I have spotted four companies of various ages operating in and around Cairo. It’s probably too soon to call it the Cairo Cluster or Silicon Sphinx but the region has clearly produced some exceptional individuals that are set to drive positive feedback in the universities and in startup mentoring.

The oldest of the companies is Si-Ware Systems Ltd., which describes itself as a fabless semiconductor company. Founded back in 2004 by Hisham Haddara, Ayman Ahmed and Bassan Saadany, the company has three divisions that produce MEMS interface ASICs, all-silicon oscillators and optical MEMS technology.

However, the company started out in design services before creating a building block approach called SiMOST to allow the integration of MEMS optical elements to create custom structures etched on silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers. Si-Ware has between 50 and 200 employees according to its LinkedIn description.

The three co-founders were all with MEMS manufacturer Memscap SA (Grenoble, France) prior to forming Si-Ware, and Haddara had also been the general manager of Anacad’s Egypt subsidiary prior to Anacad’s acquisition by Mentor Graphics Corp. in 1994.

Hisham Haddara, CEO of Si-Ware Systems. Source: Si-Ware Systems.

Haddara could be described as one of the fathers of Egyptian electronics. He has 32 years of R&D and management experience in the semiconductor industry.

Next: More companies

The second company is a mathematical IP company SilMinds (Helwan, Egypt) founded in 2007 by Mostafa El Khouly, CEO, and Hossam Fahmy, CTO, who earned his PhD from the Electrical Engineering Department of Stanford University

SilMinds offers decimal floating point hardware acceleration and has a library of IP core units that is compliant with IEEE 754-2008 standard. The claim is that the SilMinds coprocessor brings highest performance and energy efficiency for decimal floating-point (DFP) arithmetic as used in datacenters for banking, billing, currency and stock exchange and real-time payment processing. SilMinds has between 11 and 50 employees, according to its LinkedIn page.

The third company, a verification IP and services provider, is Boost Valley LLC (Cairo, Egypt). Founded in 2012, the company provides digital design and verification specialized firm focused on developing and delivering verification for both standard semiconductor IP blocks and customer-specific requirements. It has about 10 employees and has teamed up with Cast Inc. (Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey), a provider of IP aggregation and services.

The fourth company is the local distributor of Mentor Graphics EDA tools called Mentronix.

In the past countries in the continents of South America, Africa and Australasia have struggled to generate electronics businesses with what might be called "escape velocity" and the students that have studied electronics at universities in the these countries have often had to relocate to such places to the United States and Europe to work in the sector. But in an increasingly globalized industry the opportunity to develop business close to where an engineer was born and or educated is becoming a option as illustrated by this Cairo cluster.

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