Scaling Beyond Borders: From Beirut to Montreal to the North American Market

Posted on October 17, 2018

Berytech is building on its ongoing plan to bridge the Lebanese and Canadian ecosystems. This allows rising startups to test and expose their products in the North American market, and it engages the Lebanese Diaspora in supporting Lebanese innovations and promoting economic development in the country.”

Lebanese Diaspora Energy - Montreal, CanadaThe Berytech team organized a visit to Montreal, Canada accompanied by a delegation of 12 Lebanese startups with the objective of bridging the Lebanese and Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystems. The core of the visit was to participate in the Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference, while additional activities were organized by Berytech with the aim to expose the Lebanese startups to Canadian accelerators, incubators, funds, startups, and economic development and promotion agencies allowing them to explore the possibilities to scale in North America through the Canadian market.

The Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference (LDE)

The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants started the Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference (LDE) in 2014 in Lebanon to shorten the distances between the Lebanese Diaspora and Lebanon. In addition to gathering eminent people of the Lebanese Diaspora in Beirut, the LDE makes a yearly journey to various destinations in the world, where regional conferences are held to promote the concept of “Lebanity” encouraging the Lebanese Diaspora to visit and invest in Lebanon and to celebrate their stories of success.

The Berytech delegation participated in the LDE North America that took place on the 15th and 16th of September 2018 at the “Palais des Congrès de Montréal” giving the spotlight to emerging Lebanese talent exposing their innovative ideas, aspirations and entrepreneurial spirit.

LDE Montreal startup village

The highlights of the team’s participation in the conference included taking part in the ‘Start-Up Village’ which allowed the startups to showcase, connect and network with the valuable attendees of the conference, the Demo sessions in which startups pitched to an audience of C-level executives and the various panels that hosted and were moderated by members of the Berytech delegation.

Startups who took  part in the delegation included:

  • Cherpa – an interactive online platform offering tech courses for teenagers
  • Foliower – an online platform for event planners
  • Gluco-Z – a non-invasive wearable device that monitors the glucose level continuously
  • Hinmotion – a platform for eHealth solutions
  • Moodfit – an online interior design platform
  • NAR – an Intelligent Aerial Software to detect asset defects during aerial inspections
  • Proximie – an AR platform that connects healthcare professionals
  • Scriptr.io – a platform that enables enterprises to create and deliver IoT applications
  • Spike – a mobile assistant that helps diabetics better manage their disease
  • Steppa – an international cyber security company
  • Taqa – a bakery dedicated to making local and healthy snacks for active lifestyles
  • Towbe – a global dispatching system

Insights On The Multicultural Innovation Corridor Panel

With the effort to start the conversation on how the Lebanese and Canadian ecosystems can collaborate, Ramy Boujawdeh Deputy GM of Berytech, moderated a panel split into two parts and hosting 2 different sets of panelists.

LDE Montreal Berytech Panel

The first part, titled BRIDGING ECOSYSTEMS presented the current status of the Lebanese startup ecosystem and showcased how to make the best out of operating from Lebanon and Canada.

The panel hosted Toufic Azar – Cofounder and CEO of MEACOR, Maroun N. Chammas – Chairman and CEO of Berytech, Chadi Habib – Ex. VP & CIO of  Desjardins Group, Nicolas Rouhana – Chairman and GM of IM Capital, Roula Zaarour – COO of Real Ventures and Philippe Ziade – CEO and Founder of Growth Holdings.

Panelists discussed the differences between the 2 ecosystems, the opportunities, challenges, and benefits of building networks between the two. The emerging ecosystem in Lebanon offers to Canada the potential of educated youth, employable talents and access to the Middle East. While Montreal is home to a growing ecosystem in a mature economy, positioned to be leading in several verticals including AI and deep tech, is looking to attract foreign innovative startups while offering them access to North America.

The second part of the Panel titled ENABLING PARTNERS TOWARDS A STRIVING ECOSYSTEM tackled the role of telecom companies to support the digital transformation in both economies and the role that startups can play to address the changes in the sector.

