Lebanon’s top 20 entrepreneurs 2013

The country’s most exciting ventures

There is a lot of talent active in Lebanon’s entrepreneurial landscape. The country’s entrepreneurs are clever, innovative and, most of all, resilient. When Executive picked its list of top 20 entrepreneurs, it looked at impact, innovation, business model, and scalability. This year’s entrepreneurs reflect excellence in these categories, both in terms of successful companies that have presented success stories for the country, and on the part of startups who are boldly launching their businesses in an uncertain climate.

 

Category: Industry Leaders

Anghami

Anghami founders Eddy Maroun & Elie Habib

Entrepreneurs: Eddy Maroun, Elie Habib

Ages: 38, 40

Industry: ICT/entertainment

Established: 2012

Number of employees: 20

Revenues in 2013: not disclosed

 

The model: Anghami is an application that lets users listen to and download Arab and international music on their cellphones. Their music library currently consists of 4 million tracks, and they are planning to increase the number to 6 million by next year. The model is based on a monthly subscription at the cost of $5, but they currently offer a free version of the application to grow their user base. Out of 3.4 million users, 100,000 are paying subscribers who opt for the Anghami plus version which has perks such as unlimited music free of ads. Anghami has recently signed an exclusive deal with Choueiri Group to run ads on the app.

 

Funding: Anghami raised their first round of capital last year, receiving $1 million from venture capital firm Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP). They are now finalizing a second round of funding from a Saudi company, looking to raise $1.5 million.

 

Growth: Valuation multiplied by five since last year. The company has expanded its employees from three in May 2012 to the current 20.

 

Achievements: With 3.4 million users, Anghami is the most-downloaded music application in the Middle East. Anghami is the only company selected to be on Executive’s list of top 20 entrepreneurs for two years, because of the dramatic growth it has experienced in the past year. They recently joined Endeavor, an international network which, via a rigorous process, selects high-impact entrepreneurs and gives them access to contacts in their network and business resources to stimulate the growth of their companies.

 

Challenges: The biggest problem Anghami faces is human capital. People tend to want to leave the country because they can’t find enough decent jobs in Lebanon.

 

Goals: Banking on cellphone integration. Users will be able to subscribe for the app and the app will be charged to them on their cell bills. They are looking toward the Middle East and the Arab world as a whole, including the diaspora. Their most targeted market is Saudi Arabia, which represents 22 percent of their user base, something they are trying to expand on.

 

 

Cedar Books

Cedar books co-founder Cyril Hadji-ThomasCedar Books co-founder Sany Naufal

Entrepreneurs: Cyril Hadji-Thomas, Sany Naufal

Ages: 40, 41

Industry: Book distribution

Established: 2007

Number of employees: 35

Revenues in 2013: between $19 and 21 million

The model: Cedar Books is an online book distributor attempting to sell foreign books throughout the world via a network of booksellers. They work with bookstores, bloggers, and anyone who has a say in the book industry and either sell directly to them, or manage the sales on their behalf. They currently have a catalogue of 25 million books and a plugin which can be put up on bloggers or bookstores’ websites, so that a user can read about a book on a blog and then purchase it directly from the blogger’s website. Profit margins are shared with the partner through whom the book was sold. Cedar Books is a joint venture by Hadji-Thomas, Naufal, and Levant Group, Lebanon’s leading book supplier. 

Funding: MEVP invested $1 million this year for the expansion of Cedar Books.

Growth: 50 to 100 percent every year since its creation.

Market: Their biggest market is the United States. Other big markets include Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the Middle East, and Australia.

Achievements: Cedar Books has sold 1.5 million books, and have opened up to German, Italian, and Spanish language books in addition to English, French, and Arabic. This year they created a network of booksellers, and opened a branches in California and Canada. They currently have a physical presence in five countries.

Competition: Their biggest competitor is Amazon. They compete by giving a higher commission to bookstores or bloggers than Amazon. They are trying to foster good relationships with publishers, focusing in particular on selling books in multiple languages.

