My experience using Easy Taxi in Egypt

Easy Taxi, a new taxi ordering service available in Egypt (mainly Cairo). I think the service started in Egypt in August 2013. Ogra, the Vodafone and Sawari Ventures backed company was supposed to hit market first, but they didn’t yet.

Easy Taxi is available in 20+ countries and expanding rapidly powered by $32 million in funding. I guess Ogra has only raised about $200k so maybe this is part of why their service is not operating yet.

I first found about Easy Taxi from their Facebook ad. Yesterday, I tried their app for the first time.

How it Works

Ordering a taxi is an easy task:

  1. open the app
  2. press the “Request taxi” button
  3. fill a small form to make it clear to the driver where you are waiting now (as GPS isn’t always perfect)
  4. wait for few seconds till a driver accept your request

When your request is accepted, you will see the name, photo, phone number of the driver, and the current location of the taxi moving on a map, with the taxi’s estimated arrival time.

While it’s easy to order a taxi, you would may need to cancel your order and start another one. I had to do 5 or 6 orders till I finally had a successful order.

My taxi orders always got accepted by drivers but I had to cancel them as one of the following happened

- Taxi driver accepted order, but I see him on map going far away from my location.
- Taxi driver called asking about my destination, but apologised as he didn’t not want to go to that place.
- Taxi driver asks me to meet him at the main road instead of coming to my current location.

I think it took me 30 minutes to finally get a taxi. I was actually going to quit trying but the last taxi driver called and said he is coming to where I’m waiting in few minutes.

The Driver

The driver was a guy in his late thirties. I noticed he was using an Android phone. I asked him about his experience being part of the Easy Taxi drivers program. he said he doesn’t get it yet. he has no idea how those people are making money. they gave him a discounted Android phone, and a monthly internet package. he doesn’t usually accept Taxi orders using their app, but this week he is trying to accept as much Easy Taxi orders as he can.

I asked him about what’s special about this week? he said, Easy Taxi is giving out prizes to drivers depending on the number of orders they serve. serving 21 orders during this week would make him win extra 1,000 EGP. he said it’s a good motivation for him to use the app. he said he thought at first about gaming the system someway or another, but he said it’s better to earn the money ethically.

I asked him about whether if adding a “destination” field to the taxi order form would be better for him? he said, Yes it will help and said that he told the Easy Taxi guys about it before but they didn’t agree with him. he said it’s always good to know the destination in advance to avoid calling the passenger to ask, especially that he once served a passenger who was going to a place about 1 km away, so it wasn’t worth it considering that he has to only start the cost counter once the passenger is inside the taxi.

Generally, he thinks this service may be good source of income someday, but currently he doesn’t expect a lot considering that the count of orders he gets notified about is ~15 orders/day.

Improvements

I hope this service and the likes will improve over time. they will need to do a lot of work considering how the Egyptian market is not comfortable dealing with anything related to technology. some of the suggested improvements is to localize the app for passengers and drivers. I didn’t see the driver’s app but he said it was in English, which doesn’t make sense considering how most of the drivers can’t read English.

Also the destination field is something worth adding to the passenger’s app. At other countries drivers don’t usually care about your destination, but in Egypt, it’s a different game. either add the missing text field or find another solution.

The driver told me he is using Zello to keep track of traffic news. I told him to install Wasalny and By2ollak for better traffic news. so making a deal with one of those apps will add better value to the driver’s app.

The most important improvement is to increase the number of daily orders. spending on facebook ads is fine but I think buying ad space inside Taxis will have better effect. I see a lot of ads on Facebook and I ignore most of them, but an Ad inside the Taxi, right in front of me, this is something I won’t be able to ignore. also, having something like an affiliate program with the drivers would be great too. If a taxi driver tells me to install an app that will allow me to order a taxi and it will cost me nothing, this is something I would think about.

Egypt isn’t a great market yet for providing service digitally. people are not used to buying or getting services online, so it takes a lot of effort to educate people about a new way to do stuff. I hope in few years, this service and the likes will be something that everyone use daily in this country.

Group therapy for Entrepreneurs

Originally posted 2 weeks ago on Medium, Group therapy for Entrepreneurs.

