Tag Archives: startup

Opening Speech – Riad Salameh

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I would like to welcome you to “Banque du Liban Accelerate 2014”.  Your presence today and the large attendance encourage us, as a Central Bank, to put more effort to support the emergence and success of this sector. We believe that the knowledge sector should become one of the pillars of the Lebanese economy, along with the financial sector and hopefully the energy sector.

The synergy existing between these sectors and the other traditional economic sectors in Lebanon will undoubtedly enhance quality, efficiency and competitiveness.

Knowledge is the most expensive commodity in today’s world. The market capitalization of companies in this sector has exceeded that of companies dealing with traditional commodities or performing traditional activities.

Lebanon, with its qualified human resources, can benefit from the knowledge industry, thus increasing its wealth and expanding its GDP in order to create employment and opportunities for those who have the intellectual power.

-3-Based on the foregoing, Banque du Liban has issued a Circular to encourage Lebanese banks to invest in the companies of this sector.

We are guaranteeing 75% of the risks that a bank may bear as a result of such investments. We are retaining 50% of the profits stemming from the guaranteed investment.

We have also dedicated human resources and time to ensure that requests submitted by banks to invest into funds and companies are handled promptly and professionally.

So far, many banks have already allocated funds to this type of investment.

We call on all the banks operating in Lebanon to get involved.

BDL is also keen to help in the establishment of accelerators to back the emergence of this sector, and we have guaranteed at100% that type of investment in that type of activity.

We are also striving to make this sector benefit from international knowhow and expertise.

I would like to thank Ambassador Fletcher who was instrumental in the creation of the tech hub supported by the UK.

It’s our hope that the coordinated activities of this hub will help create brands for the Lebanese tech companies.

The Capital Markets Authority (CMA) is actively engaged in the establishment of a proper environment for the trading of shares in general on the local stock exchange and over the counter.

Funds and Startup companies will have in the future the opportunity to exit through these markets, if they choose to do so.

The CMA has also the authority to license a stock exchange entirely dedicated to these funds or companies.

In due time, BDL will engineer financial incentives to ensure the liquidity needed for the success of the IPO’s to be used by Lebanese investment banks and financial companies.

I would like to thank the entities who offered to sponsor this event, especially the Lebanese Banking Association for covering the total cost of the conference.

My thanks also go to Mrs. Hoayek from BDL who spared no efforts to produce a great event, helped by Mr. Karam from ALICE.

I hope that your meetings during these two days will be fruitful.

Thank you.




Closing Note – Marianne Hoayek

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48 hours ago, Lebanon’s journey to become a true hub for knowledge not only in the region but the whole world had begun. Over 1800 seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, and experts gathered here, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, to lay the foundations for establishing Lebanon as a premier international startup hub alongside London, Berlin, and Singapore. They shared experiences, insights, techniques, methods, and know-how, dished out how-to’s to newcomers, do’s-and-don’ts to the up and coming, and inspiration to the rest of us.

More than 50 startup industry veterans from around the world took to this stage. With them, we listened to success stories, heard about proven investment strategies, discovered how to find and stain talent, learned about international startup legal, accounting, and audit best practices. In these two days, we connected with industry leaders, met and pitched to angels and VCs, and got up to speed on the latest trends.

His Excellency the Governor Mr. Riad Salamé said yesterday in his opening speech that “knowledge is the most expensive commodity in today’s world!”. He promised us to create a synergy between the Lebanese banking sector and the country’s knowledge economy. He emphasized that Circular 331 was just the beginning and that it is time for all the stakeholders to come together to fuel growth in the economy. He also said that Lebanon will be having a stock exchange dedicated to our sectors soon.

We were not only happy to have H.E. the British Ambassador Mr. Tom Fletcher take to the stage and hear him express his love and faith in Lebanon and the Lebanese, but also to see him uncover a Lebanon – UK Tech Hub which will take the ecosystem to the next level. “In Lebanon you have to work with so many obstacles. When you work anywhere else it is a walk in the park,” he emphasized. With this initiative Lebanon will see the UK offer expertise, experience and exposure to support the growth of Lebanon’s embryonic knowledge economy.

