Beirut: "In this room, is the real Lebanon, this is the Lebanon of 2020..." said one sage observer last year of what was on its way to becoming the Mediterranean's largest tech acceleration event.
Jot down the date on your mobi - Nov. 3, 4, and 5 - for BDL Accelerate 2016, a conference where a legion of investors, inventors, and world influential technologists, will meet, greet and fast forward to the future.
This year's conference is projected to attract 20,000 attendees, which will include thousands of international visitors, investors, entrepreneurs, tech mentors, innovators, startup gurus, and students; mingling, trading cards, making deals, and giving speeches at the Forum de Beyrouth.
To accommodate this attendance growth, planners have expanded the conference venue to 15,000 sqm, featuring 12 independent information tracks, including all new innovation, academy, awards, and entertainment tracks.
This accelerate forum is Lebanon's 3rd such annual conference, and planners say that it is officially the biggest and most influential event of this type to date in the MENA region.
In 2015, BDL Accelerate hosted 6,623 attendees from 50-plus countries, with over 100 top-tier speakers over the course of two days. It was widely hailed by attendees.
"Beirut is rapidly shaping up to be a powerhouse for startups in the Middle East, " said Mike Bucher, Editor at Large, TechCrunch, at last year's event.
While Tom Fletcher, UK Ambassador to Lebanon, noted last year, "In this room is the real Lebanon, this is Lebanon 2020."
The initial 2014 event was held as celebration of the first anniversary of BDL's Circular 331, a central bank program designed to provide seed funding for tech startups. That year, approximately 1,600 attended the conference.
"Accelerate" is a much used word in the tech scene lately - not necessarily overused but used sufficiently - to invoke Venture Capital, Investment Banks, Angel Investors or any other funding or mentorship entity who can help kick start a business. In Lebanon, the biggest example of the accelerate phenomena has been the Banque du Liban, whose ongoing circular 331 tech program has done much to benefit Beirut's growing interactive industry by helping to infuse over $400 million into the local tech ecosystem.
Organizers note that this year's event "is all inclusive, because it's free." The conference doesn't charge its attendees, "so that everyone, from all walks of life, can learn, engage, be inspired, and connect with industry experts, investors, like minded individuals and change-makers from around the world."
In part this is made possible by the dozens of local sponsors, who range from Bank Audi, Blom Bank, Touch, Bank of Beirut, Credit Libanais, and Middle East Venture Partners, to the Berytech Fund and the Beirut Digital District.
The real draw this year, is a truly unique lineup of world-class speakers, including the headline speaker for the conference: Steve "The Woz" Wozniak, the Silicon Valley icon who founded Apple with Steve Jobs.
Also, just a short list of other speakers includes: Tony Fadell, co-creator of the iPod, iPhone, and Founder of Nest; Riad Salameh; Governor of Banque du Liban; Marianne Hoayek; Founder & Organizer at Banque du Liban Accelerate, Head of the Governor's Executive Office at Banque du Liban; Renaud Visage: Co-Founder & CTO at Eventbrite; and Loic Le Meur, a serial entrepreneur based in San Francisco, Founder & CEO of leade.rs.
Also presenting are: Claire Burge; CEO of This is Productivity; Steven Bathiche, Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft; Mike Butcher, Editor at Large at TechCrunch, Founder of TechFugees; Dean Johnson: Head of Innovation at Brandwidth; and Keith Teare, Founder of Archimedes Labs, a startup incubator, and more.
Planners for this year said attendees will fly in from approximately 195 cities, hailing from 52 countries, shattering all Mediterranean conference records.
On stage for the first time in Lebanon, Fadell, who is of Lebanese descent, will represent the Lebanese-American bridge between Beirut's startup ecosystem and Silicon Valley.
The iPod isn't the only iconic invention resulting from Fadell's creative genius. After spearheading Apple's game-changing iPod, he helped create the groundbreaking and most successful smartphone ever, the iPhone, before going on to found Nest, which kickstarted the Internet of Things industry. Fadell sold Nest to Google for $3.2 billion.
BDL Accelerate 2016's theme is "Innovation: Intrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship", showcasing innovations by enterprises (intrapreneurship) and startups (entrepreneurship) alike, "celebrating the difference in their processes and methodologies, a diversity of means to the same end, Innovation."
By bringing enterprises into the fold, the conference will ensure the widest reach and impact, from entrepreneurs and students all the way through executives and professionals, across all industries of the knowledge economy.
"I think that the BDL Accelerate conference has grown to become THE entrepreneurship event of the year. Everyone who is active in the (Beirut) ecosystem or would like to join it, participates somehow," said Gràcia Soued, Marketing & Communications Manager at Speed@BDD, a Beirut-based accelerator with an intensive program for startups.
"The event brings a lot of value in terms of: content with the panels consisting of impressive line-ups of international and regional speakers; recognition for the startups who participate in the competitions and the hackathons; and visibility for the different players in the ecosystem and the services they offer."
In addition to the core breakout speeches and info tracks, there will be a Networking Hub for mixing it up.
Open from 10 a.m. until midnight, the Networking Hub should prove an ideal place to network, connect and chill, with business leaders, innovators and startup founders, over food, drinks, and ambient music.
For more information see: www.BDLAccelerate.com
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