The entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lebanon continues to prosper with many success stories led by Lebanese founders, despite the myriad of challenges that the country, its people and local businesses are facing. This is made possible through key players in the education, scale up, mentorship and funding circles, collaborating to encourage innovation and ultimately contribute towards economic growth. BDD’s ecosystem for example, has been welcoming new members to its growing community of innovators, with many events and workshops, providing a thriving campus for entrepreneurs to build their ventures.
Most recently, Lebanon marked Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). We sat with Reda Helbawi (RH), Senior Programs Coordinator at the Asher Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (ACIE) at USEK, the organization who hosted and led GEW Lebanon, 2023. Our insightful discussion uncovered the role of GEW, why entrepreneurship is vital for the Lebanese economy, and the kind of support Lebanese entrepreneurs need, to scale.
BDD: In light of all that is happening in the country, why is it integral to focus on and support entrepreneurs in Lebanon?
RH: As Lebanon is still undergoing an economic crisis, focusing on and supporting entrepreneurs is essential for the country’s recovery. Financial instability and unemployment serve as motivation for strengthening the Lebanese entrepreneurship ecosystem. By doing so, Lebanon can stimulate economic growth, foster innovation, and create job opportunities. Entrepreneurs play a vital role in contributing to the country’s economy, as well as finding and creating solutions to solve social issues.
BDD: What is the aim of hosting GEWs in Lebanon?
RH: The aim of hosting GEW in Lebanon is to celebrate, catalyze, and support entrepreneurship during the second week of November. This is marked on a global scale. GEW provides a platform for all entrepreneurship stakeholders, including businesses, educational institutions, support organizations, policymakers, and more.
GEW Lebanon is a valuable event for all ecosystem partners, offering an opportunity to connect, learn, gain visibility, and contribute to the Lebanese economy. This year’s GEW Lebanon themes centered on green, social, education and technology.
BDD: What is the role that ACIE is playing to make this happen, year on year?
RH: As the country’s host, ACIE-USEK provides strategic guidance and direction for the campaign, catalyzing the involvement of numerous organizations and stakeholders in Lebanon to organize events during GEW. We have also organized multiple meetings with different ecosystem partners in Lebanon to discuss the different activities, the themes during GEW Lebanon and their importance, in addition to who will be hosting the opening and closing of the week.
BDD: Can you tell us more about the tech workshops and what participants have gained?
RH: As technology stands out as a trending and essential topic in today’s landscape, all partners have collectively decided to designate it as one of the four key themes during GEW, in 2023. Various tech-related events have been organized, including sessions on HR Practices for Tech & Digital Companies and Using Generative AI to Help Your Business Grow. These events provide participants with valuable insights into current tech trends and the industry’s trajectory, enabling them to integrate the latest tools and knowledge into their startup ventures.
BDD: From previous GEWs, what have been some of the tangible outcomes?
RH: During the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, GEW Lebanon experienced a steady decline. However, in 2022, during GEW, a remarkable revival occurred. GEW serves as a dynamic platform where partners from various sectors can come together to connect, learn, network, support, and collectively foster development. In the previous years of GEW, Park Innovation in Chouf took the lead by organizing a comprehensive week-long program. The event featured a diverse array of activities, including a panel, roundtable discussions with Lebanese founders, a yoga day, a movie night, a tech museum visit, engaging keynotes, and an exciting pitch competition.
The revival and interest in GEW not only demonstrates the resilience of GEW Lebanon, but also highlights the collaborative spirit, thriving within the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
BDD: What would you like to see for GEW 2024 and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in general, as of next year?
RH: While GEW 2023 Lebanon has hosted over 40 activities in a week, there is room for further enhancement. Looking ahead, it would be intriguing to witness initiatives from startups, increased collaboration among partners to organize joint events, establish partnerships between GEW Lebanon and other countries, and foster collaborations with governmental institutions.
To learn more about GEW, visit: