Agriculture and furniture startups win Lebanon's Open Innovation Week

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An agriculture startup and a furniture design startup were awarded the top two prizes at Altcity’s Open Innovation Week.

“We decided that, since the ideas were really good and had potential, we wanted two winners to have the chance to continue,” said Altcity’s cofounder David Nabti.

Open Innovation Week capped a 10-week mentorship program with Bader.

The Modeoform team and Lifelabs team are joined by four mentors at the conclusion of Lebanon's Open Innovation Week. (Image via Open Innovation Week) 

Meet the winners

Lifelab aims to build smart hydroponic farms (climate-controlled vertical farms that  use water, minerals and nutrients and air pumps instead of soil). Armed with their own 3,000 m² model-farm and facilitation partners, the startup plans to help local and regional farmers increase their yields tenfold. While capital intensive in the beginning, this technology has proven itself in the west. It promises vertical planting, high-quality year-round yields, fully-automated handling and pesticide-free produce.

“There are huge problems that this technology could solve in Lebanon and in the region,” says founder Ali Makhzoum, “like crop losses, seasonal crops, absence of government support and import competition. And of course, the economy.”

What did the judges think?  It’s too good to be true.  “This seems almost perfect, which kind of makes us unsure,” Nabti said.

“Well it would be if it weren’t so capital intensive in the beginning,” Makhzoum said in response. “It has great potential for profit and productivity in the long run, though. We’ve demonstrated that in our labs.”

Modeoform came in second place. A do-it-yourself furniture design startup that allows customers to design and virtually construct their own furniture using a mobile app, The team - Emile Arayes, Aline Gemayel, Elsy Arayes - wants furniture design to be the new Lego experience. After settling on a design, users can order parts online and assemble accordingly.

The remaining three finalists who completed the 10-week mentorship program at Bader were:

Cookin Tips 

Team: Amer Kawarit, Saeed Eldah, Khaled Bakhit

Cookin Tips is an online live social cooking platform by home-cooks for home-cooks that focuses on end users rather than recipes. Cookin Tips brings users and chefs together in interactive sessions and offers live cooking classes online.

Spica Twins

Team: Reine Abbas, Joseph Saade, Ziad Feghali

Spica Twins is an educational gaming academy led by game veterans and educators, Reine Abbas, Joseph Saade and Ziad Feghali with the professional support of Wixel Studios. Spica Twins aims to teach young children, teenagers and university students how to develop games as a form of empowerment and early innovation training. The founders believe their concept can reshape the teaching of entrepreneurship, innovation, science, technology, engineering, art and math.


Team: Ramzi Al Jamil, Nour Kanafani, Riad Ali Ahmad

Spoke offers a fast and light voice-communication platform for users to share experiences, text messages and fun “spokes” that can be creatively edited with intros and endings. This communications platform aims to offer a shareable experience and transform the way users communicate and share fun moments with friends.

David Nabti with mentors Omar Chatah, Abdallah Jabbour, Mahmoud Kaiyal and Fadi Bizri (Image via Open Innovation Week)

Judges’ feedback

“We considered several factors when choosing the winner,” said mentor Mahmoud Kaiyal, founder and CEO of WebTeb. “Team spirit, possibility of future success and addressing a market need are among the most important.”

But there was more.

“Attitude really can’t be underestimated,” Kaiyal continued. “Their willingness to learn is crucial. We’ve seen these entrepreneurs really progress and take their mentors seriously. And we’re very satisfied with the results.”

Bader's Managing Director Fadi Bizri elaborated about the 10-week program that Bader mentored the finalists in.

“We gave them workshops about how to pitch to investors, address their market size, brand their startups, et cetera,” he said. “After that, we spent two months mentoring them and connecting them with experts. We also did a mock pitch two weeks before the event, so they would be fully trained. We’re very satisfied with the winners.”

For Bizri, the fact that winner startup Lifelab addresses Lebanon’s dwindling agriculture sector is very important.

“We’re a country with a lot of problems: security, job creation, education, agriculture, water shortage problems. So if you really understand the industry and try to improve it and fix it, you can really do a lot,” he said.


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