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  • 27 Jul 2021 1:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The economic conditions in Lebanon, coupled with high unemployment, increased poverty and escalating inflation rates, continue to further deteriorate due to political unrest and instability. The unemployment rate, which was estimated at 11.4 percent in 2019, has now skyrocketed to over 40 percent.  

    To help relieve this crisis, many Lebanese expatriates are assisting by sending medication and basic food necessities. Driven by the saying: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, Bernard Chamma chose to focus on job creation to help limit the brain drain from Lebanon and provide North American funded jobs.  


    “The goal here is to help young graduates find remote jobs in Lebanon and receive fresh funds to be able to survive these difficult times,” said Chamma during a LebNet interview about his recently launched job creation initiative.   

    Under the umbrella of his company, ProBi Solutions - a Business Intelligence consulting firm headquartered in Montreal launched in 2005 - Chamma started a job creation initiative in January 2021 to match his clients in Montreal, Toronto and Boston with talented developers and computer engineers based in Lebanon. 

    To help match his clients with their resource needs, he hired a full-time staff of recruiters and sales people in Lebanon to source, train and prepare candidates for the international job market. So far, he has been successful in creating around 20 jobs, a very modest number compared to the ambitious plans that Chamma has for the future.

    Coming full circle  

    In his effort to hire more candidates in Lebanon and accommodate additional clients abroad, Chamma is hiring more staff in Lebanon to recruit and keep candidates on standby. He spends a lot of effort training candidates on resume writing and job interview preparation to maximize their chances of getting hired.  

    He also offers his clients a full commission refund if they are not satisfied with the service.  

    “Being physically located and well-established in Canada gives us credibility and attracts clients to work with us. We are expanding and opening offices in Toronto and Boston to get more clients and open more employment opportunities for Lebanese professionals” Chamma said. 

    Until now, he has been relying on social media ads, Life Lebanon, LebNet and Jobs for Lebanon to increase awareness. 

    A passionate Lebanese at heart 

    Like many Lebanese during the eighties, Chamma applied for immigration to Canada while he was still studying Biology at the Lebanese University. When his application was accepted, he moved to Montreal where he switched to Computer Science and Math-Statistics. He then specialized in Business Intelligence Analytics and Data Integration at Concordia University. Throughout his career, he helped many clients design and implement BI solutions projects. He is now focused on creating an impact in his home country Lebanon by porting his business and opportunities there.

    Chamma is seeking business partners with a passion for business intelligence and Lebanon, to help him grow the network and help improve the Lebanese marketplace, one step at a time. 

  • 06 Jul 2021 4:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Chatting with Walid Ali-Ahmad was a breath of fresh air. I found him to have a unique ability to simplify complex concepts and explain them clearly. 

    With a career spanning over a bit less than three decades, Walid has worked for the top three companies in wireless communication chipset development: Mediatek, Qualcomm and Samsung. He describes an exciting journey where there was never a dull moment. 

    In 1988, Walid graduated with distinction from AUB where he earned his Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering. He then proceeded to the United States to pursue his Masters of Science and completed his Ph.D in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at the University of Michigan. Today, he is the Vice President of Cellular SoC - RF Systems Engineering at Samsung Electronics. 

    What can you tell us about your current work?

    I currently lead a group of engineers focused on RF-modem system engineering for Samsung LSI’s cellular chipsets that eventually go into Samsung’s Galaxy phones. We’re very focused on RF system architecture and RF-modem algorithms and work on everything from the antenna down to the modem.

    What’s the most exciting project you worked on? 

    The most exciting project was the one at Maxim Integrated Products, the second company I worked for. It takes me back to 1999, when 3G was a big deal as the new emerging cellular standard. At Maxim Integrated Products, I was the lead RF system engineer and I worked with fellow RFIC designers to tackle all the challenges of moving from the incumbent super-heterodyne radio architecture to direct-conversion radio architecture for cellular transceivers. The direct-conversion architecture has since then been the enabler for higher radio integration in cellular SoCs and minimized the use of external front-end filters. Our work at that time resulted in the development of the first low-cost low-power 3G transceiver solution for dual-band cellular applications. Currently at Samsung, the work on 5G chipsets development, with its present and future challenges, reminds me of that exciting 3G time some 20 years ago.

    How would you describe your early beginnings? 

