Tag Archives: Keynote

Day 2 – Wrap-Up

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Panel: Accelerators
Speakers: Gary Stewart, Stephane Gantchev, Ramez Mohamad, Mike Butcher
Moderator: Paul Bragiel

The panel started off by discussing whether there are too many accelerators today and got mixed reactions.  Areas such as Europe do have too many accelerators and emerging markets such as Lebanon do not have enough.

  • All panel speakers agreed that some people have no business running accelerators. They are many accelerators out there who don’t know how invest properly so they possibly should be educated and trained, or work together.
  • There was a debate on whether accelerators would last or become useless. An opinion was shared that if accelerators don’t start accelerating from universities, grass root, they shall become useless.
  • Paul supported government investments into the sector however Mike disagreed and said he would rather governments put better regulatory frameworks and regulations instead.
  • Ramez shared from his experience that at Flat6Labs, they have learnt that it is more essential to pick the team and not the idea. Teams stay, ideas change. Remaining panel concurred.

Paul summarized the panel with the following 3 points.

  • Hopefully the bad accelerators will die out
  • It’s all about the team
  • Everyone has a role to play in the ecosystem.

Fireside: Shaping Entrepreneurs
Speaker: Kalina King
Moderator: Gary Stewart

In the fireside chat, Kalina shared some important advice and tips.

  • Lebanon should be thinking very seriously about educating and providing the platform so there’s the tech talent to fuel startups.
  • Stay hungry. Keep learning. Go online. Find like-minded people. Stay curious.
  • Lebanon is very similar to Hong Kong in terms of education and community for startups.

Panel: Expats as Entrepreneurs
Speakers: Ivan Hernandez, Jonathan Giesen, Alina Gratschner and Rani Saad.

Moderator: Leen Segers

This panel discussed what lead them to become expats whether personal or business focused. They also discussed how being an expact impacted their personal relationships back home.

In terms of how challenging it is to move somewhere new and start from scratch, Ivan highlighted that you should identify the opportunities, network, engage, and learn all about the society you are in. You have to take the opportunity that you have, of where you are, and make something out of it.

Ivan added that if you want to have an ecosystem, you need to build it. You have to take action. You can build it gradually over a few years.

Jonathan emphasized that we are talking about a huge opportunity that is available in Lebanon where the ecosystem is rapidly changing and growing, however we have to work on our infrastructure. Also, BDL Accelerate has created something similar to a club where likeminded people have come together and networked but the challenge will be sustaining the enthusiasm.

Ivan concluded that BDL Accelerate 2014 could be the catalyst to create the momentum to build the Lebanon ecosystem.

The intervention session consisted of 5 stellar speakers presenting topics they are passionate about within a total of 70 mins.

Gary Stewart presented The Case for Corporate Accelerators

Mario Berta presented Sell, Sell, Sell

Hafez Virjee presented De-Risking Startups

Till Ohrmann presented Connecting Entrepreneurs

Vitaly Golomb presented Blueprints for Success

Closing Speech: Blueprints for Success
Speaker: Marianne Hoayek

In the conference closing speech, Marianne summarized the 2 day events:

  • More than 50 industry veterans shared success stories, insights, how to attain and retain talent, and more.
  • In the past two days countless entrepreneurs met with Angels, VCs, Investors, and pitched to them.
  • Lebanon will have soon have a stock exchange market dedicated to the industry.
  • UK Ambassador Tom Fletcher revealed the Lebanon-UK Tech Hub.
  • Entrepreneurs seemed eager to work and Banque du Liban will work to provide access to resources under one platform.
  • She thanked all the prominent speakers who came from around the world, as well as the partners who made it all possible and the audience for fueling the enthusiasm.

Seedstar Competition

The 8 selected finalists pitched for 6 minutes each in front of the jury: Charlie Graham-Brown, Mario Berta and Hafez Virjee.

The 8 starts up were:

  • Presella
  • Feedeed
  • Go Ijaza
  • Ki
  • Saily
  • Tari2ak
  • Yellow
  • So7ati

The jury then took 15 minutes to deliberate and the results were:

The runner ups:

  • So7ati
  • Presella

The Beirut Regional Winner is:

  • Ki

Congratulations to the startups!

That is a wrap from us! See you next year!

Day 2 – Morning Recap

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The 2nd day of BDL Accelerate kicked off with a panel discussing Lebanon’s Ecosystem with an audience of over 1000 attendees.

Panel: Lebanon’s Ecosystem
Speakers: Nicolas Sehnaoui, Mohamed Rabah, Yasser Akkaoui, Hala Fadel
Moderator: Mike Butcher

The panel discussed where they see Lebanon’s ecosystem in 5 years.

– Hala Fadel said that Lebanon’s ecosystem has progressed in the past couple of years & expects a more vibrant ecosystem in 5 years and that was the major consensus of the panel.

