It’s not about the idea; it’s about the execution, they say. One of Lebanon’s most active startup catalysts, Seeqnce, set out to prove that idea during Global Entrepreneurship Week in Lebanon, by hosting a new competition in partnership with Cedrus Ventures, called simply The Execution.
The competition, Seeqnce’s most ambitious project yet, operated
like a Startup Weekend on steroids. Over two weeks in Seeqnce’s new
interactive workspace in Hamra, young aspiring entrepreneurs
submitted ideas, formed teams, underwent training and selection,
and then completed a 48-hour bootcamp, culminating in a prototype
pitch to judges. The Execution’s double meaning wasn't a joke; of
60 initial entrepreneurs, only 42 made the initial cut to form 11
teams, and one team dropped out due to the pressure. Yet at last
night’s final event, it was clear that while one team won, many
fledgling startups gained valuable experience.
The Initial Pitch
A week ago, when I saw the teams present their business models to the jury, which was led by the Minister of Telecommunications Nicolas Sehnaoui, the hard work they had put in was evident in the tension in their voices. Each team had five minutes to explain their business concept and general revenue model, and then they had to showcase either a working prototype or a skeleton of their website. The jury assessed them based on four criteria: team members, presentation, product, and viability. Jury members were not afraid to ask tough questions when needed, especially concerning the supply chain of some products and how some of these startups were differentiating themselves from other companies already established on the market, especially in the group buying space.
Many teams were initially intimidated by the jury, yet began to feel more comfortable and began asking the jury for one-on-one feedback after awhile, said participant Ali Chehade.
The Execution teams hard at work
Overall, the pressure of the event proved entrepreneurs’ ability to themselves. “It was great to see how much can be done in a very short period of time at The Execution,” said Chehade, who worked on a product called The Dream Matcher. “The competition level was pretty good, and some of the teams had revolutionary products in their vision, and I like that.”
While each team had to include a developer, a designer, and a
businessperson, team members learned across disciplines as well. “I
learned more about business, branding and marketing, which was
great considering I come from a programming background,” said
Mohieddine Saadeh of Mario Bros (Dabrly). “Also, taking a minimum
viable product (MVP) approach has significantly improved my
Left: Screenshot from Red Drops Lebanon. Right: Collaboratouch present their project Taktus
All of the teams brought an incredible amount of energy and drive to the event, said founding Seeqnce member Fadi Bizri. "These teams came together to live and breathe their startup ideas for two weeks. Especially during the grueling final two days, they slept little, worked hard, and relentlessly tweaked their work to present the best result possible,” he explained. “One team may have won it all, but from our perspective, they are all worthy of investment.”
At the Global Entrepreneurship Week party hosted by Seeqnce last night, the Winner, Global Team, and their product “Kol 3a Zaw2ak,” a restaurant locator website, were announced. Global Team will receive valuable prizes worth over $20,000, including a 5000$ convertible note investment from Cedrus Ventures, along with three months of advisory services from Seeqnce and other prizes such as product marketing, all of which will help the startup become operational as soon as possible. I wish them luck in establishing a profitable startup.
A Successful incubation Model
While the founding Seeqnce team, Samer Karam, Fadi Bizri, and Maroun Najm, have been supporting startups since June 2010, this event illustrated the incubator’s broader potential. With the Execution, Seeqnce has successfully delivered a competition that urged entrepreneurs to give their best and push their creativity to the maximum in the name of building the next wave of tech startups in Lebanon.
Participant Ali Chehade summed it up nicely: “We have to face it, starting a tech start-up in Lebanon is quite a major challenge. We need more initiatives like The Execution for the youth to concentrate their efforts and work on creating awesome technologies. When we are all working together, overcoming the challenges becomes a little easier.”
Let’s hope the tradition continues. Lebanon has the requisite
talent, creativity, drive; it just needs incentives and events to
help young entrepreneurs to showcase their skills. When teams were
asked if they would go through an ordeal like this again, the
answer was unanimous: Yes.
For a full list of the teams that participated, see below or view the larger versions here (first 9) and here (last 2):