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  • 10 May 2019 4:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jeanine Akiki is a proud native of Beirut, Lebanon who came to the U.S. in 1983.  She graduated with a B.S. in electrical engineering from Western New England University in 1986 and earned an M.S. in electrical engineering in 1987 from The University of Vermont.  

    Her career has spanned over 30 years with IBM and GlobalFoundries, including assignments in engineering, management and operations. She was recognized with an IBM Division Award for Management Excellence and holds a patent in I/O circuit design. Akiki retired from the semiconductor industry in August of 2018 and is now leading LebNet’s internship program. Her passion is to guide and enable success for students of Lebanese origin.

    Jeanine Akiki moderating a panel during a LebNet San Diego event (Image via LebNet)

    What’s the best lesson you learned?

    Once your life starts with surviving a war, the rest of your journey is likely to get easier.  

    If you can describe your journey in one sentence, what would it be?

    An incredible and unpredictable journey: Starting with my innocent childhood in Lebanon to becoming an exec in a semiconductor company.

    If you were to prioritize one aspect when hiring, which one would you pick: culture or skills?

    I would prioritize culture over skills. I believe that it is attitude above aptitude that will take anyone to the highest altitudes. I consider the ability to meld and adapt well to a company’s culture to be very significant in developing an enthusiastic and productive team with a great sense of pride and belonging.

    What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

    I enjoy cooking, hiking, reading and traveling.   

    What excites you about the future?

    The best part of the future is that it belongs to our children! I am in awe of the people they are and the great minds that they have developed for a better unprejudiced and unbiased world! Coupled with the amazing technological advances, I am hopeful that in their hands they will make this world a much better place.

    If you had a rewind button, name one thing you would change in your journey?  

    I would not change a thing on the career front! On the personal level, I will worry a bit less and enjoy more of it along the way! I would also get a lot more involved earlier with giving back to my community and to Lebanon.

    What or who is your biggest support?

    My family is my biggest fan and support group. Every member has been there along the way to support my endeavors, lift me up when I need it and applaud me when I succeed.

    What are your three biggest accomplishments?

    Our two kids for sure: I am grateful for them and for the amazing people that they are. My third accomplishment is successfully transplanting and growing roots in the US without forgetting my Lebanese identity and origin. The journey was arduous at times but so well worth it.

    Who is your role model?

    I am always so inspired by courageous women who were willing to put their lives on the line to change the world.  Women such as Pakistani Malala Yousafzai who campaigned for female education in the face of life-threatening danger and Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on a racially-segregated bus to end segregation. Thankfully the list of heroins goes on and on.

  • 10 Apr 2019 4:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    [Editor’s Note: This is the first article of a new series called ‘10 Questions With’, where we ask C-level executives, serial entrepreneurs and senior professionals 10 personal and professional questions and give them a platform to share their wisdom in their own words. The series targets LebNet members.]

    Habib Kairouz received a B.S in Engineering and a B.A in Economics from Cornell University and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University. With 25 years of experience in technology, private equity and venture capital investing under his belt, Kairouz helps ambitious entrepreneurs build successful businesses and establish themselves as market leaders.  He joined Rho Capital Partners in 1993 where he’s currently a Managing Partner. Prior to Rho, Kairouz worked in investment banking and leveraged buyouts in New York with Reich & Co. and Jesup & Lamont. He is currently a board member in 5 private technology companies and multiple organizations including LebNet.

    What’s the best lesson you learned?
    The best lesson would be the one I try to pass on to my kids as they grow up and that is to always aspire to reach one’s ambitions and dreams and take risks even if the likelihood of failure is high. Failures are lessons as long as one lands on their feet and tries the next move, albeit always within the rules of high ethics and integrity.

    If you can describe your journey in one sentence, what would it be?

    I found a partner I trust and respect, got into the world of technology investing at the right time, got lucky, learned quickly, and continue to learn and adjust my investment strategy as the world and markets evolve.

    If you were to prioritize one aspect when hiring, which one would you pick: culture or skills?

    Both are important but if I had to prioritize, I would pick culture since I believe it is easier to teach skills than pass on a culture.

    What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
    In order of priority: spending time with family and friends, tennis and skiing.

    What excites you about the future?

    We are finally seeing the success model of Silicon Valley being exported and replicated throughout the world giving young entrepreneurs anywhere the opportunity to innovate and create new businesses at a scale and pace never seen before. In many markets around the world, young people are being encouraged to create rather than find their job opportunities.

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

    I would have probably liked to take a few months off to travel the world at some point rather than squeeze in vacations the way we do it when we’re working full time. I guess I will just have to wait for retirement at this point.

