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Innovation is everywhere - Lebanon innovation ecosystem

Do you know any country betting 1% of its GDP only for startups? Forget the Silicon Valley, because that's what Lebanon has been putting on the table with $400m dedicated to the knowledge economy early 2014.

Lebanon has more coverage of its wars and noisy neighbors (Syria, Israel) than its startups, but they have quite a compelling history of commerce, openness and a few other assets that make them a potentially interesting startup scene.

The Middle-East and Levant region is poised to boom, demographically at least, economically probably as well. What are going to be the key Arabic speaking startup addressing this market?

In this review, we go back quite far into the Lebanese history to know why they innovate. We assess their strengths and weaknesses and key players of the tech scene.

Follow-us on the road of innovation!!

Read more about us as we roam the world to explore the emerging markets startups scenes, from Iran to Chile, from China to Nigeria.

Reach us at: martin@innovationiseverywhere


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Innovation is everywhere - Lebanon innovation ecosystem

  1. 1. Lebanon innovation ecosystem Following the Arabnet conference in Beirut March 2014
  2. 2. We believe… Innovation has no place in a global world, it’s everywhere Innovation ecosystems can learn from one another Local context matters and should be a source for innovators This is why… We’re on a world tour of innovation ecosystems!
  3. 3. History & context of innovation in Lebanon Merchants, turmoil, and entrepreneurs in the Levant
  4. 4. A brief history of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • From WW1 to WW2: The French missionaries take the place of Ottomans and set up schools which will make part of the Lebanese political & business elite • 70s-90s: Civil war, Israeli occupation of South Lebanon plunges the country into civil war and accelerates the diaspora movement, making ideas and cultures even more diverse
  5. 5. A brief history of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • 2010: the first startups appear in Lebanon, mostly copycats, which “train” a first batch of startupers to try to scale and fail • 2012+: First batch of more original & innovative startups, such as Instabeat (smart swimming goggles) and Instabug (bug fixing for app developers)
  6. 6. A brief history of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • 2013: More and bigger funds pop-up even with troubles in nearby Syria, bigger deals are done (Funds like Berytech: $30M, MEVP: $50M) • 2014: The Central Bank launches the “proposal 331” with $400mn to be invested in the knowledge economy via banks, a boost worth 1% of Lebanon GDP ($42bn)
  7. 7. A diaspora 3x the size of the motherland pop • More than 12M diasporans for a country of 4.5M inhabitants • $7.5bn remittances back to Lebanon in 2010 (18% GDP) • Famous diasporan: Carlos Ghosn, Carlos Slim, Shakira, 2 Nobel Prizes…
  8. 8. A land of diversity • Despite turmoils, Lebanese are a diverse people open to innovation, with a high mobility of capitals, ideas, foreigners • A tripartite way of governance rule the country. At home, 70% Muslims, 30% Christians. In the diaspora, 70% Christian, 30% Muslims.
  9. 9. Not the best infrastructure in MENA… • Cost of connections is high, with 180$ for 20G, 6$/Go when average salary is $600-$800. High cost of electricity, rent. • Smartphone penetration increasing sharply (Android) but still lagging at 45% (Egypt 26%, Saudi Arabia 60%, UAE 73%)
  10. 10. … but fast growing and fond of apps Asia 27% • Huge bump in smartphone equipment in 2013 • 70% of smartphone users in Lebanon have downloaded apps Source: Alfa Telecom presentation at Arabnet 2014
  11. 11. Online & tech landscape of Lebanon • Cost of connections is high, with 180$ for 20G, 6$/Go when average salary is $600-$800 • Smartphone penetration increasing sharply (Android) but still lagging at 45% (Egypt 26%, Saudi Arabia 60%, UAE 73%) Source: Alfa Telecom presentation at Arabnet 2014
  12. 12. Regional instability • Beirut-Damas: 90km • Flight time from Dubai to Beirut: 2100km in 4h30 (1h of additional detours to avoid Jordan, Israel, Syria, Irak)
  13. 13. Startups to watch for • Lebanese startups reach beyond borders thanks diasporans • New $400m proposal 331 from Central Bank with have a lot new startups pop-up in Beirut Dermandar: 360 photo-sharing app, 4M users worldwide Analytics & CRM startup Woopra: 100K users Instabeat: connected swim goggles Spotify for the MENA region Sohati: the Arabic speaking health forum 2nd-hand certified luxury bags Localization & Translation services
  14. 14. Lebanon innovation ecosystem today Pros & Cons, Top Connectors & local best practices