    I was privileged enough to be taught by two excellent teachers: professor Gabriel Rebeiz who was my Ph.D advisor at University of Michigan and professor Fawaz Ulaby who was the founding Director of the NASA-funded Center for Space Terahertz Technology at U of M. I owe them both a lot. Dr. Ulaby offered me the graduate assistantship which allowed me to come from Lebanon to the US. The two of them greatly influenced my career, giving me a strong background in radio technology and applied electromagnetics. When I went to the Bay Area right after my Ph.D, I worked at a company called Anritsu-Wiltron and we were doing high-end high-frequency test equipment back in 1996. I was observing what was happening around me and teaching myself more about the wireless revolution; this was the time when we were moving from 2.5G to 3G radio access technology. 

    What skills and knowledge helped you get to where you are today?

    When I was at AUB, I really enjoyed the technical side of engineering. Doing my PHD at the University of Michigan in the field of millimeter-wave and sub-THz radio systems engineering for satellite and remote sensing applications forced me to become sharp technically and allowed me to lead a project from a technical perspective. The knowledge of how radio systems work from a phone to a Bluetooth headset to a GPS were crucial to my career. Technical difficulties never fade away and if you want to become a strong manager, you need to figure out how to stay in shape technically so you are able to understand and contribute to projects with your engineering team. It makes the relationship between the manager and the engineer more fruitful and helps the manager be sympathetic to his team members and understanding of obstacles that may arise. The key is to drive your team to deliver with excellence without pushing them too hard. Being able to achieve that balance is an important skill! 

    What are some of the toughest challenges that you have faced? 

    Some challenges led me to greater success while others pushed me to the brink of failure. They all eventually give you the tough skin that you need to excel. I am not someone who spent years at one company. When I worked at Qualcomm for three and half years, I worked with people who had been there for over 20 years. Moving from one company to another was very rewarding for me because it allowed me to grow professionally and allowed me to bring a diverse set of experiences into each new role. However, you are often faced with people asking more from you and sometimes you have to prove yourself anew, and this pressure required me to strive to be at my best technically throughout my career. Moving from Mediatek as a Senior Technical Director to Qualcomm as a Vice President of Technology marked a transformative period of my life on both a personal and professional level. During that time, I also got married and moved from Singapore to San Diego. 

    What do you like most about what you do? 

    The fact that I've seen how cellular technology evolved from 2G when I started working in 1994 makes me love what I do. As a Lebanese-American with my heritage and working in the US, one thing that amazes me is that everything that has been developed in the wireless communications field always started by what NASA or the US Department of Defense have developed: GPS started for the US Army then became commercial. Cell phones were also used initially by the military, and Satellite or millimeter wave communication was restricted to federal use but now you can have that hardware in the palm of your hand.  

    Can you share a few tough lessons you picked up throughout your career? 

    The first lesson is that when you jump between companies you always have to invest time in learning the culture and how the company operates. Don’t be complacent by just saying ‘I'm a great engineer, I’m going to go in and change everything’. People have to accept you first and you have to build credibility in any role. No one can join a company and take with them the cachet they built before. The other important lesson I learned was when I was at Mediatek in Asia: one of my managers asked me if I knew Tai Chi. It’s an Asian martial art that is typified by its slow movements and by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination and relaxation, rather than muscular tension. When you’re in a new environment and focused on change and contribution, you have to move slowly, gain confidence and credibility, and avoid alienating people around you or on the same team. 

    What  advice would you have for young professionals in your field? 

    We are very well-rewarded in the high-tech field as engineers but that reward doesn't come easy. Any young professional in the high-tech field must stay sharp in their expertise and build on their academic background. I am lucky in that regard because I was a professor in my career, with three years at AUB and as an adjunct professor at University of California San Diego. Teaching requires you to keep a firm grasp on the basic principles of your field. This will take you a long way in the high-tech area. 

    What excites you about the future of your industry? 

    Being able to see the contribution of NASA to the area of communications (Satellite to Satellite or Satellite to Land-based radio links). Wireless communications and their evolution certainly excite me as we look beyond 5G towards 6G. Thinking about how far this industry has come from the original bulky cell phone to today’s smartphones shows how limitless the possibilities are in this field, especially as we consider other new applications in AR/VR. 

  • 28 Jun 2021 1:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Houda began her journey at AUB with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering, followed by a Master’s degree in Telecommunications Engineering at Telecom Paris in France. She later went on to complete an Executive Program on Influence and Negotiation Strategies at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

    When Houda Soubra started her tech journey, she was surprised when she was told aggressive and selfish behaviors were the only means to become a respected leader and advance her career. She believed that her character along with her skills and expertise would make her a successful leader and endeavored to prove that true. After a few years working in Paris, she moved to the bay area and then joined Cisco Systems as a technical marketing engineer. Soubra later became unhappy with the toxic work culture and decided to look for a new position and a more inclusive team culture.

