“I left Lebanon in 1981 to study in the US but emotionally I never left it.”
One dream always pushed Fadi Daou to come back to Lebanon: create job opportunities in high-tech, develop a high-tech center in the country and export tech products rather than talent.
And so he did.
Daou is now the founder and CEO of MultiLane, a semiconductor company based in his hometown Houmal, a village in the Aley District. He is also building Houmal Technology Park Academy, a center to train fresh graduates on Integrated Circuit Design (IC Design), host multinational companies and incubate high-tech projects.
Fadi Daou working with one of his team members at MultiLane’s offices in Houmal. (Images via MultiLane)
Selling the house, the company and moving back to Lebanon
After studying Electrical Engineering and working for 15 years with a company called GenRad, the entrepreneurship bug bit him. Daou launched and sold three companies in the US: Telephotonics in 2000, FiberGrade in 2002 and PXIT in 2004. He then sold his house and came back to Lebanon in 2004, worked for a couple of years with several NGOs, mainly Bader, on promoting technology as a sector of growth, creating applied training centers and developing human resources so that multinational companies would set up offices in the country. “One of the real success factors to help create and evolve the economy is human resources,” he said.
In 2008, he started ATC-Lebanon then sold it to IPG Photonics, a high-performance fiber laser manufacturer. Two years later, MultiLane was born.
MultiLane is a manufacturer of high-speed test instruments and interconnect test product for the backbone of the cloud-computing industry.
Manufacturing and exporting high tech
Overlooking the sea and the beautiful village of Houmal, MultiLane is nestled in a calm location, making it the perfect environment for creativity and focus. Many of the employees come from remote areas in Lebanon and they benefit from free accommodation during the week.
During a visit to MultiLane’s offices, Daou discussed company growth and his plans to build a high-tech center and attract companies and talent.
“The company is growing as a leading supplier of test equipment globally for the past 6 to 7 years. Our compounded annual growth rate is north of 60 percent. We offer products to companies building data center infrastructure as well as data centers and our customers are the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alibaba, Cisco, Intel, and many other semiconductor and data center companies. Overall we have 500 B2B customers worldwide in Japan, Taiwan, China, Korea, Europe, US and we offer 200 products today.”
The company also has branches in Silicon Valley and Taiwan while the Lebanese branch is in charge of developing, designing, building and shipping products. All shipped products have a ‘made in Lebanon’ stamp and the team ships up to 8k items every week, according to the founder.
Building a non-existent industry in Lebanon
Daou’s vision to train and create job opportunities in a non-existent field in Lebanon, aims to put the country on the high-tech map.
To get there, he’s building a 215,000 square foot (20,000 square meter) campus called Houmal Technology Park, that hosts up to 1,000 individuals and includes state-of-the-art facilities, research and development (R&D) labs, a training academy, an incubator, coworking spaces for high-tech multinational companies, guest houses as well as other amenities. MultiLane’s offices will soon move to a 6,000 square foot (557 square meter) facility within the campus.
Houmal Technology Park under construction. (Image via LebNet)
“Companies are primarily interested in resources, building products to get to market and the limiting factor in our business is people. So a major part of HTP’s activity is to develop talent to attract multinational companies. We will offer free training to students. The initial course is in IC Design and semiconductor. We started a course in partnership with some of the universities in Europe and in Lebanon to pick fresh graduates and train them at HTP. We’re working with professors from Notre Dame University (NDU) and Lebanese international University (LIU) that offer IC Design and we’re funding that training,” said Daou.
In a market saturated with coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators, Daou is targeting a niche industry to differentiate his endeavor. He believes focus is the ultimate key to excellence and decentralization is crucial to boost creativity.
“Any tech center or incubator has to be focused on a particular know-how so it becomes a center of excellence. I am a firm believer that with focused effort and developing know-how for human resources you can create tremendous influence, value and return,” he said.
“My ancestors moved to Houmal in 1639. I am deeply rooted here and can’t find any better place in the world to exist but here. You have the view, nature, and a great environment .In my opinion, there is no better ecosystem anywhere else,” he concluded.