Amr Kinawy co-founded MyEatPal, a new delivery platform that connects users to personalised recipes and restaurants based on health preferences, to filter nutritional data for people with dietary requirements and intolerances.
The Egyptian, 36, studied marketing and economics and climbed the corporate ladder in product marketing with telecom companies, including Vodafone and Etisalat, before joining three start-ups, including a fashion platform and financial super app Khazna.
Mr Kinawy swapped job stability for Dubai in August 2020 to be with his family during the pandemic and pursue start-up ambitions inspired by personal health issues and the need for a safe, healthy diet amid a busy lifestyle. He lives with his wife in Jumeirah Beach Residence.
Where did money figure growing up?
My dad lived and worked in Oman and I lived an above-average lifestyle in Cairo with my mother and brother. My parents were generous, but not spoiling us. They wanted to ensure a good education. Another priority was wellness and healthcare.
I’d go back and forth between Cairo and Muscat. It showed me two different world styles and how adults take action to seek what they want. That was the compromise, or sacrifice.
My dad was a professor of entomology and moved to provide a better standard of living for himself and his family, was able to do the work he loves in a better way and thrive.
These were important things I was exposed to early and impacted my decision when I decided to move to the UAE.
How did you first earn cash?
I kept getting pocket money until I finished college. My parents were keen that I only worked internships and training, not paid jobs, for me to focus on education.
My first job, after graduation, as a temporary project manager in a telecoms company paid 4,000 Egyptian pounds monthly, equivalent to $162.
Was it tough trading job security for start-ups?
That decision was a heavy one because corporates were a comfort zone. It was good when it came to stability and financials, but wasn’t challenging enough.
I needed to follow my passion. I wanted a start-up, to work as an entrepreneur. To shift, you really need an ecosystem and this was one major reason I moved to Dubai.
The second was related to the nature of the project, which is healthy and conscious eating; the restaurant and food industry is more advanced in Dubai, progressive enough to hear new ideas.
Also as a child, we took road trips to Dubai (from Oman). It was the happy place.
But still a career gamble?
It was the hardest thing I ever did, because the job I left in Cairo [with Khazna] … the opportunity was massive, financially speaking, and the team was amazing.
But my health issue was at its peak, and I was really concerned about wellness, the impact of what we eat on our well-being, and how hard it is for people who need to eat a certain way.
I told my wife: “I’m taking a decision that will either turn out to be the best or the most stupid thing I did in my life [but] if I stay, I’ll be staying for the money.”
How did MyEatPal happen?
Around 68 per cent of people have at least one minor or major condition that impacts how they eat, either to avoid an ingredient or follow a specific diet.
The [delivery] industry is not putting that — whether food contains dairy, gluten or nuts — as a priority on the food discovery journey, above things like price, taste, availability, cuisine. It should be easy for each person to choose what’s best for them.
So, like any food aggregator, it’s the same experience for the user and same price.
While onboarding the restaurant, we work together to figure out what is actually in dishes. We have 50 checkpoints related to nutrition and filter on the dish level, not restaurant level.
Did you raid savings to fund this?
My savings and my brother also used his savings. Everyone around me chipped in.
We started with a product connecting people to nutritionists and dieticians, but this was not really solving the problem, just creating a layer of convenience.
We had to pivot the concept. A huge part was seeing that jump in delivery trends [during the pandemic], talking to customers and restaurants. We started with recipes in 2021 and food ordering launched November 1.
I always dreamt of jumping out of my comfort zone and starting my own thing and the moment I found my passion was the moment I decided I’d spend every penny I have to make that work.
What is your spending and saving position?
Whether working in corporate, making stable money or not, my approach to money hasn’t really changed.
What changed is how much is there. Money is there to be spent, on convenience, not showy stuff.
I don’t spend on flashy, status-related products, but I do not hesitate to spend to make my life better, happier and easier, and for people around me as well.
When I was saving, it wasn’t really planned. I was spending what I needed to and the rest was saved. I only save if there is excess money.
How have you grown wealth?
In bank accounts and when I was in corporate, I made one investment in real estate in Egypt. We sold it and made a profit that was used on the journey we’re on now.
My current business could be my best investment. It’s not proven [financially] yet, but I already feel this is money well spent.
Any cherished expenditure?
The money I used to move to Dubai … that is the most recent thing that made me happiest.
How do you view money?
It should not be the main thing you live and work for, or prioritise and base decisions on.
Obviously, it is important, it has huge influence on your life and your family, so you need it somewhere in your priority list. But it shouldn’t be first on the list; your health and your well-being should be.
Money should be there to support things that are top of the list, to look after yourself to navigate through life in a more convenient and smooth way.
It’s a tool that should help you do what you do. It should be a means to an end.
Are you wise with cash?
I’m very content with the way I use it … to make the life of me and my family easier and smoother, not just to buy luxury things.
If you’re choosing between products in the supermarket and there is an organic item, I pay the extra money to get it because this goes directly towards your wellness. You should spend more to get fresh food rather than processed.
If I’m going on a long flight and having a hard time [health-wise], I would spend extra to get an upgraded seat and convenient times.
Any buyer’s remorse?
I had a VW Jetta car that was horrible, back in Egypt. It was a lot of money for me back then and all sorts of problems started.
I sold at a huge loss, but was relieved.