Innovative businesses in Lebanon are continually seeking to scale beyond borders. The vast opportunities that exist globally include a larger market size, access to know-how and expertise, as well as access to funding. However, identifying new markets to penetrate with new products or services is typically a challenging feat.
Moreover, many professional organizations are mainly focused on the startup ecosystem, with not much being done in the sphere of already established businesses or SMEs. To help scaleups overcome these challenges, Endeavor Lebanon, an international non-profit organization leading the high-impact entrepreneurship movement, and the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) teamed up, to provide extensive 10-month consulting programs tailored to Lebanese scaleups.
Carefully selected companies with evident potential to grow are coached by Skillanthropists - experts transferring and volunteering their skills - from different backgrounds and regions all over the world.
Discussions unfolded between the Endeavor Lebanon Managing Director and Bpeace Board Members, during the latter’s recent visit to Beirut. The key starting point, they shared, is that businesses looking to scale, firstly need to identify their unique selling proposition and be innovative, to differentiate themselves in the global marketplace.
This event was part of the latest chapter of the IGNITE series, organized by Endeavor Lebanon and the Beirut Digital District (BDD), bringing together community members to shed light on topics of importance to fuel the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Lebanon boasts vast potential in business
When asked why Bpeace chose to work with Endeavor Lebanon and tackle Lebanon as the first market in the MENA region, Liz Wald, Board Member at Bpeace, with credentials including being the former Director of Market Development at Etsy and former Vice President of Technology and Design Category at Indiegogo, immediately responded.
“The Lebanese diaspora is everywhere. People from lots of backgrounds mix, which translates into creativity. There is a vibrancy and feeling of hustle in Lebanon,” said Wald. It is for this reason that the program was kicked off in Beirut, where value can be created in the country through transferring core competencies and in turn, helping to create more jobs.
What are the challenges facing scaleups?
Endeavor Lebanon’s Managing Director, Christina Chehade, is specialized in the field of scaleups and works alongside innovative companies in various domains, to fuel their growth. She points to numerous challenges that scaleups are facing, hindering their potential to grow.
“There are three main challenges that scaleups are facing, that are more pertinent to Lebanon due to the lack of expertise that exists locally. They include employment, with difficulty in recruiting and retaining talent, numerous branding and marketing issues, as well as ecommerce integration,” she said.
To this end, the partnership between Endeavor Lebanon and Bpeace is fueled by the same mission, to support companies to scale.
“We encourage companies to scale to capture global market share and tap into new markets, while continuing to employ in Lebanon where the company’s headquarters often remain,” said Chehade.
She went on to highlight the importance of scaleups and the role that they play in terms of economic growth and employment, referencing the results of a lengthy study conducted by Endeavor Lebanon.
"We conducted a study that showed that when scaleups grow, they tend to employ 3 to 4 times more people than traditional SMEs - and these are the companies that we focus on, to create more jobs,” she adds.
How do you grow beyond borders?
In a nutshell, companies looking to scale abroad are advised to:
- Work on their unique selling proposition and not just be a “me too” business, replicating what is already being done in local or global markets
- When seeking to expand and sell abroad, companies are urged to identify the markets that will receive their products or services well, and then conduct extensive research, starting with market size, opportunities, competition, local needs etc. Companies must first understand the framework of potential new markets, before making a decision to enter them.
- These two steps are integral, before scaleups look abroad to attract foreign funding and investments. Many foreign markets do have large funds and investors seeking the next innovative idea to invest in. However, there are a lot of local companies vying to capture funding from the same entities. As such, it is recommended that companies that are focused on accessing funding have Lebanese contacts, that will help facilitate the process.
Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) is a non-profit network of business professionals who volunteer with the organization and transfer their skills to entrepreneurs.