Here in Lebanon we are predisposed to weather the storms because of our resilient nature. We have gone through a lot and continue to learn with daily uncertainties, but we have learned to overcome insurmountable challenges and turn them into opportunities. This point has been emphasized by many speakers over the two days, especially by the successful Lebanese entrepreneurs like Mr. Alexander Asseily, Mr. Ramzi Rizk, Mr. Jean Nehmé, Mr. Mark Haidar, and many more.

Not only will the startup have the chance to go to the UK, they will also go to Silicon Valley through the Speed Initiative.

We also had workshops on the side where various speakers lectured about key issues related to the ecosystem, from pitching to investment strategies. We took notes of the comments of participants that more is needed. Entrepreneurs seem eager to learn and we will work on improving access to information and transparency, and hopefully make it all available under one platform. We will also keep on supporting the creation and expansion of bootcamps. I am personally looking forward to congratulate the winner of the Seedstars World Competition, the First International Startup Competition in Lebanon.

Finally I would like to thank all our prominent speakers especially those who came from the furthest corner of the globe to join us. I would also like to thank our audience who proved to be unique! The interest and the engagement that I have personally witnessed in the past two days have restored our faith in the importance of our efforts and will encourage us to do more.

I mostly would like to thank H.E. the Governor of the Central Bank Mr. Riad Salamé without whom none of this would have happened. I would also like to thank our strategic partners and everyone on the production team who made this event a reality.

My next appointment to you will be in January 2015 to launch the UK-Lab Tech Hub.

I would like to end by thanking you all again for helping us succeed and we promise that this is just the beginning…

Introduction – Marianne Hoayek

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you to Beirut, the beating heart of the Middle East and home to Lebanon’s First International Startup Conference.

When we first came up with the idea of this conference four months ago, we knew that it would be a big challenge. We are in the Middle East, after all, and this region is boiling with uncertain events and influenced by numerous negative external factors. But we knew that we needed to work with a different mindset in order to weather the storms and build the inspiring future we are all dreaming of.

His Excellency the Governor has repeatedly said that the Central Bank’s mission and objective is to maintain monetary and financial stability. He is a firm believer that if we do not invest in the trust that we have accumulated over the past twenty years in the service of the economy then our mission is not complete. Our priority should be to increase social and economic growth.

The most important challenge that Lebanon is facing today, besides political uncertainty of course, is youth’s unemployment. This is a very pressing issue with evident repercussions on the country’s social stability and welfare.

More and more of our university graduates are leaving the country to look for jobs elsewhere. Our aim is to reverse this trend—to turn this brain drain into a brain gain—by creating and fostering an environment that would lead the young Lebanese to stay, or even come back and invest here.

Lebanese entrepreneurs have proved themselves inside and outside the country as innovators in almost all sectors from creative industries to high tech to medicine to fashion. And in the past couple of years the Lebanese ecosystem has shown marked signs of progress: ideas flourished, entrepreneurs matured, big investments were made, and the technology evolved.

We are at a crossroads between different civilizations and continents. In the current globalized world, we are well positioned to be the entry point to the markets of the region and even beyond. We have a large Diaspora present and active all over the world from Europe to Africa, to the Gulf to Australia and to the US. Tens of successful Lebanese come to mind, and we are honored to have some of them among us today to share with us their remarkable success stories and help us get closer to our goal.

As I said, we definitely have the comparative advantage in terms of human capital and talents and all what was missing was the appropriate tool and financing.

Which is why the Central Bank found the need to intervene—and we did.

On August 2013, we issued Circular 331which created a financial platform of more than $400 Million of Equity financing for Startups, incubators, accelerators and any company working in the knowledge economy.

This innovative financing tool, which is probably the only one in the Middle East, encourages commercial banks to participate in the Equity of companies while the Central Bank guarantees 75% of the risk. To date, we have secured the funding of more than $150 Million for companies and funds and have several others in the pipeline.