    “My biggest challenge was when I ended up in a non-collaborative team that focused on individual gains. The culture was toxic and I was miserable. I dreaded going to work.” said Soubra “The challenge of being a woman in tech is exacerbated by the leadership and the team culture. Earlier in my career I was told I was too nice and I needed to be aggressive to succeed. It took me a while to figure out that I could be successful without pushing people around. I could succeed by building trust and establishing relationships that are critical for my success.

    When she joined Cisco Systems in 1998, she was able to have many different roles and growth opportunities and received several promotions as the years went on. Her current position is the Head of Product Growth at OpenDNS, a cloud security enterprise that was acquired by Cisco Systems.

    Witnessing the shift from hardware to software to SaaS

    Joining Cisco Systems was a life-altering experience for Soubra. She witnessed first-hand the company’s shift from building hardware to becoming a software provider to selling software as a service.

    “I had so many different careers [at Cisco Systems]. I started as a technical marketing engineer, then I was managing software development teams, then I went into hardware product management, then to network security and now I'm in cloud security,” she said. “I am always making sure that my role is challenging and that it is providing me opportunities to grow and learn”.

    Her current role is focused on product growth, partnering closely with the sales and marketing teams to get a better understanding of the market trends and customer needs and finding opportunities to grow the product revenue.

    The project she is working on right now focuses on helping customers build their security stack in the cloud, as more and more of the applications move to the cloud and employees access them from everywhere. “When you work remotely, you would typically establish a Virtual Private Network or VPN, to encrypt your data and protect it. Your data will go to your company’s data centers and from there it will go to the internet. What’s been happening over the past few years is that more work applications moved into the cloud and more people are working remotely,” explained Soubra. “You have more and more branches connecting directly to the internet and so many customers are now considering reducing the load on their on-prem security stack by building a security stack in the cloud and allowing branches and remote workers to go directly and safely to the Internet.. There’s an industry term for this architecture called ‘Secure Access Service Edge (SASE)’. It’s interesting because it’s adapting to the way we work.”

    Soubra considers herself lucky to be involved in producing new technologies that will make people’s information safe. “Security is an area that will continue to evolve and have its own challenges and that’s what keeps me happy: knowing that there is a problem that I will figure out how to solve and learn along the way.”

    The Challenge of Being A Woman in Tech

    Many women in the tech field face unique issues ranging from bias in the workplace to difficulties receiving fair compensation. “Unfortunately bias is a reality in the workplace today and more specifically in the tech world. However, things are starting to shift, with companies like Cisco Systems taking active steps towards enabling a more inclusive work environment and improving pay equity. Tech companies have come to realize that fostering an inclusive culture increases employee engagement and grows productivity and innovation, “ she said.

    Soubra believes the challenge of being a woman in tech highly depends on the work environment and to what extent it allows you to flourish. “My advice to young women starting in the tech field is to find a work environment that encourages different points of views and builds inclusive teams.” She gives the example of the women in engineering groups at Cisco Systems, Women of Impact and Women In Science and Engineering, that help women engineers grow their network and learn from each other’s experiences.

    She advises early career professionals in her field to observe and identify the stress factors at their workplace and channel their energies towards roles that work for them and can help advance their careers.

    After moving up in the corporate ladder, Soubra still believes that passion, teamwork and leading by example are key to advancing and prospering. She was fortunate enough to realize that early on and take the necessary steps to improve her career. Her future plan is to continue to focus on her passion which is to understand customers' needs, and help them grow their business securely. “Secure Access Service Edge (or SASE as defined by Gartner) is a promising architecture that can help customers move securely to the cloud. I'm excited about the opportunity to help customers on their journey to SASE, a trend that will continue to grow over the next few years.”

  • 19 May 2021 6:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    While technological inventions are often developed and adopted by advanced countries, they are often a much needed solution for underserved communities. This has proven to be true in agriculture. Advances in technology have introduced modern irrigation and farming methods that have saved cost and enabled efficiency in crop production for many farmers. Technology and holistic solutions to improve farming methods have unfortunately not been implemented equally at the global level. Jehane and her team are driving to fix this in Lebanon.

