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What next for Egypt's entrepreneurs?

July 3, 2013: 8:08 PM ET

130703154124-cairo-egypt-military-coup-620xaAn Egypt-focused venture capitalist gives her thoughts on what today's events mean for the country's economy and its entrepreneurs.

FORTUNE -- With all of the change today in Egypt, Fortune decided to check in with Leslie Jump -- a Washington, D.C.-based partner with Egyptian venture capital firm Sawari Ventures. She also is the wife of Edward Walker, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt between 1994 and 1997.

We first talked to Jump during the original Tahrir Square protests of 2011, which resulted in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

This evening we wanted her sense on what has happened to Egypt's economy since then, and what today's events mean for the future of Egyptian entrepreneurs. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

FORTUNE: From an economic perspective, was President Morsi good for Egypt?

JUMP: No, he was not. There has been a lot of talk today about whether or not this was a coup, but the reality is that while Morsi was democratically-elected, he had been making so many moves to consolidate authority that it was getting closer to a dictatorship.

And that had begun to spread to businesses and the economy, which spooked international investors.

So it has been a pretty rough time over the last couple of years for Egyptians. We're still early in this new process, but the people I work with in Egypt are encouraged by what has happened today.

Won't international investors continue to be spooked, worried that Egypt will become mired in political instability?

I would argue that today is really a continuation, and hopefully conclusion, to what happened two years ago. I'm not a political expert, but the people who participated in the events of 2011 thought they were moving toward a more open government and thus more open economy. There is hope that the interim regime regains that spirit, by being diversified, transparent and quickly moving through what we'd consider to be proper democratic processes. It's encouraging that standing next to the military today was the head of the Coptic Church, the imam of Cairo's first mosque and  Mohamed ElBaradei.

Of course, one group wasn't represented...

The Brotherhood? One thing people in Egypt really were worked up about was the government, by which I basically mean the Brotherhood, interfering in their daily life. A lot of people, including Muslims who don't happen to be far right-wingers, found what they were doing to be highly offensive.

If Egypt does quickly get a new democratically-elected government, what must it do for the economy?

It's got to focus on doing what it takes to make it easier to put people back to work. People forget that Egypt had made significant economic progress leading up to 2011, even though a lot of people didn't like that it was consolidated into what they thought of as the elites. And all of that stuff was stalled by what happened in the last couple of years, particularly once people saw the Brotherhood crack down on things and make restrictive rules that were really looking more socialist than anything else. For example, there was talk about limiting the amount of profits companies could make. It didn't make us businesspeople very comfortable.

How has the startup environment changed in the past two years?

We've seen more and better startups every day. For example, one of the top markets Startup Weekend says it sees is Egypt. These guys and gals are really putting their noses to the grindstone, and could really flourish if the new government can just apply a modicum of rule of law, respect for intellectual property and not try to get in the way.

Is there enough available capital inside of Egypt for the country's entrepreneurs?

The market is still in the stage that India and China were 10 or 15 years ago, and it certainly would help to have outside investors come in and validate certain companies. But is there enough capital inside of Egypt? Sure there is. And certainly within the region.

Will Egyptian entrepreneurs go to work tomorrow?

No, people will be partying tomorrow. But many will go to work on Sunday. I've even gotten emails today from companies where I'm o the board with 'business as usual' questions.

Imagine being 28 years old, and until two years ago never new a world without Mubarek and now you've seen two massive changes in just two years. These people feel empowered and in control of their own destiny, which is what entrepreneurship is all about: The ability to create something new. It's about hope.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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