Goals: To become one of the most prominent international book distributors by giving all the best tools to booksellers. To sell to every country in every language and to create a community of booksellers. They are currently working on the Bookwitty brand. Until now, everything else has been white-labelled. On Bookwitty, users will have direct access to Cedar Books’ catalogue. It will also act as an aggregation of all articles published about a particular book, and accumulated information that bloggers have posted. The reader can then decide who to buy the book from.

Challenges: Being able to advise a Brazilian reader on a book in German, English, or French.

 

 

Cedar Environmental

Cedar Environmental founder Ziad Abi Chaker

Entrepreneur: Ziad Abi Chaker

Age: 44

Industry: Environmental engineering

Established: 1999

Number of employees: 36

Revenues in 2013: 

$1 million

 

The model: Cedar Environmental is an environmental engineering company that uses patented technology to treat municipal solid waste. Their patents are in dynamic composting technology, waste treatment, and in a technology that recycles plastic bags into panel boards. As they expanded and their operations diversified, they created two other companies: Green Ideas in 2010 which deals with fertilizer production and Greenius in 2013 which deals with plastic recycling. They take a fee to process waste and also sell recycled products such as their panel boards — dubbed “Ecoboards” — which can replace wood or steel boards in any operation. They work for municipalities on a contract basis and among one of their selling points is that they don’t require a landfill. They currently have ten recycling plants across Lebanon. 

Achievements: In 2013, Ecoboard production expanded from 120 boards a month to 500. They created their second subsidiary, Greenius, which, along with Green Ideas, is already profitable.

Competitive edge: They produce a very high grade of compost which is certified for organic agriculture, and use an accelerated composting technique which turns organic waste into compost within three days. They strive for a 95 percent recycling rate.

Goals: To take their technology to as many municipalities as possible and build a major recycling plant in Lebanon, in the process drawing interest from the region to send their recycling to Lebanon.

Challenges: Encouraging countries in the region to invest in processing waste.

 

 

Cleartag

Cleartag founder Tarek Dajani

Entrepreneur: Tarek Dajani

Age: 39

Industry: Software 

and Digital Media

Established: 2000

Number of employees: 

45 in Beirut, 15 in Dubai

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed

 

The model: Cleartag works on a wide variety of services for clients, working with both tangible media and everything that relates to online platforms. Their main work revolves around websites, mobile platforms, and social media platforms, but they have also held installations in physical spaces. They work for clients on various consultancy, strategy and product development services, using technology to enhance a client’s business proposition in order to give it a better market share. One of their clients is Touch, for whom they handle social media activations, applications, community management, and interface — everything on social platforms. 

Funding: Mostly bootstrapped.

Achievements: Cleartag developed Bank Audi’s eGallery which was launched in June 2013. They were responsible for the project from A to Z; from the architecture of the interactive kiosks, to the technologies supporting it. Besides working with Audi and Touch, they have developed platforms for two telecom companies in the region.

Competitive edge:  Cleartag works through a method of cross-pollination — as a tech company, they strive to bring great minds from multiple disciplines together. They have invested in experimenting, because they believe that to think about a product requires not just the technology behind it, but also the impact, strategy, positioning and branding. This strategy allows them to offer unique and innovative products and services to their clients.

Growth: As Cleartag has grown it has led to many spinoff companies so it can remain focused on services. When a concept is deemed worth pursuing it is incorporated as an independent project  under the holding. Cleartag is now part of a holding, DNY Group, with around 6 or 7 ventures. The company has also placed emphasis on regional growth and has expanded around 30-45 percent since last year.

Goal: To keep adapting. In a field that is continuously changing, Cleartag needs to constantly adapt to continue to be relevant.

 

 

Dawtec

Dawtec founder Wissam Daou

Entrepreneur: Wissam Daou

Age: 37

Industry: Renewable energy

Established: 2002

Number of employees: 10

Revenues in 2013: $550,000

 

The model: Dawtec has developed a series of products in renewable energy. Their catalogue includes technology which converts solar energy into thermal energy, with multiple applications including water heating for residential or commercial venues such as hotels, hospitals, and health clubs. These systems can be used for pool heating and for industrial applications. Other products include an architectural solar water heater — for use on roofs or the front of balconies — which includes the same mechanical properties to turn solar energy into thermal. The energy can be used in household or commercial applications. A third product currently not for sale, consists of a testing apparatus, which can be used to test different materials used in solar or water heaters to record data that will allow them to improve their materials. Dawtec makes revenues both from the sales of these products, as well as through maintenance fees.

Achievements: In 2013, Dawtec won the Grow My Business competition for a total cash prize of $33,000. In 2012 they were named among the top five market leaders by the Ministry of Energy.

Funding: $150,000 Kafalat loan.

Goals: They are targeting new markets in the region: Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar.

 

Related article: Where are they now? The most successful of 2012's entrepreneurs

 

Diwanee

Diwanee co-founder Delphine EddéDiwanee co-founder Hervé CuviliezDiwanee co-founder Ivan Petrovic

Entrepreneurs: Delphine Eddé, Hervé Cuviliez, Ivan Petrovic, Patrick Boulos (not pictured)

Ages: 38, 42, 41, 40

Industry: Online media and e-commerce

Established: 2008

Number of employees: 75 in Lebanon, 15 in Dubai, 30-36 in eastern Europe

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed

 

The model: Diwanee is a digital media company operating a series of websites that target women in the Middle East. Their online Arabic content websites are building one of the largest female audiences in the Middle East, with over 5 million users. Their major websites include Yasmina.com, dedicated to fashion, 3a2ilati, a parenting website, and Atyab Tabkha, which specializes in cooking recipes. They also launched an e-commerce wing in January under Mooda.com. Diwanee pursues a strategy of digital marketing working with brands to increase engagement and maximize reach through customized content.

Achievements: In 2013 Diwanee launched their online shopping branch as well as a social network to connect the users across Diwanee various sites. At the end of 2012 Diwanee joined Endeavor’s network, a highly selective international network that helps companies grow by connecting them to mentors and successful entrepreneurs worldwide.

Target market: Diwanee’s services targets in particular Arab women. Their largest user base, at 70 percent, is in Saudi Arabia, with the rest mostly coming from the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.

Goal: Diwanee is trying to create a global online ecosystem wherein users interact between their websites. For instance they want to support designers on Mooda, and have people talk about them on Yasmina.com.

 

Nymgo

Nymgo founder Oman Onsi

Entrepreneur: Omar Onsi

Age: 35

Industry: Telecoms

Established: 2008

Number of employees: 40 in Lebanon, 50 total

Revenues in 2013: between $10 and 12 million

 

The model: Nymgo is an application that offers voice over IP  (VOIP) services for callers all over the world — delivering international calls over the internet. Their services are 65 percent cheaper than Skype. Nymgo focuses on expats, specifically on blue collar expats, who are looking for an affordable way to reach their families back home. Although their network operates from Lebanon, they do not actually provide this service in the country as Ogero’s monopoly over telecoms makes VOIP services illegal. For the moment the application is a pay-as-you-go service, but they are planning on launching monthly packages.

Funding: Raised an undisclosed amount in 2011 from Intel and Abraaj Capital of between $3 million and $6 million.

Achievements: In the past year, Nymgo has grown 70 percent. They have customers in 190 countries, and millions of downloads. On a monthly basis they have 150 thousand active users. They joined Endeavor’s network in 2013.

Target market: Nymgo operates worldwide. Their largest consumer base is in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Goals: Nymgo is operating in a $95 billion industry. They are focusing on growth, and have high hopes that it could turn into a billion-dollar company.

 

Paravision

Paravision founder Michel Sfeir

Entrepreneur: Michel Sfeir

Age: 40

Industry: Information and technology

Established: 2002

Number of employees: 170 globally with 70 in Lebanon

Revenues in 2013: Off-record

 

The model: Paravision develops multimedia products and services that encompass programming, content creation, and hardware. They work for clients on a project-by-project basis. The product itself depends on the client, and they work for almost all sectors — banking, real estate and tourism. Their clientele includes banks and governments, with 99 percent of their projects outside Lebanon.

Achievements: In the past year, Paravision has created over 3,000 different applications. They have developed interactive multimedia for Beirut’s Mineral Museum: large, interactive touch-screens which let the user learn about the science behind the rocks, their name, age, and chemical composition through immaculate digital visual representations that add value to the visit of both the layman and the specialist. They have also created installations for Panasonic and Toyota exhibits.

