TBY & AMERICAN-LEBANESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ORGANIZE ROUNDTABLE ON THE STARTUP ECOSYSTEM

TBY, a leading research firm and publisher of annual economic resources on national economies, and the American-Lebanese Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), organized a roundtable entitled: “Startup ecosystem sustainability: fostering cooperation to drive entrepreneurship." The roundtable was held on June 21 at AmCham offices in Beirut Central District and assembled leaders within the entrepreneurship ecosystem to discuss the opportunities and challenges of Lebanon's burgeoning knowledge economy.

Participants included Henri Asseily, Managing Partner of Leap Ventures; Maroun Chammas, Chairman of Berytech; Nadim Kassar, General Manager of Fransabank; Salim Zeenni, Chairman of AmCham; Samer Karam, General Manager of Startup Megaphone; Tamara Zakharia, General Manager of Startup Ecosystem Think Tank (SETT); Fadi Saab, Chairman of AmCham's Better Business Group and of TCF Group; Elie Akhras, Program Manager at the UK Lebanon Tech Hub; and Frederic Dib representing MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup. The roundtable was moderated by Leland Rice, Editor-in-Chief of TBY.

In his opening remarks, Rice noted that Banque du Liban's Circular 331 had spurred an unparalleled amount of funding to invest in Lebanon's knowledge economy, built upon the country's creative talents and highly-qualified human capital.

Setting the tone for a fruitful discussion, Henri Asseily noted that Leap Ventures had allocated $71 million dollars to be deployed in numerous startups, referring to the ecosystem as “an opportunity to revert Lebanon's brain-drain by raising salaries for youngsters and exposing the potential of local talent." In line with Asseily's remarks, Berytech's Maroun Chammas expressed his confidence in the sector by noting that “in only one year and a half the ecosystem has grown tremendously and the quality of our startups has improved substantially."

Representing the banking sector—and major engine of start up capital in Lebanon—Nadim Kassar said Circular 331 was “an eye-opener for the banking industry to raise their interest in the ecosystem." He also recalled that 331 “helped to minimize the risks for the banking sector to invest in entrepreneurial projects, thus stimulating competition within the ecosystem."

Adding to the discussion, Salim Zeenni pointed out the “challenging environment startups face in terms of the availability of technology" and expressed his positive views on how “the Lebanese industrial sector is working to overcome this challenge and make things even for those startups coming out to the global market".

The Business Year is currently working on its fifth edition on the Lebanese economy, which will feature a special focus on the current momentum of the startup ecosystem as well as the players involved in the development of this industry.