Nour Atrissi, Founder & CEO of TeensWhoCode, just got back from Helsinki, Finland, having attended the Slush tech conference geared towards entrepreneurs, which attracted over 25,000 people, 3,500 startups and 2,000 investors in November. Having ranked first place at the WTSUP! Beirut competition held in BDD back in March, her prize was to attend the Slush conference in Helsinki. WTSUP! Beirut is women in tech focused event, aiming at bridging the Finnish and Lebanese startup ecosystems, brought to Beirut by BDD.
We sat with Nour (NA) to uncover what keeps her going, the impact of the Slush event on her company, and what she imported from Finland.
BDD: First let’s talk about Slush. Can you tell us how it added-value?
NA: The trip to Helsinki was beneficial at the personal and professional level. I find traveling to be an opportunity for personal growth: meeting new people, learning about a new culture and experiencing new challenges all contribute to expanding one's horizons and thinking.
On a professional level, the Slush conference was valuable in terms of the content shared and the connections made. In addition, we got to take part in several Slush side events which served as a platform to share what we do and connect with people who had interest.
BDD: What did you bring back with you?
NA: Everyone who flew from Lebanon to Helsinki to attend Slush was raising awareness about our country's startup ecosystem and what's currently happening with the protests. Painting an accurate objective picture of what's going on (the good and the bad), away from the tainted media messages about the Middle East, was important in driving people to thinking of ways to contribute. Whether by recommending to hire remote talent from Lebanon, or investing in Lebanese companies, or visiting for tourism (when things calm down) is something that we can all benefit from.
The work-life balance culture in Finland generally and Helsinki particularly, is very compelling. A notion I will try to adopt in my daily life, as well as practice together with the community of the co-working space at BDD.
BDD: The current climate in Lebanon must be challenging. How are you overcoming the challenges?
NA: "Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal" - Henry Ford.
Being an entrepreneur presents its own set of challenges regardless of the location. Every step of the way is a challenge, otherwise it's an indication of idleness. The challenges that come with being based out of Lebanon are more particular than others, however it is best not to adopt the victim mentality and be aware that no one has it easy anywhere. This mindset allows to focus on the goal and on finding ways to get there, regardless of the obstacles.
BDD: How do you stay motivated?
NA: "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar
Making sure to have a positive mindset when waking up and before going to sleep is key to maintain a minimum level of enthusiasm and motivation. Knowing that the hard work will pay off, celebrating the small victories and treating failures as lessons are essential components of this mindset.
BDD: And what are the next steps for you professionally?
NA: TeensWhoCode (www.teenswhocode.com) currently offers its "Unleash Your Potential" Summer Camp for students between the ages of 12 - 18 years old. A four week immersive community experience program where participants enroll in tech courses (game development, cyber security ...), art courses (creative writing, photography ...), participate in various sports activities (parkour, self-defense, yoga ...), visit companies in the tech and digital space and take part in a startup competition in partnership with MIT Enterprise Forum.
Our next steps are to expand our offerings and reach: Today and tomorrow's companies not only look for talent with top notch technical skills, but also high leadership and problem solving characteristics which will be reflected in new programs that TeensWhoCode will develop. When it comes to reach and based on the value our flagship camp has been brining to students, we want to provide this opportunity outside of Beirut, be it in cities in Lebanon or outside.
More on Slush & WTSUP! Beirut
The next Slush conference will be taking place on November 19 and 20, 2020.
About Slush: “Slush is a student-driven, not-for-profit movement with the mission to create and help the next generation of groundbreaking entrepreneurs.”
The WTSUP! event series is part of BDD’s grander vision, to help grow networks and share expertise between different entrepreneurial ecosystems, bridging between the Finnish and Lebanese startup ecosystems.