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  • 15 Apr 2021 3:19 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It has been over two decades since the last Arab company traded on the NASDAQ.

    Anghami made history on March 3, 2021 by announcing a merger with NASDAQ-listed SPAC Vistas Media Acquisition Company (VMAC*). The landmark merger partnership with VMAC will position Anghami as the first Lebanese and Arab tech company to list on NASDAQ through a SPAC. The Anghami IPO is expected to close in mid-June and Anghami will trade on NASDAQ under the ticker ANGH.

    *Vistas Media Acquisition Company Inc. (NASDAQ: VMAC, https://vmac.media/), a publicly traded special purpose acquisition company.

    Since its inception in 2012, this music live streaming platform has harnessed  over 50 million active users and has 1 billion streams a month. Anghami started with a meeting in a coffee shop in Lebanon between longtime business partners Elie Habib and Eddy Maroun. 

    “We’ve been partners for 21 years and we wanted to try something new. There was no iTunes in the region until 2015, so for many people in the Middle East we came first, which is a very good place to be,” said co-founder and CTO Elie during a panel discussion hosted by LebNet on April 10, 2021. 

    “We’re friends and we complement each other with our backgrounds, experience and character. It’s very good to have two founders,” added co-founder and CEO Eddy. 

    The panel hosted by LebNet and moderated by Hala Jalwan, manager at Google, covered Anghami’s successful journey from inception to IPO, going over the technology and future plans. In addition to the Anghami founders, the panel was joined by Rabih Khoury - Managing Partner and Chief Exit Officer at MEVP, a MENA-focused VC firm and Anghami’s earliest investor - and Abdo George Kadifa, Managing Director at Sumeru Equity Partners and LebNet’s Chairman. Kadifa gave an overview on SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), which is the vehicle by which Anghami is going public. 

    Below are the main highlights from the events and you can always watch the livestream on our YouTube channel here


    Hala: When Anghami pitched to MEVP, what was the impression and why did you decide to invest?  

    Rabih: We are privileged to have partnered with Anghami on their Seed, Series A and B rounds. One key highlight I remember from our meeting is that they are complementary: two co-founders, the introvert and extrovert, the media and tech guy. They had taken a loan on their residences to get the first streaming license from Rotana, which takes a lot of guts and trust in their ability. It’s one of MEVP's top companies. 

    Hala: What are your future plans for the MENA region and the diaspora?  

    Eddy: There’s a lot to be done in the Middle East because it’s still a big and under-penetrated market. We also have plans to target the diaspora. This is a market of 100 million people that would be interested to have content that brings them back to their home. The plan is to go to emerging markets in South Asia and Africa. We also want to produce content due to the lack of Arabic content and the high demand for it.

    We’re also going into new verticals:

    • Re-inventing the radio: any artist can be a radio host and interact with their own fan base. 
    • Virtual concerts: create a platform for artists to host concerts and monetize 
    • Investing in MENA’s youth: 50% of the audience in the MENA are youth and have a huge consumption for media and entertainment 
    Elie: We created payment logistics across the Middle East. We invested to create a network of 36 telcos and plugged them directly into our platform as a way to solve the issue of multiple credit card types. We also allowed artists to self-produce. We did not invest much in marketing. Since inception, we only raised 26 million Dollars. What we’re now raising in the IPO is roughly 4 times as much to spend first on marketing, then on content and R&D. 

    Hala: What are SPACs?

    Abdo George: Public markets have seen in the past some fundamentals that have created the SPAC movement. The first fundamental is that a lot of public companies are going private through private equity firms (a third of publicly listed tech companies have gone from public to private). Second there’s a price valuation difference between the public and the private markets: you can be valued much higher on the public markets. 

    Third is with the way interest rates are: there’s a significant appetite for investors to invest in equities vs in fixed income instruments. 

    You put the three together you get how the SPAC movement is created. It’s trying to enable public investors to have access to good companies and get returns. In the first quarter of this year, the SPAC movement saw a massive influx of investment. This is good for a company like Anghami.

    Rabih: Anghami should have gone public on the local market but the Middle East is not one country. Digital is on the rise but our local public markets don’t really reflect the real economy. The SPAC was the optimal solution for Anghami considering the region. Going public through a SPAC is not easy. Our partner VMAC is a 100 million Dollar SPAC focused on investing in streaming companies in Emerging Markets so we’re a bit away from the high volatility of the US SPAC space.

    Hala: Why an IPO not a VC round? 

    Elie: By doing an IPO, we’re allowing the VCs to exit and profit and it gives us the independence to keep growing the company while remaining at the helm. We still want to build more and have Anghami become a multi-billion Dollar company.