    What or who is your biggest support?

    Without any doubt, my family.

    What are your three biggest accomplishments?
    The first would be a personal accomplishment in the family I was able to build, my wife Lara and our three children. The second would be my professional success as I’ve been able to convert a beginner’s luck into a sustainable career. The third would be my ability to maintain my roots with Lebanon and continue to be engaged with the country at many levels and pass on this passion and commitment to my children.

    Who is your role model?
    Many members of my family have been role models throughout my life for different reasons. But to pick non-family members, one would be Bill Gates, who followed his gut to drop out of college and pursue his passion when the opportunity came knocking, created an industry leading company that survived many waves of disruption, and when the time came started to pay society back through his philanthropic foundations. The second one would be Mahatma Gandhi, who believed the impossible could be done by leading his country’s independence movement from the biggest Colonial power at the time albeit in a non-violent way.

    What advice would you give to someone starting their professional journey?
    Chase something you are passionate about, look for people you admire and trust to work with, and don’t worry about failing.

  • 15 Mar 2019 4:26 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rania Afiouni Monla was in the right time at the right place when she started working on her PhD in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in organizations at Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University.

    After 10 years of entrepreneurship experience and another 10 years in academia between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, she moved to Montreal in 2015 and found her inspiration.

    “When I went to Montreal, the AI revolution was booming, especially in research. Some of the most renowned researchers in AI are there, and the government is making an effort to place Montreal on the global AI map.”

    With a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer and Communication and a Master in Business Administration, Monla was interested in studying the impact of AI in organizational learning and healthcare.

    She is an active LebNet member, a board member at the Montreal chapter of the American University of Beirut’s alumni, and a member of Montreal AI Ethics Group, part of Montreal AI Ethics Institute. “We [the group] had an input in the Montreal declaration on responsible AI, which was issued few months ago. We met, discussed and gave feedback to the committee writing the declaration and our input was taken into account,” she said.

    Her ongoing research is looking into several aspects of AI including how it is impacting some of the jobs in healthcare, such as radiologists, and its ethical use.  

    Monla revealed that radiologists are most likely to be affected by the AI revolution because they work a lot with imaging and this is one of the most advanced areas in AI. Yet, their jobs will not be threatened.

    “Some people say AI will replace radiologists, others say it will augment them. AI still doesn’t have the general intelligence to replace the jobs, but the narrow intelligence to replace certain tasks.” Until this happens, the Canadian Association of Radiologists released a white paper stating that they are aware of the impact of AI on their work and calling for many changes: updated curriculum so that radiology graduates become ready for the AI revolution and additional research.

    Early beginnings and challenges

    Shortly after graduating from AUB, Monla became a partner in a software company providing IT consulting, development, and implementation services in Lebanon, which later developed into ERP operations in the Middle East region and offshore development to Europe. Then she started teaching at AUB and LAU and ‘fell in love’ with the academic environment. She dedicated more time to teaching and doing research. In 2006, she moved to Saudi Arabia and became a lecturer at Prince Sultan University. Five years later, she came back to Lebanon where she was in charge of the accreditation process of Adnan Kassar School of Business at LAU. In 2015, she moved to Canada and joined Concordia University as an accreditation consultant before she decided to pause her career and focus on her PhD.

    Doing so wasn’t easy, she recalled. “Going back to school after so many years of work is hard. You’re used to a certain level of autonomy then you are forced to push a reset button. Rethinking the way I structured my day was a challenge,” said Monla.

    The other challenge was setting boundaries and managing her PhD and organizing events and activities with the groups she’s part of. As an organizer of AUB’s Seventh North American Regional Summit, she had to put on hold her research. It was a 3-day summit for North American alumni and Monla organized a panel on AI and brought speakers from the USA, Canada and AUB.

    “Research takes time, effort and focus. Having to balance my life and my work takes a lot of energy and it’s hard to set boundaries,” she concluded.

    The hard work will pay off eventually. Monla is expected to finish her PhD in three years and looking to pursue a career in research.

  • 08 Feb 2019 4:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “I left Lebanon in 1981 to study in the US but emotionally I never left it.”

    One dream always pushed Fadi Daou to come back to Lebanon: create job opportunities in high-tech, develop a high-tech center in the country and export tech products rather than talent.

    And so he did.

    Daou is now the founder and CEO of MultiLane, a semiconductor company based in his hometown Houmal, a village in the Aley District. He is also building Houmal Technology Park Academy, a center to train fresh graduates on Integrated Circuit Design (IC Design), host multinational companies and incubate high-tech projects.

    Fadi Daou working with one of his team members at MultiLane’s offices in Houmal. (Images via MultiLane)

    Selling the house, the company and moving back to Lebanon

    After studying Electrical Engineering and working for 15 years with a company called GenRad, the entrepreneurship bug bit him. Daou launched and sold three companies in the US: Telephotonics in 2000, FiberGrade in 2002 and PXIT in 2004. He then sold his house and came back to Lebanon in 2004, worked for a couple of years with several NGOs, mainly Bader, on promoting technology as a sector of growth, creating applied training centers and developing human resources so that multinational companies would set up offices in the country. “One of the real success factors to help create and evolve the economy is human resources,” he said.

    In 2008, he started ATC-Lebanon then sold it to IPG Photonics, a high-performance fiber laser manufacturer. Two years later, MultiLane was born.

    MultiLane is a manufacturer of high-speed test instruments and interconnect test product for the backbone of the cloud-computing industry.

    Manufacturing and exporting high tech  

    Overlooking the sea and the beautiful village of Houmal, MultiLane is nestled in a calm location, making it the perfect environment for creativity and focus. Many of the employees come from remote areas in Lebanon and they benefit from free accommodation during the week.

    During a visit to MultiLane’s offices, Daou discussed company growth and his plans to build a high-tech center and attract companies and talent.

    “The company is growing as a leading supplier of test equipment globally for the past 6 to 7 years. Our compounded annual growth rate is north of 60 percent. We offer products to companies building data center infrastructure as well as data centers and our customers are the likes of Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alibaba, Cisco, Intel, and many other semiconductor and data center companies. Overall we have 500 B2B customers worldwide in Japan, Taiwan, China, Korea, Europe, US and we offer 200 products today.”

    The company also has branches in Silicon Valley and Taiwan while the Lebanese branch is in charge of developing, designing, building and shipping products. All shipped products have a ‘made in Lebanon’ stamp and the team ships up to 8k items every week, according to the founder.  

    Building a non-existent industry in Lebanon

    Daou’s vision to train and create job opportunities in a non-existent field in Lebanon, aims to put the country on the high-tech map.

    To get there, he’s building a 215,000 square foot (20,000 square meter) campus called Houmal Technology Park, that hosts up to 1,000 individuals and includes state-of-the-art facilities, research and development (R&D) labs, a training academy, an incubator, coworking spaces for high-tech multinational companies, guest houses as well as other amenities. MultiLane’s offices will soon move to a 6,000 square foot (557 square meter) facility within the campus.  

    Houmal Technology Park under construction. (Image via LebNet)

    “Companies are primarily interested in resources, building products to get to market and the limiting factor in our business is people. So a major part of  HTP’s activity is to develop talent to attract multinational companies. We will offer free training to students. The initial course is in IC Design and semiconductor. We started a course in partnership with some of the universities in Europe and in Lebanon to pick fresh graduates and train them at HTP. We’re working with professors from Notre Dame University (NDU) and Lebanese international University (LIU) that offer IC Design and we’re funding that training,” said Daou.

    In a market saturated with coworking spaces, incubators and accelerators, Daou is targeting a niche industry to differentiate his endeavor. He believes focus is the ultimate key to excellence and decentralization is crucial to boost creativity.

    “Any tech center or incubator has to be focused on a particular know-how so it becomes a center of excellence. I am a firm believer that with focused effort and developing know-how for human resources you can create tremendous influence, value and return,” he said.

    “My ancestors moved to Houmal in 1639. I am deeply rooted here and can’t find any better place in the world to exist but here. You have the view, nature, and a great environment .In my opinion, there is no  better ecosystem anywhere else,” he concluded.

  • 08 Jan 2019 2:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With over 24 years of experience in corporate development and management under his belt, Elie Antoun has been involved in several business aspects: from growing companies, identifying new investment leads, to managing mergers and acquisitions for a number of companies in the US and Japan.

    Out of the five companies he led, four got acquired: MediaQ in 2003; Genesis Microchip, a publicly traded semiconductor company, in 2008; AccelOps, computer software company, in 2012 and Akros Silicon in 2015, which is now part of Kinetic Technologies.

    Elie Antoun talked to LebNet about success, exiting companies and failing.

    Elie Antoun talked to LebNet about success, exiting companies and failing.

    In 2008, Antoun worked as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Eldorado Ventures, where his job was to identify and shortlist innovative renewable energy startups to invest in. He is currently managing an M&A project for a Japanese semiconductor corporation, to divest one of their divisions. The company offers a wide range of products and IPs that cover development from specifications planning and theoretical design to physical design, production and quality control. He is also sitting on the board of several other companies and actively mentoring three startups.

    In an interview with LebNet, Antoun spoke about the job he enjoys the most, his regrets and failures and achieving a good work/life balance. Read our Q&A below.

    • You were a President and CEO of several companies, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence, an advisor and mentor and you helped many companies grow and get acquired. Which role did you enjoy the most?

    There’s no question being a CEO of big companies of many sizes and particularly CEO of startups is the most enjoyable part. I enjoyed pressure and people. Those are the two primary drivers for me. When you’re in a startup, you’re leading a group of people into an area that’s not clear and you don’t know what’s going to happen and there’s no safety net. Every day is do or die. There’s a short distance between every decision you make and the result of that decision. I was CEO of companies that were as big as 700 people and making $300 million in revenue and as small as 25 people and making $3 million in revenues. That’s where you learn the most and make the most mistakes also.

    • Tell us a little bit about your work with El Dorado Ventures, where you were an Entrepreneur In Residence.

    I joined them late 2008, after the Genesis deal closed and took some time off. I joined them to look at renewable energy. There was a lot of solar, water, and lighting technology. At that time, the massive financial crisis hit. For two years investors were very apprehensive about writing big checks. It was an opportunity to assess ideas, companies, entrepreneurs and make a couple of investments, but things were slower. My role was to listen to incoming ideas from entrepreneurs and then select a few to set up meetings with the partners at the fund. I screened maybe a dozen over one and a half years and Eldorado invested in two of them.

    • Which mistakes you wish someone else had told you to avoid when you were younger?

    I wish that I had known and researched the board of companies [I was managing] to understand why they got in trouble in the first place. I was spoiled in my first startup, I had such an incredible board, we were always open and straightforward with each other that I thought it would be  like that every time.

    • Most of the startups fail. Sometimes it’s because the entrepreneurs did not have the right characteristics to succeed and other times the idea and execution were wrong. Which of the two scenarios do you encounter the most?

    The world has changed in the last 10 years, but the biggest reason for failure has been founders problems. Founders who didn’t know each other that well and launched into a high-intensity and high-pressure environment without enough experience. They end up fighting and getting at each other instead of focusing on the goal and recognizing where their own shortcomings are. They bring investors in and those shortcomings force the investors to bring outsiders and sometimes outsiders aren’t all fully in tune with the founders and everything becomes a spiral from there. I find that companies in-fighting is the primary reason for failure.
    Execution is related to the team and not trying to go after the whole world, which brings me to the second primary reason for failure: the lack of focus. Companies want to change the world and tend not to laser focus on a market they can win, so they try to go after two big pieces of the pie and get nothing out of it. A market has to be big enough to put some food on the table but the lack of targeting is another major driver for failure. The third reason is not going after smart money. I am a huge fan of going after smart money, people who know how to invest, people who trust the management but are active enough and help in various areas.

    • What keeps you up at night?

    Only if I’m doing the right thing. That’s the only thing I ever worry about. If i’m being honest with myself and with the person asking for my help. When you look in the mirror and you’re being honest with yourself, you don’t worry about anything else.

    • Are you currently mentoring or advising any startups?  

    Yes, the last two months have become quite active. I’m helping three startups right now. One is doing a system for surveillance cameras without going to the cloud, which creates a storage problem. The founders are incredibly smart and have an idea they already actioned on and completed a  proof of concept. They can do very high resolution surveillance and handle the storage without using the cloud and they are targeting SMEs, not the huge enterprises for whom the cost of storage is not a problem. Another one is focused on assisted driving using laser and radio technology. The third one is IT verification for devices, mobile, PCs and laptops. This Japanese startup has a unique way of doing ID verification that’s cheaper and faster from what’s out there today. I mentor them, I like to be involved.

    • When does a mentor’s role become dispensable?

    You always have to work yourself out of a job. If you’ve become dispensable that means you’ve done what you need to do for that entrepreneur. You could become a board member, advisor, but don’t need to be a more involved mentor. If there was not a good fit from the beginning, whether it’s a functional, characteristic or chemistry fit, then both the entrepreneur and the mentor should know from the beginning. As a mentor who’s effective, the best thing you can do is to work yourself out of a job so entrepreneurs can focus on something else that is not an area of expertise for the mentor.

    • How do you achieve a good work/life balance?

    Lately it’s been a little harder, but it goes back to doing the absolute best that you can within the parameters that you control, and not sweating out the parameters that you can’t control. Also being incredibly lucky for having a great wife. Basically I get to work at 7 am and I leave at 7 pm. If you’re completely focused on what you need to do then there’s not much else that you could do differently. You can go home and be a bit more relaxed. Assembling a team that is incredibly strong that you can rely on [is also crucial]. Many people define importance by having everything go through them. The ability to put together a strong team and rely on it is way more powerful than having everything go through one funnel.  

