This story is provided by MIT Enterprise Forum- Pan Arab Region
While attending an open networking event in the startup world is often a valuable experience for entrepreneurs, a closed and more focused one allows for the efficient exchange of interests and experiences.
Around 25 co-founders of established Lebanese startups attended an invite-only meeting organized and hosted by Bader, to openly share their failures and success, on August 15, at Coworking+961 in Beirut.
An open exchange
The gathering’s attendees represented various industries ranging from music (Anghami) to fashion (Chouchic and Raghunter), as well as video on demand (Cinemoz), health (eTobb), hardware (Instabeat), professional development (ticklemybrain and nabbesh.com), social matchmaking (et3arraf) and events (presella).
The startups were asked in advance to consider their recent successes as well as ongoing challenges in order to openly share them at the meeting. Fadi Bizri, Managing Director at Bader, stressed that the event would not include investors, allowing for the attendees to discuss difficulties in a candid manner.
“We were just among entrepreneurs, which allowed us to openly talk about our challenges,” said Hind Hobeika, CEO and Founder of Instabeat, and winner of the MIT Entreprise Forum Arab Startup Competition 2012, “I found out that other startups were facing similar problems, and learned about what they did to overcome them.”
Working from Lebanon
Many startups found that working from Lebanon could be an obstacle. For instance, distribution could be an issue, as well as allocating facilities and resources. To tackle this, some startups worked with overseas partners, while others built multicountry teams. However, by spreading the team across geographies, the entrepreneurs felt that they were sacrificing efficiency and productivity.
Building a team was a common issue amongst the present entrepreneurs. They felt that the larger the team became, the more difficult it was to keep the team happy. The startups also felt that recruiting members was a tough process. A debate centered on whether it was wiser to hire freelancers or full-timers. The fear of hiring freelancers was raised, based on the fact that freelancers often have other projects and following-up is difficult. Others felt that freelancers actually bring a variety and new perspective to the team.
Online and offline marketing
Many startups found social media to be a low-budget and useful tool for branding. However, certain startups shared that going through the harder and more difficult route of partnering with TV and media entities made all the difference during their launch and subsequent user-acquisition efforts.
While the initial round of funding can be relatively easy to get, many startups felt that they struggled in their quest to raise a second round of funding. They shared mutual experiences with investment negotiations that dragged on for too long and did not deliver results. It was then pointed out that investing in startups is tough in general as the ecosystem is considered to be at an immature stage.
The entrepreneurship trend
All attendees agreed that general expectation in Lebanon and the Arab region is for fresh university graduates to climb the corporate ladder in an already established company. A growing few are headed in a different direction.
“We’re the first generation to do this,” said Hobeika, “It's a path that sounds unusual to our parents because there haven’t been any success stories yet.”
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