    In 2018, Lebanese social entrepreneur Jehane Akiki conducted a field trip to Zahle in Lebanon to identify farmers’ needs and challenges. She came back to New York and formed a team of designers, engineers, architects and farmers from different organizations and started designing Farms Not Arms, a modern farm targeting to address three main issues: food security, climate change and social cohesion.

    Solving food security through technology 

    Farms Not Arms officially started operating in the Beqaa area in May 2021. The current team in Lebanon consists of five members, mostly women and young individuals, who manage the entire process from installing the equipment to sourcing and planting seeds, irrigating and harvesting. “It’s a women-led farm. This was not planned but we’re glad it is,” Jehane added. 

    The actual farm - ‘Turba’ which means soil in Arabic - is an integrated model that uses regenerative agriculture and low tech hydroponics to yield more produce in a smaller area. Regenerative agriculture is a dense hybrid multiple cropping system that incorporates different plants on different levels and rotates different crops, explains Jehane. Farmers can plant more and diversify their crops. 

    “In our model, you can plant 3.5 times more food in any given area, making farms more productive and enriching soil health while bringing carbon back into the soil, hence combating climate change. In traditional agriculture, the carbon isn’t going back to the soil compounding the issue of soil degradation because of pesticides,” she said. “If we don’t take care of the soil, we won’t have anything left to plant by 2075 and our food system will be jeopardized.”

    Jehane believes that if the Farms Not Arms model spreads on 3% of Lebanon's lands then it can feed every person in the country their entire yearly dietary needs. 

    Currently, her organization is relying on a grant received from a food competition it took part in last year, organized by the Rockefeller Foundation and design agency IDEO. Farms Not Arms came in the top 14 and won $25,000 to cover its first year of operation. In order to become more financially independent, the team is planning to sell a part of their harvest to end consumers and donate a percentage of it to NGOs and individuals working with the organizations. They will also run an educational program in the summer to teach unemployed individuals innovative farming techniques. The program will be offered for free to those who can’t afford it. 


    (A futuristic sketch of Farms Not Arms)

    A social entrepreneur at heart 

    Jehane’s passion for helping communities extends beyond Farms Not Arms. She has been involved in founding many startups focused on driving social change and serving underserved communities.  She is also the founder and CEO of Learning Blocks, an education technology startup that creates a skill-based education certification system powered by blockchain. Its main goal is to provide certification for underserved communities in developing countries. In addition,  Jehane is the founder of IOI Strategic Design, a consulting agency that fuses design and development to target social and governance problems. Jehane is a Global Shaper, an initiative by the World Economic Forum to create a network of young people in their 20s who are driving social change.

    Her biggest concern remains “the current state of the world and what is going to happen to the planet,” she said. “The climate crisis is not just about the environment but also a mix of all the things we’re doing! All of our systems are broken in some form and this is contributing to the state of the planet.” 

    Despite leaving Lebanon to pursue her college studies in Boston and New York, double majoring in International Studies and Business Management, Jehane remains passionate about giving back to her country and to underserved communities. 

    One can only hope that with more people like Jehane, Lebanon will witness a rise in community-geared agriculture initiatives that can put a stop to food scarcity and help Lebanon become self-sufficient.  

  • 29 Mar 2021 8:05 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    30-year-old Fadia always wanted a family. A naturally loving and nurturing individual, she never thought motherhood would be so fraught with trials. She and her husband, a member of the Lebanese army, are parents to a four-year-old girl who has thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder, and a two-year-old boy with congenital problems. 

    Fadia, a high school diploma holder, used to work as an esthetician. But the wave of crises that has recently hit Lebanon, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and concomitant closures, has left her without a job. Her modest home is in poor condition. The children’s treatments are not covered by the insurance extended to military personnel and their families. And Fadia’s faith in nothing short of a miracle continues to wane.

    Since October 2019, Lebanon has been reeling from devaluation of its currency as the lira lost more than 80% of its value against the US dollar. The majority of the population has slumped into poverty in what the World Bank describes as a “deliberate depression” due to the inaction and failed policies of political and financial authorities. Apart from economic stagnation, hyperinflation and the pandemic, Beirut was marred by a massive port blast in August 2020 that killed more than 200 people and wiped out swathes of the Mediterranean capital.

    It is exactly these circumstances, threatening to debilitate hard-working yet misfortune-stricken folks like Fadia, which spawned the birth of Aleb. Literally translating to “heart” in Arabic, Aleb is an initiative incubated by LebNet in partnership with Lebanon-based NGO Al Majmoua in the wake of the Beirut explosions. LebNet, a North American nonprofit organization, enables tech entrepreneurs and professionals of Lebanese descent to thrive through education and networking, with a special emphasis on women in leadership roles. Aleb, perhaps a metaphor for the collective heart of the diaspora beating in sync with that of Lebanese locals, aims to provide sustained remittances from international donors to needy families in Lebanon.


    (Taken from the house of one of the Aleb sponsored families. Photo credit: Dalia Khamissy)

    "This is an extremely important initiative for us", said Sarjoun Skaff, cofounder of Aleb. "As expatriates, we feel powerless watching from afar as Lebanon's economy collapses dramatically with no obvious way to help. That's why we wanted to build a vehicle for our diaspora to actively and meaningfully support the homeland. Cash assistance is a very effective form of support, and complements existing in-kind programs, so we are excited to make it available to the world."

    Here’s how it works. Aleb coordinates with Al Majmoua, originally founded in 1997, to source and pinpoint indigent families. In the pilot program, 39 candidate families were on-boarded on the Aleb website. Donors can review these details and decide which family to support directly through monthly contributions of US$ 200, plus a service fee of US$ 30, for a period of six months. Donors receive program updates and an impact report on how their funds are disbursed.

    Now in the second phase of the program, Aleb has identified 36 additional families for immediate assistance. The US$ 200 monthly aid package is estimated as the minimal amount for a family to procure food, clothing and medication. Here are some testimonials by recipients on how Aleb has affected their lives.

    • “The first time I received money from Aleb, I used half of it to cover a previous debt. With the other half, I bought milk, medication for the kid, diapers and home essentials. Next month, I need to repair my refrigerator and the washing machine.” (Father of two children who resides with his wife, mother and sister in Aley. The father used to operate a school bus but is presently out of work.)

    • “My husband recently started working as a security guard. At home, the kitchen is incomplete, and we barely have any furniture. Some rooms lack electricity. With the second remittance, we paid off debts and bought sugar, milk, rice, beans, and baby diapers.” (Mother of two children who resides with her husband in Ain el Tineh. The couple previously ran a hair salon but was unable to renew the rent.)

    Often, Lebanon comes under the critical lens of the media for the pain afflicting its denizens at the hands of a feckless government. As citizens of the world, we watch in horror and grieve as we witness just a fraction of their immeasurable hurt. Distance may render us powerless to come to their succor, but thanks to Aleb, our hearts can now beat as one in a gesture as modest as a few hundred dollars. By supporting one of these disadvantaged families, we – via Aleb – can make a huge dent in their lives and help them provide for their posterity.

    [Disclamer: The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the featured individual.]

    --

    Author: Danielle Issa is a Lebanese-American writer, blogger and strategy consultant who has called Lebanon home for the past ten years. A native of southern California, she worked for seven years in strategic development at a leading Lebanese bank. Today, she resides in the suburbs of Beirut with her husband and two little boys, juggling motherhood and writing, while managing her internationally acclaimed culture and lifestyle blog Beirutista.co, founded in 2012. Ms. Issa holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from MIT (Boston) and an MBA from Collège des Ingénieurs (Paris).

  • 22 Feb 2021 4:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Didier Moretti is an entrepreneur who thrives on creating and scaling new businesses. Most  recently he was VP/GM at Atlassian, where he led the development of Jira, Confluence, and the creation of Service Desk, a major growth business for the  company. Prior to Atlassian, Moretti was a VP/GM at Cisco, where he led the creation of significant new businesses in video and the Internet of Things. Before that, he led several startups as CEO, and was the founder and CEO of Annuncio Software, an internet marketing company acquired by Oracle.  

    Moretti recently took a sabbatical from tech to explore other areas of interest. He is a water sport enthusiast – swimming, kitesurfing, and scuba diving. Didier has a passion for visual arts, when not in the water he can often be found in his art studio. If curious, you can check some of his work here. Moretti holds two Master of Science degrees from MIT, and an “Ingenieur” degree from Ecole Polytechnique in France.

    1- If you had a rewind button, what would you change about your journey? 

    Make time for yourself a priority – to exercise, to learn, and to nourish your spirit. Put these activities on your schedule, and make them mandatory, just like important meetings. Your biggest asset is your own human capital; and just like financial assets, it pays to start good habits early, as there is magic in compounding! 

    2- What are your 3 biggest accomplishments?  

