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The following is a guest post from Fatma Muhammad Ali, the lead organizer of the first Startup Weekend Assiut in March 2013.

The story started at a time I was so far from entrepreneurship community (July 2012). All I knew about it was its definition.

Many obstacles were facing this event starting from finding the right organizer team, to finding sponsors who hold the development of Upper Egypt on their interest list. Also, the culture of Upper Egypt itself was an obstacle, which I ‘m glad to contribute in affecting positively. I’ve done this by spreading the concept of entrepreneurship, tech startups, and attending such events cultures. It was also a challenge to encourage hesitant firms to invest in Upper Egypt and encourage reluctant participants who couldn’t yet see the investment nor could see themselves as entrepreneur.

I had to think out of the box! I was learning any thing I could get my hands on could help with organizing the event whilst I was searching for other passionate volunteers to form my main organizers team. As for event sponsorship, the budget was reduced to be as lean as possible and most of sponsorships were made as contributions rather than cash.

But still the participants outreach was the main problem. Because of the unique culture of UE, social media did not have that effect we could depend on. Old fashioned, direct marketing was still preferable. That doesn’t mean that people in UE don’t react with social media but for some reason, their reaction with social media doesn’t express their real reaction and doesn’t have the same impact on marketing as in cosmopolitan cities.

Startup Weekend Assiut was the first event of its kind in the whole region.That’s why I was keen on bringing this chance to people who really deserve it.

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Again, I had to think out of the box. This event’s target was and will remain entrepreneurs in UE with all their religious, ethnic, political, and age preferences. So the direct marketing campaign went to them in their territories targeting universities, schools, churches, mosques, and even local associations.

I’ve gained much experience, learned so many lessons: believe in yourself to allow others to believe in you, nothing is impossible and it’s never too late.

This is an ode to the unexpected great success of the event and I hope the next event will be as successful!

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