    Eddy: We have a vision to become a media platform that can go global but we want to maintain the footprint of an Arabic company going global. 

    Hala: What is the technology behind Anghami?

    Elie: Anghami is a streaming, payment and artist platform. Everything was built in-house by 70 engineers, but back then we built everything with a team of under 50 engineers. All of that was built in Beirut and 90% of the people were junior. We recruited people and taught them and we had our own academy. We have so much talent in Lebanon if we know how to work with it. It’s great raw talent. Our company will always grow its office in Lebanon but we had to move our HQ to Abu Dhabi in the UAE to benefit from the diversity. 

  • 28 Jan 2021 6:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    These last two years have been exceptional by all means. 

    In the face of a global relentless pandemic, remote work has changed the way people conduct business all over the world. Zoom dress code has become a thing and the only way to share knowledge and acquire it is through online video conferencing tools. 

    Pre-Covid-19, LebNet hosted talks and events on a regular basis, gathering communities from all over the US and Canada to discuss high tech, biotechnology, robotics, 5G among other topics. Since last April 2020, we moved our offline activities to webinars and online talks to keep the trend going safely. 


    In order not to miss out on any previous event, we compiled below a list of all recent and older webinars and talks with their respective links on our YouTube channel. Make sure to also subscribe to the channel so you get notified of any upcoming video. 

    Videos will be listed by date, from newest to oldest. 

    Webinars

    • Silicon Valley Channel: “We” wins over “I” in Winning Startups Part 5: The Silicon Valley Channel is a series of tech talks launched by LebNet and the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA) at the American University of Beirut (AUB). The most recent part of this series hosted a webinar with Magid Abraham, founder and CEO of Neurawell Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company developing mental health treatments.

    • Silicon Valley Channel: Warehouse Automation Overview and Trends with Joe Zoghzoghy Part 4: Joe Zoghzoghy, CTO at Bastian Solutions, provided an overview of the technologies employed in warehouse automation, such as Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), Good-to-Person technologies, Autonomous Ground Vehicles, and Robotics.

    • How is the COVID-19 Pandemic impacting AI Solutions? What is the role of AI for businesses and industries trying to navigate the COVID-19 crisis? Will the world post-COVID create new opportunities for AI solutions? Which previously promising areas of AI will face challenges and delays? How are AI startups weathering the storm? All these questions and more were discussed by Johnny Ghibril, VP, Data Science & Solution Architecture at B.Yond; Anthony Tayoun, Co-founder and COO/CFO at Dexai Robotics; and George Trad, VP of Product at Kasisto.

    • Silicon Valley Channel: 5G Opportunities and Challenges Part 3: Fram Akiki, former Vice President, Electronics & Semiconductor Industry for Siemens Digital Industries Software, talked about 5G opportunities and challenges.

    • Silicon Valley Channel: IP Rights and Issues Part 2: Mark Abumeri, a partner at law firm Knobbe Martens with over twenty years of IP law experience under his belt, covered the basic characteristics of IP assets, including copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets.

    • VC & Investor Perspective on Challenges faced by Startups during COVID-19: In this webinar, panelists Habib Haddad, Managing Partner, E14 Fund; Habib Kairouz, Managing Partner, Rho Capital Partners; Khaled Nasr, General Partner and COO, InterWest Partners; George Kadifa, Managing Partner, Sumeru Equity Partners and Jeffrey Akiki, Early Stage Investor, Bolt discussed how this global crisis is affecting founders in the US, Canada and the global ecosystem in general. They presented insights on how VC portfolios are impacted and how they see the future changing.

    • COVID-19: Will Science Deliver a Timely Solution? The following panelists walked us through a day in the life of a physician at the forefront, discussing what technology can do to expedite a solution, and preview what drugs are on the horizon with the potential to cure or prevent the spread of the disease: Ammar Qadan, Vice President & Global Market Access Lead at Illumina; Muhieddine Makkouk, Vice President, Alliance Management at Gilead; Dr. Salwan AbiEzzi, Lead Physician, Encina Practice at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Moderator: Dr. Farah Fawaz, Vice President of Quality at Allogene Therapeutics, LebNet Board Member

