21 May 2020 marked the online Demo Day for the OSB's graduate Venture Acceleration Practicum course open to all students across AUB. It was a very exciting experience bringing together our aspiring entrepreneurs, ambitious intrapreneurs, dedicated instructors and mentors along with the knowledgeable jury in one “place" on the virtual screen.
Four months ago, we probably did not expect to be holding a virtual demo day, but it became inevitable with the pandemic lockdown. Interestingly, the teams adapted their pitches; the Venture Acceleration Practicum young intra/entrepreneurs succeeded in presenting their ideas to the audience.
One of the Demo Day interesting pitches was Parity Finance, a financial social enterprise that aims at expanding the existing education-funding business model in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through the introduction of an innovative offering that relies on income sharing with students after graduation to foster far greater equality and better accessibility to financing education for prospective students. This Parity Finance venture was accelerated by the Practicum students Vera Shamseddine, Rana Mounzer and Alik Mesrobian who believe that in 5 years, more than 50% of students seeking university education will need some significant financial assistance to access education.
A startup that tackled a significant car owner pain point was “SeyarTech", a web platform matching users looking to have their annual government auto inspection done as well as those wanting assistance with doing periodic scheduled basic maintenance performing the pick-up and drop off. This platform aims to provide a trustworthy solution that spares users from wasting time and energy at the car inspection service stations as well as getting their car to the repair workshop and back. Seyartech was accelerated by the Practicum student team of Joulan El Msharafieh, Ramzi Dagher, Yasmine Abou Hamdan and Fadwa Dannawi.
Yet a third team of students worked with another corporate partner, RayLabs at BDD to further refine and accelerate their proptech (property technology) 3 years old product. The software takes the pain out of managing the administrative and physical aspects of doing the various chores that occupies community property operators and managers. The acceleration process resulted in unique features to support workflows that had been previously not available in the software and also developing a minimum viable product design to test their acceptance among potential users. The product refinements were accelerated by Practicum students Mario Khalil, Amro Kabara, and Bernard Masri with the help Heba Khalil from RayLabs.
Despite the lockdown the teams adjusted their work methods and improvised throughout the latter two-thirds of the course to successfully complete the process of value proposition design, value proposition validation, market sizing, revenue model design, and minimum viable product testing. Thanks to a dedicated team of instructors and mentors who supported them through the whole semester: Dr Bijan Azad (AUB Director of Darwazah Center), Chantal Bou Jaoude (CEO of EDGE), Ayman Kishly (GM of RayLabs) and Maher Loubieh (Director of Strategy, HalalaH.com). A distinguished panel of experts from the Beirut ecosystem helped in evaluating the ventures on the Demo Day and also provided them with invaluable feedback: Randa Bdeir (Credit Libanais), Bassel Aoun (Kafalat), Anbar Nashashibi (ArabNet), Fawzi Rahal (Falt6Labs), Ramy Abou Jaoude (BeryTech) and Asmahan Zein (Infofort).
The Venture Acceleration Practicum is the only course at AUB that has been providing practicum-quality and hands-on entrepreneurship education modeled after Lean Launchpad of Steven Blank (Silicon Valley) for our students from various disciplines since 2014. It has contributed to building both successful entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. The Darwazah Center is proud to note that of the four Venture Acceleration Practicum startups that launched their ideas, all four have moved on the obtaining additional investments and generating revenues.