    Repeat success in creating disruptive products and scaling new businesses. Creating great work environments and seeing so many people flourish. A loving family and making time to pursue new passions. 

    3- What’s the best lesson you learned? 

    It’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you are responsible and learn quickly. 

    4- Who is your role model?

    I do not buy into having “a” role model as no two situations are the same. You should learn from many people, dealing with many different contexts. 

    5- How did surrounding yourself with a good support system help you advance in your career? 

    The thing I valued most was having moral support to help me stay true to my values as a leader, especially through the most challenging times. I am grateful to my wife first and foremost, and to some great advisers along the way! 

    6- What is one habit you worked hard on breaking to improve your life or career? 

    As an introvert, I hated public speaking. I worked hard at it until it became something I truly enjoyed. 

    7- What characteristics do you look for in people you choose to work with?
    People who are driven, creative, and humble. 

    8- What skills did you work so hard on acquiring?

    People skills. I was poor at it but had to learn out of necessity. Eventually something clicked, and later on it became a forte (you could say that I am a late bloomer!). 

    9- What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?  

    Articulate your personal values early in life, so you can lean forward and live life on your own terms. 

    10- What excites you and what worries you about the impact of technology on the future? 

    I am most excited about our ability to learn, experiment, and innovate at scales that were unimaginable even 20 years ago. I worry about our impact on climate, and the burden we are leaving for the next generations. 

  • 16 Feb 2021 11:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the second part of LebNet’s Women in Tech video series, sponsored by Joun Technologies, we hosted a one-on-one interview with Hala Ballouz, President of Electric Power Engineers Inc. and Founder of GridNEXT.

    Ballouz is a leader in the energy industry and is currently building an innovative energy management software platform to enable the integration of technology and renewable resources into electric grids. She has over 25 years of experience in energy market studies, utility grid planning and renewable resource development and received the 2020 Women in Power Award during the virtual event Experience POWER held last September. In the below interview, Ballouz advised young tech leaders to be socially responsible and think about tech implications, and shared life lessons, future vision among other insights.


  • 19 Jan 2021 3:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At the young age of 17, Ra’ed Elmurib left Lebanon and moved to the US by himself to pursue a career in Engineering. For six months, he slept on a couch at a friend’s place until he secured a couple of jobs to sustain himself and his education. 

     With extensive experience in building startups, corporate M&A, and Strategic Venture, he held the CEO position of Shoof Technologies in 2016, developing the Wireless technology that aims to change the world of Industrial IoT connectivity. He previously served as Executive Vice President of Corporate and Business Development for PMC-Sierra, leading the company’s non-organic growth, venture investment and strategic partnership. Elmurib led the $2.5 billion Dollar sale transaction of PMC to MicroSemi and executed over $4 billion in transaction value. He also served as the GM of the Microprocessor Division and VP of WW Sales. Ra’ed was the CEO and founder of Unitec Sale, a Manufacturer Representative of STMicroelectronics, Microchip, and other component suppliers.  

    1- If you had a rewind button, what would you change about your journey? 

    I would make sure I start my career working for a startup with a vision of changing the world by innovating a leading edge technology. New innovations are the most powerful initiatives that human can create to impact our quality of life.

    2- What are your 3 biggest accomplishments?  

    1. Raising three healthy and happy kids, with “work hard, play hard” instilled in them. Having grown up away from family since I was 17 years old, it was a challenge to raise kids in a foreign land without the support system we are accustomed to in Lebanon. Striking a balance between the two cultures requires an open mind and a vision for the future generation challenges as they become model contributing citizens. 

    2. Starting my first company, Unitec Sales, at the age of 30 years old. It was a goal I set for myself when I graduated from College. It was an awesome way to learn and grow both financially and mentally. 

    3. Leading the exit of PMC-Sierra, as we struggled to reinvent ourselves after the bubble bursting in 2000. It took us many years to rebuild the company and change the direction and it was almost like coming back from the dead.

    3- What’s the best lesson you learned? 

    Resilience is the key to success. For us first generation Lebanese-American, we endured many difficult obstacles on our way to accomplish what we set out to do. New language, new culture, no network to speak of, and lacking all the necessary tools to make it happen. But with resilience and commitment to succeed, we plowed ahead and reached our goals.

    4- Who is your role model? 

    Every successful immigrant is my role model. I learn so much from their stories. 

    5- How did surrounding yourself with a good support system help you advance in your career?

    One thing I missed out on is having a mentor. It is so critical to maneuver your way through the different situations you run into during your career. My support system was my wife, Kim, as I was traveling and working 80-90 hours a week. She sacrificed her career to take care of all of us.