  • On making reforms Nicolas Sehnaoui said “I was not pushing an open door. I was pushing a concrete wall.”
  • He added that there still is a lot more to do infrastructure-wise such as fiber optics, abundant bandwidth, and faster internet.
  • The fiber optics infrastructure is available and connected to clusters and we’re only one click away to connecting our digital economy clusters to the world at maximum speed.

The panel then went on discussing who is responsible for not switching on fiber optic that’s already there without really touching on precisely who.

  • Looking at the positive side, Hala said big steps have been taken such as BDL Circular 331 but we need faster internet NOW and not in baby steps
  • Nicolas added that we have to bridge the gap between the banking & startup culture. Circular 331 slightly did that but not enough.
  • Mohamed Rabah highlighted that collaboration among entrepreneurs is key for Lebanon’s ecosystem to improve. Don’t compete locally.
  • Initiatives similar to the Lebanon-UK Tech Hub, the diaspora will help connect the local network to the world network.
  • Yasser Akkaoui stated that we have exceptional creative minds and designers in Lebanon.
  • Nicolas concurred and added that the Lebanese are the most creative people in the world, and that has been often proven giving examples of top world renowned designers.
  • Mike Butcher input: “Teach the kids how to code. Get them started young” highlighting the importance of educating young people for a better tech industry.

Keynote: Innovation in Emerging Markets
Speaker: Paul Papadimitriou

Paul went through the path of innovation describing how it’s changed over the years. Processors speed up and prices drop, which happened with smartphones for example.

Innovation is all about platforms.

Recipes for success: Logos, Ethos, Pathos, Mythos

Forget about labeling generations. That doesn’t mean anything. What makes you different is when and where you were born.

He kept on discussing how we don’t need to own anything anymore.  We can rent/share. For example, UBER and Airbnb.

Panel: Lebanon’s Investors
Speakers: Maurice Sehnaoui, Marwan Kheireddine, Maroun Chammas, Walid Hanna, Henri Asseily
Moderator: Mike Butcher

This explosive panel discussed the opportunties and challenges that have been faced with investing in Lebanon. Starting off that the Circular 331 allowed banks to invest rather lend which caused to shift the culture.

  • Today for the first time a bank is allowed to own shares in a company and take risks
  • Walid Hanna said that banks have no idea how to invest in technology.
  • Mike Butcher agreed that bankers wouldn’t be able to recognize Snapchat even if it hits them on the head.
  • There was a consensus among the panel that entrepreneurs don’t want access to money but they also want access to networks and expertise.
  • To construct the ecosystem, entrepreneurs are to be taught everything from A to Z, from incubators, to accelerators, to fund raising, to how to market their companies.
  • Mike Butcher brought back the topic of who is blocking faster internet connectionin Lebanon. The panel proceeded to discuss how local politics affect the ecosystem.
  • Marwan said that the single biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs is anything going through the government and proceeded to lay out the truth about the obstacles faced due to government bureaucracy.
  • Henri added “We don’t want to keep riding horse-drawn carriages when we have cars, just because you don’t want to pave the road.”

Keynote: From Silicon Valley to the World
Speaker: Jambu Palaniappan

Jambu began the keynote by introducing the story of Uber from creation to expansion and continued with:

  • Piece of mind is the key performance of our differentiation.
  • Beirut is UBER’s fastest growing market in the Middle East.
  • Uber brings job opportunities, safety, less congestion, price transparency, and innovation to Lebanon.
  • Imagine Uberpool, a modern equivalent to ‘service’ cabs.
  • Through pooling @ adding many new driver, partners would create a transportation revolution.
  • Pooling would reduce traffic and congestion, a great solution in cities like Beirut.

Panel: USA’s Startup Ecosystem
Speakers: Devin Soni, Melissa Ablett, Mark Haidar, Vitaly Golomb
Moderator: Paul Papadimitriou

The panel discussed if location in the US affects funding, expansion, and competition. Does it matter where you are in the US?

– Growth, marketing, networking all come with being in Silicon Valley said Mark however, being elsewhere results in cheaper talent and less competition

– Vitaly added that Silicon Valley is like the Olympics of startups.  He then advised startups to go learn in Silicon Valley, then return home with that experience and startup with less competition.

– Vitaly believes that to build a healthy ecosystem, you need to give back. You have to mentor the next generation.

– Mark discussed how he plans on giving back with LISA (startup association) he is launching to give back to Lebanese entrepreneurs through educating them and more.

– The biggest challenge Mark faces in the US is immigration. You feel the system works against you. Canada is taking advantage of US immigration. The country is welcoming the best and brightest in the world.

