According to stakeholders in Lebanon’s startup ecosystem, plans are in the making for a nation-wide accelerator. This could have a major effect – currently there are incubators for entrepreneurs operating companies at a more advanced stage, but for those just starting out there is no organized support. One previous attempt – Seeqnce – had some success in graduating a batch of eight startups but disbanded shortly after.
Though the country’s entrepreneurs have over the past couple of years become more serious, competent and supported, this lack of early-stage support is limiting the ecosystem. The anticipated accelerator is desperately needed to boost the pipeline of startups. Particularly in the wake of Banque du Liban’s Circular 331, which will lead to $400 million more capital in the ecosystem, Lebanon needs a parallel increase of Series A investment-worthy deals.
This will be a challenge for those involved, particularly to ensure both quantity and quality of startups to create enough companies that succeed. Executive spoke to startups at ArabNet and put together this wish list of five things the accelerator could help them with:
Ensure follow-on investment: When a startup graduates from an accelerator, after grueling months of mentoring and coaching, they need to work rigorously to keep growing. Ensuring that startups are well equipped to do so with follow-on funds that will propel them to the next stage is essential for the budding company to stand a chance.
Access to mentors: One of the largest added values of an accelerator is the access they provide to a network of international mentors. Entrepreneurs can’t make assumptions on how to scale their business, they need to talk to people who have been there and have done it on an industry-specific level, ideally from the global market.
Coaching: Startups need to receive guidance through a hands-on approach as they go through early stages of development. This includes technical advice and help in developing products, branding, and pricing strategy. Entrepreneurs need coaches who will bring experience and know-how, to guide them through the process of putting an idea into application, validating the concept, and building and scaling the business.
Access to experienced and enthusiastic teams: Startup founders need teams that are as enthusiastic and determined as they are. They need people who are both experienced and committed. Good talent is often difficult to find as they are usually sucked up by the big names in their industry. Outfitting startups with solid teams that will stick to the project will be a challenge for accelerators to tackle.
Networking opportunities: Access to markets and access to investors is of course crucial to any startup, and accelerators should provide opportunities for startups to interact with and pitch to investors. These investors will have to be willing to take a risk on them, but that is the nature of the startup business.