Beirut, Lebanon: On August 13, 2018, in partnership with the Summer of Innovation initiative and the Office of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, and in strategic partnership with Alfa, Lebanon’s first mobile network managed by Orascom TMT, the national startup program ‘Startup Scouts’ (www.startupscouts.org) held its first Semi-Final competition at the Grand Serail.
Since the launch on July 9, the Startup Scouts 2018 cycle has engaged partners and young people from across Lebanon (all districts) and mobilized over 240 applications. The process, largely online, was very engaging and participatory, and had a very selective funnel in order to select the top teams from across the country:
- 240 applications from across Lebanon
- 65 teams selected for the Sprint (27% of applicants)
- 30 invited to attend the Semi-Finals Event at the Serail (12.5% of applicants)
- 20 pitched in the Semi-Finals judging rounds (8% of applicants)
- 11 selected to enter the accelerator (4.5% of applicants)
- While the program had no gender quota, the team works to ensure programming that encourages strong engagement by both men and women, and in this cycle achieved approximately 50-50 equality in participation in the Sprint phase, and just by chance over 60% of teams selected for the fall Accelerator program are women-led or have a women-cofounder.
Startup Scouts is also working to ensure geographic distribution of participants. Of the 65 participants accepted into the Sprint (August 4-11), approximately 23% came from Mount Lebanon (all parts), 19% from the North, 8% from the South, 8% from Bekaa, 3% from Nabatieh, and 2% each from Akkar and Baalbeck Districts. The remaining came from Beirut. Approximately 30% of participants in the Sprint phase were women.
THE PLATFORM AND METHODOLOGY
The Startup Scouts program is built on a strong platform and educational methodology that helps deliver personalized experiences to early-stage entrepreneurs via an online platform and both online and offline activities, regardless of geography.
The pilot has demonstrated great success, and the program has ambitious plans for growth, with expanded and longer-term entrepreneurship skill and character development programs launching in Fall 2018 and in 2019. The project aims to engage 5,000 young people across Lebanon in 2019, and 100,000 within the coming 5 years, in high-quality innovation and entrepreneurship training and support activities.
The team is also developing plans for a national ecosystem vision to give every young person in Lebanon access to a high quality participatory entrepreneurial experience every year they are in school or university, with proper metrics and monitoring to ensure ongoing program improvement and impact monitoring. This effort is closely aligned with the goals of SDG 9, and the critical need for economic transformation in Lebanon, across Lebanon, to a more innovation-powered economy.
SENIOR AND VIP PARTICIPATION IN THE STARTUP SCOUTS SEMI-FINALS
Representatives of numerous ministries and key organizations took part in the event, including Minister Raya El-Hasan, director of the Tripoli Special Economic Zone, MP Nadim Gemayel (head of the new Parliamentary Committee on IT), Ms. Yasmina El-Khoury Raphael (Head of Business Environment and Innovation at the Office of the Prime Minister), Dr. Mohamad Shaaban representing the Minister of Telecommunications Jamal Jarrah, and key representatives from the Ministry of Economy and Trade, Ministry of Education, IDAL, and the World Bank. Public sector representatives and private ecosystem partners also joined for a strategic planning discussion related to improving entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurship support across Lebanon.
Ms. Yasmina El-Khoury Raphael noted in her opening speech: “From the side of the government, and the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, we have pledged to give all possible opportunities and support to the youth to help them innovate, and for Lebanon to become a hub for technology and entrepreneurship. As HE Saad Hariri said at the launching of Summer of Innovation on July 9th, we believe that technology can be a driver for our economy. We’re proud to be supporting another cycle of the Startup Scouts program launching in fall 2018, to help expand entrepreneurial opportunities for young people across Lebanon.”
Dr. Mohammad Shaaban, representing the Minister of Telecommunications Jamal Jarrah, said “We at the Ministry of Telecommunications are doing everything we can to facilitate innovation, infrastructure and funding for young entrepreneurs, such as through the MIC Fund. One key thing for startups,” he said, “is to stay hungry and ambitious, and initiatives such as Startup Scouts encourage just that.” He also urged greater collaboration between the private sector and the public sector to encourage and support great innovation within the public sector and addressing public sector challenges.
David Munir Nabti, co-founder and GM of AltCity, said it is crucial to fill gaps in education that are critical for entrepreneurial growth and economic success. “Our goal is that within 10 years, we as an ecosystem can provide a high-quality entrepreneurial experience every academic year for every young person in Lebanon, and this can only be done with the collaboration of the public sector, the private sector, government and ecosystem partners. We’re working to build a powerful platform that can reach a large number of people, and we look to collaborating with both public and private sector partners to maximize our collective impact.”
Many ecosystem and community partners of the Startup Scouts program attended the event, including Antwork, BDD, Berytech, DiasporaID, GAN – the Global Accelerator Network, Makesense, Theemar Fund, LSTP, Alex the CFO, Alfanar, BIAT, Baddawi Coworking, Lebtivity, Virgin Radio Lebanon, startup grind, and Teens Who Code.
Startup Scouts Accelerator – Economic Sectors
More than 30% of startups accepted to the Sprint Week developed ideas in the educational sector, while 15% focused on environmental issues, and 15% on e-commerce. The rest of the startups centered around the sectors of finance, private transportation, and social impact.
The Startup Scouts team is working to increase alignment with strategic economic initiatives and priority sectors, as outlined by key government economic bodies, to maximize positive economic impact on the country.
Upcoming dates for the Startup Scouts 2018 program are:
- Affiliated Program: “Startup Scouts Impact Accelerator”, Sep-Dec 2018
- Final Startup Scouts 2018 closing event in December 2018
ABOUT ALTCITY: AltCity is a startup community and one of the leading entrepreneurship training hubs in Lebanon and MENA, helping aspiring entrepreneurs, researchers, and corporations go from idea to launch an investment since 2008. We focus on tech and tech-empowered business across sectors, with key interests in for-profit scalable social impact ventures, and in public sector innovation. Our primary work is focused on Lebanon, with expanding programs in the MENA/EuroMed regions and beyond.
In recent years, AltCity was also lead implementer of Bootcamp, a high-intensity early-stage startup program supported by the Central Bank of Lebanon (BDL) and AM Bank. AltCity also co-founded and managed Elevate Impact Accelerator, in collaboration with UNICEF, focused on supporting innovation related to critical challenges facing young people in Lebanon and beyond. AltCity has worked with many local, regional, and international partners, including the Office of the Prime Minister (Lebanon), Google, TechStars, AM Bank, Beirut Digital District (BDD), Antwork, STEP Conference, Alfa (Orascom Telecom), touch (MTC / Zain Telecom), Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), Cisco, Mercy Corps, the Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon, the UK Embassy in Lebanon, Arabnet, UK Lebanon Tech Hub, MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan-Arab Region, Synergos, Canal France International (CFI), American University of Beirut (AUB) (and many other universities), Singularity University, and others. .