    6- What is one habit you worked hard on breaking to improve your life or career? 

    I had the bad habit of assuming that everybody had the same drive, intelligence, and ambitions as I do. Learning that we are all different at an early stage would have saved me lots of anger and lots of unnecessary disappointments. 

    7- What characteristics do you look for in people you choose to work with? 

    I like self-driven people, because I hate to micro manage, its a waste of time and inefficient. To succeed in life you need to surround yourself with a team that shares your vision and compliment your weaknesses. 

    8- What skills did you work so hard on acquiring? 

    Being patient and it is still a work in progress. I expect people to move fast, break things, learn from mistakes. I am getting a little better but I still have lots to go.

    9- What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?  

    Ask for help, get a mentor that you respect and leave our world better than you inherited it.

    10- What excites you and what worries you about the impact of technology on the future?

    Lots to be excited about. What technology has accomplished in the past 100 years is nothing short of an amazing miracle. I just wish we use it to always benefit humankind and improve lifestyles by lifting everybody up.

  • 24 Dec 2020 1:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The Lebanese civil war did indeed cost the country great minds, but as the saying goes, Lebanese always stand on their feet. This was the case with Daniel Daou, who left the country with his family during the war and founded years later one of the fastest growing wineries in the US, Daou Vineyards

    In 1973, when the civil war started, Daniel’s parents’ house was bombed, leaving the family wounded physically and emotionally. Trying to pick up the pieces and start a new life, the family moved to France a year later. 

    At 18 and after nine years of living in France, Daniel’s brother Georges moved to San Diego to study Electrical Engineering then Daniel followed him a year later to study Computer Engineering. Daniel started a company that computerises networks and with a capital from his father, he grew it and eventually sold it. He was ready to retire at 31 when his passion for winemaking started kicking in. 


    Image via Daou Vineyards.

    Daniel spent 8 years making wine at his garage, visiting wineries and studying the soil before launching Daou Vineyards with his brother. The family business is now operating in 50 states in the US and in 32 countries worldwide.

    In the video below taken from his talk during LebNet’s Virtual Holiday event held on December 15, Daniel reminisces the small details of his journey as a kid and a young entrepreneur passionate about wine and family bonds, explains what makes a viral excellent wine and shares the inspiring story behind the name behind their best wine: ‘Soul of the Lion’.

  • 07 Dec 2020 5:16 AM | Anonymous

    It’s 7am in San Francisco and Vancouver. In these different cities Khaled Nasr, George Akiki, and Anwar Sukkarie, are getting ready for their regular Investment Committee (IC) call with other fellow members of iSME’s investment committee.

    It’s 5pm in Beirut. Bassel Aoun, Naji Boutros, Gilles De Clerck, and Dany Eid are also getting ready for their call of the day.

    [Disclaimer: George Akiki, Khaled Nasr and Anwar Sukkarie are LebNet members].

    Despite the time difference, busy schedules, and remote calls, this is something they don’t want to miss. They’re keen to offer their informed judgement on which startup deserves funding from iSME, a $30 million USD matching fund by Kafalat, funded by the Government of Lebanon and the World Bank. Driven to play a key role in assessing promising startups and making sure the ones with the highest impact on job creation and society receive adequate funding.

    They are all volunteers. They don’t own shares or sit on the board of any of the startups they decide to invest in nor are they financially involved.

    So why is motivation so high? And why put in all this effort? Simply for the love of giving back. “We all love Lebanon and think it has many issues, but one of the bright spots is its entrepreneurial spirit, level of education, and exposure to the outside world.

    iSME is a matching fund operated by Kafalat and funded by the Government of Lebanon and the World Bank. Three of LebNet’s members sit on its Investment Committee.

    The traditional economy is failing and there’s not enough to keep up with population growth so we see a brain drain,” said Khaled Nasr, general partner and COO at VC firm InterWest Partners in Silicon Valley.

    In the face of the challenges of meeting and resolving conflicts remotely, as well as overcoming differences in mentalities and backgrounds, the IC members have found a way to always be involved and engaged, for the sake of Lebanon and its bright entrepreneurs. Five years in and the commitment is still going strong.

    So what three qualities make a great investment committee?

