On August 31st, LebNet hosted an exclusive roundtable discussion with Habib Haddad, LebNet Chairman & Managing Partner at E14 Fund.
The closed-door virtual conversation, exclusively available to 10 paying LebNet members, delved into Habib’s journey as a successful entrepreneur and seasoned professional. It transitioned into a Q&A session where attendees had the opportunity to inquire about LebNet’s Chairman investment strategies, networking methods, guidance and other topics of interest.
Around 20 years ago, Habib moved to the US from Lebanon. He is a seasoned entrepreneur, early-stage investor and community builder. Currently, he is the Managing Partner of E14 Fund, a deep tech venture affiliated with the MIT Media Lab. During his career, he has been instrumental in various startup ventures. One notable startup was creating linguistic tools for right-to-left languages, called Yamli, which he successfully sold to Yahoo! in 2012.
Afterward, he became an active angel investor in the Boston area. Later, he returned to the Middle East and started Wamda, a media company focused on startups. He also played a crucial role in launching Wamda Capital, one of the first early-stage venture funds in the MENA region.
Habib’s achievements have garnered recognition on multiple fronts. In 2009, the World Economic Forum recognized him as a Young Global Leader. Additionally, in 2011, he was recognized as a top innovator under 35 (TR35) by the MIT Technology review. His involvement in the global entrepreneurial sphere was further highlighted when he served as the Vice Chair of the World Economic Forum council on entrepreneurship in 2013. Presently he is a member of the Global Future Council on Systems and Platforms.
Let’s explore some of the questions he addressed during the roundtable. You can also watch the live roundtable discussion by visiting this link.
Do you hold optimism for Lebanon’s recovery?
Responding to this, Habib Stated “Everyone on the ground is fighting creatively to help Lebanon recover and that gives me slivers of optimism despite the challenging macro-level situation in the country”. Personally I am engaged with AUB through an initiative launched by Alan Shihadeh, the Dean of the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, which focuses on providing coding training to the Lebanese army as a means of upskilling. Another source of optimism is Hadi Salman, a top AI scientist who recently completed his PhD in Computer Science at MIT. Hadi envisions returning to Lebanon after his career in the US to establish an AI research team there.”
What’s your guide to building relationships across the globe
“In my career, building relationships has been the cornerstone.” To excel at this, It’s about the lasting impression you leave on people. Leverage your strength to your benefit. Prioritize creating a meaningful connection, not just a transaction. People aiming to build lasting business relationships and succeed in their work, be in a startup or a profession, should showcase outstanding personality traits, possess the stamina, and assemble a stellar team around them.
How do you prioritize your time on the things that matter?
I have been changing careers every 7 years and I make it my priority to become obsessed with every new endeavor, absorbing as much knowledge as possible and becoming an evangelist for it.
What do you look for in a startup that is created based on a student's research?
It revolves around building relationships with founders. In founders, we seek a blend of tenacity and flexibility, along with the capacity to be purposeful and goal-oriented while also possessing the agility to anticipate future developments. While the scientific aspect is important, in the early stages, it’s the unwavering obsession to devise a meaningful business model that takes precedence. In addition, grit and perseverance are vital in securing that first customer.
How to build a decentralized support system for Lebanon
“LebNet is a great example of building a decentralized support system. The connections exist, but what we need to do more of is help institutions like LebNet scale. LebNet’s goal this year is to multiply its efforts, and keep doing impactful programs like Fellowships, Internships and more.”
Will AI replace white collar jobs, not just in assistive skills, in your opinion, where does the demand lie for jobs within the next 5-10 years?
Immediately post GPT, there was a concern about the fate of jobs, and numerous students were depressed about their future. Contrary to what some believe, the transformation in the job market won’t be as dire. While Gen AI is poised to offer substantial assistance, its integration will lead to the emergence of new roles. I wouldn’t be an alarmist about job impacts. AI is evolving into an augmentative tool for enhancements, rather than a complete replacement.
During the one-hour roundtable, many more topics were discussed, including supporting entrepreneurship in Lebanon, scaling apps without compromising quality, attracting strategic investors to early-stage startups, healthcare technology in the MENA region, investment climate in Lebanon, and more. Watch the full discussion on our YouTube channel by visiting this link.