    Events

    • LebNet Virtual Holiday Event - Dec 15, 2020: LebNet hosted on December 15 its annual holiday event virtually, featuring a wine tasting session conducted by Daou Family Estates' proprietor Daniel Daou, followed by an award ceremony where it presented its Second Annual Bireme Award to Fouad (Ford) Tamer, CEO at Inphi Corporation. At the end, singer Leila Milki prepared a medley of multilingual songs, dazzling us with her angelic singing voice and wonderful piano playing.
    • Fouad (Ford) Tamer receives LebNet Bireme Award: LebNet's Second Bireme Award ceremony was held during the Annual Virtual Holiday event, where we presented our Executive of the Year 2020 to Fouad (Ford) Tamer, CEO at Inphi Corporation. In this video, he talked about his journey, from early startups to building clientele and growing businesses.
    • The Inspiring Story Behind Daou Vineyards:The Inspiring Story Behind Daou Vineyards: LebNet Virtual Holiday featured an inspiring talk given by Daniel Daou, one of the two proprietors of Daou Vineyards, one of the fastest selling wines in the US. Daniel took us through the early struggles of moving during the war to France, then following the American dream and founding with his brother one of the fastest growing wineries in the country. Watch the video to find out what makes their wines so viral, the inspiring story of the name behind their best wine ‘Soul of the Lion’ and much more.
  • 25 Nov 2020 5:58 AM | Anonymous

    Arizona - Oct, 23, 2019 

    This isn’t the first time LebNet hosts a panel on building sustainable careers and businesses, but it’s the first time it does it in Phoenix Arizona.

    October 23rd, 2019 marked the first event organized by LebNet’s newly launched community in Arizona. It is led by Dr. Lina Karam, a Full Professor in the School of Electrical, Computer & Energy Engineering, the Director of the R&D Image, Video, and Usability (IVU) Lab, the President of PICARIS, LLC, and the Editor-In-Chief of the IEEE Journal.

     

    “I heard about LebNet through a colleague who works at Qualcomm.

    As an engineer who worked with industry and professional organizations on initiatives and networking events to push forward innovations and entrepreneurship, and knowing that we have a relatively large community of Lebanese descent in Arizona, I reached out to LebNet and proposed that we start a LebNet Arizona community,” explained Dr. Karam.

    George Akiki, the CEO of LebNet, kicked off the event which was held at the University Club at Arizona State University with the great help of the President of the Lebanese Student Association at the university, Karam Abi Karam.

    A cake to celebrate the launch of LebNet Arizona’s community

    Akiki gave an overview of LebNet’s activities, programs, membership benefits and communities, in front of an audience of 40 people.

    The speakers, who came from different backgrounds, shared tips on how young professionals can progress in their careers and achieve bigger goals.

    The panel was moderated by Dr. Karam and featured Aziz M. Safa, vice president and interim Chief Information Officer of Intel Corporation; Glen Abousleman, Ph.D., Director of the Tactical Algorithms Laboratory at General Dynamics Mission Systems; Kamil Kaloush, Ph.D., P.E., Professor of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, ASU and Director of the National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations; and John Matta, Engineer at Water Works Engineers.

    Here are their 6 tips on how people can advance in their careers:

    1- Don’t be invisible. One of the most important factors determining success in the corporate world is the ability to communicate well and convince management to adopt a certain proposal.

    “If you are invisible you tend not to progress in your career,” said Abousleman.

    2- Don’t ask for permission. When managers focus on a certain line of thinking within their projects or missions, they sometimes reject new suggestions fearing these will ruin the plan.

    Abousleman advises employees to believe in their ideas and just execute it.

    “Try not to ask for permission to do things, just do them. Instead of asking [the managers for permission] I would go do it then present results after I achieved a certain level.”

    3- Consider it a marathon. Succeeding in the business world requires a high level of resilience and endurance. Ideas will get rejected a lot and that’s normal. Ambitious professionals must endure, accept failure and keep trying to succeed.

    “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You fail then you will succeed. Get used to it, don’t give up,” said Matta

    4- Know your boss and leave your comfort zone. Another interesting point highlighted by Matta was the employees’ responsibility to understand their boss’ mentalities and mold their proposals to fit into their expectations. He also pointed at the importance of constantly looking for new challenges at work or outside. “If your job doesn’t stress you, find another one. Look for a new challenge and keep yourself in an uncomfortable position. That’s how you succeed and progress.”

    5-Work beyond your scope of expertise. Employees must be flexible enough to adopt new skills and move from one area to another at work at a quick pace. Those who want to move up need to be patient, authentic, and keep up with the ever changing tech trends.

    “It used to take us 10 years to change a system. Now we do it every 6 months. Many companies have now disappeared because they did not keep up. That’s the new shift in the mindset,” said Safa.

    6- Always remember to be passionate. This isn’t a clichéd advice. Even the brightest employees can lose interest or fail due to a lack of interest. Kaloush strongly believes that if someone really likes what they’re doing, their chances of success will be higher.

    “I would not get a PhD into transportation if I didn’t like it. Enjoy your work and advance, innovate, make a change in your daily life and move on in your education.”

    As a first in Arizona, LebNet’s event drew 40 people who showed interest in forming an active community to help each other and share the knowledge. The next step for this community is to elect a steering committee and start discussing potential events.

