Posted on June 8, 2016
I am a Lebanese national born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I was privileged in my adolescence to meet and experience many world cultures as I studied in multinational schools, enjoyed a scholarship for a year in Brussels and currently live and work in Beirut as the technical founder for my startup. Carpolo is a community-based mobile application with a gamified points reward system. It is a platform that acts as a search engine for unused car space, with a twist for incentivizing drivers to list their empty car seats.
As a student in a country with no urban planning and no effective public transportation, traffic, cost of fuel, and parking fees became my major daily problems. I’ve always believed that if we want something to be done, we have to take action. So when I came to Beirut from Brussels, I participated in the 2014 “Startup Weekend: North Lebanon” and Beirut Pitch Competition and won 1st place for a carpooling solution which would later become Carpolo.
Later that year, Carpolo won Samir & Claude Abillama’s Eco Entrepreneurship Award and secured a place in a regional accelerator named Speed@BDD. During this acceleration phase, my partner Ralph Khairallah and I were selected as two of the Top 20 Lebanese Entrepreneurs in 2015. During the same month, Carpolo won 3rd place at the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) and was incubated at Berytech with the support of Fondation Diane. After months and months of designing, planning, and testing we will soon be launching our app in Lebanon while keeping an eye on our ultimate goal: to increase the occupancy rate per vehicle worldwide. At Carpolo we believe that it is no longer acceptable to drive a 5-seat vehicle with a single empty seat, which might be considered one of the most inefficient modern habits.
I am privileged to be invited to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley representing Carpolo. I have also been selected to attend GES+, a day-long program in advance of the larger summit which focuses on unleashing the impact of 150 of the most dynamic global youth and women entrepreneurs. It is an important worldwide summit for entrepreneurs and being invited to such an event is significant to Carpolo as it recognizes our startup as one of the top potential businesses that might catalyze change.
Growing our startup seems something of a dream to me. We still face daily challenges that require lots of smart business decisions. Carpolo has been gaining momentum, an increasing the size of our team, and building lots of business partnerships.
Eagerness to create change has driven me into fields I once took for granted. Finance, marketing, budgets, and forecasting company growth while accounting for expenses was a nightmare in the early months of our startup. I have learned that I can never say no to learning, especially subjects that are not technical. My partner and I both share a solid belief that our startup will grow with us the more we learn – we need to move fast and smart, while engaging recent technological trends.
While some people think that Lebanon is always a nation in turbulence, I believe we are a nation of perseverance. In the recent years, a huge rise in the entrepreneurial sector was guided by the Central Bank of Lebanon. As a result, a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem had a ripple effect on the advancement of Carpolo and many other startups.
Personally, this proves that untapped talent is always waiting to benefit from direct and smart interventions and proceed in creating not only jobs, but also the future of nations. Although such an example is too young to be judged as a success, it shows significant growth possibilities and gives a chance for tomorrow to be led by the younger generation of entrepreneurs.
Many developing countries have very large youth population; instead of leading their future into turbulence, communities should guide their path by passing on knowledge and giving young leaders the freedom to fail. After all, freedom to fail is what entrepreneurs really want.
Mohammad Nabaa, Co-founder of Carpolo
This article initially appeared as a GES publication