  15. 15. Pros and cons of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • Diverse and tolerant population, prone to innovation • Lot of money for the knowledge economy thanks the Proposal 331 from the Central Bank ($400m) • Access to a huge diaspora to conquer other markets and a tradition for trade and negotiation • Home of the main tech regional event, Arabnet, with satellites in Dubai, Ryadh • Small market with big competition around (Israel tech hubs, Jordan more stable and forward going) • Infrastructure can be both expensive and not reliable, with $180 for 20Gb on the web • Expensive country in the Middle-East comparatively to neighbors such as Jordan • English is understood by the geek, business and elite, but Arabic still needed with most of the local population • Unstable country with frequent bombings, surrounded by countries which regularly threaten its independence (Israel, Syria) PROS CONS
  16. 16. Top connectors in Lebanon Omar Christidis (Twitter), founder and CEO of Arabnet, MENA’s main tech event in Beirut, Ryadh, Dubai Fawzi Rahal (Twitter), Founder, Managing Partner @gamuttco Digital Consultancy, creative strategist, ex-head of digital at Grey MENA Walid Hanna Managing Partner (Website), Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP) Raafat Moulna (LinkedIn), Senior Head of Marketing Department at Alfa Managed by Orascom Telecom
  17. 17. Top connectors in Lebanon Hind Hobeika (Twitter), former professional swimmer, CEO and founder of Instabeat, the award-winning connected swim goggles Joanne Kubba (Twitter), Head of Strategy, Partnerships & Outreach at Eureeca, former Google head of public affairs for the MENA region Ramzi Rizk (Twitter) Co-founder, EyeEm, one of the biggest community for photographer, based in Berlin Maroun N. Chammas (LinkedIn), established entrepreneur. He is Chairman and CEO of Berytech and Chairman of the Berytech Fund
  18. 18. Best practices of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • Circular 331 from Central Bank of Lebanon puts $400m on the table for the knowledge economy. This money will help banks to fund accelerators and incubators, but could cause a bubble
  19. 19. Best practices of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • Arabnet is the MENA top tech conference with satellites (Dubai, Ryadh) mixing both the tech and the digital marketing communities. • It’s also a ramp for local talent with several level of competition: Ideathon (project holders), Startup Demo for established players and Creative Combat for creative advertising teams
  20. 20. Best practices of Lebanon innovation ecosystem • Beirut Digital District is a space in town dedicated to the tech startups, with shared offices and events. • Three phases are planned until 2023 for building a campus-style tech community
  21. 21. What’s next for Lebanon Attract talent and founders thanks to the $400m envelope from the Central Bank. Local talent won’t be enough. Create hassle- free visa for skilled and hungry youth from surrounding countries Tap into the diaspora’s power, especially with its links to the US and South America, which are respectively the epicenter of innovation and one of the largest lagging market for tech. Expand Arabnet as the key event of all Arabic speaking countries, from Morocco to Levant and beyond, to leverage on a huge network which breaks traditional borders.
  22. 22. Eager to learn about the other innovation ecosystems?
  23. 23. Documenting innovation through key events Hot posts, interviews, live-tweet, Google Hangouts Identifying key connectors on & offline Discovering alternative and emerging innovation ecosystems Beyond the Silicon Valley, local innovation hotbeds Tech, Social impact, Education, Life Sciences… Increasing mobility of innovators and ecosystem enablers Connecting doers and thinkers through monthly Hangouts Offering innovation ecosystem enablers to learn and exchange from peers About our project A world tour of innovation ecosystems
  24. 24. Martin Pasquier Entrepreneur in Singapore (social media agency), long- time traveller Mixes economics, politics and travels to analyze ecosystems, reports on innovation About our team Analysis, community & network Anne Lalou CEO of Innovation Factory & Web School Factory in Paris Transfer knowledge of ecosystems to new generation and to a network of top French companies Nicolas Loubet Serial entrepreneur in Paris with 3 companies, growth hacker Manages and nurtures creative communities on & offline
  25. 25. Catch us if you can! Roadmap ‘13-’14 SUPPORT US! Travel & time of exploration isn’t free   Custom reports on emerging markets & trends  Workshops, talks on innovation trends  Connection to key local players for VCs, brands, tech communities
  26. 26. Links & resources to know more about Lebanon innovation ecosystem
  27. 27. Ressources More on Lebanon startup & innovation scenes • 13 Quick Stats about Internet Usage in the Middle East (Wamda) • Ipsos ArabNet Beirut 2014 (Slideshare) • Top 15 MENA Tech Startups That Are Going Global (Wamda) • ARABNET 2014: THE INTERVIEW WITH OMAR CHRISTIDIS (Tech Ticker)
  28. 28. Thanks! Martin Pasquier, for Innovation is Everywhere martin@innovationiseverywhere.com