“Technology is in my DNA, Code Optimizer is my name, research and innovation is my work.” That’s how Haytham ElFadeel introduces himself on Facebook. You can believe him. Before the future Egyptian entrepreneur was 10 years old, he had taught himself computer programming.
“I simply fell in love with these machines,” he said.
He studied economics at the Higher Institute of Management and Commerce in Damietta and learned computer science on his own. When he graduated, he got a job as a software engineer.
ElFadeel used to complete his office work so quickly that he had plenty of time left to work on what really interested him — the Semantic Web, a “web of data” that describes things and relationships on the Internet.
“I would borrow equipment from my office and work more on semantic searches at home,” ElFadeel said. “This was so far from what the company was doing that nobody minded.”
In 2008, he started working on a semantic search engine that gives answers to direct questions and queries.
When his “home” work started bringing results, ElFadeel invited his brother Ashraf, a software engineer, to join him. They named their venture Kngine, which conveys the idea of “knowledge engine,” and headquartered their startup in Giza, the home of the pyramids.
A NEW LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA?
A popular U.S. technology blog, TechCrunch, views Kngine as “a direct assault on Google.” But the ElFadeel brothers see themselves more in the context of Egypt and its history. Kngine is “a new Library of Alexandria,” they declared on the company’s website. The Library of Alexandria was a vast collection considered by historians as the largest and most significant library of the ancient world.
“If we succeed, our engine will be actually better and more useful than the Library of Alexandria,” Haytham said. “Kngine’s users will find answers much more quickly.”
In 2011, the ELFadeels won a cash prize in a business plan competition sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program. The win attracted a local venture capital firm, which has helped accelerate Kngine development. In 2012, the company released its search application for mobile phones and opened an office in Silicon Valley.
Haytham said he and Ashraf like working on Kngine because it matters to them personally and to many others.
“We feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves,” they wrote in their blog.
The ElFadeels are part of a new generation of technology entrepreneurs in Egypt. Haytham and Ashraf want to inspire others to try out new ideas. But whatever happens, “I would still love these machines,” Haytham said.
Optimizer (n): To optimize means to make something as effective or as efficient as possible. Here, a “Code Optimizer” is someone who makes computer or web code work efficiently or effectively.
-I’m a code optimizer. I fix website glitches for my customers.
Semantic (adj.): A way of using search engines that allow developers and users to link data together.
-In a Semantic Web search of language, people can visually see how the word “mother” is related across 10 different languages.
Take on (someone / something) (v): To start dealing with someone/something; to challenge or compete with someone or something.
-Although our business is small, we are taking on bigger firms because our product is well made and affordable to consumers.
Venture capital firm (n): A firm made up of investors who provide money to startups, entrepreneurs, or small businesses that have growth potential.
-The startup photo editing technology business in my small town became popular when a celebrity hired it for a festival. This later attracted a venture capital firm. Today that business has locations all over my country.