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Blog posted On October 22, 2018

On a hot summer’s day in a lush, green Cairo garden just a stone’s throw from the Nile, 29-year-old Mostafa Amin is talking about bread. He’s speaking with the kind of reverence usually reserved for celebrities, football teams or minor miracles like manna - the small, doughy rolls dropped from on high to help the Israelites flee the Pharaoh, according to the Bible.

“In Egyptian Arabic, we call bread ‘aish’, which translates as ‘life’,” Amin explains. “We are a culture of bread - not rice, not meat or potatoes. Most of us eat Egyptian baladi bread with all three meals across the day. Last year we were the world’s number-two consumer of flour and we produced – not consumed, okay — 28 billion loaves of baladi. It’s important.”

Indeed, bread is more than just food in Egypt – it’s history, glory, anger and revolution. The first ever loaf of bread was baked in Egypt 10,000 years ago, thanks to the quern, a technological innovation that allowed nomadic people to crush grain. The Nile delta, at the height of the Roman Empire, was the bread basket of the world. Across the 20th century, every drop in the bread subsidy in Egypt, a country where 45 per cent of the population earn around $2 per day, caused huge public protests. On 17 January 2011, a baker called Abdou Abdel Monaam set himself on fire in the port city of Alexandria over the price of bread, sparking an uprising that kickstarted Egypt’s Arab Spring and led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak’s government.