Our aim is to help companies bring their innovative ideas to life. We did not specify a closed list of illegible sectors. We kept it flexible. Investments could be made in apps, Internet platforms, media tools, medical equipment, agricultural solutions, or perhaps green technology… In brief, anything that offers innovation and falls into the knowledge economy would qualify.

We are also working on supporting “Startup Boot Camps and Training Programs”. These camps will help ensure a deal flow, provide the much needed technical support and help entrepreneurs transform their innovative ideas into a viable business that could be exported to the international markets. We hope that these programs, combined with the other efforts by the different stakeholders of the Lebanese ecosystem, will ensure Lebanon’s position as a true Hub for knowledge not only to the region but also to the World.

Finally, I would like to thank you all for being with us on this special day. I also extend my thanks to all our prominent speakers who have come from all over the world to share with us their inspiring stories and the lessons they have learned.

We truly hope that Banque du Liban Accelerate 2014 will open new windows of opportunity and inspire various stakeholders to work collectively towards raising the Lebanese startup ecosystem to the next level and positioning it among the premier tech hubs in the world.

Without further delay, I would like to give the floor to His Excellency, the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Riad Salamé…Without his support, guidance and strong leadership, none of this would have been possible.

Your Excellency the floor is yours…







Ki, Seedstars Beirut Regional Winner

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Ki, Seedstars Beirut Regional Winner

Ki, the winning startup will be flown to Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in a 3 day bootcamp and the Seedstars Final Event representing Lebanon as they compete for “Seedstars World Best Startup.” The winner will secure a $500,000 investment while pitching in front of a wide panel of European investors, in addition to receiving $20,000 worth of hosting services from Softlay and $60,000 work of global prize partners.

Ki, the only password manager that interacts with you, is basically an app that logs you in to your accounts and keeps you safe from hackers. For example, you get to work and you get to a close proximity to your laptop, Ki will access all your accounts for you. If you step away from your laptop, Ki will send you a notification asking you if you want to stay logged in or not. Moreover, it will change your password for you on a scheduled basis and takes the hassle out of two-factor authentications. The passwords are saved on your phone which simply logs in via location.

Seedstars World is an exclusive worldwide startup competition that has been taking place in over 30 cities in 2014 and Beirut was one of them. The aim of the competition is to find the best startup in emerging and fast-growing startup scenes such as Lebanon. The pitching event was exclusively sponsored by Banque du Liban and hosted by Lebanon’s first international startup conference, Banque du Liban Accelerate 2014. Banque du Liban has been supporting startups in Lebanon during the past couple of years, which in return has provided startups with a boost and made Beirut a strategic hub for them.

25 startups were selected to participate in the Lighting Round Pitch on the main stage on Thursday in addition to having a startup exhibition stand throughout the 2-day conference. The top 8 were selected to enter the Finalist Round on Friday during which they had 6 minutes to pitch. Ki was selected by the jury after a very tough round as “Seedstars Beirut Regional Winner.”




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!

BDL Accelerate Conference Schedule Overview

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Agenda Overview

Lebanon’s first international startup conference, Banque du Liban Accelerate 2014 kicks off tomorrow! We have put together an awesome schedule for the upcoming 2 days. The agenda features 7 keynotes, 2 firesides, 5 interventions and 8 panels.

BDL Accelerate 2014 will showcase 53 influential high profile speakers, 33 of which are flying in from over 20 countries from Singapore to San Francisco. The speakers will share their Blueprints for Success in the keynotes and panels. They will share their insights into developing and expanding startups, emerging trends, disruptive innovation, accelerators, investment strategies, opportunities and challenges faced in the different ecosystems, and more.

In parallel to that, there will be 8 workshops that feature small group sessions with some of the key speakers, throughout the 2 days. The workshops will cover many specialized and focused topics educating entrepreneurs every aspect of the start up industry from concept to fundraising to branding to expanding and more.

