Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Space Travel News .

Lebanese start-ups seek tech boom
by Staff Writers
Beirut (AFP) June 18, 2013

Lebanon has long suffered with some of the slowest Internet speeds in the world, but a new crop of online entrepreneurs believes their country is primed for a tech start-up boom.

In the upscale Hamra district of Beirut, start-up "accelerator" Seeqnce has a second-floor office with a vibe and style that recall 1990s Silicon Valley.

The office is open-plan, a main workspace ringed by meeting rooms that are named for and painted in bright colours.

Ideas are scribbled in erasable marker directly onto glass table-tops or white boards, and there's a well-stocked shelf of alcohol that bolsters one employee's claim that Seeqnce "throws the best parties".

Sitting at computers in the main room are some of the participants in the company's first-ever accelerator programme, a six-month effort to guide a group of eight budding Internet entrepreneurs from ideas to investment.

"People are really getting into building Internet start-ups," said Seeqnce co-founder Fadi Bizri, who helps mentor those taking part in the programme.

"They enter, they work with us in a boot-camp military fashion, and then they graduate and pitch to investors," he said.

He and his partners set up the programme last year, planning to solicit 300 individual applications and whittle them down to about 30.

Some of their would-be investors were sceptical, but they ended up with 430 applicants, and held mixers and events until they put together eight teams they felt had potential.

Among the applicants was 24-year-old Marwan Hamouche, who pitched BaytBaytak (Arabic for My House is Your House), a real estate website that connects homeowners to would-be buyers and renters.

Some of his friends and family were less than thrilled at his decision to quit his job in film production and advertising and join the programme.

Lebanon has a reputation for entrepreneurship, but usually within a few traditional sectors, like hospitality and banking.

"I got a bit criticised by friends who said 'Marwan, you had a rather good position... why did you leave?'" he said.

"I decided to take a path that is more risky and that can be more rewarding."

In exchange for a 30-percent stake, divided between itself and its investors, Seeqnce offered the eight start-ups about $38,000 in cash and six months of office space and full-time mentoring.

The cohort is diverse.

At (Emedicine), users can consult a range of doctors with medical questions and view their answers to other queries.

Kactus is a phone app that allows overwhelmed users to organise tasks into to-do lists, and helps people arrange group activities and outings.

Bizri says the sites and apps are part of a tech start-up wave.

"The feeling is that it's happening, that now is the time."

With a growing number of firms available to shape start-ups, innovative loan options and improving Internet speeds, Lebanon's would-be tech entrepreneurs benefit from an increasingly favourable environment.

Berytech is a well-established "incubator" offering workspace and seed capital to start-ups, and is also part of an ambitious new public-private plan to establish a tech hub called the Beirut Digital District.

Internet speeds are climbing steadily, with average connection speeds of 1.3 megabits per second, up from just under 0.4 in 2007, according to tracker Akamai.

"It was embarrassing, now it's bad but it's not embarrassing," Bizri says. "It's no longer an excuse to say 'I can't do a start-up.'"

And despite the novelty of online businesses in Lebanon, there are several ways for tech start-ups to finance their expansions.

Khater Abi Habib heads Kafalat, a loan guarantee facility that could soon be helping some of Seeqnce's charges get next-stage funding.

"When we first started as Kafalat, we thought that the (tech start-up) field was one of the sectors that was underfinanced, it was very difficult to get start-up money," Abi Habib said.

"Start-ups are more risky and the business is less understood by conventional bankers."

Kafalat aims to encourage banks to extend loans to young firms, including tech start-ups, by guaranteeing their outlays, up to 90 percent.

A joint project of Lebanon's National Institute for the Guarantee of Deposits and about 40 member banks, it makes money by charging a premium on its guarantees.

"It's a collective investment that allows the banks to spread the risk," Abi Habib says.

Its beneficiaries include Cinemoz, a video-on-demand website that got its start in Seeqnce's offices and eventually grew big enough to hire a staff of 14 people and move into its own premises.

"We received a $200,000 innovation loan from Kafalat," Cinemoz CEO Karim Safieddine told AFP.

"It allowed us to do wonders... Kafalat is literally the only true seed funding alternative in Lebanon."

Safieddine says the firm made $600,000 in advertising revenue in its first year and is now seeking additional funding to expand.

"There is definitely a spreading wave. The worldwide start-up trend, with rock star entrepreneurs and success stories, is trickling down in our region," he said.


Related Links
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The Body Electric: Researchers Move Closer to Low-Cost, Implantable Electronics
Columbus OH (SPX) Jun 12, 2013
New technology under development at The Ohio State University is paving the way for low-cost electronic devices that work in direct contact with living tissue inside the body. The first planned use of the technology is a sensor that will detect the very early stages of organ transplant rejection. Paul Berger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics at Ohio State, expla ... read more

INSAT-3D is delivered to French Guiana for Arianespace's next Ariane 5 launch

A dream launch for Shenzhou X

Mitsubishi Heavy and Arianespace conclude MOU on commercial launches

Sea Launch IS-27 FROB Report Complete

Mars Water-Ice Clouds Are Key to Odd Thermal Rhythm

Marks on Martian Dunes May Reveal Tracks of Dry-Ice Sleds

UH Astrobiologists Find Martian Clay Contains Chemical Implicated in the Origin of Life

Mars Rover Opportunity Trekking Toward More Layers

LADEE Arrives at Wallops for Moon Mission

NASA's GRAIL Mission Solves Mystery of Moon's Surface Gravity

Moon dust samples missing for 40 years found in Calif. warehouse

Unusual minerals in moon craters may have been delivered from space

Planning Accelerates For Pluto Encounter

'Vulcan' wins Pluto moon name vote

Public to vote on names for Pluto moons

The PI's Perspective: The Seven-Year Itch

NASA's Hubble Uncovers Evidence of Farthest Planet Forming From its Star

Exoplanet formation surprise

Sunny Super-Earth?

Kepler Stars and Planets are Bigger than Previously Thought

Russia to Unveil New Piloted Spacecraft at MAKS Airshow

Students and Teachers Become Rocket Scientists at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility

Laser and photon propulsion improve spacecraft maneuverability

Sierra Nevada Corporation Begins Dream Chaser Main Hybrid Rocket Motor Testing

China's Naughty Space Models

China's space dream crystallized with Shenzhou-10 launch

China astronauts enter space module

China to send second woman into space: officials

Chile observatory discovers 'comet factory'

Radar Movies Highlight Asteroid 1998 QE2 and Its Moon

ALMA discovers comet factory

New Camera At WIYN Images An Asteroid With A Long Tail

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement