Lebanese startups today
By Sami Saad
About this op-ed’s author
Sami Saad is the VP Investment at IM Fndng, a Lebanon-focused VC. He has co-managed 3 new fund setups with an aggregate value of $44 million and directed 2 startup support programs.
Sami was also a microeconomics instructor at the American University of Beirut.
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Improvise, adapt, overcome
Lebanon’s crisis, a somber medley of hyperinflation, political collapse, and infrastructure breakdown, has forced the Lebanese startup ecosystem to adjust. To survive, Lebanese founders have had to dissociate from the battered nation that birthed them. In doing so, they have shown agility.
A performant Lebanese startup today has its headquarters in Dubaï, its tech team in Lebanon, and sells to Western or GCC customers. Transacting in the Lebanese market is nonsensical, given the currency’s freefall and the resulting destruction of local purchasing power. Those elements add insult to injury to an already tiny market of around 5 million souls.
Some might wonder how this new breed of Lebanese startups benefits the average Lebanese consumer. Not that much in reality. But the Lebanon-based jobs created by Lebanese startups thriving abroad are the best the ecosystem can do for the country right now.
That being said, Lebanese founders are tired. While their adaptation capabilities have been laudable, they are stuck in constant survival mode, traumatized by the near-death experiences many of them faced. This not only contributes to increasing burnout but also perniciously reduces their ambition. These founders need to be accompanied in regaining an abundance mindset, something they may have lost given the endless constraints confronted at home.