Speaking at the Opening Ceremony will be Governor of Banque du Liban Riad Salameh, UK Ambassador Tom Fletcher, Francois Bassil, and Mohammad Chouceir. The Opening Keynote will be delivered by Alexander Asseily, the Chairman and Co-Founder of State and founding CEO of Jawbone. Other speakers and panelists include CEOs, investors, and seasoned entrepreneurs.

Seedstars World will host a competition at Banque du Liban Accelerate 2014 to find the best entrepreneur. 30 exceptional startups have been selected from over 100 applications to pitch. They will partake in the lightning round on the first day where they will each have a minute to pitch their startups. The finalists will be announced following the lightning round and proceed to the finalists round the next day for a chance to be “Seedstars Beirut Regional Winner” and represent Lebanon at the global competition in Geneva, Switzerland.

Q&A with Yasser Akkaoui

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Q&A with Yasser Akkaoui

Yasser Akkaoui,
Editor in Chief of Executive magazine & Founder of KConcept Holding
Beirut, Lebanon

 Yasser Akkaoui is the founder of KConcept Holding, the mother company of Capital Concept, Prime Job, News Media and the Center for Strategic Studies. Yasser has become one of the reference names in Corporate Governance activism in the Middle East. He has been a committee member of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East since 2010, a member of the Organization of Economic Development and Cooperation’s taskforce for MENA stock exchanges, and the regional consultant for the Center for International Private Enterprise. In April 2010, he was invited to Washington by US president Barack Obama, along with delegates from around the world invested in advancing entrepreneurship, to discuss the state of entrepreneurship in the MENA. Since 2011, he has been the chairman of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. From 2008 to 2012, he has been a board member of the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), Transparency International’s Lebanese chapter and through LTA, he has co-founded the Institute of Directors in 2010 which aims at promoting good governance in Lebanon. Yasser also created PrimeJob, a headhunting agency working alongside some of the biggest companies throughout the Middle East. He is the founder of the Center for Strategic Studies, a non-profit organization engaged in awareness creation for employment concerns and resource development strategies for the 21st century. Yasser has been representing the interests of Executive Magazine since 2001, a media platform he uses to advocate reforms in the Middle East. Executive, established in 1999, is dedicated to providing its readers with in-depth and forward thinking analysis, solid reporting and punchy opinion on Middle Eastern business, economy and public policy. Yasser is the Vice Chairman of Young Arab Leader, and is also a Business Ethics instructor at the American University of Beirut. Since its inception in 2010, he has been a strategic partner for the Beirut Art Fair.

 What kind of policies or regulatory frameworks Lebanon needs to work on in order to facilitate investments? Is there anything that’s currently being done in this regard?

In the absence of a modern private equity legal structure and a functional Beirut Stock Exchange, and without deeply rooted corporate governance principles, investors will shy away from our entrepreneurs. We are confident that the Capital Markets Authority is aware of its mandate – let’s hope they will be up to the task.

 Is there something unique about Lebanese ecosystem? What is it and how can the country use it to up its startup game and compete with other ecosystems?

Educated and creative entrepreneurs together with skilled and hardworking craftsmen is our competitive advantage. When provided with the right framework that allows them to discover each other and cooperate towards achieving their ambitions all while satisfying investor’s expectations is the only strategy that will – without comparing to other ecosystems – serve the nation building exercise.



Q&A with Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou

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Q&A with Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou

