Intensive Venture Building Programme wants to turn ambitious ideas into marketable products in just three months.
Lebanon is fast building a reputation as an entrepreneurial tech hub offering huge opportunities to investors. A report last year by the UK Lebanon Tech Hub (UKLTH) outlined the country’s ambition to become the tech gateway to the Middle East and laid out a blueprint to create 25,000 new ICT jobs and a US $7 billion boost to GDP by 2025. As part of this they have also launched a new intensive venture building programme called Nucleus.
“Lebanon’s young people are among the most educated and resourceful in the world. They fuel the great ideas that The Nucleus can turn into real products and services which will transform our world for the better. At the same time, a growing MENA market for high tech solutions across a range of sectors, a successful diaspora spread across the world, and a strong banking sector provides a potent mix to grow the jobs of the future,” says Nicholas Sehnaoui, Chairman of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub.
Speaking at the launch event at the Beirut Digital District, Hugo Shorter, British Ambassador to Lebanon, said such initiatives played a crucial role in turbo charging the development of the knowledge economy: “With today’s launching of The Nucleus cycle, we witness once again how ambitious entrepreneurs build businesses and technologies, how dynamic teams turn ideas and concepts into marketable products in a record time.”
This ambitious accelerator aims to take start-ups from idea stage to having an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) in just twelve short weeks. It might sound like a tall order, but 176 companies from Lebanon’s thriving technology scene applied to take part. From those, 20 went on to a week-long series of product development workshops where the applicants were further narrowed down to six finalists.
Those six startups will now benefit from an investment of US$20,000 in cash and US$30,000 in services in return to a stake of up to five percent equity in their business. The services include access to C-level executives and technology teams to help develop the product’s core technology, as well as a host of practical workshops on finance, legal structures, organisational culture, raising capital, pitching, marketing and sales. The entrepreneurs will also have access to office space, support with Legal and Auditing services for company registrations in addition to HR management as part of the services they will benefit from. Upon product completion, UKLTH will continue to support all the startups by helping them tap into their international networks, garnering partnerships and helping them to raise potential investment from investors.
In addition to all those resources, every company will be assigned a “Dragon’s Den” style board involving top industry experts, academics, media experts and potential buyers. Board Meetings will be held every month to make sure that companies are on track to deliver on their agreed roadmap.
This, according to UKLTH Director Nadim Zaazaa, is what takes Nucleus beyond traditional accelerator programmes: “We have in place a fully-fledged technology team to deep dive into the startup’s products, C-level executives to bolster their business planning, and industry experts to sit on their management boards and help guide them to market at breakneck speed,” he explains.
One of the finalist Founders is Rami Allame, CEO of LGALX – an online platform that leverages blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to provide users with legal answers. He says that joining the Nucleus was a unique opportunity to quickly develop their idea: “Many people have a good idea but the hard part is to turn it into a marketable product,” he says. “I look forward to working with the Executives and founders of successful startups that have overcome many of the hurdles that we’re about to face”.
With so many far-fetched ideas in the world of tech – who can forget the Yo app that managed to attract millions of dollars in investment in spite of being useless by its own founder’s admission – it is refreshing to see such initiatives fostering practical products that solve real market needs.
The six companies cover a broad range of potential markets and technologies, from an algorithm that monitors battery performance while providing predictive key metrics called Dox, to ImagineMe, a publishing company using Augmented Reality to create personalized children’s books. There is also an icon-based productivity app - Notifer – which generates timely reminders in such a way as to boost a user’s memory and power up their productivity, and Handiss, a marketplace for the construction industry centralizing freelance engineers and architects
Stephanie D’Arc Taylor is COO of Jaleesa, represents another of the six selected start-ups. Her platform connects family with trusted childcare providers on a flexible basis, and she plans on leveraging the expertise on offer at Nucleus to roll out their product beyond Lebanon and make a positive global impact.
The Central Bank of Lebanon is matching funding from the UK embassy of $3.2M to support the UKLTH’s activities in fostering entrepreneurship and research & development in the country, and it plans on running two Nucleus cycles per year with up to 10 companies being accepted during each cycle. There will also be a service run in partnership with corporations looking to benefit from technology and digital transformation to grow their business.
Emma Sinclair MBE, the youngest person to have floated a company on the London Stock Exchange, believes that through such initiatives these companies had the potential to “become impactful businesses that will contribute to both the Lebanese and the wider global economy."