American Univesity of Beirut

AI in coffee shops and recycling ideas win $20,000 at Darwazah Startup Accelerate 2019

Transforming the student state of mind into an entrepreneur state of mind is always a good idea, and never too early. On April 17, and just like every year for the last five years, the Darwazah Startup Accelerate 2019 competition was held at the Maamari Auditorium, Olayan School of Business (OSB) where eight finalist teams pitched their startup ideas for five minutes each, and two of them won $10,000.

The event featured entrepreneurship gurus and successful startup founders. In fact, several were alumni of the Darwazah Center for Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. During a fireside chat moderated by Youmna Naufal, the producer and host of Y Chats, Dr. Bijan Azad, director of the Darwazah Center, said “Falling in love with your startup idea is dangerous" as one needs to pivot by validating his/her idea based on the market fit.

“The hype and glam around entrepreneurship nowadays makes everyone feel the urge to become an entrepreneur," said Eddy Maroun, the co-founder of Anghami.  Maroun added “being entrepreneur at a very young age is not a must, as one might be happily employed in a multinational where he/she can gather a lot of experience and improve in his/her career path, and maybe at some point start their own company based on a consistent experience he/she have acquired in the field."

Lama Abi Mosleh, the founder of Nutshell and a DSAccelerate2015 finalist also spoke at the event. After four years, Abi Mosleh has established a company, now attending DSAccelerate2019 as an exemplar entrepreneur, sharing her inspiring story of building a business out of her love for peanut butter. Lama was frank about the fact that entrepreneurship is not an easy path to take: “one day you celebrate wins, the other day you will just crash."

The first prize winner was Eyemate, an AI-based system placed at coffee shops that “knows clients' preferences" based on face recognition algorithms. It was developed by Georges Bassil, Simon Tchaghlassian, and Joseph Maroun for “their love for coffee but their struggle to wait for it," as they explained during their pitch. Describing his experience Maroun said, “It was really a good one, one of the best I had at AUB, we have learned a lot and met very experienced and influential people who helped us in our startup. We were happy with the results as our fellow participants had very good ideas too. Now that we have won, we are very excited to take the next step and know that a lot of work needs to be done."

Live Love Recycle, the application that aims to disrupt the recycling supply chain, were also first prize winners. On how they came up with this idea, Ninette Karam, one of the co-founders along with Ralph Gharios and Georges Bitar, said, “We saw a lack of collection service for recyclables in Lebanon." Ninette added, “The Darwazah Center has helped us a lot in improving our marketing strategy and business model. We are very thrilled to have won the first place; not only have we earned money to move forward in our project, but also we have learned valuable information and strategies which are essential to be able to grow."

Theia, an application developed by Jad Ghadry, Ayline Sarkis, and Raya Kozah Succar to help visually impaired people see and be able to pursue their life independently, came in as a first runner-up. If you have heard Ghadry pitching his idea, you would have known that he was personally affected by this problem. Tree-D, another first runner-up, is a drone-based technology that was developed by Yahya K. Al Ali, Ali Shibli, and Youssef Al Jrab. Al-Ali pitched this startup with high energy and passion, saying that it aims to save the pine trees by “shooting pesticides at pests on trees."

The eight startups ideas were high quality and it was hard for the audience to predict the winners. Although two won, the rest have great potential for taking their ideas to the next level! Said Darwazah summed up the essence of the DSAccelerate competition with the following quote: “Starting a company and growing it is all about the execution of the idea not about coming up with the idea itself."

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