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  • 27 Jan 2019 2:03 AM | Anonymous member

    San Francisco - Jan 10, 2019

    Healthy mind in healthy body.

    We’re increasingly becoming curious about how our bodies function, how we can heal them and how they react to diseases. While we’re still far from figuring out how to cure certain serious illnesses and preventing them in the future, science and biotechnology are making a significant progress in that regard.

    In a fireside chat organized by LebNet on January 10 – which featured Diala Ezzeddine, PhD, CEO of Xios Therapeutics, a biotech company developing a novel small molecule therapeutics capable of preventing tumors from evading the immune system; Omar Haffar, PhD, Founder and CEO of Eos Biosciences, a nanomedicines company developing a nanobiologic particle-based platform technology to facilitate the delivery of approved and novel therapeutics to disease sites and moderator Farah Fawaz, PhD, and VP Quality Control at Allogene Therapeutics, a company developing allogeneic CAR T therapies for cancer – panelists talked about targeted cancer treatments that do not harm other parts of the human body, new drug discoveries, intellectual property and attracting  investments to finance expensive and high risk medical products.

    LebNet Biotech Event

    LebNet’s Biotech Event (Images via LebNet)

    Fawaz, who is a LebNet board member, kicked off the talk by saying that finding Lebanese-American colleagues and professionals in the biotech industry to connect remains a big challenge and invited guests to be engaged in helping build the network. This is why a few months back, she launched a biotech community under LebNet, to help create more synergies and partnership opportunities.

    Treating tumors without damaging the healthy parts

    Haffar got his Ph.D from the University of California at Berkeley in the eighties and left academia to join Genentech for his postdoctoral training. For nine years, he worked at large pharmaceutical companies, but eventually he moved on to starting his own companies. Eos Biosciences is his 4th company.

    Haffar’s recent company, Eos, was started in 2014 and focuses on oncology (the study and treatment of tumors). His drug-targeting platform technology was developed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA in order to treat the tumors in the body without damaging the healthy parts, unlike chemotherapy. The technology is based on generating self-assembling, nano biological particles (Eosomes) that entrap a chosen therapeutic (drug) and specifically deliver it to the interior of the target disease cells.

    “We work with a technology that is made up of developing nanoparticles, where we put drugs inside the particles and once injected into humans, it hums right into the tumor, reducing toxicity.”

    The path to drug discovery

    Diala Ezzeddine got her Ph.D in Genetics from Harvard Medical School then started working at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, where she learned a lot about drug discovery and business development. “I decided later to take advantage of spinning companies out of Millennium to go on my own and do something for myself,” she told the audience.

    She co-founded HydroSpine, a hydrogel liquid that is injected in the spine to reconstruct it. She tried to do that with friends who had a proprietary gel before realizing the idea was a bit early for the market. So instead, she licensed the technology to other small companies. In 2010, she became the chief business officer of a company X-Chem, which applies innovative capabilities screening chemical libraries for the identification of novel small molecule therapeutics. She helped start the company from scratch and create a new drug discovery programs. In 2015, they decided to start a new company and fund it separately and that’s how Xios was born.

    “In 2011 and 2014, there was a watershed moment in cancer research and therapeutics with three drugs going into the market. Cancer is not just a tumor, it actually develops into almost an organ with a number of functions. It has its own environment, ability to connect to the human system and it cloaks itself from the immune system. It allows it to grow unchecked,” said Ezzeddine when talking about the limitations of certains cancer drugs or treatments. “The first generation [of treatment] was chemotherapy. It’s very effective but kills everything that’s alive. Then second was targeted molecular therapy, where we exploit between cancer and normal cells to focus just on cancer. It works well in a number of cases. The third is checkpoint inhibitors.”

    Her company aims to create a new generation of oncology drugs targeting checkpoint inhibitors.

    LebNet Biotech Event

    LebNet Biotech Event

    Intellectual property and proper funding

    The second half of the panel focused on patenting new innovations and finding huge amounts of investments to finance them.

    “In our industry, intellectual property is very important. We have nine patent families, 14 issued patents in six families. If you count them all, we have 28 US and global patents,” said Haffar.

    While it’s crucial to protect an innovation idea, especially in a tricky field like biotech where every detail matters, Ezzeddine believes patents are not always the best option.

