What did Lebanese entrepreneurs learn from the Dublin Web Summit?

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With 10,000 attendees this year – four times the number from last year, and twenty times the number from the first event just two years ago – the Web Summit, a global gathering of the world's leading technology thinkers and doers, is rapidly building an impressive year on year growth rate.

The event, which allows people to network, meet with journalists, and connect with potential investors, and is one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year among regional and global entrepreneurs, took place in Dublin last month.

Among the thousands of attendees arriving from all over the world, the Arab world – despite the myriad political tensions of the region – was still represented by several startups coming from the Gulf, the Levant, and North Africa.

Six Lebanese startups attended the event, of which three were selected among other applicants to exhibit as part of the Summit’s Alpha program; they were also given a stand in the exhibition area. These startups are Sociatag, a social media company, eTobb, an online medical Q&A platform, and Lebtivity, a social calendar for events. The Lebanese startups Et3arraf, Maze Solutions, and Seeqnce independently attended the conference.

All six startups had different expectations, but for the most part, this was new ground for all of them. Thus, their main goal was to explore; the three selected ones travelled to Dublin with that spirit.

The opportunities for startups in Lebanon are still limited, because of cultural traditions keeping young minds from starting a forward-looking business, and very limited governmental support for entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs must get out there and seize every opportunity that presents itself in order to represent Lebanon. [They also must] learn from other countries,” says Lebtivity co-founder, Randa Farah.

“Our testimonial today at the Web Summit is the exact message we are trying to deliver to Lebanese entrepreneurs: Get moving and do something! Don’t wait for things to come to you because they won’t,” says Paul Saber, CEO of eTobb.

The Summit was divided into sections including multiple pitching stages, workshops running simultaneously, speed-networking sessions, media events, speeches and panels throughout the conference, so participating startups could take home numerous benefits.

Below are some of the main lessons the young entrepreneurs representing the 3 selected startups learned:

Lebtivity – Randa Farah and Charbel Jamous:

  • "Ask, and it is given". Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Some quotes are true even if they might sound unrealistic.
     
  • Having fun at work has a good influence on employees, and gives a good impression. Teammates sharing laughter and happy moments get more comfortable working together which enhances their productivity. “We saw many of the exhibitors wearing fun clothes and original costumes,” says Farah.
     
  • Learning is an endless process. As attendees were exposed to a large international crowd part of entirely different ecosystems, the amount of experiences and lessons that could be shared was infinite.
  • Differences are treasures and originality is key.
     
  • Passion and enthusiasm are common characteristics among successful entrepreneurs.
     
  • Research your ecosystem well, where and why products work and where they don't. 
     
  • Prioritize your goal. Understand why you're there and what you want to achieve.
     
  • Wear cool stuff and skip the long lunch,” says Jamous.

eTobb at the Web Summit in Dublin

eTobb – Sara Helou:

  • Don’t underestimate your local market. Lebanon has the same level of ideas and startup quality, in addition to as good an audience and as promising markets as countries in Europe or the US.
     
  • Exposure is crucial. Taking part of as many international conferences as possible helps entrepreneurs broaden their way of thinking and better weigh their decisions.
     
  • Work on your hustle. Working hard and taking initiative can get you anywhere you want.

SociaTag at the Web Summit in Dublin

Sociatag - Wassim Hakim:

  • Ask for as much feedback as possible. Being open to criticism benefits any startup, and helps enhance the product or service offered.
     
  • Be aware of all the competition. There are thousands of startups in the world doing their best to succeed and go international. “To become one of the winners, you should give all you've got and build a team that will help take you there,” says Hakim.
     
  • Go the extra mile in being well prepared for the event. Think of all the minor and major details ahead of time.

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