The Euro-Med Scale-Up Innovation Day took place on November 19, 2020, organized by Berytech under the EU-funded THE NEXT SOCIETY initiative. This first virtual event for scaling-up Mediterranean startups focused in its opening edition on scaling through the challenges imposed by COVID-19 and its 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.
The event was organized within the Global Entrepreneurship Week, during which tens of thousands of events, activities, and competitions took place worldwide, inspiring entrepreneurs to explore their potential. The intense schedule was designed to cover topics from marketing to raising funds with the ultimate goal of helping startups adapt their growth strategies, access funding opportunities, forge new regional partnerships, and scale across the European and Mediterranean markets.
Berytech hosted Youmna Nawfal – Journalist & Communications Consultant, #YCHATS, CGTN, as the MC during the event.
We All Are THE NEXT SOCIETY
In his opening word, Maroun N. Chammas – Chairman, and CEO of Berytech, pointed at the particular effort it took to organize the event as it is the realization of over a year’s worth of organization and planning, “We are very proud to be hosting the Euro-Med Scale Up Innovation Day, using our collective mission to mobilize, promote and reinforce innovation ecosystems and economic development in the region.
COVID-19 spread fast and has been wreaking havoc for almost a year now across the globe. Businesses have suffered. Economies have suffered. People have suffered. But there is a way to grow through this pandemic, even though all the odds seemed to be stacked against us.
Today you are joining over 1000 participants to learn about the key technologies and industry trends that are reshaping the business world and tap into new post-pandemic strategies to grow your venture, access international markets, and thrive in this challenging world.
You are here to connect with like-minded professionals, explore new networks, and promote your business across the Euro-Mediterranean region. You are here to learn how to navigate and thrive in this new “normal.”
To prepare for the future, we need to shape it ourselves. We need to come together as a society. And today’s event is a true testament to how much we can do together as one movement to figure out what’s next. Because we are all THE NEXT SOCIETY.”
Relocation and Sovereignty
In his turn, General Delegate of Anima Investment Network and Initiator of THE NEXT SOCIETY, Emmanuel Noutary, echoed the difficulties brought forward by the pandemic: “This COVID-19 crisis is pressuring our economies, many companies are in danger, many jobs are destroyed, and we will probably see the consequences of this crisis continue next year. The worst in this context is to be in isolation. We need to work together as Mediterranean countries to get through this crisis. What international analysts are foreseeing so far is a double movement, a movement of relocation and a movement of sovereignty. We expect that there is going to be a movement of regionalizing the global value chain, which means that international companies will be bringing back some of their Asian facilities closer to them. So Mediterranean countries need to seize this opportunity. It is an opportunity to source and attract technology and jobs. The recent crisis showed us that for key issues, key technology, and key products, our countries should develop a certain level of independence and sovereignty not necessarily alone but together. Today THE NEXT SOCIETY is gathering the 90 most active tech hubs across the Euro-Med regions out of 500 organizations dealing with innovation in the scaling up of entrepreneurs. We have plenty of new opportunities for collaboration ahead of us so I’m very for everyone joining the event today.”
Scaling through COVID-19
The event hosted keynote speaker Johnny Boufarhat – founder of Hopin, the platform that simplified the organization of such a complex virtual event. Johnny’s journey in launching and scaling Hopin is impressive and inspirational as he had to scale in record time during the pandemic and because of it, “We began as a virtual and hybrid events company two and a half years ago. Today we are 225 employees with 50,000 organizers. We have recently raised $125 million and we’ve hosted 67,000 events so far on the platform.
Before Hopin, I had never raised a funding round, I had never worked with institutional investors, I had been working for less than 2 years in a workforce and have no corporate background. I had never managed more than 3 people, I have no master’s degree, no MBA, no Ph.D. I had no connections to tech; besides the few developers I know. I didn’t know anyone who would get me funding. The platform was born 18 months ago for the very reason that I suffered from an autoimmune disease and was stuck home for about a year. I was recovering while I was at home, I wanted to network with people and luckily for me, I had been a coder since I was quite young, so I developed a solution where people could network online. This was minimal compared to the Hopin platform being used today. I had developed that, and the goal was to allow people to network comfortably from the comfort of their own home. After I recovered, I attended an event to raise money for the platform, and the first angel investor that I had met invested in us. Although we had built the software, not a single investor would answer an email that I had sent to them, but when I met this investor in person and face to face, they could feel the excitement in my voice which got him excited too.
Hopin grew at a huge viral rate and not only did we need to raise money quickly and expand quickly but also, we had to build a team, not that there was a guidebook on how to scale a company in a year and a half. It was a lot of realizations and learning. I needed to be aware of what I didn’t know and be the biggest sponge in the room at all time, so building a strong team becomes the key thing. If you have a strong team, ideally, you should be the dumbest person in the room. That’s the advice I had been given. Getting advice from other founders was more impactful than any advisor from a corporate background, or an investor. It was someone else who had been in the same situation as me, whether they had failed or not they are going to have insights that would help you get to where you need to go.
We scaled up very quickly from 6 to 220 people. For the first ten employees, you are the culture of the company, but how do you scale the culture? You have to make sure that these values can break down over time into the business so each individual that you hire values the same culture. At Hopin, we harbor a culture of trust because we are completely remote, we don’t know what people do on a day-to-day basis. We have total trust that everyone is doing the best of their ability. Another part of our culture is staying humble. We are a global company that works remotely in over 38 different countries, so we respect all.
We were already growing very fast and were planning to launch in September of this year. We did a fundraising round and then the pandemic happened where we had to react quickly. We had the choice of continuing in the same path and launching in September as planned or launch in February and flap our wings much earlier than we were prepared to.
We decided to launch earlier through long nights and lack of sleep, but that is part of being an entrepreneur. Moments can make us, but you also make your luck by being the most aggressive and the most confident. To scale, you need to have confidence in what you do. It sounds cheesy but if there’s a will there’s a way!”
The Business Innovation Week
The Euro-Med Scale-Up Innovation Day was part of the first Business Innovation week in Lebanon organized by Berytech which also offered an Acceleration Bootcamp for startups, and Power Meetings with investors.
The Lebanese Business Innovation Week was designed to bring together entrepreneurs, mentors, industry experts, investors and ecosystem leaders from Europe, the MENA region and Gulf countries to work on business expansion and explore investment opportunities.
It offered an intensive learning experience that included coaching and mentoring, networking, one-to-one meetings, training and workshops by the best national and international mentors, and a full-day conference.
Throughout the coming weeks, we will be sharing more insights and inspiration from the Euro-Med Scale-Up Innovation Day from speakers, entrepreneurs and trainers. In the meantime, you can access the video of the event here.
Berytech & The Next Society
Berytech is the exclusive project partner of THE NEXT SOCIETY in Lebanon, working since 2017 on the initiative, which gathers a large network of over 300 business and innovation, research and investment organizations, 2500 international SMEs and entrepreneurs from 30 countries.
THE NEXT SOCIETY is an open community of change-makers, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, NGOs, public and private innovation, research, and economic development hubs from Europe and 7 Mediterranean countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia. It aims at mobilizing, promoting, and reinforcing innovation ecosystems and economic development in the MENA region.
Launched by ANIMA Investment Network, THE NEXT SOCIETY initiated a four-year action plan (2017-2020), co-funded by the European Union up to 90% for a global amount of EUR 7.8 million, which impacts 4 levels of the innovation ecosystem: improve policy frameworks, foster startup successes, promote and internationalize clusters, and accelerate technology transfer towards the enterprise.
THE NEXT SOCIETY is more than just a project. It is a movement building the next generation of innovators.