    “When you have a complex technology that’s difficult to process, it’s more helpful to protect it by trade secret than by patent. Everybody knows about patents, so if somebody wants to practice it, they can change it enough to get around your patent.   Whereas if they don’t know what you’re doing and you keep it as a trade secret, it’s a lot stronger for protection,” explained Ezzeddine.

    In order to discover and test new drugs or treatments, researchers and scientists spend years and years of testing and iterating, without offering any guarantees. This all requires heavy capital before starting up, which makes attracting  investments a hard task.

    “Our industry is so capital intensive that no matter what you do, you can’t get a corporate partner to invest in the company, give you licensing fees, research support and you always find yourself going to a VC because they have the money that you need,” said Haffar. “They are the only ones that will invest in a private biotech [as they are always looking for the brightest ideas to invest in].”

    Whether they secure money from a VC or from friends & family, the true challenge biotech scientists and researchers face is clinical failure, as Haffar said. Being unable to know if a drug is effective before testing it on animals then on humans is the trickiest part and if ultimately, the results were negative, the product is dead.

  • 19 Dec 2018 2:09 AM | Anonymous member

    San Mateo - Dec 10, 2018

    It’s an exciting time to be alive.

    Technology and competition are providing endless convenience options to the point that it’s hard to complain about not getting what you need delivered to your doorstep, whenever and wherever you need it.

    From Starbucks Corp. building on its partnership with UberEats to deliver coffee to around 150 cities this year, to DoorDash announcing plan to deliver to 500 US cities by end of 2018, and Postmates, doing 4 million deliveries per month in 550 US cities, the on-demand delivery scene is surely bustling.  

    Launched in 2011, Postmates handles delivery and pickup of food, beverages and groceries and works with 300,000 merchants and 250,000 carriers across the US. It has recently raised $300 million in additional funding led by Tiger Global Management and is now reportedly valued at $1.2 billion.

    This on-demand delivery unicorn might also be filing for an IPO in 2019, according to its CEO, Bastian Lehmann.

    “We have a beautiful path to an IPO in 2019,” he said in an interview with Fortune magazine.

    During a Holiday dinner event organized by LebNet in San Mateo California on December 10, 2018, Vikrum Aiyer, Vice President Global Public Policy at Postmates and former Senior Advisor at the White House with Sami Arayssi, Business Strategy Lead at Postmates and LebNet former board member, mentioned that the company is serving 60 percent of US households and explained how it is creating an impact on the local economy while being socially responsible.

    LebNet organized a dinner on December 10 and hosted Vikrum Aiyer and Sami Arayssi from Postmates to discuss how this company is creating thousands of jobs and impacting the economy. (Images via LebNet)

    LebNet organized a dinner on December 10 and hosted Vikrum Aiyer and Sami Arayssi from Postmates who discussed how this company is creating thousands of jobs and impacting the economy. (Images via LebNet)

    Fighting food poverty: In an attempt to provide healthy food to shelters and help restaurant owners donate food leftovers, Postmates launched four months ago the Food Fight program, in partnership with the Mayor’s Operations Innovation team in Los Angeles, the creative talent community Working Not Working and Vice Media. Via a button featured on Postmates merchants’ platform in LA, restaurants can click and have someone pick up their food leftover and drop it off at one of the three shelters Postmates is partnering with.

    Decreasing carbon footprint: Postmates may be in the logistics business but it doesn’t rely solely on cars to pick up and drop off goods. In New York, where they have the largest fleet, all their deliveries are done by bikes or on foot but in LA, it’s still almost entirely done by automobiles. They recently started testing with automated electric rovers on sidewalks in Washington DC, LA, Miami and other places, which will further decrease the company’s carbon footprint.

    “The US spends 400 million hours going to and from grocery stores,” said Aiyer referring to a study by Brooklyn Institute. “We can minimize this and optimize pick up.”

    Vikrum and Sami explaining to the crowd how the business is serving over 550 US cities and supplying food to local shelters.

    Vikrum and Sami explaining to the crowd how the business is serving over 550 US cities and supplying food to local shelters.

    Additionally, Postmates, through its multiple platforms (one for merchants, one for customers and one for carriers), helped local businesses sell over $1.2 billion worth of goods in 2017, according to Aiyer, and carriers earn an extra income.

    “In the era of amazon, when more retailers are struggling to compete with it, more local businesses are now able to plug in and sell,” he explained.

    On the other hand, the 250,000 carriers Postmates is working with have earned last year alone about $217 million in total, said Aiyer. This number also means that they are earning about $18.32 per hour.”

