Posted on June 9, 2019
Being aware of the value that the Lebanese diaspora in the world represents, and the need to foster Lebanon’s relationship with them on meaningful and sustainable grounds, the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants started in 2014 the Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference (LDE) in Lebanon.
This unique event has become an annual ritual gathering eminent people of the Lebanese Diaspora in Beirut to celebrate their stories of success and engage in a strong and symbiotic partnership with their fellow countrymen, to seek investment opportunities in Lebanon.
Held this year under the theme Diaspora in Action, the 6th local edition of the Lebanese Diaspora Energy provided its platform to Lebanese decision makers, entrepreneurs, investors, physicians and businessmen from various sectors and their Diaspora counterparts to explore best practices in development, while creating a unique occasion to share perspectives and innovative solutions to local problems, open up new horizons of collaboration, and align Lebanon with recent trends in social, political, business and other realms of interest.
Maroun N. Chammas – Chairman and CEO of Berytech, moderated the panel session titled current state of the tech ecosystem and leveraging on the Lebanese diaspora, which hosted
H.E. Adel Afiouni – Minister of Information Technology and Innovation, H.E. Nicolas Sehnaoui – former Minister of Telecom and current member of parliament, Marwan Hayek – CEO of alfa, and representing the Lebanese diaspora, Carl Wazen – Co-founder and CEO of YOCO in South Africa.
Minister Afiouni explained that his team was working on improving the ease of doing business in Lebanon, “so, we need more private capital flow to help our startups. We are also working on attracting foreign companies to Lebanon as we have the talent. There are laws in motion now.”
According to Minister Sehnaoui, the telecom infrastructure is on its way in Lebanon to reach worldwide quality. He also added that the best business model for Lebanese startups is to have Lebanon as a development hub and launch pad to reach the world. “We have built the right network and infrastructure, now it’s time to set up a landing station in Silicon Valley for our startups.”
According to Marwan Hayek, Mic Ventures has invested $3million in Lebanese startups since they started the fund last year. He comments, “we hope to see faster and better responsiveness from those applying moving forward.”
Reinforcing his fellow panelists were saying, Carl Wazen concluded that “we will set up a development hub in Lebanon because there are talented engineers and a good enabling startup ecosystem.”
Lebanon’s most legendary export after its own people is its food. So, it is only natural to call for Lebanese startups innovating in F&B to pitch in front of the Diaspora and compete for $25,000, generously offered by alfa.
Each startup had 3 minutes to pitch their innovation in front of the jury, who followed specific criteria to select the winner of the cash award. The judges evaluated each startup based on their pitch delivery and content; and the potential for them to succeed abroad.
The winner of the startup competition was Hum N’Go– a new Grab & Go snack made of hummus and crunchy bread-sticks put together in two compartments of a plastic cup represented by Co-Founder Samer Sfeir.
The startups who also pitched included TAQA– a company that produces Lebanese healthy snacks free from white wheat, milk products, GMOs, palm oil, corn, and soy flour, represented by Soumaya Merhi; Smart Gourmet– a pioneer in providing various dishes that are cooked under the sous-vide method to bring the ultimate quality and taste, represented by Co-founder Jad Atallah; L’Atelier du Miel– a brand and boutique solely dedicated to Lebanese honey and honey products, represented by Founder Marc Antoine Bou Nassif; and finally the Good Thymes, represented by Founder Fadi Aziz who developed ten mixes of zaatar, including spicy zaatar, fruity zaatar or zaatar with keshk transforming zaatar into a unique product.
Since the future revolves around youth and technology, LDE was keen on offering young entrepreneurs the chance to share their startup projects with a wider audience, in an effort to bring together stakeholders from Lebanon and the Diaspora.
Berytech and the Lebanese Venture Capital and Private Equity Association worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants in Lebanon and organized a Startup Village a 150m2hub during LDE that was dedicated to tech startups – internationally-minded entrepreneurs and high-growth businesses. Over 30 Lebanese startups showcased.
“We coordinated with the LDE team to attract a high number of investors and investment experts that could connect these startups and the investment ecosystem in Lebanon to additional smart funding opportunities. It was high time we showcased to the world the efforts done to put Lebanon on the innovation map,” comments Maroun N. Chammas.