I got fired few months ago from my startup after some conflicts with my co-founders. The tipping point was when I decided to write about our last conflict on my blog, which contributed to making the conflict grow bigger. the result was that I got forced by the board of directors to leave my startup after spending 3 years building it.

As hard as that experience was, I don’t blame anyone but myself for not taking care of my own psychology. Being a founder trying to build a business out of nothing is not a simple job. You want to build a great company and be successful, but you have to face an infinite number of challenges everyday. All that pressure puts up and it starts to affect your body and thinking.

Pressure

A simple way to release some of that pressure is to talk regularly with someone about your biggest problems. I used to do that always except for that week when I wrote the blog post that made things go worse with my co-founders. Simply, the friend I used to talk to about my problems was on a trip to another country, and I had no one to talk with to release some of the pressure, so I started to overthink the problems and after few days decided in a crazy way to write a blog post about that conflict.

I’m currently working on my second startup, I’m doing most of the thinking and planning on my own as my new co-founder isn’t working full time on the startup yet. During a single day, I would go many times from sad, to happy, to feeling like a loser, to feeling smart, then back to sad again, and again .. the friend I’m used to talk with is on a trip to another country.

This made me remember an interesting thing I experienced during my last visit to USA. I was participating in a one month program about business innovation. The program was designed and executed by EO (Entrepreneurs’ Organization). That thing is called Forums.

Forums

Forums are what I can describe as a kind of group therapy + professional advice. At EO, they assign each member (entrepreneur with a company making $1+ million/year) to a Forum Group.

A Forum Group would usually consist of about 6 entrepreneurs (as I remember). Each group do closed meetings regularly or when one of the group members ask for a forum meeting.

EO has strict policy about Forums, whatever is said during a Forum meeting can’t get discussed again with anyone else, even with other EO members. this allows each one of the Forum Group members to talk freely during the Forum meetings.

During Forum meetings, members can discuss any problems, work problems, or even personal problems, and the other members have to contribute with advice from their personal experience.

Facing problems managing your sales team? Can’t figure out how to increase your company’s revenue? Having a conflict with your co-founders or investors? In a conflict with your life partner? .. Whatever is the problem, you can discuss it during the Forum meeting.

During the program, they made us participate in 2 forum meetings. We were 27 entrepreneurs from 27 different countries participating in that program. They split us into small groups and invited an experienced EO member to lead each group’s Forum meeting.

When we started the first Forum meeting, most of us didn’t feel comfortable about it, and I was extremely shy. I wasn’t expecting to be forced to be in a closed meeting with 6 more people that I just met few days ago, and I’ve to answer questions about my life, work, family, and discuss any problems I’m facing.

How it works

Before the start of the meeting, they gave us printed forms to fill, to help us organize our thoughts and get ready to discuss what we wrote on the paper during the Forum meeting. I freaked out and wrote nothing in the paper and decided to say nothing during the meeting.

When the meeting started, the EO member started to ask us one by one about the answers we wrote in the paper they gave us earlier, luckily I was the last one to get asked, and by that time I was ready to talk openly about my life, work, and family. I saw all others get over their fear and talk about their problems, so I had to do the same, even the EO member talked openly about what she wrote in the paper.

By the end of the meeting I started to feel relieved. I talked about a couple of the biggest problems I’m facing, and listened to others talk about their problems too. I started to feel more comfortable talking to those guys more than anyone else.

Today I remembered all that and thought to myself, why don’t we have something like that in my city?! I’ve my friend who I talk to, but he isn’t always available, and he is not an entrepreneur, so he can’t help me by anything more than listening.

So that’s why I’m writing this blog post. I want to find people who are interested in making a Forum group in my city. I know that most people will freak out like I did the first time I got introduced to Forum meetings, but it’s worth trying to spread the idea.

If you’re in USA or Europe, most probably you have an EO Chapter in your city. try to connect with your country’s/city’s EO chapter and ask about how to join them. If you don’t have an EO Chapter near you, or if you don’t meet the requirements of being an EO member yet, try to make your own Forum group. I’m sure this will have an amazing effect on your life, personally and professionally.

If you make your own group, or join EO, just send me a mention on twitter (@shreef), I will be happy to know about your experience.