The panelists included Paul Chukrallah – Chairman and GM of Berytech Fund Management, Neemat Frem – Member of the Lebanese Parliament, Ibrahim Gedeon – CTO of Telus, Marwan Hayek – Chairman and CEO of Alfa, Rabih Nassar – Founder and CEO of Scriptr.io, and Cedric Tawil – Director of Business Development and Entrepreneurship at Montreal International.

Panelists discussed how the private sector, regional departments, and support funds scale up the presented opportunities and why is it important for them to attract and support startups for their own business model.

The message was clear that supporting entrepreneurs is key to the success of all the players. On one hand, VCs can ensure their success and their growth by injecting funds and support to those startups vs growth, equity, and valuation. On another hand, Telecom companies rely on innovation for their survival because business models of TELCOs are shifting from voice to data as they struggle to present innovative value-added services to their customers.

For a regional promotional agency like Montreal International, it makes sense to have more entrepreneurship ventures in its communities because that attracts jobs, strengthens the economy and creates value on a national level. Naamat Frem’s intervention focused on the importance of building a knowledge economy to revive and support the growth of the Lebanese economy.

Connecting with the Canadian Ecosystem

Berytech vists Centech in Montreal Canada

Within Berytech’s global mission to provide its startups with soft-landing in growing markets, Berytech organized activities for the visiting Lebanese entrepreneurs to understand and connect with the Canadian ecosystem beyond the LDE conference.

Berytech organized a breakfast at the Notman House in partnership with Montreal International, with the help of Cedric Tawil, and with the support of Roula Zaarour. The breakfast hosted the delegation of Lebanese entrepreneurs with a number of investors, mentors, industry experts and ecosystem builders in Montreal.

The pitching session and exchange meetings allowed the entrepreneurs to receive feedback on their pitches and how to adapt them to target the markets they are trying to penetrate. The breakfast allowed to create a conversation between the entrepreneurs and the ecosystem and to fuel it enough to keep it going. Emmanuelle Lamoureux, the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon, who joined the team at the breakfast, stressed on the importance of building a Lebanese-Canadian collaboration focused on innovation and building on the successes of both ecosystems.

The breakfast was then followed by a visit to Centech, a Canadian accelerator that has evolved from a university incubator into a regional player hosting deep tech startups from all over North America. The startups met with Richard Garnier, the GM of the ecosystem, who explained how the program allows startups to start and grow their business in Montreal and how the program’s services and connections in Montreal can play a big role in connecting startups to the North American market.

The delegation was also scheduled to visit District 3, an innovation hub in Concordia University. They met with Gisleine Silveira, International Relationships Manager, who seized the opportunity to explain to the startups what their ecosystem can offer and how Colombia University and District 3 are willing to support their startups to go international, while also being open to attract different startups to come to Montreal and be hosted at District 3. The university also has a track to support biotech and science-based research, with special ‘transformation into commercialization’ programs geared towards transforming Ph.D. graduates and researchers into entrepreneurs.

Bridging The Two Ecosystems

Berytech is building on its ongoing plan to bridge the Lebanese and Canadian ecosystems.  The activities started in 2015 with a similar delegation of startups that were introduced to the ecosystem in Montreal through a trip organized by Berytech within the Bridge to Innovation Program. With this year’s participation in the LDE conference and the activities organized around it, Berytech aimed to allow the startups to test their products in the North American market, check the appetite for the provided solutions, validate the concept and get exposure as well. It also aimed to engage the Lebanese Diaspora in supporting Lebanese innovations and rising startups and in promoting the economic and commercial activities taking place in the country.

“Through this mission, we believe that we have set the first step into building the relationship between Canadian and Lebanese ecosystems. The appetite is there, the interest is there, the willingness to collaborate is definitely there. It requires effort, a good business sense, and interest from the startups to penetrate North American markets from Montreal,” confirms Ramy Boujawdeh, Deputy GM of Berytech.