Almost a year since the start of implementation, we are now completing the final activities for the AFPI x Berytech action and starting to reflect on what we have learnt during this excellent collaboration – one we are sure will yield results in the months and years to come…
Since May 2021 when we officially launched the AFPI x Berytech action to empower the Lebanese tech sector to market itself in France, we have worked with the Association Franco-Libanaise des Professionnels de l’Informatique (AFPI) to develop a “French market acceleration programme”. Between November 2021 and February 2022, five Lebanese diaspora professionals in France and Switzerland collaborated to create and test the acceleration programme. Between them, they led nine training sessions to pilot the content and share tips and tricks to help Lebanese tech entrepreneurs find their way into the French market.
For EUDiF, each action brings opportunities to explore different forms of diaspora engagement, in terms of topic, countries and actors. Each action is tailor-made and we learn as much from the implementation process as from the experts themselves. Creating the French market acceleration programme has shown us the enormous added value of working with diaspora professionals who have the ability to convey unique and reliable market information to facilitate the entry of domestic businesses in a specific sector…
New context, new needs
We started the journey of co-creating the accelerator programme with the five diaspora professionals by conducting a needs assessment in the summer of 2021 with several tech companies in Lebanon. Given that the Lebanese context has changed dramatically over the past years due to multiple crises, it was important to scope the profiles and the current needs of operating companies.
In addition to understanding the companies’ structure and niche markets, four questions were raised on how to access the French market:
- What are the legal requirements to do business in the French market?
- What are the financing opportunities in Lebanon and in France that would allow a Lebanese business to expand into France?
- What are the do’s and don’ts of trading with the French market?
- How can companies mitigate cultural differences?
Diaspora professionals: Welcome and willing
We did not have to go far to find the right experts for the job. AFPI and Berytech’s networks are rich in diaspora professionals in the tech sector. Members and friends of AFPI and Berytech Andre Dibeh, Chantal Laire, Daniel Jarjoura, Constantin Salameh and Carol Saba supported the action as diaspora professionals, sharing knowledge and experience in their respective domains. They were quick and effective in understanding the questions and concerns of Lebanese companies and in communicating the keys to the French market in a digestible way. They were also glad they could share their knowledge to support their home country.
In January and February, 10 Lebanese tech companies joined practical training sessions and had only good things to say about what they learned from trainers on how to build a customer base in France. They instantly saw the value of interacting with diaspora trainers to understand foreign markets:
“The pilot program proved to be high calibre. It allowed us to better understand the FrenchTech Ecosystem from all facets and to meet extraordinary Lebanese professionals. I would eagerly welcome additional programmes which will allow the creation of professional exposure and bonds between Lebanese Entrepreneurs and the Lebanese Diaspora.”
Toufic Saghbini, Entelligence
“It was an amazing journey with EUDiF, the training sessions helped to develop a better and deeper understanding of the French market, opened new opportunities doors and introduced us to a great team of diaspora coaches and beneficial connections with other business owners.”
Samer Semaan, Sync Digital Solutions
“This training was a great opportunity for me, as a diaspora member, to share with entrepreneurs from my own country my knowledge of the host country’s culture and the cultural challenges of developing a business overseas.”
Chantal Lair, Diaspora professional and executive coach
Exporting top tips
- “French like the French”: speak the language, adjust your website and secure a local presence in France, if possible.
- Patience and determination: It is a long process to secure the first contract. Once you are in, the expansion will become easier.
- Capitalise on your connections: The best way to find customers is through a connection or recommendation. Therefore, leveraging the diaspora and attending industry events are a good gateway.
Like many of the participants in the training programme, a natural next step is to reflect on what further roles the diaspora could play to open the door to foreign markets.
For now, AFPI has established itself as a technical guide for Lebanese companies by providing their know-how and market expertise to Lebanese companies. AFPI is also acting as a promoter of Lebanese tech services with Cedars Tech, a way for Lebanese companies to acquire a seal of good quality that demonstrates the level of excellence of their services and products. They also financed Lebanese companies to join Vivatech, Europe’s biggest start-up and tech event last year to grow their network in France and in the EU.
Following the promising first-run of the market acceleration programme and AFPI’s other support, there is great potential to scale up support to Lebanese tech companies keen to break into the French market; it could even be replicated for other EU countries. AFPI has strong potential to act as a trusted third party, establishing contact between European and Lebanese companies to facilitate the start of business relationships.
From EUDiF’s perspective, it has been a wonderful experience working with AFPI and Berytech. The dedication and skills of the partners and the diaspora professionals make them powerful agents of change, especially in times of crisis when entrepreneurs and businesses can use a helping hand to continue to operate and create jobs.
In addition to the French Market Acceleration Programme, EUDiF supported AFPI to develop the Cedars Tech guidelines and a communication plan. To read more about the different parts of the action see the infosheet. When possible EUDiF works with diaspora professionals, in this action we worked with Reina on the communication plan, she shared some insights on the experience here.