When Nordic and Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystems merged, the result of was the creation of WTSUP! Beirut. The pro bono initiative seeks to provide female-driven Lebanese tech companies with education and acceleration opportunities, which unfolded in the heart of BDD in February. WTSUP! Beirut is fueled by the mission of galvanizing Lebanese female entrepreneurship by building bridges and cementing sustainable collaborations between the Nordic and Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystems.
For three days, workshops and talks took over the BDD halls, with 15 Nordic entrepreneurship expert volunteers teaming up with renowned Lebanese mentors and coaches to guide 12 early-stage female startups, selected by Beirut Digital District, LNE: Mind the Gap, Injaz Lebanon and the Nawaya Network.
The areas covered include: web development, experience design, venture capital, analytics, mobile platforms, impact design, mobility, start-up team formation, product development, brand strategy, social innovation, ecosystem building, food technologies, social impact, and leadership.
The chosen female-driven companies hail from different backgrounds, specialized in education, mental health, mass transit, creative entrepreneurship, robotics, wellbeing, and pedagogy.
One speaker after another, the crowds gathered to hear success stories from around the world, covering entrepreneurial ecosystem building, entrepreneurial failure, fundraising and venture capital.
Shedding light on the growing need for tech skills in the workforce, Anne Badan, Co-Founder and CEO of The Shortcut shared figures on the Finnish society. She pointed to the talent gap that exists in tech, where 8,000 developers are needed immediately, along with 53,000 tech experts by 2021. Badan went on to highlight the issues that immigration to Finland have posed, and how a group of organizations are looking to resolve it.
“The mindset and the mentality are the hardest things to learn. Talent needs to have the curiosity to know if this is for them on not,” said Badan on the entrepreneurial sphere. “Coding is a skill that is widely requested, and there is a lot of focus on technology design. Through our work, we are lowering the barrier of participation for people who are new to the startup scene.”
Shedding light on the way The Shortcut works, echoing sound advice for other startups, Badan shared that” “Everything we do is based on user-centric design, by the community, for the community. By using the lean startup methodology, we try and test what we offer the market, and only then, if it works, do we replicate it.”
Hugi Asgeirsson, Director of Edge Ryders outlined to guests what strong online communities and the silk road have in common. “The silk road was a dense network of roads. From any point in the network, to any other point – there are multiple ways to go,” he shared. “Building dense communities online and offline is integral, to increase the collision rate between people. The point is for people to meet and make connections – that is what matters,” he added, saying that honing connections and making them last is vital.
WTSUP! Beirut is associated with Finnish partners: The Embassy of Finland in Beirut, The General Consulate of Finland in Beirut, and The Shortcut and sponsored by Société Générale de Banque au Liban, Cedar Mundi, Phoenician Funds, and Mr. Zafer Chaoui – Consul General of Finland.