  • 16 Nov 2020 5:07 AM | Anonymous

    San Francisco - Nov 14, 2020

    Due to the important role robots are playing in increasing humans’ efficiency, and creating new skill sets for them, some might argue the fear of robots replacing human jobs might be ill founded.

    Robots, retail robots more specifically, have come a long way since their first editions. Their production requires multidisciplinary teams to cover the whole customer/client satisfaction spectrum.

    By giving real time data to store owners on shelf products, out of stock items and customer behaviour, retail robots are becoming an integral part of the supply chain process. To better understand how these robots operate, LebNet hosted a panel at Latham & Watkins law firm on November 14th in Menlo Park, moderated by LebNet’s co-founder Elie Habib.

    The panelists were Sarjoun Skaff, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Bossa Nova Robotics, a robotics company that manufactures inventory control robots for use in retail stores; Georges Mirza, a leader in establishing the roadmap for vision and robotic indoor data collection for retail; and Joe Zoghzoghy, the Chief Technology Officer at Bastian Solutions, a Toyota Advanced Logistics company.

    [Read our in-depth interview with Sarjoun Skaff]

    LebNet’s CEO kicked-off the evening by saying: We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge what is happening in Lebanon today and surely, none of you needs LebNet to provide updates on the situation on the ground or words of encouragement for you to be involved and to help, but what we can do is reiterate the role that LebNet should play in helping the tech sector in Lebanon revive itself and create more jobs to help the economic development down the road. This means that our members should outsource work to Lebanon, take in Lebanese interns, mentor startups, and work with universities on research projects. LebNet will help since these are established programs we have in place. For more info email us at [email protected]]

    After the panel ended, two Lebanese startup founders currently attending a 5-week Silicon Valley bootcamp at Draper University, as part of the LebNet Ignite program, delivered 2-min pitches in front of the audience. The startups were Lemonade Fashion, a global marketplace for custom made designer outfits, and Oreyeon, a startup building solutions for the aviation industry, enabling operations and safety optimization.

    Robots are here to stay but..

    Sarjoun Skaff’s Bossa Nova robots navigate stores and provide real-time on-shelf product data for the retailer. They are currently deployed in 350 stores across the United States. He believed that that the future of brick and mortar retail is very intertwined with automation and analytics. “The pressure coming from Amazon is driving retailers to become more efficient, and the prices have to go down so the margins are being compressed. The only way to fight back is with automation and data,” he said.

    Georges Mirza, who wrote previously about adopting robots in stores, believes that robots will become more mature once they optimize the way they process data, produce shelf insights and scale. “You need the robot to go down the aisle, scan and collect data, but really the solution does not become valuable until you do the processing, and that is very complicated. Right now, the knowledge retailers have about the shelf could be obsolete shortly after setting the planogram because somebody moved products around. At scale, the near real time shelf data provided by robots will deliver the spatial insights needed. When married with point of sale data it will enable assortment optimization and efficient supply chain that the ecosystem has been striving for and ultimately shopper satisfaction.” he said.

    If at first you don’t succeed, try 17 more times

    The hardware part is merely the first step of designing a robot. Zoghzoghy, who is CTO at Bastian Solution, a company that offers automated solutions for distribution, manufacturing and order fulfillment centers, admitted they had to redo the design of the robot 17 times.

    “We did everything from scratch so if the robot breaks, we could fix it,” he said. Their robots work in the warehouse, where they often have to scan boxes with no tape, labels or barcodes and this poses a big challenge. The different lighting in each warehouse also affect scanning. While Bastian Solutions’ robots operate in warehouses, Skaff’s robots are faced with customers all the time and this creates a different set of challenges: the design of the robot needs to be appealing, the robot should navigate safely, scan entire items from front to back, and record data when robots go offline. To solve the scanning challenge, Skaff said they started scanning barcodes instead which includes all the product details.

    One concerned question from the audience was about the future of human jobs. Despite the fact that margins of error are reduced with robots, Zoghzoghy is certain robots will not eliminate all human jobs, but create new types that will grow the economy, decrease prices, increases sales and the GDP in a said country.

    Mirza stated that robots will help us become better workers. “Humans don’t have to work as hard as they do today, but they will become more focused on more important non mundane tasks. They’re not reducing jobs but hours.”

    So there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Robots are getting smarter because humans are getting smarter. With more competition, this sector will only get better at serving customers and increasing efficiencies.

  • 07 Nov 2020 5:37 AM | Anonymous

        San Diego - Nov 7, 2020

    On November 7th, LebNet hosted a networking event in San Diego, sponsored by CulturGrit and Knobbe Martens.