    That said, their network of couriers include students and women over 52 years old, with most of their customers between 18 and 34 years old (60 percent of them are female) and 99 percent of them living in urban areas.

    Collaborating with big names

    In order to test how people would react to having the goods delivered using a driverless car, Postmates partnered with Ford and Walmart to test a grocery delivery service in Miami.

    “When Walmart wants to deliver groceries in Miami they’re using a platform that we [developed] with Ford. This allows us to focus on how to test the future of the workforce and how we make sure that we’re not only investing in the wellbeing of this workforce, but if more jobs were to be automated, how do we make sure we’re developing the skill sets for those workers,” explained Aiyer.

    What started with three guys trying to figure out how to get a surfboard delivered to them has now grown to a company of 850 people in the US. In the last four to six months alone, Postmates went from few hundred cities to 550 cities. Despite competition, Sami Arayssi believes there’s room for everyone. They’re operating in an industry worth $550 billion with a 1.3 percent penetration rate, he said. “That’s a huge opportunity for a lot of players,” he said.

    By making all these deliveries, Postmates is adding additional jobs to the economy and creating a bigger effect beyond having your food delivered to you on a lazy Sunday.

  • 11 Dec 2018 2:15 AM | Anonymous member

    Beirut - Nov 29, 2018

    Impact investing is the purposeful act of investing in a business or product that will generate, in addition to financial returns, a social or environmental impact.

    2017 survey conducted by the Global Impact Investing Network, a nonprofit organization for scaling and measuring impact investing worldwide, revealed that over 200 self-identified impact investors closed around 8,000 investments in 2016, with a total value of $22.1 billion. The businesses they invested in focused on creating a positive impact on society or environment, while generating profits for investors.

    Seedstars, a global organization that empowers startups in emerging markets through events, workshops, acceleration programs and hubs, is an example of organizations doing impact investing. It aims to reach 10,000 entrepreneurs in 2019. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, between 5 and 7 trillion dollars of investment are needed each year, until 2030, to reach sustainable development goals worldwide.

    Since the inception of Seedstars six years ago, their amount allocated to impact investing has multiplied by nine, said Seedstars event manager Laure de Peretti de la Rocca, during her keynote speech at Seedstars MENA Regional Competition held in Beirut on November 29.

    “Goldman Sachs and BlackRock, have either acquired, launched or committed capital dedicated to impact. Despite the growing interest, the amount allocated to impact investment is low. If we look at Goldman, they have 1.3 trillion asset under management, less than 1 percent of it is dedicated to impact,” added Laure stressing on the importance of incentivising corporate and big investment firm to invest in impact businesses.

    With a focus on impact investing and fundraising in the US versus Lebanon, the event marked Seedstars’ third regional edition and it was supported by several partners including Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL), MADA Assistive Technology Center, local telecommunication company TouchSpeed LebanonBerytechEndeavor Lebanon, LebNet and many others. The 3-day competition had 351 attendees, 45 investors, 119 startup founders, 303 one-on-one meetings and a representation from 21 countries.

    Lebanese telecommunications company Touch organized a workshop on business growth and accessing new markets and featured 64 one-on-one meetings with 8 local and regional mentors. (Image via Seedstars)  

    Speakers included Christopher Schroeder, American investor and entrepreneur and the author of the book Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East; Fadi Zoghzoghi, CTO of Bridge Athletic and a LebNet board member; Sharif El-Badawi, partner at 500 Startups; Walid Hanna, founder and CEO of Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP); Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of global success startup littleBits and Hassane Slaibi, CEO and cofounder of Band Industries, the company that built the most fundraised musical hardware on Kickstarter: Roadie Tuner.

    Over 70% of Millennials and Generation X’ers  are investing with a purpose

    Doing business to generate profits without expressing social or environmental values is no longer an option for most of the millenials and their predecessor generation. A study conducted this year revealed that millennial investors and generation X investors are becoming more attuned to socially responsible investing than their older counterparts. Another study revealed that 77 percent of millennial investors and 72 percent of generation X investors have made an impact investment, compared to just 30 percent of affluent investors from the baby boomer and older generations.

    “It’s no longer about making money, but also about having a purpose. Not only is there this rising interest in impact investing, but also a rise in power of a new generation that believe doing business with a purpose goes hand in hand,” added Laure.

    And the winner of last year’s Seedstars Global Summit is an example of investing in high-impact startups.