Dimitris Kalavros-Gousiou
CEO & Co-Founder, Found.ation

Dimitris G. “DKG” Kalavros-Gousiou is a 26-year-old web-impact entrepreneur and tech maverick. He is best known as the Founder and Curator of TEDxAthens and Co-Founder of digital content house Nest Media. As of March 2013, Dimitris also serves as a Co-Found.er of Found.ation, a technology hub and educational platform in Athens, Greece. From 2011 to 2013, Dimitris served as a Referrer for pre-seed investment firm HackFwd, leading its pipeline from Greece and Southeast Europe. He also occasionally writes for TechCrunch Europe. Over the years Dimitris worked with Fortune 500 entities and multinationals such as COSMOTE (Deutsche Telekom Group), Diageo, Bacardi, The Coca-Cola Company, Piraeus Bank Group, Heineken, Samsung and others. DKG holds a Law degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury and an LLM (Master of Laws) in Computer and Communications Law from the Queen Mary University of London. He is also an alumnus of U.S. Department of State “International Visitor Leadership Program”, class of 2013, and a member of the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum. Dimitris regularly speaks on the topics of entrepreneurship, technology, design thinking, digital storytelling and industry disruption.

What type of ideas are attracting the most funding at the moment?

In the last two years, we have seen a significant growth of actual VC deals in the ICT sector, mainly due to the creation of new Venture Capitals under Program Jeremie, a co-financed investments program by the European Investment Fund. Typically, Greek Venture Capitalists invest in later stage start-up companies in the areas of mobile and social solutions, with less focus on B2B startups. Due to the hype in the industry, we see that they are also looking for companies which belong to what we call the “Unicorns” (companies that have the potential to be the next European billion dollar company). Angel investors come in many forms, and mainly invest in startup companies that have the potential to generate revenues from their first 12 months of operation. Such investors enter an investment scheme, only when a strategic, institutional investor is also involved, typically by leading a round.

What does it take for an idea to disrupt an industry? Are there any disruptive ideas at the moment? Where are they and what can we learn from them?

It definitely requires a detailed and deep knowledge of the target market (or segment) and customers that the startup aims [to reach out for]. Localization provides advantages to transform a range of different ideas into quality products or services. Different countries provide different competitive advantages for different industries. Greece, for example, holds one of the most attractive industries for the development of travel tech startups since it is a popular holiday destination. The sector has attracted both foreign investments and international customers, standing out as an emerging market. The tourism industry is a major contributor to increased economic activity in Greece. The broad scope of the industry means that it also influences other sectors (e.g.: development of instruments and technical solutions, including online, social networking, mobile, IT, etc.)

 Which startup are you keeping an eye on? Why?

There’s more than one, since the Greek startup scene has started to gain the visibility we think it deserves. From our experience running one of the first co-working spaces in the country, 3 teams that got their startups up and running are Truckbird, Captainwise and Susurrus. Truckbird is an online realtime freight marketplace. They have launched a technological project that works to advance the field of freight road transportation through online platform that connects shippers with carriers. Truckbird has come up with the right answer to problems of truckload utilization and issues of trustful collaboration and information sharing. The team of Captainwise created the ideal solution for those who need to find their perfect getaway, by simply entering their budget and the days they wish to travel. Captainwise has entered the Greek tourism industry with an alternative idea of online tourism that has changed the way people travel. Susurrus is a platform that matches bloggers with brands looking for a new way to increase their awareness. It collects data from fashion blogs regarding their audience and the quality of their content and if you are a designer you can find the bloggers that suit your characteristics and provide them with your ideal concept. There is not enough good quality content produced by and for brands and it seems that Susurrus has found the next big thing in online marketing field…

What can Lebanon’s ecosystem learn from Athens? What do you think is the country country’s biggest asset, which it can bank on to take its ecosystem to the next level?

Found.ation believes in, and actively supports, the creation of a sustainable startup ecosystem. A major challenge we must tackle is the transformation of good and promising ideas into sustainable businesses which can leave their actual economic footprint in the Greek economy. In addition to the variety of open, wide quality events and education of offerings for startups (Found.ation has organized and hosted so far more than 120 education and networking events on topics such as web and mobile development, design and business marketing), we produce and run in depth accelerator programs where we provide a holistic and comprehensive boost to startup teams and talented first time entrepreneurs.

We believe that the success of young entrepreneurs requires substantial investment in their craftsmanship and skills, especially in the high-technology sector. A successful startup ecosystem is best built through young entrepreneurs who are equipped with the right tools, educational resources and networking opportunities.