Funding: Mostly self-financed, with $400,000 in Kafalat loans which they received almost a decade ago.

Target market: They deliver solutions both domestically and internationally: in the Gulf, the United States, Japan, and Europe.

Goals: To maintain a cutting edge in the field of technology, Paravision are putting money into research and development. They are also developing their products for the Asian market and are currently developing a new product in partnership with an industrial company in Taiwan. Another major product that they are planning to launch in 2014 is Touristube, a platform to guide tourists in every aspect of their travels. They believe the project will draw 50 new employees. Currently operating in Qatar, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, they have recently opened companies in Saudi Arabia, Europe, and Switzerland and are witnessing a 25 percent growth year-on-year.

Background: Michel Sfeir was a co-founder in three other companies, one of which was a multimedia firm in France.

 

 

The Little Engineer

The Little Engineer founder Rana Shmaitelly

Entrepreneur: Rana Shmaitelly

Age: 42

Industry: Education

Established: 2010

Number of employees: 7 full-time internationally including 4 in Lebanon. 25 part-time

Revenues in 2013: $550,000

The model: The Little Engineer is an educational program which teaches youth aged 6 to 18 in the subjects of science, technology, and engineering. It aims to make students more confident to study and pursue careers in engineering. Starting as a small club in robotics and renewable energy, the Little Engineer is a franchising model and has opened 6 centers in Lebanon, Qatar, and Libya. The Little Engineer is primarily an after-school program but has also established clubs within schools. Their clients consist of the students who pay fees to enroll in their programs.

Funding: $50,000 from MIT Arab Competition in 2010. $20,000 from Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.

Achievements: In 2013 the Little Engineer piloted a program that could be integrated into a school’s curriculum. The year also brought them a strategic partnership with leading aircraft manufacturer Airbus Middle East to deliver workshops in the region. A further significant partnership in the past year was established with American-based scientific and engineering software production company National Instruments to use their programming language software to teach children.

Goals: They are currently working to set up a franchise in Kuwait.

Strategy for the future: To grow the company and make a good exit, then start another company with a new concept.

 

 

Woopra

Woopra founder Elie Khoury

Entrepreneur: Elie Khoury

Age: 28

Industry: Internet/technology

Established: 2008

Number of employees: 10

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed six-figure number

 

The model: Woopra is a platform that offers businesses     real-time analytics. It allows its clients to understand how their customers engage with their website and applications, and then use this insight to plan strategically, charging their clients a momthly fee to use their products.

Achievements: In 2013, Woopra moved further upmarket into the enterprise space. Their clients include large, international companies with some of the internet’s highest trafficked websites. They have closed a partnership with cloud computing company salesforce.com, best known for its customer relationship management software.

Competitive edge: Woopra distinguishes itself by allowing its clients to see people, not just numbers, in real-time, and take tactical actions based on their behavior, such as email or promotional on-site ads.

Expansion: Woopra was founded in Byblos, Lebanon, but has been an international company from the start. As the company expanded, the founders felt that to optimize growth they needed to move to the heart of the technology industry, which precipitated their 2011 move to San Francisco. They run minimal operations in Lebanon.

Goals: Woopra is currently working on forming partnerships with other major technology companies, and is looking to increase their strategic partnerships and continue to increase their marketworth.

 

Category: Startup Entrepreneurs

Bnooki

Bnooki co-founder Elie BouJaoude

Entrepreneurs: Elie BouJaoude (pictured), Nicolas L’Helgoualch, Yann Rotyl

Ages: 30s, 40s, 40s

Industry: Online banking comparison website

Established: 2013

Number of employees: 5

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed, but cash-flow positive 

 

The model: Bnooki is an online comparison website for banking services. Users can compare bank services to get the best deal to match their personal criteria. They can apply for the service directly through Bnooki’s website. They generate revenues from the business reports they sell to banks, and from advertising.

Achievements: Bnooki launched in 2013 and very quickly reached a significant user base and are sending more than 500 requests to banks per month. They also generated revenues very early after their launch. They received an approval to operate from the central bank, and among their greatest achievements got 21 banks on board with their services. They also signed an agreement with the Beirut Chamber of Commerce under which the chamber launched a new loan which can be applied for exclusively via Bnooki.

