While Lebanon has an early-stage entrepreneurial ecosystem, it has been witnessing prominent growth in the number of startups and investments over the past few years ever since the implementation of Circular 331 of the Central Bank of Lebanon, according to Arabnet’s Lebanese Innovation Economy.
From then on, the ecosystem thrived making Lebanon one of the capitals of digital innovation in the MENA. The country has seen more refined solutions, advanced technologies, and successful entrepreneurs. As a result, more accelerators, venture capitals, and ecosystem support programs followed suit.
A quick look at the ecosystem shows that investors’ interest is on the rise in terms of funding. Roughly more than half of Lebanese startups have raised either 1 or 2 rounds of investment with those rounds ranging between less than $50K and $50K to $0.5M, reflecting an exceedingly early-stage ecosystem. Startups do have access to funding raised mainly from personal savings, competition funds, grants, or bank loans thus being heavily dependent on non-equity funding.
The developing ecosystem has also witnessed a growth in coworking spaces and the emergence of a strong digital sector cluster in Beirut Digital District (BDD).
Also, StartechEUS has recently announced the launch of the Levant’s home of FinTech: StartechEUS FinHub. The hub assists startups from the concept stage by providing them with funding, Fintech office space, training, and market research and access.
However, there is never a rainbow without a little rain, and Lebanon’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is no exception. Lebanese tech startups face many obstacles in their entrepreneurial journey. To name a few: low availability of tech talent, the Lebanese regulatory and policy framework, along with the infrastructural gap.
While general business skills such as finance, marketing, and business development are readily available in the Lebanese market, there still is a great need gap for talents in Lebanon. Local entrepreneurs believe that this gap could be filled by greater mentorship, knowledge transfer, and growth experience starting with university students.
The regulatory and legislative frameworks are not fully tuned for optimal entrepreneurship support whereby startups have to go through layers of time and money consuming annual fees, which halt its scalability.
Another obstacle that is hindering the Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystem is the infrastructural gap seen through the lack of e-government services in Lebanon. The existence of strict financial regulations, absence of free zones, low internet speed, and product barriers are among a few of the obstacles that make the Lebanese infrastructure a challenge to startups.
Funding, support services, and outreach have played a major role in boosting the Lebanese startup scene. With the fast growth the Lebanese startup scene has witnessed these past few years, we could only imagine what the future holds for such an ecosystem.
To learn more about the digital business and entrepreneurship scene in the MENA region, make sure to register for this year’s Arabnet Beirut X.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.