    Diversity

    The IC members bring different skill sets into deal assessment, providing several points of view. Khaled Nasr is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist at InterWest Partners, Anwar Sukkarie is an entrepreneur and the founder of Loop, George Akiki is the co-founder and CEO of LebNet, Dany Eid is the CFO of Resource Group, Gilles De Clerck is a private equity investor at The EuroMena Funds, and Naji Boutros is the Chairman and CEO of Telegraph Capital Partners and the owner of Chateau Belle-Vue in Lebanon. This has proven to be highly beneficial for entrepreneurs.

    “A private equity investor view puts a reality check on a VC dream and we felt that and it’s a good balance,” disclosed Tamim Khalfa, founder and CEO at delivery service Toters, whose company received a matching fund from iSME. His startup delivers thousands of orders a day and products worth millions of dollars per month, according to the founder.

    From top, left to right: Dany Eid, Gilles De Clerck, Khaled Nasr, George Akiki, Naji Boutros and Anwar Sukkarie

    Image via Toters

    “As a professional investor, the part that I had to adjust to is that this was not intended to be purely a financial investment. We were not just looking for a return on investment, but also to create an impact on the employment situation and create an ecosystem. We learnt to work with people with other backgrounds and it took me some adjustment so that I would look at other goals of iSME and assess accordingly,” said Nasr.

    As a private equity investor, Gilles De Clerck believes his expertise in this field has helped startups prepare for the next wave. Likewise, Naji Boutros is convinced that each member has his own strength: “while most of us are VCs and PEs, some of us are also operators and understand the organization’s behavior and that is so important in startups.”

    Respect

    Dany Eid describes the committee’s approach to assessing startups as fair to the startups, selfless, and without ‘egos’. Khalfa added that “when [the iSME Investment Committee members] hear a convincing answer to their inquiries, they don’t keep doubting, and criticizing, and their questions make sense.” He also revealed that in his previous experiences with other VCs, the IC members used to break down the entrepreneur but that “you don’t need to put on a show or bully the entrepreneur if the answer isn’t convincing.”

    Local and Global Insight
    Having members in the US, Canada, and Lebanon brings entrepreneurs a wealth of advantages. “Those living abroad are quite familiar with Lebanon. When it came to scalability they were the experts. We were able to add value about our assessment of a pilot project running in Lebanon, but when an idea was to be replicated outside, this is where their experience comes in,” comments Eid. Agreeing, George Akiki recognizes the role of the members in Lebanon in assessing a startup’s scaling plans and validating if their expansion to a target market in the region is a smart move or not.

    An example of this in action is Reef Kinetics, an iSME portfolio startup that manufactures automatic water testing devices for aquariums, tanks, and ponds. When looking to expand to international markets, Reef Kinetics benefited from IC members’ knowledge in marketing and distribution overseas. They now work with distributors in more than 55 countries across the US, Europe, and the GCC.

    From early challenges to surviving difficult times
    Founded in 2015, iSME is a co-fund that aims at encouraging early-stage equity financing in Lebanon.
    So far, it has made 18 equity investments, offered grants to 175 startups and supported 4 Lebanese angel funds.

    Program manager Bassel Aoun explains that it was launched five years ago to encourage the creation of a healthy pipeline and to increase the supply of early stage financing by offering grants and equity co-investments to Lebanese startups.

    Reef Kinetics’ ReefBot Pro device. (Image via Reef Kinetics)

    Image via Kafalat

    Back in 2015, it was hard to convince other funds to offer co-investment opportunities for iSME, admitted Aoun who spoke about the challenges iSME faced trying to promote its concept. “The major challenge was to promote the fund to other VC funds and [to show them] the advantage of having a co-investor on board. […] From my experience, if you look at any deal in the VC industry and you look at the cap table, the smallest deal has three investors. You should have a co-investor to help you get follow on funding,” he divulged.

    Another challenge was having international committee members because co-investors believed they would be hard to convince. One successful deal after the other removed these barriers and today, iSME builds very good relations with VCs in the market and co-invests with 90 percent of them.

    During these extremely tough times, the idea of investing in high-risk startups in Lebanon might appear absurd. After all, many startups shut down and the remaining ones are bootstrapping their way out of a seemingly never-ending crisis. But resilience is key. Entities like iSME are struggling to keep the funding going, and this is why, Aoun explains, they are pausing new investments and prioritizing their portfolio startups: “we’re asking our startups to reduce cost and build a plan B, increase runway and survive for a minimum of 12 months. The money will go to those who prove they can run on survival mode.”

    Tough times call for tough measures. Lebanon, startups, hang in there!

    Feature image via Pixabay.


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