Surviving as an entrepreneur isn’t an easy task. You have to take care of your psychology first, then your team’s psychology, then the details of your business. If you ignore any of that, you won’t be able to handle the consequences.

Thanks to Brett Martin for reviewing this post.

How we decided to use Mongo instead of MySQL

I got a question recently from Sadek my new colleague at Eventtus about why we did decide to use MongoDB instead of something like MySQL, especially that dealing with Mongo is hard if you’re used to the use of things like Joins in other relational DBs. Luckily we had a 2 years old internal email thread where I listed why I think using Mongo would be a good idea for our case. Eventtus is 2+ years old startup, a social platform for events where you use the mobile app as a guide during events, and as a way to find interesting events happening near you. I will put the important parts of the email thread here, and sure don’t take this as a guarantee that MongoDB would work for all kinds of problems. it just was a good fit for our case, but maybe won’t be good solution for your problem and some of our future problems.

….

(read the rest on Eventtus’s Engineering Blog)

Hate nobody!

Hate nobody; I always say that to myself. I never been someone who enjoys hate. I consider myself a peaceful person who avoids conflicts as much as he can. like any human, from time to time I get myself into troubles, and while I always try to fix things again as quick as I can, It’s impossible to achieve the 100% success rate. things don’t always work.

It happens that I have fights with family, friends, colleagues, and everyone. but I’m always the first one to apologize. whether I’m the person who have to apologize or not, I just do it. I always used to think that it’s just I can’t hate someone for longer than a week or something, but the reality is that also I’m always afraid of being lonely.

Yes, me, the person who enjoys staying alone doing whatever he do, is always afraid of being lonely. that’s why I keep finding excuses for everyone so they can all stay close to me. they’re all humans, they are all full of good and bad things. If I try to focus on the good things and ignore the bad things, then I will be able to bring them back to my life. and that’s what I always do.

I think what I have been doing all that time was wrong. sure not in all cases, but sometimes you just need to get rid of some people forever from your life. those who hate and enjoy hating you. they won’t care about anything but watching you suffer to death, they will kill you and enjoy every moment of it. if they see you suffering in pain, they will have no sympathy for you. they didn’t deserve to have a place in your life in the first place. so for God’s sake, git rid of them once and for all.

Here again I apologies to all those who deserve to be in my life, I want you to stay close to me, but for the rest, please go away in peace. I wish you a better life far far away from me.

Going left while you know you should go right

I try to be as honest as possible with myself. I’m treating my life as a time limited experiment. I’m the observer and the main subject of the study at the same time. and I find it entertaining and saddening at the same time.

It’s saddening as the observer part of me is always watching all my actions and evaluating them, and the results don’t always say that I’m the person I want to be or supposed to be.

One of those problems is the fact that if I have two choices, and I know which one is the right thing, still I would convince myself to choose the wrong one. this doesn’t happen always. I would assume that 30% of my choices go like that.

There’re a lot of reasons depending on the situation, but my emotions and desires are the ones to blame in all those situations. it’s the fight between brain and heart. it sounds cheesy and unscientific but it’s the simplest way I can describe it.

Those are the sounds that tell you to sleep for more minutes while it’s time to wake up. the things that makes you eat ice cream while you’re trying to lose weight. the things that makes you procrastinate.

Those are simple examples with short lasting effects, but it’s worse when the choices may affect me for years without anyway to reverse that. specially if those choices involve other people. people’re not forgiving by design specially if they’ve no reason to give you another chance.

It’s interesting to watch other people going through the same dilemma. I can say that I can sometimes see through some people and know whether if they know the right choice or not. I would try to help them kill their wrong choice, but if they choose the wrong one, what can I do?!

I don’t try to judge people or treat them like idiots or assume they’re evil. they just followed their desires and emotions. I do that too. how can I blame someone if I can’t even control my emotions and desires. still there’s a line that no body should cross ever. something like killing for example isn’t forgivable.

We humans are complicated creatures. God made us smarter than others, but gave us more emotions that weaken the logical part of our brain. I can’t say it’s a bad thing. I think it’s natural. there should be something that put some balance in humanity. still we can’t be perfect.

 

That’s why I try to be forgiving when people come to me to