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.
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.”
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.”