    Impacting farmers’ lives through technology

    Last April, over 1,000 attendees, investors, startups and enthusiasts attended Seedstars Global Summit in Switzerland. After hosting around 80 local competitions and organizing five regional summits, the global summit gathered startups from 65 countries including the MENA region, for a chance to pitch and win the grand prize of $500,000 of equity investment. Twelve startups were chosen to present and the winner was AgroCenta. This Ghana-based startup aims to solve two critical problems small farmers face: access to market and access to finance. The lack of an access to a market forces farmers to sell their produce to middlemen, who will in return sell the products at a higher price. The lack of finance won’t allow farmers to expand to bigger farms and increase their production.

    The winner of Seeedstars Global Summit last year took home $500,000 (Image via Seedstars)   

    AgroCenta built a platform, AgroTrade, that allows farmers to sell their produce directly to large food traders, to ensure fair prices and selling in bulk. It has another platform called AgroPay, which provides financial institutions more visibility over low-risk farmers.

    Another Seedstars success story is eFishery, an Indonesian startup that won the global summit in 2014. It’s a smart automatic feeder for fish in farms, making it easier for farmers to track and schedule feeding times using a mobile app. eFishery’s goal is to increase feed efficiency while saving food, as many farm fishes die due to overfeeding.

    We may have a long way to go to reach sustainable development goals, especially with the $2.5 trillion investment gap in developing countries, but today’s generation is more than ever willing to invest in businesses that reflect their social and environmental values. With most millennials located in emerging markets, we can only hope the next big success story comes from the MENA region.

  • 27 Nov 2018 2:18 AM | Anonymous member

    What role should tech startups play to save their economy? (Image via LebNet)

    Lebanon ranked as one of the least competitive economies, both globally and regionally, according to World Bank’s Lebanon Economic Monitor, Fall 2018: De-Risking Lebanon.

    The country was ranked 105th of 137 countries, ahead of only Yemen in the Arab region. The leading causes of Lebanon’s competitiveness have been its macro-economic environment, a weak infrastructure and institutions and governance.

    That being said, the country’s economy failed to create new job opportunities and reduce widespread poverty and its GDP has been decreasing sharply since 2010. Its main drivers were the service sector (72.4 percent) between 2004 and 2016, industry and agriculture (14 and 4.3 percent respectively).

    The report also highlighted that corruption in the ruling political class has rendered the country incapable of solving its most urgent needs and public services.

    Could the private sector, startups and IT more specifically, bypass corruption and create new hope for Lebanon?

    Yes it could. The tech startup ecosystem in Lebanon has made access to innovation and competition easier, according to the same report, and it’s helping small businesses create jobs for the future generations.

    “Lebanon’s tech scene is becoming increasingly attractive driven by the example of successful startups that have tapped regional and global markets and the innovative initiative by the country’s central bank in facilitating venture capital financing. The nation now needs to leverage these developments by finding solutions to constraints hindering the blossoming of its tech startup ecosystem,” the report stated.

    Lebanese startup BuildInk, which 3D prints eco-friendly cement blocks, is posing for a group photo after winning TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA held in Beirut in October. (Image via LebNet)

    Lebanese startup BuildInk, which 3D prints eco-friendly cement blocks, is posing for a group photo after winning TechCrunch Startup Battlefield MENA held in Beirut in October. (Image via LebNet)

    Tech and digital businesses have borderless characteristics and can generate profits by selling to outside parties, without the need to get stuck in bureaucracy, customs and taxes. Such businesses are bringing hope to an economy filled with corruption, said George Akiki, LebNet’s president and cofounder, during a talk he gave in Armenia about the LebNet experience in scaling startups globally.

    In his talk, he highlighted some of the constraints that the report hinted at and these include the shortage of high-risk investments and lack of advanced research and development centers.

    Attracting seed funds at the earliest stage of a startup was also a crucial need. “Nobody is focusing there, very few,” he said. “Execution is a problem, CEOs and CTOs have good ideas but they are not executing well. LebNet needs to help address and mentor them. They need coaching at many levels.”

    Where are the Lebanese unicorns?

    If you’re familiar with the startup ecosystem in the MENA region, then you know that only a few were able to exit, most recently, which was acquired by Amazon for $580 million.

    Looking closely at the Lebanese market, no considerable exits have been made, despite the fact that it has become an obsession for many Lebanese entrepreneurs, according to Akiki. He stated that they are obsessing too much about unicorns to the point they can no longer focus on smaller and more realistic exits.