Goals: Bnooki is currently working on a partnership with Google to establish ties to their website. They are also conducting market studies in other regions of the MENA to see which market they can expand to. The company is looking at horizontal and vertical expansion. In terms of horizontal expansion they are looking towards countries in the MENA region. In terms of vertical expansion they are looking towards expanding to other sectors, such as investment.

Background: Elie worked for a number of years at Kafalat, then became an investor at Berytech fund. He has sat on the boards of many startups.

 

 

CardioDiagnostics

CardioDiagnostics co-founder Ziad SankariCardioDiagnostics co-founder Layla el-Zein

Entrepreneurs: Ziad Sankari, Layla el-Zein

Ages: 28, 29

Industry: Healthcare/IT

Established: US in 2011, Lebanon in 2013

Number of employees: 1 full-time, 8 part time

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed, less than $1 million. Close to breaking even. Projected $1 million in 2014.

 

The model: CardioDiagnostics offers portable devices that monitor patients’ hearts outside of hospitals for up to a month. The data registered on these devices is transferred to monitoring centers, where it is checked by professional experts. This technology helps patients get out of the hospital faster, and gives medical professionals better tools to provide quick diagnoses to patients. Patients rent this machine from hospitals, and CardioDiagnostics receives money for the service, generally from insurance companies. Their revenue stream includes the rental fees and the licensing of their technology to third parties.

Funding: Cardiodiagnostics has been financed by the Qatar foundation and Berytech for undisclosed amounts.

Achievements: In Lebanon, they have partnered with the largest medical centers in the country. The company operates from Lebanon, but their technology is also attracting US customers, and has been deemed up to international and US standards. When the company was established in 2011, they were still working on researach and development. They have only recently started acquiring customers across the US in significant quantities. They currently have more than one thousand cardiologist customers across the US.

Goals: CardioDiagnostics is considering expansion to other countries looking in particular at Belgium and Germany.

Challenges: Difficult to find talent. One of the reasons they decided to come back to Lebanon was to create job opportunities, but they found it difficult to transform fresh graduates coming out of universities into sophisticated well-experienced talent.

 

 

Dom Controls

Dom Controls founder Ahmad Bizri

Entrepreneur: Ahmad Bizri

Age: 30

Industry: Home Automation

Established: 2012

Number of employees: 2

Revenues in 2013: Revenues pending the launch of the product.

 

The model: Dom Controls creates home automation technology that allows users to control air conditioning, hot water, curtains and blinds, light dimmers, etc using their cellphone, smartphone, or computer as a remote. Bizri is still working on the prototype, but has found a market in Lebanon, where he has been approached by many potential customers, some of whom were interested in customized versions of the technology. 

Achievements: Dom Controls will equip the 11th and 12th floors of Skygate, a prestigious property in Achrafieh still in development. The company has also have been approached by an enterprise that sells yachts.

Target market: The Middle East, particularly the Gulf where there is a demand for high-tech luxury items. Bizri is looking at Saudi Arabia, Erbil in Iraq, the UAE and Kuwait in particular.

Financing: Partly self-funded, with some funding from Berytech and one other private financial backer.

Thinking about: Creating a series of products for the industrial sectors, for instance being able to turn on machines at a distance without having to be present in the factory.

 

eTobb

eTobb co-founders Paul Saber, Sara Helou and Jad Joubran

Entrepreneurs: Paul Saber, Sara Helou, Jad Joubran

Ages: 25, 25, 20

Industry: Online Health

Established: 2013

Number of employees: 5

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed

 

The model: eTobb is an online Q & A platform which connects doctors to patients. It allows users to pose questions anonymously and for free to doctors, in either public or private conversations. It also allows them to read the answers to other members’ questions, and search for doctors to review their profiles. One of the inspirations behind eTobb was the founders realization that a lot of people asking medical questions online were not recieving reliable information. The venture’s revenues currently come via sponsorships from insurance and pharmaceutical companies that can sponsor particular topics or place logos and products on eTobb’s site.

Funding: 2012 investment of $76,500 from startup accelerator Seeqnce.

