Creative entrepreneurs always strive to identify gaps in the market and find innovative ways to fill them. One such entrepreneur is Khaled El Sayyad, founder of Prime Capital and Prime Hospitality. In the midst of a booming real estate market in Egypt, he identified an unfilled need, namely that of serviced accommodation, and went about filling it. The companies he established invest, develop and manage serviced apartments and homes all across Egypt; and his impressive success with his ventures has recently landed him on the prestigious Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey sat down with El Sayyad to learn more about his journey to success and his entrepreneurial path.
Khaled El Sayyad travelled to the United States in 2008 to attend George Washington University in Washington D.C., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He went on to Georgetown University to earn a master’s degree in Public Relations, with a focus on digital marketing.
After working briefly in the US, El Sayyad decided to return to Egypt to officially kickoff his career. He started out in the automotive industry, joining Auto Group as a partner, and a certified dealer for the Kia, Renault and Skoda brands. Although he enjoys his line of work and what he does, he longed to start something of his own, aside from Auto Group. After much thought and research, he decided to introduce the concept of serviced apartments to Egypt.
“Because of the time I spent in the US, I was very familiar with this concept. I started with a building in the 5th Settlement, which I completely transformed into a serviced apartment building with hotel-like amenities. That was the beginning of Prime Capital,” recalls El Sayyad, who was the first to offer serviced apartments as a much cheaper alternative to hotels and an upgrade to the traditional rental offerings in the market. Amenities offered in Prime properties include housekeeping, laundry/dry cleaning, maintenance, concierge services, a residents-only gym facility, 24-hour security/camera surveillance and a rooftop lounge.
“Most landlords in Egypt don’t rent their houses for less than a year, and don’t want to take the risk of renting for shorter terms. It’s an operational hassle and they are not interested in looking for a new tenant every two months,” explains El Sayyad who is very knowledgeable about the housing market in Egypt. “We are offering something that is very flexible. If you want to rent for a day, month or a year, you’ll find that with us,” he adds. The advantages of renting from Prime go beyond this flexibility, however. Travellers and even residents enjoy the luxury of having hotel-like amenities, from housekeeping services to gyms, in a more private, more spacious and less pricey setting than hotels. Prime also offers the option of paying for your accommodation with a credit card on the company’s website stayatprime.com.
When Prime Capital stood on its feet, El Sayyad’s next step was to extend the idea beyond managing the company’s own assets to managing other people’s assets as well. With that in mind, he partnered with Moataz Amin, as well as New York-based investment professionals Karim El Sayyad and Ahmed El Saharty to form Prime Hospitality. “Moataz has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality sector. We started two Prime Hospitality sub-brands, the Prime Residence brand, for our apartment-hotel style buildings like the one in 5th Settlement, and Prime Select, which targets homeowners who have single units, whether its apartments, townhouses or villas that they would like to manage,” he explains. Today, Prime Capital focuses solely on developing or investing in its own real estate portfolio, leaving the management side of the business exclusively to Prime Hospitality, Egypt’s first dedicated property management company.
Like other entrepreneurs, El Sayyad has had his fair share of challenges and bumps on his road to success, among them his own doubts and hesitation in introducing a new concept to the Egyptian market. However, he persisted and focused on his dream and made it happen. “That’s part of what an entrepreneur is. Many people doubted and questioned my return to Egypt, people would say to me “Who leaves the US to come back and work here?” But you just have to focus and follow your gut,” says El Sayyad, whose entrepreneurial vision placed him on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list, an achievement that he is very proud of. He adds, “I am forever thankful to my family and father especially, my biggest supporter. While studying in the US, he constantly reminded me and encouraged me to come back to my home country, Egypt. He was confident that this was the better direction for my career and that there was more room for new ideas and opportunities in the Egyptian market. And for that I want to thank him sincerely; for always believing in me.”
“They like choosing people for the list who are bringing something new to the table, companies that are market disrupting, and I think that’s what I did,” exclaims El Sayyad about the Forbes list. “I was so excited, but I won’t let this be my peak. It’s actually pushing me to become even better and to do even more than I already do. This was my last chance to be on the list, since I just turned 30. I was nominated, went through a series of interviews and actually made it onto the list. To me, it has always been a dream, and now that it happened, I feel like I’m ready for whatever is next,” he adds.
“Although being an entrepreneur may seem like a one man show, your biggest and most valuable asset is your ability to be a great team player and leader,” explains El Sayyad who admits that he is still at the beginning of the road, yet feels as though he has accumulated enough experience to know what makes a great entrepreneur. He adds, “You have to be extremely hard working and never feel like you have to do everything on your own. Work with people and invest in building a solid team, because this is your only way to scalability, which is the greatest entrepreneurial challenge. You must have a plan A, B and C. Unexpected things happen… be ready for them.”
Prime offers serviced apartments and houses all over Cairo, in New Cairo, Heliopolis, Mohandessin and El Kattameya, and has projects in Aswan and the North Coast as well. But for El Sayyad, the expansion won’t stop there. “I want us to be all over Egypt. There are some places we don’t have offerings in yet, like Zamalek, Maadi, El Gouna and other areas where we are present but can definitely increase our offerings. I also want us to expand regionally, but I’m very proud and happy to have become the local Egyptian go-to company when people are looking for serviced accommodation with international standards. Investors believe in us now because of our track record and they are coming to us instead of international hospitality chains that offer their service at a much higher fee,” boasts El Sayyad.
As for what’s next for El Sayyad and Prime, while he couldn’t reveal too much, he did let us know that working with real estate developers is a new path that the company is taking. “Developers are very interested in working with us. They contact us to work together because they trust we can deliver a value-added service to their clients. We can satisfy investors, developers and clients all at once. People are catching on to what we’re doing.”