    Despite the challenges, there are positive elements that will help the ecosystem grow slowly but surely.

    The creativity, talent and the good number of VCs and support organizations are a sign of hope. The Lebanese ecosystem boasts around 200-300 startups, two angel networks, around 10 VCs, three incubators and five accelerators, two small exits and about US $300 million of deployed investments, he said. Most of all, Lebanese entrepreneurs have good business acumen, strong problem solving skills, a multicultural background and fluency in three languages (English, Arabic and French) which opens more opportunities for them when considering scaling to the US, Europe or the Gulf.

    Can the digital sector bring Lebanon’s economy to safer lands when its GDP still highly relies on services and real estate? Can this sector bypass corrupted governance and make a difference? Maybe time will tell.

  • 23 Oct 2018 5:30 AM | Anonymous member

    San Diego - Oct 18, 2018

    In 2035, when the full economic impact of 5G should have touched the entire globe, a broad range of industries, from retail to education and entertainment, are expected to produce around US $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G mobile technology, according to 5G economy reports.

    Reports also stated that by 2035, 5G will create 22 million jobs and generate $3 trillion in global GDP growth. It will also increase productivity by 89 percent, help small business grow and compete globally and stimulate the invention of new products.

    At the forefront of 5G innovation is multinational semiconductor and telecommunications equipment company Qualcomm.

    The company’s president Cristiano Amon, spoke about 5G, mobile innovation, the internet of things (IoT) and emerging markets during LebNet’s event in San Diego, which was held on October 18, 2018 at Knobbe Martens law firm.

    Cristiano Amon talking about 5G innovation during a panel organized by lebNet

    Cristiano Amon talking about 5G innovation during a panel organized by LebNet

    The event drew 70 people from San Diego, Silicon Valley, Orange County, Los Angeles and Florida. It was introduced by Layal Rouhana, PhD, Staff IC packaging engineer at Qualcomm and LebNet San Diego Region Leader. The LebNet San Diego team aims at building a community of high-tech professionals and college students to learn from each other and give back.

    During the panel, which was moderated by Ford Tamer, the CEO of high-speed analog and semiconductor solutions company Inphi Corporation, Amon discussed how 5G will be a major economic driver, his key success factors and how his Lebanese origin and grandfather influence helped him shape his journey.

    “My grandfather left Lebanon when he was 16 years old. He went to Brazil, did not speak the language, worked in a farm, saved money, started doing some coffee transportation, bought merchandise and sold them in towns. He was a great inspiration for us, always had a goal and kept going forward.”

    Perhaps his grandfather’s ‘can do’ attitude led Amon to pursuing his own passion and becoming one of the leaders of tomorrow’s technologies.

    An ever-connected era

    Amon tackled technological progress by distinguishing between 3G and 4G and how advanced underlying technologies in broadband mobile are making us underestimate the value of what we have nowadays.   

    “There’s no industry today that doesn’t have a smartphone connected to what they do. Smartphone itself is an incredible device. When we were creating 4G, we didn’t know how apps will look like but we knew the underlying technology. We are now in a society where everything can be connected ,” said Amon.

    Yet with 5G, connectivity will take a whole different meaning. Due to faster speed and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices, this technology will provide the right infrastructure to carry and handle huge amount of data, hence making our world smarter and more connected.

    With 5G, people can connect to the cloud and all the data extracted from their devices will feed into machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), according to Qualcomm’s president. “Things will become smarter as they will have processors and be connected to the internet. Those will change societies again [and lead] economic development.”

    What's the role of 5G in healthcare?

    What’s the role of 5G in healthcare?

    5G in healthcare

    This ability to connect at a very high speed will also bring benefit to mankind. In healthcare, 5G can facilitate the transfer of medical databases and help in analyzing them, hence improving machine learning. Machine-assisted tools can then give doctors a proper patient diagnosis based on previous diagnosis correlated with a certain condition. All of this can be made possible by just processing a bigger amount of data, indicated Amon.  

    He gave another example related to translation and cultural difference. During an event he attend in China, government officials were relying on a machine learning software to receive a real-time interpretation. The phrases being formed did not make sense initially because they needed more context, but Amon believed that “those things will become better. If you’re connected to the internet with a very high speed you can enable all those things.”

    5G will be a turning point for machine learning and IoT devices and PCs as well. Amon hinted that personal computers will be connected with 5G and start running on mobile technology.

