Sally Abou Melhem <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Office of Communications
Sixteen investment-ready startups, part of the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park (Zein AUB iPark) incubation program, had the opportunity to meet representatives from industry and investor networks and present their work to them during the Startups Demo Day held at the Beirut Digital District (BDD).
These entrepreneurs are part of the second cohort of startups benefiting from the Zein AUB iPark incubation program, which - in addition to incubating ideas, accelerating ventures, and connecting innovators with industry specialists and mentors – links startups with potential partners, talents, as well as investors.
The Startups Demo Day, which was held both in person and online, was by invitation only. Attendees included investors, investor networks, industry leaders who run innovation programs, and startup ecosystem partners. This is in addition to distinguished community members including mentors, consultants, and senior AUB leadership.
The participating startups represented a wide range of industries such as agritech, edtech, energytech, environmental, entertainment, fintech, foodtech, marketplace, medical, and telecom. A list of the 16 startups and information about each of them is available on this link. Each of the startups gave a three-minute pitch in hopes of convincing the attendees of the value of their venture and attracting investments and opportunities for growth. The startups also participated in the exhibition where each of them had a booth and was available to meet one-on-one with investors, both onsite as well as online.
The event featured an announcement that six of the participating startups received a total of $15,000 in micro-grants, and another six startups received funding of $65,000 in total. It was also announced that one startup will be sponsored to go to a UC Berkeley Skydeck program.
The keynote speaker was AUB President Fadlo Khuri who addressed the attendees saying, “It is the entrepreneurs in our communities, like the bright individuals present here today, who illuminate our dark days." He added that they are the ones who can see the problem, find the solution, and push through the challenges presented, evolving and growing their ideas into promising startups, and eventually into businesses that serve the economy, create jobs, and provide society with needed services. “They are our hope for true practical development. They are the fruits of excellent education, training, and talent, and the seeds for a better future."
Khuri gave Zein AUB iPark startup Ashghali, from the 2020 cohort, as an inspiring example. Co-founders Marc Ibrahim and Joseph Hajjar built their venture Ashghali - an online marketplace connecting prospective clients with local professionals - in Lebanon during a period when crisis follows crisis, with the hopes of helping the increasing number of unemployed Lebanese people find work. Since its inception, Ashghali managed to raise $500,000 in funds and is now based in Germany and on its way to what we hope will be global service and greatness.
“This brings me to another category of heroes in our society, those who invest in our entrepreneurs, from venture capitalists to incubators, investors, and mentors. The ones who see founders as not only talented dreamers but as innovators and a possible brighter future for us all," Khuri said. “They are the risk takers, the trend shapers, the growth promoters, and an essential pillar of a community that has the hope to grow and evolve."
The demo day attendees were also addressed by Dr. Yousif Asfour, AUB chief innovation and transformation officer; as well as BDD CEO Mohamad Rabah who represented the Zein family. “Collaborating with the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB iPark has been a strategic decision to attract a pipeline of brilliant ideas that will create brilliant success stories out of BDD in the near future," Rabah said.
The demo day also included a fireside chat with Zein AUB iPark alumnus Ahmad Fares who spoke about his startup Celitech's success story, international award, and venture in the US. The event ended with networking activities with the aim of establishing leads for investment interests with a number of the startups.
About the Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park
The Talal and Madiha Zein AUB Innovation Park (Zein AUB iPark) is a cross-disciplinary space for experiential learning and startup building at the heart of the startup ecosystem in Beirut. The Zein AUB iPark supports AUB community members seeking to develop innovative ideas into profitable and scalable startups by offering multidisciplinary programs to inspire, enable, and connect. Zein AUB iPark initiatives include the President's Innovation Challenge, hackathons, the FYP Accelerator Program, experiential events, and meetups.
Since its inception in 2019, the incubation program has successfully graduated seven startups that have secured around $2.5 million in investment and have started generating revenues. This year's cohort consists of 19 startups at three different stages, 16 of them participated in the recent Startups Demo Day.