    LebNet San Diego steering committee members Andrew Tebsherani and Samara Hakim, the founder and president of CulturGrit kicked off the evening with a few remarks on the format and Tebsherani introduced the Tech trivia and prizes: three bottles of wine and Amaredeen drinks.

    LebNet’s CEO George Akiki spoke about LebNet’s 20-year anniversary, milestones, and the LebNet Bireme Award 2019: Entrepreneur of the Year, which will be announced during LebNet’s annual dinner in San Mateo on December 10.

    His presentation was preceded by a short celebratory video where members, supporters and interns shared their experiences working or helping LebNet.


    We will share the video shortly so stay tuned.

    Internship Program Chair Jeanine Akiki explained what are the internship opportunities for 2020 – which some of them are open to AUB students in Lebanon pre-authorized to work in the US.

    She encouraged more prospective employers to give LebNet fist dibs on their internships as well as reached out to more students of Lebanese descent to apply online.

    Fram Akiki – who is the Vice President of Electronics and Semiconductor Industry at Siemens Digital Industries Software – talked about Beirut Digital District, a hub nestled at the heart of Beirut.

    It is home to several VCs, startups, accelerators, incubators and coworking spaces. (Read more about the several support entities in Lebanon here)

    During the networking session, Tebsherani introduced the tech trivia game. Check the Q&A at the bottom.

    • High-Tech: What is the range of the 5G signal?
      1. 50 m from the tower

      2. 500 m from the tower

      3. 3 km from the tower

    • Biotech: In 2003, it cost $2.7 billion to sequence the 1st human genome. How much does it cost now using New Generation Sequencing technology (pioneered by ILMN)?
      1. 1M USD

      2. 10K USD

      3. 1K USD

    • Biotech/ data storage: How much data can 1 g of DNA store (when digital data is encoded into DNA)?
      1. 215 Petabytes (215 million gigabytes)

      2. 100 Terabytes

      3. Not feasible

  • 10 Oct 2020 7:12 AM | Anonymous

    Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Austin - Oct, 2020

    How are startups doing in Lebanon? How do they receive support?

    What’s the ecosystem like?
    How can the diaspora give back?
    Where are the success stories? 

    It’s hard for those living outside of Lebanon to know what’s happening in the startup tech scene in the country. 

    To provide an overview of the Lebanese ecosystem, LebNet, in collaboration with Lebanon-based accelerator Speed, kicked off a series of events in Boston (October 1st), Toronto (October 2nd), Montreal (October 3rd) and Austin (October 7th). 

    The events featured Speed’s CEO Sami Abou Saab, LebNet’s community leads and members. Abou Saab gave an overview of Lebanon’s startup scene and how Speed is supporting local entrepreneurs and focused the discussions on how LebNet members can give back to Lebanon. 


    LebNet board member Habib Haddad and Sami Abou discussing with attendees opportunities to give back to Lebanon during LebNet’s Boston event.

    “People want a bridge back to Lebanon and want to be involved. We asked them why are you attending and what do you want to achieve,” Abou Saab said. “What we discussed was totally new for many people. It was positive and refreshing to them and we shed light on what was happening.” 

    The audience was a mix of startup founders, investors, future entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, lawyers and professionals. 

    Lebanon’s startup scene in numbers 

    Talks given by Abou Saab on the status of entrepreneurship in Lebanon were new and refreshing to many as the current situation in Lebanon does not convey such positive news. The nascent ecosystem is making humble yet steady improvements that are bringing a new wave of innovators and entrepreneurs. 

    He explained how the ecosystem is growing and rising on the side of the economy, given it’s forward-looking in its nature and approach. At the same time, it is in such economic conditions that access to talent becomes better and easier allowing startups to build strong teams who can solve major challenges.

    “People asked about the kind of startups we get and what they’re doing. They want to be engaged and be part of the ecosystem and many of them want to help,” said Abou Saab. 

    null

    A graphic by Speed revealing the different funding stages available for startups in Lebanon.

    To recap some of the things discussed during the four events, we listed below some interesting data points on the Lebanese startup scene:

  • 05 Jun 2020 6:59 AM | Anonymous

    New York - June 5, 2020

    On June 5, LebNet and LIFE organized a fintech panel in New York on alternative online lending models. This event was hosted by Eli Curi, Tech startup, venture, and M&A lawyer at Fenwick & West and took place in their NYC offices which resemble more an innovation space than a law firm.

    The panelists were Renaud Laplanche, the CEO of Upgrade, a platform that provides affordable personal loans, credit monitoring and personal credit line and the founder and former CEO of LendingClub; and Noah Breslow, the CEO of OnDeck, a platform that provides small business loans and lines of credit. The panel was moderated by Habib Kairouz, the Managing Partner at Rho Capital Partners.