    New tech for emerging markets

    The panel went from talking about 5G and its big economic potential to how emerging markets are creating new tech behaviors to fill a gap, i.e India, which is using WhatsApp to transfer payments. The global chatting app is now offering a billing system for specific countries to allow users to transfer money. “It’s amazing how much they revolutionized in emerging markets. They have a bigger reach over population.”

    This event won’t be the last for LebNet San Diego this year. Over the course of 2018 and 2019, the San Diego community will be hosting several activities related to career development in STEM fields, female leadership in high-tech, work/life integration and programs for graduates and undergraduates in STEM field. Stay tuned. 

  • 18 Oct 2018 5:34 AM | Anonymous member

    Montreal - Oct, 13, 2018

    On October 13th, LebNet, LIFE and the Lebanese Canadian Tech Hub organized the Lebanese Fintech Global Conference at the CEIM (Center for Enterprise and Innovation of Montreal).

    The conference, which was attended by 70 people, discussed the fintech ecosystem, future trends, the main tech players and how they are transforming the banking sector with AI and blockchain potential opportunities among other topics.

    The morning sessions featured Alexandre Harkous, founder and executive chairman of OneWealthPlace, a digital platform for assets and wealth managers. Harkous, who has 20 years of experience in the finance industry and has sold two software publishing companies to leading industry players, shared his success story with the audience. The talk was followed by another presentation given by Gerard Rafie on the role of artificial intelligence in fintech and a presentation on blockchain uses and limitations by Dr. Nicholas Khabaz, founder and CEO of HedgeSight, a fintech company that provides a blockchain ready, end-to-end portfolio rebalancing solution for hedge fund investors.

    The afternoon started with keynote speaker Stephanie Choo, partner at Portag3 Ventures who detailed the global Fintech landscape and related investment dynamics and then the conference ended with a content rich panel moderated by Rania Afiouni Monla and featured Joseph Fakhri, Antoine Azar, Joseph El Sayegh. Bassem Monla, and Mike Merdinian.

    The conversations and discussions were highly engaging. For those who missed the event, we have compiled for you a list of inspiring quotes and insights from speakers and attendees.

    Alexandre Harkous

    Data is the new oil. [We need] massive data today to create new value.

    Why I am an entrepreneur? I had no choice, I am lebanese, it’s in the genes. We all left Lebanon to be successful. If you have an opportunity to work for a startup, don’t hesitate. [It’s a] great learning experience before you start something on your own. Suffer as an entrepreneur, it’s good from time to time.

    My dream is to create a success story in Beirut now.

    Gerard Rafie

    If you ask a head of a bank: what keeps you awake at night [they will answer]: Cost, regulation, profitability

    Technology in banks is for cost reduction. That’s it.

    Regulation on data in banking will never end, more keeps coming. The biggest investment in banking will be in AI to manage the data. AI can make autonomous decisions: that’s the beauty of it and the danger of it. AI should not automatically trade, just provide insight and suggested picks. At the end of the day, trading is about guts and until AI gets guts, humans will trade. I can see AI and blockchain converging in the future to create the best secured distributed data storage easily accessible by AI tools

    Stephanie Choo – early stage investor at Portag3 Ventures

    The confluence of activity in fintech (tech transformation, incumbents at a crossroads and regulatory tailwind in banking) has made this area very exciting and very well capitalized players [are] emerging. [It’s a] good time to be a fintech entrepreneur these days.

    [We still have] a few more areas to solve: who becomes the consolidator of all financial services for a client? In M&A, how to integrate acquisitions into larger incumbent? How will big tech enter in fintech: Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook.

    Having expertise in the regulatory space is very important for entrepreneurs. Fintech requires time and significant capital at the early stage to scale. In fintech, [you] need an ecosystem approach to win

    Dr Nicholas Khabbaz

    95 percent of blockchain’s proof of concepts in the financial banking sector have failed to date.[He then spoke about a methodology to mitigate risk of failure]

    Mike Merdinian – blockchain instructor at McGill University School of Continuing Studies

    Blockchain is leveraging known technologies dating back to 1962 to create a new industry of ‘Trust’. The challenges are the lack of talent, regulatory, jurisdiction of various regions and people still don’t trust [it]. Blockchain is not Ketchup: you can’t use it everywhere.