– Startups don’t create jobs. Startups eliminate jobs because they make things more efficient. – Vitaly

– If Vitaly was to start from scratch, he would start in South East Asia right now. The opportunity is great there.

– Statistically, 90% of startups will fail & you have to be in a society that embraces failure. Its ok to fail says Mark.

Fireside: Investing: How to

Speaker: Paul Bragiel
Moderator: Mike Butcher

In emerging markets you can take successful business models & localizing them. Nothing wrong with copycat startups.  If a business models work then take it replicate it, and localize it.

Most entrepreneurs had to teach themselves how to walk. You are going to have to fall on your face a few times.

Bragiel would consider starting a fund in the Middle East with the right partner on the ground and the right opportunity.  Trust is essential.

Most tech developments usually start as a toy then turn into something significant.  For example: Internet.

Bragiel discussed his time practicing for the Olympics and compared his adventurous life to being an entrepreneur – you take big risks.


Day 1 Wrap-Up

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Keynote: Investing in Asia
Michael Lints, Venture Partner
Golden Gate Ventures

The second half kicked off with a keynote on Investing in Asia by Michael Lints.
Michael discussed the different reasons on why Asia is the new land of opportunity for entrepreneurs and also discussed how different ecosystems, currencies, languages, and mindsets all play a role in cross border challenges.

Panel: Asia’s Startup Ecosystem: Opportunities & Challenges
Speakers: Adrianna Tan, Kalina King, Darius Cheung, Mario Berta, and Elias Ghannam
Moderator: Michael Lints

The panel discussed the opportunities and challenges they have faced in Asia’s Startup ecosystem and shared some of their personal experiences and provided the audience with some tips.

Interesting stories:

  • Mario once hired gogo dancers to convert taxi drivers in the Phillipines
  • Adrianna shared that if you’re signing a business document with an Indonesian partner you have to take a selfie in front of the Indonesian embassy!
  • Elias shared a story about how someone requested cash on delivery rather than online payment because of some of the online obstacles that are being faced.

Takeaway points from panel:

  • Government funding is essential and great to develop an ecosystem, however the ecosystem shouldn’t sustain on it on the long term.
  • Adriana advised entrepreneurs that they need to prepare for all the ups and down. To learn their business well and be well informed. You need to stop thinking about startups as a glamorous thing.
  • Michael Lints ended panel with a quote by his friend “Being a startup is as romantic as chewing glass.”

Keynote: The Knowledge Economy
Jean Nehme, Co-Founder, Touch Surgery

Jean Nehme started off by informing the audience that most surgeons conduct their first surgery on someone.  Which really is why, along with his colleagues, they came up with the idea for Touch Surgery. Surgeons are about 25% technical ability and 75% content knowledge – he added that he would rather have a surgeon who knows what to cut rather than just how to cut.

He also showed how Touch Surgery is taking it to the next level with virtual reality.

Worth noting is that Touch Surgery is free since Jean believes that in the knowledge economy, knowledge is free. He told entrepreneurs that they need to create smarter business models and share content/knowledge for free.

Panel – The Other Knowledge Economy:

Speakers: Hind Hobeika, Hassan Slaibi, Antoine Saad, Jamil Corbani

Moderator: Mark Haidar

The speakers each started off by introducing themselves and explaining their inspirations behind their products.

  • Hind Hobeika used to be a swimmer when she considered Instabeat
  • Hassan said they funded on Kickstarter and ended up raising triple what they were asking for
  • Hind and Hassan both agreed that being in Lebanon was not really challenging to create their products. Everything is accessible and it’s all doable, they agreed. IT would be better if the internet was faster though
  • Jamil noted that the strongest asset that Lebanese have is instability – it makes Lebanese creative and disruptive
  • Antoine Saad agreed and added that when you work in a chaotic environment and it succeeds, your product would succeed anywhere else.
  • Hind noted that the Lebanse ecosystem supported her and does not see any issues with starting up in Lebanon. She is also optimistic about raising large funds in Lebanon such as $20 million thanks to Circular 331.
  • Antoine Saad agreed and added that he has seen lots of progress in Lebanon during the recent years and is optimistic about the way forward

Keynote: Big Data and Business
Ramzi Rizk, EyeEm

The last panel of the day was given by Ramzi who started off by introducing EyeEm and how data plays a role in it. He then unveiled his ambitious aim to index the world, through algorithms that determine things like the person, composition, subject, event, etc in the picture.

Lightning Round:

28 exceptional startups took the stage for 1 minute each to pitch their startups as part of the Seedstar World Competition.

You can view all startups here.

Announcing Finalists:

The jury selected 8 startups to go to the finalist round tomorrow.

Cardio Diagnostic, Saily, Yellow, Ki, Presella, Go Ijaza, Feedeed, Tari2ak.


That’s a wrap for today. See you all tomorrow!