Member Spotlight – Brian Sherif Nazmi Hanna Nasralla

Meet our network member, Brian Sherif Nazmi Hanna Nasralla

Having graduated with a BSc. Computer Science degree from Jacobs University Bremen, a private university in Germany, Brian went on to enrol at Saarland University’s Centre for Internet Security, Privacy, and Accountability (CISPA) where he is currently completing his Master of Engineering with a focus on Entrepreneurial Cybersecurity. He is open to remote working opportunities that involve but are not limited to web development, cybersecurity, software development & start-ups.

Brian speaks English and French with native fluency, in addition to Arabic and German. Owing to his strong multi-cultural background, Brian demonstrates an admirable work ethic of hard work and perseverance, thanks to his Filipino heritage, combined with the humour and sheer determination from his Egyptian ancestry.

During his time at the African Leadership Academy, Brian showed such initiative and went on to become the first student Master of Ceremony for school assemblies and events, and went on to lead the Production Team’s sound and light setup for major events and celebrations.

While working on his Master’s degree, Brian established his start-up business, BDF Tech.

His mission is to grow BDF Tech into a tech development powerhouse that focuses on offering innovative digital solutions to small businesses in the service sector in an effort to empower their swift recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. BDF Tech is currently in the pre-seed funding stage for its third project, ‘the in its niche,’ an online marketplace for personal care businesses, such as hair salons, gyms, etc.

We caught up with Brian and asked him to share his entrepreneurship journey with us, reflecting on his milestones and the role of youth in technology entrepreneurship.

Looking back at your career, what inspired your choice to go into cyber security and how do you see that technology evolving over the next couple of years?

In 2020, I was invited to attend an engineering conference by my professor. This conference was about a forthcoming internet protocol that a team of engineers was looking to standardise globally, which was exciting for me! For my bachelor’s thesis, my overall aim was to analyse the protocol’s security. During that time, I managed to find a flaw in the protocol that allowed malicious actors to compromise the system. Up to that point, it was a fun experience for me. The professor verified my working prototype and I was on track for a great thesis grade. However, this feeling did not last very long as my professor told me, “Now, fix it.” This led me to a surprising self-discovery – my interest is not solely in cybersecurity. I am more interested in building systems that work as they were intended to. It is well known that in the past year alone, cybersecurity threats have significantly increased. Flawed systems everywhere were exploited, from multinational companies to government institutions facing cyber threats, leading to a spike in demand for cybersecurity solutions such as firewalls, which subsequently resulted in a growing market.  However, I firmly believe the security of our systems will be better when it’s built-in and not bolted on.

What have been your greatest challenges while building this business?

At a business level, we struggled to secure initial funding.  We also experienced the impact

of the language/cultural barrier in the formative stages. Our three-person team comprised of

an Egyptian, a Macedonian, and a SiSwati. Our collective German-speaking skills could barely get us through. As a result, we faced difficulties with the German legal system while setting up the business license and bank account. This was all in addition to the challenges we were facing in inspiring potential German investors to trust in us.

You have another business that is focused on carbon compensation practices, please tell us a little more about it and what opportunities this presents for your potential customers?

In early 2021, BDF Tech partnered with C2O, a climate sustainability consultancy company looking to commercialise climate offsets by allowing people and businesses to invest in German forestry, as well as global offsetting projects. We called this “Klimapunkt” (Climate Point). The goal is to make Klimapunkt a simple and transparent way to offset carbon footprints and invest in a greener future. Partnering with C2O has given us the ability to offer our clients the opportunity to impact communities in a positive way. At BDF Tech, one of our core business values is social responsibility – we care about people. A lot of issues are often

politicised, such as equal pay for equal work, environmental sustainability, and the list goes on. We hope to bridge these gaps and offer our clients a chance to make this world a better place.

What have you learned about yourself on this journey?

When I graduated from the African Leadership Academy, I used to believe that a lot of doors and opportunities would open up automatically for me. It took me some time to understand

that the entrepreneurial mind set is about viewing problems as challenges, acknowledging the fear it brings you, and then enjoying the ride. This was a hard realisation that came to me later after I had left ALA. Yet, as I reflected on the journey, I realised that the beautiful parts came from the bumps in the ride. I personally had to stand on the shoulders of giants to be where I am. I owe it to my parents, friends, business partners, and the support I continued to get from ALA.

What do you hope to contribute to either the tech sector or your home country in the future?

Egypt is currently in an economic transition, which makes the country an extraordinarily rich environment for start-ups and new business models to thrive. At BDF Tech, we were fortunate enough to have our first customer from Egypt. During our time with them, we noticed that a lot of the mid-sized start-ups that have had major success, with millions of dollars in investment, forgot that the customer is the most important stakeholder in a business. Instead, these start-ups have become more predatory and look only to grow their bottom-line. My goal is to create a company that focuses on the success and satisfaction of our clients. Our current mission at BDF Tech is to meet the demands of start-ups, existing businesses, and entrepreneurs by providing digital solutions that meet and exceed their needs along their entire value chain. We want to support them from conceptualisation to implementation and beyond, as we continue to be guided by strong values such as accountability and social responsibility. I also plan to grow this model in Germany and then go on to expand with an office in Egypt.

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