    Joseph Fakhri– president and CEO of Axiom Innovations

    Blockchain is putting tremendous pressure on ‘cost’ in the financial industry

    Joseph El Sayegh – president and CEO of SCOR Canada Reinsurance Company

    Insurance companies are more geared to take risk than banks

    Antoine Azar – co-founder and CTO of Thirdshelf

    Quebec is extremely well positioned for fintech & AI talent.

  • 08 Oct 2018 5:36 AM | Anonymous member

    Beirut - Oct, 3, 2018

    It looks like a busy year for Beirut.

    In its 12th edition, MIT Enterprise Forum Pan-Arab Region has announced last week plans to host its regional competition in Beirut for the first time. Seedstars, a global startup competition for emerging markets, is also hosting its regional chapter in the capital for the first time and this week, TechCrunch Battlefield MENA organized its first MENA Battlefield in Beirut, thanks to its sponsorship with Facebook.

    These events may target startups and entrepreneurs in the entire Middle East and North Africa region, yet their presence in Beirut gives the local community access to global speakers and networking opportunities. They could also contribute to an increase in the local participation.

    Held on October 3 at the Beirut Digital District, 15 startups pitched during TechCrunch Battlefield MENA for a chance to win US $25k and full sponsorship to attend the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 in San Francisco. Three out of the five shortlisted startups were Lebanese or had Lebanese cofounders.

    Ozan Sonmez, managing director of Growth Circuit VC in San Francisco, believes the reason why the majority of the finalists were from Lebanon is because Lebanese founders tend to focus on building products that can attract global attention.

    “It’s because the Lebanese market is small and Lebanese entrepreneurs focus on building scalable products and building international teams,” explained Ozan Sonmez, managing director of Growth Circuit VC in San Francisco.

    Drums rolling

    The winning startup was Buildink, a 3D concrete printer for construction companies cofounded by Bilal Farshukh. It is currently in the process of signing a deal with a big construction company in Lebanon. Buildink, according to Farshukh, has a mix two times stronger than the regular construction mix, a 20 times faster setting time and an environment friendly product that saves 75 percent of construction time.

    “The money we won from TechCrunch startup Battlefield MENA competition will be mainly used to do some final enhancing edits to the cable-robot 3D printer. The money is also needed for the upcoming intensive testing phase. […] as soon as our 3D printer is fully tested and ready for the market needs, we will operate anywhere around the globe.” said Farshukh. “Buildink is currently seeking a round of investment in order to upscale our prototype, and assemble a 3D printer capable of building a 100m single level house. Hopefully we can do it by end of 2019.”

    The runner up was Synkers, another Lebanese startup that provides online private tutoring. The team has already signed 5 memorandum of understanding (MoU) with universities in the UAE and has a partnership with the Ministry of Education there and Dubai Fintech Accelerator, according to cofounder Audrey Nakad. [Disclaimer: Synkers was part of LebNet Ignite program in San Francisco]

    During a panel at TechCrunch Battlefield MENA. (Image via LebNet)

    The other three finalists were Seez, a mobile app that reduces the time people spend searching for a car from 17 hours down to a few seconds; Naturansa, a startup that uses pre-consumer fruit and vegetable waste and decomposes it with specific insects to create sustainable protein sources; and Pure Harvest, a smart farm that relies on controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) to produce fruits and vegetables in arid climates.

    The event was a mix of pitching, workshops and panel discussions around numerous topics including exits in the Middle East and Lebanon’s infrastructure and connectivity.

    Imad Kreidieh, chairman and director general of Lebanese telecommunication company Ogero spoke to Ari Kesisoglu from Facebook on the internet situation in the country, the abundance in talent and the factors that are helping or hindering the growth of the startup ecosystem.

    “Lebanon has amazing universities but the challenge is that the talent might leave and it’s hard to keep them,” he said. He believes a number of steps must be considered to retain them, the first being the provision of proper legislations to protect the work of innovators.

    Such obstacles are also one of many reasons why the Middle East isn’t witnessing yet a recurring number of acquisitions and exits.

    “It takes time to build exits,” said Henri Asseily, managing partner at Leap Ventures. His ecommerce company Shopzilla was acquired in 2005 by E.W. Scripps Company in the US. In his opinion, for companies to be acquired, they must be able to achieve a goal or solve a problem the potential acquirer isn’t able to achieve or solve.

    Big acquisitions in the Arab region, such as Amazon acquiring its Middle Eastern competitor in 2017, were shy in numbers. It will take time before we see regular exits coming out of the Arab region, but to have ‘real’ exits, according to Priscilla Elora Sharuk, the cofounder and COO of password creator and manager Myki, we need to see more companies acquiring proprietary technologies and not just copycats.

