5 Questions with Ahmed Elmurtada, Sudan Community Leader

Apr 29, 2021

Ahmed Elmurtada is a cybersecurity engineer with over eight years of experience in technology and start-ups. He is Managing Partner & Co Founder of 249Startups, a social enterprise that fosters and supports bright and passionate entrepreneurs. With a bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering from the University of Khartoum. Ahmed is community leader of Techstars Startup Weekend Khartoum, and he was selected as one of top 10 social entrepreneurs honored by the MBC Group (HOPE) – Shabab2030 in Arab Region. A 2019 Obama foundation Africa program leader & a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow by the United States Department of State.

01. How did you get involved in Techstars Startup Programs?

I have been promoting entrepreneurial activities among Sudanese youth since 2013, working in business & development sectors, community building, entrepreneurship, and building global networks with leading ecosystems from Singapore to Silicon Valley.

My journey started in 2013 through IEC (voluntary organization working in entrepreneurship promotion) when we were studying challenges facing entrepreneurs in Sudan. One of the results of the study is to find the environment that can simulate how to start a company, which is why we founded Startup Weekend. We organized the first Startup Weekend Khartoum in Sudan ever after meeting Ahmed Khanji, the Main organizer. We hosted SW Khartoum in November 2014. It was a life changing experience and we continued hosting SW in Khartoum and Sudan on an annual basis during the following years.

02. How have Techstars Startup Programs impacted your life?

Techstars programs didn't only impacted my life, but I believe all of the Sudan entrepreneurship ecosystem as being one of the first global programs being held in Sudan. It brought attention from the public and private sector and disrupted the community network. It was a start for wonderful years to come that resulted in inspiring lots of entrepreneurs in Sudan to start their business. On a personal level it allowed me and my team to expand our regional and global network through connecting with wonderful community leaders everywhere and building a strong relationships.

03. Why are you passionate about entrepreneurship?

Coming from a country like Sudan with harsh economic situations, sanctions & isolations from regional and global communities for years. The startup ecosystem was newly shaping in Sudan and it has to face the lack of previous successful (or unsuccessful) startup experiences & stories. Sudanese society is still not very open to the idea of “risky investments” or starting a business from zero, which is understandable with the nature of our unstable economy. The global image of Sudan as country of war, a conflict, and poverty (as projected in the media) makes it difficult for youth to change this message. However, Sudanese youth are still eagerly trying to do so, by actively sharing all the innovation and resources available in the country, which the world knows little about. Although Sudan is filled with talented and innovative young university graduates, Sudan is living under an ongoing economic and political blockade, which has caused tremendous economic losses for factories, businesses and individuals. What is making me passionate about entrepreneurship is that I believe this could be a solutions for some of these problems.

04. How else are you involved in your community's startup ecosystem?

Through five years of community work & establishing a large network of volunteers and entrepreneurs with more than 500 individuals, over 10 international partners, 25 local partners, annually reaching over 5000 founders, students, investors, professionals, international community participating in our activities through out the year inside Khartoum & through 12 different states around Sudan, including post conflict zones areas when we had EcoSystem Tours, and driven by values of connecting, inspiring, and educating entrepreneurs, me and my other cofounders Khansa Alhag and Mutaz Mohamed launched 249Startups in Khartoum, Sudan on 27 April 2019.

Our aims:

  • Support and accelerate potential startups

  • Incubate & generate new startups

  • Research, policy & ecosystem building

  • Develop new customized solutions

We are currently implementing incubation & acceleration programs to help contribute to an increase startups survival rates and supporting their scaling and success throughout Sudan.

05. What's next for your community's entrepreneurship ecosystem?

Upon revolution and peace agreements, Sudan is entering a new era of reconnecting with the work and opening the economy again. I believe what is needed throughout next period to support entrepreneurship is working more on conducting research nationally and internationally to measure the impact of the entrepreneurial activities, while hosting various events to increase awareness and understanding of entrepreneurship among different segments within the Sudanese community and facilitating training and mentoring activities to support, guide and mentor Sudan’s budding entrepreneurs to contribute to Sudan at large.