financial help to pursue their dreams.

El Dallal says he owes a lot to what he learns by volunteering for IEEE, and paying that forward is just as important as fulfilling his dream. By contributing his time and knowledge about business with budding engineers, he says, he hopes to impact lives, just as IEEE impacted him.

He says that even if you have to travel many miles to give a talk, and you impact only a couple of people that day, you’ve made a difference.

“This is the best thing you can do in your entire life,” he says.

The Conversation (0)

Get unlimited IEEE Spectrum access

Become an IEEE member and get exclusive access to more stories and resources, including our vast article archive and full PDF downloads
Get access to unlimited IEEE Spectrum content
Network with other technology professionals
Establish a professional profile
Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
Discover IEEE events and activities
Join and participate in discussions
Illustration showing an astronaut performing mechanical repairs to a satellite uses two extra mechanical arms that project from a backpack.

Extra limbs, controlled by wearable electrode patches that read and interpret neural signals from the user, could have innumerable uses, such as assisting on spacewalk missions to repair satellites.

Chris Philpot

What could you do with an extra limb? Consider a surgeon performing a delicate operation, one that needs her expertise and steady hands—all three of them. As her two biological hands manipulate surgical instruments, a third robotic limb that’s attached to her torso plays a supporting role. Or picture a construction worker who is thankful for his extra robotic hand as it braces the heavy beam he’s fastening into place with his other two hands. Imagine wearing an exoskeleton that would let you handle multiple objects simultaneously, like Spiderman’s Dr. Octopus. Or contemplate the out-there music a composer could write for a pianist who has 12 fingers to spread across the keyboard.

Such scenarios may seem like science fiction, but recent progress in robotics and neuroscience makes extra robotic limbs conceivable with today’s technology. Our research groups at Imperial College London and the University of Freiburg, in Germany, together with partners in the European project NIMA, are now working to figure out whether such augmentation can be realized in practice to extend human abilities. The main questions we’re tackling involve both neuroscience and neurotechnology: Is the human brain capable of controlling additional body parts as effectively as it controls biological parts? And if so, what neural signals can be used for this control?

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}