    Before delving into the topic of online lending in the US, panelists introduced their companies and explained how they’re using data to better evaluate users’ credit scores.

    Bypassing traditional banks and providing capital to small businesses

    Breslow comes from a purely technical background, having studied Computer Science and Engineering at MIT. He joined OnDeck in 2007 after his former company, Tacit Networks, was sold in 2006. The idea of giving loans to small businesses without going through a bank was revolutionary for him.

    “We have 6,000 banks in the US and they are largely set up to give $2 million loans to small businesses. If you needed $20,000 only, the bank would apply the same process for the $2 million loan. Six to eight weeks go by and the business would decline. The bank would look at the personal credit score then make a decision, but the challenge is it doesn’t take into account what the underlying business model is,” Breslow said.

    The other challenge is if the borrower maxed out on their personal credit card, they won’t be able to get any funding from the bank to grow their business. “Digital data helped us solve this problem and build the technology to digest the digital data of the business and make a loan decision in a fraction of the time and cost it takes a traditional bank.”

    OnDeck enables small business owners to apply for a loan within few minutes, evaluates their business model and makes a decision within minutes. Today, the company has 700 employees, it processed 1.6 million loan applications, made nearly $12 billion of loans with an average loan size of $50,000 and is operating in the US, Canada and Australia. It went public in 2014.

    So how does its evaluation system work?

    OnDeck uses third party online payment processors to monitor how a certain business is performing in the present. It then downloads transaction and payment data from the small business checking account and credit cards. The process works in real-time and provides quick analysis.

    “We don’t claim to replicate traditional banking. That process is very labor-intensive and costly. A commercial bank might ask for tax returns and if you’re a small business you rarely report income on your tax returns. The data is usually stale. Today your business could be better or worse than what that data shows.”

    The company also learned by trial and error. OnDeck had to lend a billion dollars’ worth of loans to have enough defaults to build a good credit score, Breslow said. The source of their capital comes from financial institutions and credit funds.

    Unlocking credit potential and lowering the cost

    Laplanche earned an MBA in finance, co-founded and sold a company to Oracle before he started LendingClub then Upgrade. LendingClub is an online marketplace connecting borrowers and investors, facilitating personal loans, business loans, and financing for elective medical procedures and K-12 education and tutoring.

    Both platforms are online consumer credit platforms. The LendingClub started as a peer-to-peer lending platform and then evolved today to  90% of its funding from institutions and 10% from retail investors.

    In addition to traditional credit scores, credit history, and performance, the company uses technology to reduce cost of capital by looking at debt ratio and behavioural data that advertisers usually use to monitor time spent on certain websites and online activity and machine learning methods to make the best out of the available data they have.

    An interesting topic raised by Kairouz was the required steps to scale the model to the Middle East and specifically Lebanon and the issue of the unbanked population in many countries.

    OnDeck isn’t present in the Middle East but has international businesses in Australia and Canada, and may expand to other markets in the future. The alternative online lending models can be tricky by nature, according to Breslow, and require proper infrastructure and resources in order to flourish in a certain environment. In some countries, he said, anyone without a banking license isn’t allowed to lend money to people.

    There’s also the problem of accessing data. In Lebanon for instance, the only way to access credit, account and payment data is through the Central Bank and this could be a major hurdle due to banking secrecy.

    Yet such hurdles can be surpassed thanks to a high mobile penetration in the Middle East, accounting for 70% of the population in 2017. Mobile-based solutions can help business owners access behavioral data directly from telecommunication companies and network operators. African-based M-Pesa and Tala are two great examples. Their users can transact, pay and apply for loans using a mobile app.

    Moving to the Q&A segment, topics varied between the emergence of competitors like Goldman Sachs and tech giants; access to data in the early stages, the pressure of moving to mobile; catering to larger businesses and the future of the fintech space.

    “It’s all about innovation and market size,” said Laplanche in response to the competition question. With competition comes new ideas, so we can make the market better and create better products and solutions.”

    He talked about access to data in the early stages saying: “There are no shortcuts, it’s a learning curve. You start with industry data, data from credit card securitization, enhance it with credit bureau data, ask for [credit history] and how they performed in the last 3 years.”

    As for Noah, they obtained data about small business activity from payment processors. Unfortunately, it was not only the loans that performed, but bad loans that didn’t perform, that were required to build their credit models. “Your credit model won’t improve unless you do this.

    For us, it wasn’t until we made about a billion dollars’ worth of loans that the model started to accelerate its capabilities. Do everything you can to acquire data and bootstrap until you get to that learning phase.”

