Entrepreneurs have had a good year in 2014. With the eTobb team being admitted to Mountain View’s 500 Startups, considered to be one of the top accelerators globally, and with one of the cofounders of Ki being admitted to the Startup Sauna accelerator in Helsinki, Lebanese startups are increasingly showcasing their talents abroad.
Closer to home, developments are also occurring, with a highly anticipated accelerator, Speed@BDD, finally launching at the end of the summer with plans to start the first batch of startups by early 2015 for a three month acceleration program. AltCity is also launching a bootcamp to help train entrepreneurs at the earliest stage of their ideas. These initiatives are adding to Lebanon’s existing infrastructure for entrepreneurship, whose usual suspects include the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region, Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program, AMIDEAST Entrepreneurship Institute, Berytech and Middle East Venture Partners.
The first commercial bank investment in a startup also occurred in 2014, through the Banque du Liban’s Circular 331 scheme. In Q2, Al Mawarid Bank invested $200,000 in local e-ticketing startup Presella, fueling, among other things, their expansion into the United Arab Emirates.
Circular 331 has also facilitated the creation of larger venture capital funds in Lebanon, with MEVP and Berytech raising larger funds as well as new VC LEAP Ventures. But the increase in funding does not stop at Circular 331. Several new players have come into the ecosystem such as Saned Partners and Y Venture Partners to fill the gaps in funding.
It is safe to say that entrepreneurs certainly have a lot more resources at their disposal. Though Lebanon is far from a perfect environment for obvious reasons, from an institutional perspective, entrepreneurs are actually quite well served. That is to say that they can spend more time focusing on their business and less time worrying about the lack of resources. Going forward, Reem Bou Abdallah, head of Eureeca Lebanon, explains several steps entrepreneurs can take to increase their chances of success by building resource-light products, building businesses that can be scaled to the region, retaining the right team, as well as managing cash flows. While entrepreneurs in Lebanon still have a lot to learn, they are certainly on an upward curve.