Achievements: eTobb managed to attract over 700 doctors, who cover 38 medical specialties, in addition to over 20,000 registered users, with 5,000 questions answered by doctors. They were semifinalists in the MIT Arab Business Plan Competition, and nominated for the 2013 World Summit Awards in the e-Health & Environment category.

Target market: eTobb’s users are primarily Lebanese, with some from the Arab world and a few outside the region.

Goals: To improve access to healthcare in the region by digitalizing health. The company is currently working to charge a monthly fee for doctors to make online bookings through their websites. They are also looking to expand to other countries.

 

 

Kashida

Kashida co-founders Elie Abou Jamra and Mirna Hamady

Entrepreneurs: Elie Abou Jamra, Mirna Hamady

Ages: 27, 25

Industry: Creative industries/product design

Established: 2011

Number of employees: No full-time, projects outsourced monthly to design hubs. In peak season they have 10 people working for them.

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed

 

The model: Kashida sells home accessories and furniture based on 3D Arabic typography. They also create personalized design pieces for clients. Their work covers small to large home accessories, corporate gifts, and souvenirs for events. Their concept celebrates the Arabic script with a functional element. They have partnerships with five to six production workshops in the region, in which they work with craftsmen and artisans. Kashida generates revenues by selling their products and services. Their products are ready-made items, whereas their services stem from the customization of their items. They can create designs with letters and words to reflect the name of companies, souvenirs for weddings, or baby showers amongst other things.

Funding: Self-financed.

Achievements: In 2013 Kashida created an e-commerce portal so that their clients could make purchases online. They have increased the number of products in their line, expanded to different markets, and grown internationally. At the end of 2013, they secured a partner in the UAE and plan on opening an office in Dubai. Their revenues grew 200 percent in one year. They currently have partnerships with big regional designers in the MENA region such as Dewan Architects in the UAE, Nuqat Creative Conference and Promoseven in Kuwait and Brash Brands in Dubai.

Target market: Kashida has expanded beyond Lebanon and their clientele is mostly based in the Gulf. They cater to both individuals and businesses.

Goals: They are focusing on business-to-business, increasing their partnerships with interior designers, creating more lines of corporate gifts, focusing on larger pieces, and targeting the GCC market.

 

 

Moujaz

Moujaz co-founder Shadi MoadadMoujaz co-founder Ali Hammoud

Entrepreneurs: Shadi Moadad, Ali Hammoud

Ages: 35, 20

Industry: IT/broadband/information extraction

Established: 2013

Number of employees: 1

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed

 

The model: Moujaz is a summary service that extracts key information from articles to provide a shorter version. Moujaz’s technology allows businesses to send their articles to the company and receive a short version in seconds. The businesses can then provide article summaries for their users. Moujaz removes up to 75 percent of content in a totally automated service. The program can increase hits to a website by 25 percent. Their model hinges on a monthly subscription for media websites, with several cost brackets depending on the amount of articles summarized.

Achievements: Secured a partnership with one media agency, and working on another. These have access to 40 large newspapers.

Target market: Cellphone users. Consumers of articles by phone often don’t have the time or attention to read a full article.

Challenges: Convincing businesses that they need to keep up with technology in order to stay alive.

Goals: They are working on a plugin for customers to use their services directly to summarize articles, to grow their user base and make their product easier to sell. They also aim to capture more users across the region. From the data they collect from these users, they plan on developing another product to sell to newspapers which would provide info about their users, and generate recommendations based on their behaviour.

 

 

Pin Pay

Pin Pay founder Omar Bader

Entrepreneur: Omar Bader

Age: 48

Industry: Mobile payments

Established: 2008

Number of employees: 28

Revenues in 2013: Undisclosed. Expect to make $2 million in 2014.

 

The model: Pin Pay is an application that allows users to make payments from their cellphones. This mobile banking service allows users to check their account balance, receive statements, transfer funds, and contact a help desk. Users can also make mobile payments to pay bills, recharge their phones, etc. Their revenues come from subscription fees and transaction fees. In some cases the users pay, but most often it is the receivers who pay. So far, they have established partnerships with Bank Audi and Bank Med, and are working closely with three other banks.

