Natasha-Christina Akda is the Attorney and Lead Counsel of the NCA Group. She advises businesses and organizations in the arts, private enterprise, and the non-profit sector on considerations and issues arising from entity creation, conventional and alternative financing, corporate structuring, regulatory compliance, strategic development, and governmental affairs.
Natasha-Christina was a guest speaker at Berytech’s Euro-Med Scale Up Innovation Day where she shared some tips for Lebanese entrepreneurs on how to reach out to the Lebanese diaspora and what to keep in mind in a talk titled: The Power of Diaspora For Economic Development.
Being an entrepreneur is a difficult endeavor and without the proper resources and the proper support to make sure you are going to see your venture through successfully, it is just a compounding of difficulties.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the MENA region and Lebanon, in particular, is not one that culturally allows for economic risk, personal experimentation, or failure that is an inherent part of being an entrepreneur. There is the difficulty that comes from infrastructure, lack of resources, and lack of legal protection. To navigate that successfully, you must pivot and look at what is outside of what is readily available at your fingertips, and the greatest resource for you is the diaspora.
With the multiple crises hitting Lebanon, you realize the importance of melting borders to get to a place of not only creative entrepreneurship but also a place of basic survival. The diaspora becomes more important with the role that it plays and the access that it gives not only to capital but also to its networks and its other more intangible resources that become more essential.
Connect to the Diaspora
There is a broad spectrum of ways you can benefit from the diaspora, and you need to start by leaning on technology. You are only one zoom call away from your next partner, your next client, your next investor. To be able to take advantage of that, you have to put yourself out there, participate, don’t be afraid to get creative and remember that the diaspora in itself has a very unique demographic. They have very cross-cultural knowledge, they understand where you are coming from, they have established a base in whatever new home they have chosen for themselves but their connection back to their homeland never disappears, they are just as invested in seeing crises resolved as you are, and they are there to empower you to do so.
One of the best examples that I have seen of this is a project that I am honored to be able to participate with is a non-profit organization called Jobs for Lebanon. This is an organization of approximately 70 volunteers, people who are of the Lebanese diaspora who are based all over the world, from San Francisco to New York to Paris to Italy to Beirut itself. It is an online platform that is meant to connect employers throughout the world with individuals in Lebanon who are seeking employment or organizations or businesses in Lebanon who are seeking projects that they can source themselves to. We have seen, so far, a little over 7000 candidates apply to the platform, nearly 1000 job opportunities, and most of them if not all of them are coming from the diaspora. It is really beautiful to see this international ecosystem that is dedicated to supporting the people within the country to meet the challenges that they are facing.
Keep Legal Compliance in Mind
That being said, the diaspora is a phenomenal resource, and being able to combine that with technology is incredible, but remember that when you are operating in a cross-border environment there are compliance requirements that you need to be aware of, not only in your home jurisdiction but in whatever jurisdiction you are going to be presenting yourself in.
It is very important to set yourself up to become comfortable with best practices globally and not just regionally so you can easily navigate whenever compliance issues may come up. When looking at a world without borders connected by the internet, you do need to make sure you have done all the research so that you don’t trip on something that could have been easily avoided so you can make use of all the resources around the globe that are ready to support you and your venture in whatever you are looking to do.
The Euro-Med Scale Up Innovation Day
The Euro-Med Scale-Up Innovation Day was organized by Berytech under the EU-funded THE NEXT SOCIETY initiative as the first virtual event for scaling-up Mediterranean startups through the COVID-19 challenges and consequences on startups, businesses and economies.
More than 1,000 people of the region’s most entrepreneurial minds signed up for the six-hour event that gathered more than 50 speakers and 40 exhibitors from more than 15 countries. The event included around 40 activities from power talks, success stories, discussion panels, growth workshops, virtual exhibitions, and live networking. The event saw more than 250 one-to-one meetings happening to solidify the exchange of knowledge and support and the forging of new partnerships. Read more about the event.