    The event was attended by 40 people and exquisitely moderated by Habib Kairouz, who jokingly reminded himself and the audience that he passed on an investment opportunity with Laplanche and Breslow years ago, yet now believes in the power of what they’re doing. Perhaps online lending models are tricky due to the heavy amount data they require, but the possibilities are endless even in the least expected markets.

  • 11 Feb 2020 5:00 AM | Anonymous

    San Diego - Feb, 1, 2020

    In a cosy setup on February 1st, LebNet co-hosted a lunch with the Worldwide American University of Beirut Alumni Association chapter in San Diego.

    The sold out event drew over 65 people who got the chance to hear Guest speaker Professor Gabriel Rebeiz talk about his experience at AUB, how he was the youngest AUB graduate (he graduated when he was 17 years old) and how the university is still going strong despite the financial crisis in Lebanon.

    Prof. Rebeiz is a Distinguished Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, where he also serves as the Wireless Communications Industry Endowed Chair.

    He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and is considered as one of the fathers of tunable radios for 4G, affordable phased arrays for satellites and 5G, and high resolution automotive radars for collision avoidance.

    Jeanine Akiki,LebNet’s chairman and AUB Trustee George Abdo Kadifa also gave a few words on how the university is coping with the current economic situation, based on his recent trip to Lebanon in January. Kadifa noted that 60 percent of AUB’s students are on financial aid. He contributes with Rebeiz to AUB’s fellowship fund to help students pay their tuition fees.

    a retired executive in the tech industry and LebNet board member, concluded the event by briefing the audience on LebNet’s mission and initiatives.

    In addition to a partnership with the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at AUB, to exchange knowledge and support students, LebNet has also launched Outsource Lebanon, a call-to-action initiative to encourage members to outsource work to Lebanon.

    The initiative aims at employing 100 people in 100 days. Today, 11 percent of the initiative’s target was met.

    Those who have jobs that can be outsourced to Lebanon can visit this page to learn more about how they can contribute.

    Jeanine Akiki informing the audience about LebNet’s programs and initiatives

  • 13 Dec 2019 5:05 AM | Anonymous

    San Francisco - Dec, 10, 2020

    Over dinner at Tannourine restaurant in San Mateo California LebNet’s members gathered on December 10 to catch up, be informed about recent activities to help the tech sector in Lebanon and meet the winner of LebNet’s Bireme award for Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

    LebNet Chairman Abdo George Kadifa kicked off the evening by listing key achievements in 2019:

    • 403 new members and 21 events in 2019
    • 4 new communities (Montreal, Vancouver, Arizona and Toronto)
    • Two signed MOU’s with the American University of Beirut and with Endeavor
    • 11 original articles on the blog and new content series: “10 Questions With…”
    • 4 new Lebanese startuuls hosted in Silicon Valley as part of LebNet Ignite 7th edition

    From Left to right: George Akiki, Andre Haddad and Abdo George Kadifa.

    Call-to-action for Lebanon

    LebNet’s CEO George Akiki announced the launch of ‘Outsource Lebanon’, a call-to-action project to help save the tech sector in Lebanon.

    “We’re urging our members to consider outsourcing jobs, projects and services to Lebanon. We have vetted a few companies with a proven track record that can provide engineering services competitively and with high quality,” said Akiki during his speech.

    “But we’re not stopping here. You can also send work over to Lebanon for other services ranging from accounting to market research to branding and lots of graphic design work.

    We’re accumulating a list of freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Nabbesh on our website and we challenge all of you to take a leap of faith and dispatch a few projects to Lebanon to keep people employed there in these trying times.”

    LebNet’s Bireme award for Entrepreneur of the Year 2019

    The event awarded Andre Haddad, the CEO of peer-to-peer car sharing company Turo, the LebNet’s Bireme award for Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

    The award symbolises the bireme, an ancient ship with two decks of oars, designed and used by the Phoenicians.

    “In 2011, Andre joined Turo which is considered to be the AirBnB of cars. It is the dominant player in its space and is now valued at more than a Billion dollars after raising this last summer $250 million in a series E round, which pushed it into unicorn territory,” said Akiki. “When Andre joined Turo in 2011, Turo was in 2 cities, now they are in 4 countries and over 5,000 cities.”

    Read more about Andre Haddad’s early beginning and journey to success in this article.

    The award symbolises the bireme, an ancient ship with two decks of oars, designed and used by the Phoenicians.

    “We picked this symbol as a representation of our plight as a Diaspora traveling away from our country of origin to faraway lands, succeeding in our fields of expertise and representing the best that our heritage can offer but always looking back and hoping for those ships to return and dock home again,” concluded Akiki.

    We added all the event’s photos on LebNet’s Flickr account. Visit this link to check them out.