  • 08 Oct 2018 5:35 AM | Anonymous member

    Austin - May, 24, 2018

    Banks are being transformed into tech companies and we are witnessing the the beginning of a a bank evolution. AI will play a major role in transforming these banks, said Gerard Rafie, CEO and Founder of FintekMinds, a fintech consulting company for Capital Markets and Treasury.

    The FintekMinds founder, who has over 30 years of experience in banking and financial technologies, was the head of sale for  Murex France before he left to join and grow a competitor in the US called Calypso Technology. Believing in the importance of fintech in today’s world, he and Mounir Bsaibes, a software development program manager at IBM, sponsored a LebNet event in Austin on May 24, to showcase the role of artificial intelligence in fintech.

    The event kicked off with a presentation by Steve Harper from Ripple Central on the power of networking then a panel on Artificial Intelligence and some of its practical and tangible applications. The panel was moderated by LebNet president George Akiki and joined by Gerard Rafie, Roy Arsan, Cloud Partner Engineer at Google, and Nabil Chehade, Vice President of Product and Technology at

    Below you can find few insights Rafie shared with LebNet on how the fintech industry will disrupt the banking sector.

    Bank used to fight tech companies, now they are becoming them.

    It’s no longer unusual for people to purchase a credit card online from Amazon or even apply for a loan from PayPal or Quicken, said Rafie. These big tech players are disrupting banks and they are here to stay. Hence banks are looking to step up their technology stack to compete with these new entrants.

    Building a solid network is not quantity, it’s quality

    Another important subject tackled during that day was the power of networking and how entrepreneurs can avoid falling into the trap of engaging in meaningless conversations during social events.

    “Networking is no longer a business card, an elevator pitch and a LinkedIn connection. In today’s ‘relationship driven economy’, people want and need to look for heart to heart belly to belly conversations not gimmicky networking conversations,” said Harper in a chat with LebNet. “It’s through the actions we take that we truly learn how to genuinely connect with other people.”

    Finding and making connections is an easy job, according to Harper, but building real relationships takes time, energy and effort. “That’s where most people fail because they aren’t willing to truly invest in what it takes to build a real relationship.”

  • 03 May 2018 12:48 AM | Anonymous member

    On May 3rd, 2018, the LebNet team was excited to head back to Boston for another opportunity to bring together Lebanese Tech professionals around Boston.

    We heard from two distinguished speakers, Fadel Adib (Asst. Prof. at MIT Media Lab) and Rania Khalaf (Director of AI at IBM Research), as they discussed their experiences and outlooks as successful Lebanese in Tech.

    The event was held at MIT’s Ray and Maria Stata Center, in collaboration with the Lebanese Club at MIT.

    Thanks to all the current and prospective LebNet members who attended and made this a successful event! Until next time, Boston LebNeters!

  • 27 Apr 2018 1:05 AM | Anonymous member

    Hera Hub was the host for LebNet’s third event in San Diego, on Apr 27, 2018. Around 40 people attended the action-packed evening that focused on the high tech and biotech entrepreneurship scene, and the key elements in creating successful startups.

    Layal Rouhana opened the evening and introduced George Akiki (President and Co-Founder), who gave a short overview of LebNet’s vision and key initiatives. Then, George joined a distinguished panel of successful Lebanese entrepreneurs, who took the audience on a journey of launching successful startups. The panel was moderated by Layal Rouhana (staff IC packaging engineer at Qualcomm) and included: Andrew Tebsherani, Chief Operating Officer at Personal Health Insights Inc.; Antonio Challita, Director of Product Management at CyberSight; Samara Hakim, Founder and President of the Culture Factor LLC; and Walid Soussou, President at Wearable Sensing.

    The speakers discussed key factors that impact the launch of successful high tech and biotech businesses, like identifying the right ideas and timing to launch, team/culture, business strategy, funding and mentorship. They also answered multiple questions from the engaged and enthusiastic audience. Everyone enjoyed great networking time before and after the panel discussion.

    This was LebNet’s first event in San Diego in 2018 and we are looking forward to many more to come! Many thanks to our incredibly talented speakers who shared extremely insightful information and advice.

    We would also like to thank our San Diegan LebNeters who came out

    and made the evening a great success! Special thanks to Jeanine, Sarah and Fram Akiki for taking the pictures!

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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