How A Startup Catalyst in Lebanon Helps Young, Aspiring Entrepreneurs

How A Startup Catalyst in Lebanon Helps Young, Aspiring Entrepreneurs

You read that right, Lebanon. One of Lebanon’s most active startup catalysts, Seeqnce, hosted a new competition in partnership with Cedrus Ventures during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Over two weeks in Seeqnce’s new interactive workspace in Hamra, young aspiring entrepreneurs submitted ideas, formed teams, underwent training and selection, and then completed a 48-hour bootcamp, culminating in a prototype pitch to judges. Of
60 initial entrepreneurs, only 42 made the initial cut to form 11 teams, and one team dropped out due to the pressure. Many fledgling startups gained valuable experience here.

Teams present their business models to the jury, led by the Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui. Each team had five minutes to explain their business concept and general revenue model, and then they had to showcase either a working prototype or a skeleton of their website. The jury assessed them based on four criteria: team members, presentation, product, and viability. Jury members asked tough questions, such as the supply chain of some products and how some of these startups were differentiating themselves from other established companies on the market.

The above highlights are extracted from an interesting article which I recommend reading

Here are my observations on the above:

  • The MENA (Middle East North Africa) region has a vibrant, energetic new venture community driven by aspiring entrepreneurs – this is a positive force in these countries – I find many in the U.S. are not aware of this
  • The MENA economies are really driven by smaller companies – for example, in Saudi Arabia, about 40 percent of the population work in companies with market cap of less than $15,000. While many are what we call ‘necessity’ vs ‘opportunity’ driven small business, nonetheless the new venture momentum is strong
  • The above scenario is, at some level, repeated in every country in the world. Global entrepreneurship is alive and well. As an example, I closely track the health care sector and while the US has an impressive health care system, most would be surprised at the level of innovation  emerging from overseas entrepreneurs.
  • Helping these efforts provides many of the benefits you would expect such as regional economic growth, job creation, and so on. Being directly involved in this area several years ago, I saw one other benefit- the ability to identify and build on these
    relationships to create a win-win and also help U.S. companies and our economy.

Today this is an ad-hoc effort . During a November 21st TV interview on the Inside Scoop Business program , I described a new program, the AEGIS program (“Accelerated Entrepeneurial Global Investment System) I am proposing to help attract overseas innovative ventures and technology to the U.S. market to promote job creation, innovation, and economic growth. Some key features of the proposed new program which I described in the interview:

  • Replaces today’s ad-hoc approach to identify, analyze, track and manage new ventures with a highly structured, well-defined program
  • Builds a base of ‘showcase’ companies in targeted sectors (e.g., alternative energy, bio-tech, health care, others) that provide high upside, economic benefits
  • New U.S. entities have global reach thus creating new export opportunities

I am starting discussions with the administration in early December related to AEGIS and will be seeking to attract major business partners to also participate. From my perspective looking at global entrepreneurship, I see many benefits here and the
ability to create win-win situations with overseas partners.

Stay tuned.

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Comments on Report Accelerating Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa


Recommend read “The Young Global Leaders Forum and Booz & Company released a report on Accelerating Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa” –was co-authored by Wamda’s CEO and Young Global Leader Habib Haddad. Excellent perspective on the entrepreneurial opportunities in this region. I have met with senior government staff in recent years – this report confirms my view this is an area of high potential

Submitted following comments in response to report:

Excellent insightful report I recommend all read – one key finding clearly shows that investing in new policies that drive growth of ‘microenterprises” (defined as value less than $15,000) has great potential to drive regional economies.

As noted given size these can be dismissed as irrelevant – look deeper and you see in Saudi Arabia, microenterprises account for 40 percent of all jobs, in Morocco 65 percent, similar in other countries

Other key point – solution to grow and improve survival rate of microenterprises is not just more funding as many may expect – cultural, education,mentoring all play a role. I have discussions in progress with a partner now to contribute in-region with new approaches addressing entrepreneurial education and many exciting initiatives in progress here.

Clearly very active entrepreneurial community exists within the MENA region and not sure many realize this. Also opens doors for alliances with U.S. partners, another opportunity I see developing quickly. Many implications for US also – while we may not have as many “necessity-driven” entrepreneurial ventures here, small/medium enterprises (SMEs) , with effective policies, can drive new jobs and economic growth.

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