  • 11 Sep 2019 3:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Vancouver - Sept 5, 2019

    Entrepreneurship and building sustainable businesses was the topic that the LebNet Vancouver community picked to mark its first event on September 5th, 2019. 

    Held at the Aplicata Technologies office in Vancouver, this kick-off event surprisingly drew more than 40 attendees, who joined to listen to talks given by serial entrepreneur Mazen Sukkarieh, energy and environment consultant Rola Nasreddine, IT consultant Talal Moughnie, and moderated by the CEO of Aplicata Mohammad Darwish

    The event kicked off with George Akiki giving a presentation on LebNet’s state of affairs, privileges and responsibilities of a LebNet member, and a call to action in Vancouver to get engaged and grow the community.

    LebNet’s CEO George Akiki giving a presentation on LebNet’s state of affairs, privileges and responsibilities and a call to action to grow the Vancouver community.

    Moving to the talks, Darwish asked speakers to define entrepreneurship, choose between an ambitious job or launching a startup, elaborate on the needed skills to succeed in this field and list common entrepreneurship mistakes.

    What does entrepreneurship mean to you? 

    Sukkarieh defined entrepreneurship as not just a business but a project to make society better. “Entrepreneurship is wanting to do what you want to do in any vertical, not just necessarily in business, to impact society.” 

    Nasreddine, who helps refugees become financially independent, defined entrepreneurship as a vision that needs to be fulfilled. She helps refugees build good business plans, advises them, trains them and prepares them for the market. 

    Should we climb up the corporate ladder or start a business? 

    When it comes to choosing between entrepreneurship and the corporate world, Moughnie believes that people should think about the growth potential of their ideas and calculate risks before quitting their job. “The best ideas were ideas that evolved from something that you are already doing, where you see a need, value or need to address the problem and then decide to roll with it. In most of the cases, you identify this need and keep your full-time job. Some companies allow you to take few unpaid months,” he said. 

    For those thinking about quitting their jobs to launch a startup, he advised them to “think twice, you don’t want to end up losing something sure for something probable. As your idea progresses and you start seeing things that are materialized, then it’s the right time to quit.” 

    From left to right: George Akiki, Mazen Sukkarieh, Rola Nasreddine, Talal Moughnie, Mohammad Darwish, Nick Kahwaji and Carla Zarife, the president of the Lebanese club in Vancouver.

    Why do most companies fail?
    Before opening this question to the audience, Darwish stated that failed stories are often untold to the media and in public. And like Sukkarieh, who admitted that he tried to launch a social business in Lebanon but failed terribly, others joined to share their experiences and what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. 

    “Sometimes people who don’t follow mentorship get into trouble. It’s good to have a sounding board,” said Anwar Sukkarie, Founder, President & CEO of LOOPShare. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t launch a venture if they don’t have enough capital to sustain it, he added. “Dream big without a doubt but take small steps, one at a time. Many entrepreneurs fail because they expand too quickly and get mixed up between dreams and reality.”

    On the other hand, Moughnie advises new entrepreneurs not to get too attached to the ideas that will hold them back. “Most big companies fail more than they succeed. They kill many products. Don’t hang too long to an idea, make a strong judgement to let it go before it drains your resources.”

    While Sukkarieh and Moughnie talked about taking things slowly and assessing ideas, Nick Kahwaji from the audience, who is the Honorary Consul of Lebanon in Vancouver and a dentist, said that keeping expenses low worked well for him. He doesn’t gain much but doesn’t spend much either. 

    During the last part of the event, Darwish steered the conversation to empowering women in the workplace and using cloud-based technologies to save money. 

    From the audience, Mariane Zakhour, who leads Canada operations and buyout merge at WebLink Commerce in Canada, shared her experience of working in Abu Dhabi and how she succeeded while dealing with gender-based issues. 

    “Leading by example and showing that you can,” she said. She grew up in Abu Dhabi, she was always surrounded by men and was forced to prove herself constantly. Such challenge empowered her to move forward. “You either annoy someone so much or you lead by example.” That said, she also believes that when there’s a good team and a vision alignment, any challenge, be it gender-based or not, can be solved. 

    Despite this being the first LebNet Vancouver event, the turnout and level of engagement were impressive and although the sessions went a bit longer than planned, no one left their seat till the very end: a first! The next Vancouver event will be held in the next two to three month. “It was exciting to see so many friends come together for LebNet’s inaugural event in Vancouver to talk about entrepreneurship and technology,” concluded Darwish. “We are gearing up for the next event and looking forward to serving the needs of the community as a whole.”

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LebNet, a non-profit organization, serves as a multi-faceted platform for Lebanese professionals residing in the US and Canada, entrepreneurs, investors, business partners in a broad technology eco-system, and acts as a bridge to their counterparts in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East

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