The Asher Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ACIE) at USEK (the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik) was established in 2017 to preserve and encourage entrepreneurial enthusiasm among young individuals in Lebanon. Our objective is to connect young people with like-minded peers, facilitate the expression of their innovative ideas, and equip them with the information and skills needed to initiate new businesses in Lebanon. ACIE seeks to develop entrepreneurs who can establish successful and sustainable businesses in Lebanon while contributing to the growth of local and regional entrepreneurship ecosystems.
ACIE is one of the five business support organizations that Berytech has partnered with for the Partner Growth program. With each one located in a different Lebanese region, Berytech aims to empower them to catalyze entrepreneurship across the Lebanese ecosystem. Learn more about ACIE in this interview.
Q: What are the core values that guide your organization’s actions and decisions?
A: ACIE’s actions and decisions are rooted in a set of core values that center around key principles. Firstly, ACIE is dedicated to creating job prospects and fostering economic growth, not only within its organization but also by empowering startups to generate employment opportunities. Secondly, ACIE aims to retain local talent in Lebanon by providing meaningful employment and career prospects in entrepreneurship, thereby keeping young talent within the country. Thirdly, the organization is committed to inclusive training and mentoring programs, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity for personal and professional development. Lastly, ACIE adopts a problem-solving approach, pledging to address the unique challenges faced by the Lebanese ecosystem, with a focus on strengthening it for a brighter future.
Q: How long has your organization been operational, and how was it founded?
A: ACIE at USEK has been active for the last six years. It was founded upon the meeting of minds between the Lebanese Maronite Order, USEK, and US patron Mr. Anthony Asher. Since day one Mr. Asher was aligned with the original mission of USEK to provide education for all and provide a place where potential changemakers in Lebanon would be well-equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to become future leaders, promoting innovation, professional growth, and commitment to lifelong learning.
Q: What kind of programs are you running, and who benefits from them?
A: ACIE’s primary focus is on a range of programs catering to individuals interested in exploring their entrepreneurial potential. These programs are structured into four key phases: Building an Entrepreneurial Mindset (Motivation), Pre-incubation and Validation, Incubation, and Acceleration. Notably, we offer regionally and internationally funded programs like Nex-Labs, Safir, and IdeaLab, which serve as essential pillars of support for emerging Lebanese entrepreneurs. ACIE’s initiatives are designed to benefit a broad audience, encompassing Lebanese individuals aged 18 to 35, whether they are students or anyone with a promising idea. We provide them with the necessary resources and guidance to transform their visions into successful ventures.
Q: What sets your organization apart from others in your industry?
A: Being an incubator that offers its services to a wide clientele including an academic community is the primary way that ACIE stands out in its industry. This all-encompassing strategy distinguishes ACIE and establishes it as a useful and approachable tool for budding entrepreneurs, irrespective of their affiliations.
This setting provides advantages that set us apart as ACIE benefits from a diverse pipeline of projects spanning various sources, allowing us to support startups in multiple industries we also have access to a pool of experts from industries and academia, so we can offer guidance and mentorship, and specialized knowledge across the board.
Q: Can you share some significant milestones or achievements your organization has reached over the years?
A: In recent years, our organization has accomplished several milestones: 40+ Active Startups, 50+ Active Mentors, 4,000 participants in ACIE events, 300+ volunteers, 81 Jobs Created, and 603k USD from Grants and Competitions.
Additionally, in terms of a growing reputation, we were selected to host the Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) for three consecutive years, a global competition providing a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to compete and present their innovations and ideas. We have also had the honor of hosting Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) for three consecutive years, promoting a lively and robust Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ve supported the student-led Hult Prize Regional Summit, furthering social entrepreneurship and innovation among Lebanon’s youth. We’ve received recognition for our valuable contributions to empowering the next generation of leaders and our ongoing commitment to supporting innovators and entrepreneurs in Lebanon. These milestones underscore our commitment to strengthening entrepreneurship and innovation in our community.
Q: What has been the impact of the partnership with Berytech on your organization so far, and how do you see this impacting your entrepreneurs?
A: The collaboration with Berytech has had a positive influence on our organization. This partnership has played a pivotal role in bolstering our support for entrepreneurs in agrifoodtech and cleantech and enabling us to engage with a diverse range of skilled trainers and experts. Our collaboration with Berytech has notably expanded our visibility within the agrifoodtech and cleantech sectors, addressing a challenge we previously encountered. This increased visibility not only benefits ACIE but also directly impacts the startups in our program. They now have access to a broader network of potential partners, investors, and customers, thanks to our strengthened presence in these sectors. Overall, the partnership with Berytech has been instrumental in catalyzing growth and success for Idealab and the startups we support, advancing an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Q: Can you share a major challenge your organization faced and how you were able to address it?
A: At ACIE, we understand the power of community and outreach, but it often comes with its challenges. Our most recent challenge was luring in the next wave of agrifoodtech and cleantech innovators and entrepreneurs from the North Mount Lebanon region to the IdeaLab program.
To overcome the challenge, we expanded our team which embarked on a coordinated blitz of social media marketing and email campaigns and collaborated with others in the area to broaden our reach and level of ecosystem participation. We specifically sought collaborations with local entities such as clubs, NGOs, local universities, directors of municipalities, and entrepreneurship-supporting businesses to spread the word.
ACIE views these partnerships as long-term collaborations, ensuring mutual benefits and continued involvement in the ecosystem and promoting programs such as IdeaLab.
Q: What are your organization’s plans for growth in the next 5 years?
A: Our growth and development plan as an entrepreneurship support center revolves around adaptability, inclusivity, and a commitment to providing high-quality support to entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey. By staying agile, forming strong partnerships, and embracing technology, we aim to remain at the forefront of entrepreneurship support and make a lasting impact on the business landscape.
Our growth plan is rooted in our dedication to fostering innovation, empowering startups, and contributing to economic development. We recognize that the entrepreneurial landscape is ever-evolving, and we are committed to adapting and expanding our services to meet the evolving needs of entrepreneurs and the broader business community. Specifically, our plan includes diversifying our service offerings, integrating technology, developing stronger partnerships, establishing a sustainable business model, defining clear metrics to measure our impact beyond specific programs, and actively engaging with the local and regional entrepreneurship community, which is central to our growth strategy.
About Partner Growth
Berytech has created the Partner Growth Program under the ACT Smart Innovation Hub Initiative to enable five Support Organizations in different Lebanese regions, for three consecutive years, to source entrepreneurs with innovative solutions in the agrifood and clean technology sectors, assist them in ideating and validating their solutions through the IdeaLab Program, and initiate them to apply and join the Agrytech or Clyntech Accelerators and grow their businesses.