Funding: Over a period of 5 years they have raised around $5 million from banks, angel investors, and MEVP. Pin Pay was launched as a joint initiative between Omar Bader, MEVP, and Bank Audi.

Achievements: In 2013, Pin Pay has expanded their transactions and the number of payment types available to the user: including TV subscriptions, health subscriptions, and government payments. They have added a second bank to their portfolio and have increased the number of users. They currently have 70,000 active users. They are the only company authorized by the central bank to do inter-bank transactions.

Goals: First, the company wants to break even. Then they plan on increasing the number of banks, users, and services that they offer, to create more value for Pin Pay customers. They are looking to add at least 100 new services, ranging from membership fees to recurring bills.

Challenges: There are a lot of legal issues surrounding regional expansion.

Background: Omar Bader has previously co-founded 3 companies.

 

 

Presella

Presella co-founders Walid Singer and Louay Al Kadri

Entrepreneurs: Walid Singer, Louay Al Kadri

Ages: 28, 26

Industry: E-commerce

Established: 2012

Number of employees: 3

Revenues in 2013: between $15,000 and $21,000

 

The model: Presella is a crowdfunding and e-ticketing platform. Users can either create a regular confirmed event, or an unconfirmed event — following a crowdfunding model, where the event will only take place if its goal is reached in ticket sales. Presella makes 2.5 percent plus 99 cents on every ticket sold, and 4 percent plus 99 cents on their crowdfunding campaigns.

Funding: $76,500 from startup accelerator Seeqnce.

Achievements: Presella sold $300,000 dollars worth of tickets, and over 100,000 tickets both online and offline. They have 3,000 registered buyers, and have hosted over 200 events in Lebanon. They have also hosted events in Dubai, Qatar, Cyprus, and Turkey.

Goals: Presella are working on a cellphone application and looking to expand as quickly as possible.

 

Ubility Net

Ubility Net co-founders Ziad Mabsout and Khaled Dassouki

Entrepreneurs: Ziad Mabsout, Khaled Dassouki

Ages: 25, 33

Industry: Communications/cellular operators

Established: 2013

Number of employees: 2

Revenues in 2013: No revenues in 2013, plan to break even in 2014.

 

The model: Ubility Net is a technology company that creates tools for cellular operators to create flexible data plans for their users. Still awaiting a patent, their product would allow cellphone users to obtain customized data plans, to get the most out of their mobile experience. Their product is a combination of hardware and software; a server on which they install software that monitors the internet traffic of customers. Cellular operators can then create plans based on Ubility Net’s tools, which are also used in delivering the plan to the customer. Their revenue stream consists of the sale of the tool to cellular operators, and then support services.

Achievements: Ubility Net came in first place in the Maurice Fadel Prize in 2013. This year they were among the top 10 at the MIT Arab Startup Competition. They also found their first customer ­— a cellular operator in the Gulf.

Competitive edge: Ubility Net sees itself as unique because of its easy-to-use traffic-tracking technology with an interface geared directly towards cellular operators who can create data plans directly through Ubility Net’s software.

Goals: Ubility Net is finalizing its period of research and development and is planning to launch its final product in 2014.

Strategy for the future: They are planning to launch a series of products, all related to mobile operators.

 

Zoomaal

Entrepreneur: Abdalla Absi

Age: 21

Industry: Crowdfunding

Established: 2012

Number of employees: 3 in Lebanon, 1 in Syria

Revenues in 2013: $4,000

The model: Zoomaal is a crowdfunding platform for the Arab world. The crowdfunding platform lets projects with a defined scope raise money, which they receive only if they reach their goal. If the project is successful, Zoomaal makes a 5 percent commission on the project. If it is not, the money goes back to the contributors. Zoomaal has 12 different categories for their projects, including music, art, research and inventions, and education.

Funding: The platform is supported by 4 VC firms in the region: Wamda, MEVP, Sawari Ventures (Egypt) and National Net Ventures (Saudi Arabia). The company is seeking a second round of investment.

Achievements: Zoomaal has had five successful projects for which they raised a total of $100,000. Among their success stories is Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila, who raised $67,073 in a month to fund their third album Raasuk. They have launched 22 projects on their website.

Livia Murray

Livia covers business, finance and economic policy for Executive.

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