  • 21 Dec 2018 2:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It’s not every day we come across a well established Lebanese entrepreneur with an exceptional career trajectory- someone who has emigrated from Lebanon and achieved the American dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur while staying close to their Lebanese roots through community engagement and contribution.

    That’s why we’re so excited to feature Richard Rabbat Co-Founder/CEO of Gfycat as our Member in the Spotlight this month!

    Richard holds a Ph.D. and an S.M. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.E. and M.E. in Computer and Communications Engineering from the American University of Beirut. He is also Vice-Chair, USA of the MIT Enterprise Forum for the Pan-Arab Region and is an advisor to numerous companies.

    Besides being an exemplary LebNet member, Richard drives the vision and mission of Gfycat, which has skyrocketed to success over the past 2 years. Gfycat is a platform that enables users to make amazing Gfycats, video-quality short looping silent GIFs. Gfycat is a top 100 US site, top 250 worldwide.

    Prior to cofounding Gfycat, Richard worked at Fujitsu, Google, Tango, and Zynga. Needless to say, he’s a busy entrepreneur. We’re thankful he took some time to chat with us and answer a few questions for fellow LebNeters!

    Tell us a few things about yourself that are not widely known.  

    I grew up in Beirut and came to the U.S. for graduate school. In my spare time I run marathons. I have two beautiful kids, Leyla and Waleed.

    How did you become an entrepreneur and how did the idea for Gfycat come about?

    Becoming an entrepreneur was a dream of mine since childhood. After working at some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley for many years, I decided it was finally time to pursue that dream in 2015. Along with my cofounders, we realized that GIFs were taking off in popularity across the Internet. We noticed there was no easy way for people to make them. So we focused on creating the best tools for creators to make great GIFs that they could share on social media and messaging apps.

    What has been the high and low of establishing Gfycat so far?

    High: we just announced that we reached 130 million monthly active users (all organic growth) and launched our AI projects. This is a really exciting time for us, and I can’t wait to see how we continue to grow in 2018.

    Low: Being the top 100 site in the US is very pricey and we sometimes had to slow down new feature development to optimize our backend.

    You’ve recently been in the news for incorporating AI technology into Gfycat. What is your ultimate vision for what Gfycat can offer users?

    I think short-form content will play an increasingly important role in our lives. We ultimate want to fill those short moments in your life where you pull your phone from your pocket and we can delight you with a snackable bite of fun or entertaining content. We will continue to innovate on the product side to help more of our users create amazing content.

    What idea, mentor, or book influenced you the most throughout your career and why?

    I love thinking through strategy. Running a startup is not unlike going to war. The book that has influenced me most is Sun Tzu’s Art of War. When an entrepreneur starts a company, he/she is immediately at war with many other large companies and startup and they need to think and play out the battle ahead so they maximize their chance at winning. Always thinking about the unfair advantage you can have when building a new product or service.

    You have been an active member of LebNet, what is the value that LebNet has provided and why is it important to you personally?

    Lebnet connects me to my community in ways unlike other professional organizations. Each person in the community has an amazing story to tell about hardship, survival, strength, success but also love for both our countries Lebanon and the US. I personally really enjoy getting to know the newer generation of Lebanese and Lebanese-American individuals doing fantastic at their jobs and in their personal lives.

    What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring Lebanese entrepreneurs who need mentoring?

    There’s never a “right time” to start a company so take it on when you have the conviction in your idea. Of course, leaving a cozy job with a steady paycheck is scary but the experience will be invaluable. Seek mentors along the way, ask people for help. It’s amazing what people will do to help you and open doors for you. Always be asking for introductions. The value of the company is partly in the product you built but so much more in your team and your network.

    How can LebNeters support Gfycat?

    Download our mobile app and tell your friends and family about us! We want Gfycat to be in every social network and messaging experience. If you know people or you work at a messaging app and don’t see Gfycat in that messaging app, help us connect to people who can integrate our amazing content in these messaging apps and social networks.

  • 13 Dec 2018 2:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    There are countless reasons to launch a startup.

    Becoming your own boss, believing your idea will change the world, getting rich or not being able to work in a highly predictable environment, just to name a few.

    Romeo Elias launched a startup because he did not want to take over the family business from his father. It’s a manufacturing company and is now run by his brothers.  

    Born in Nigeria and raised in Lebanon until he was 17, this Lebanese entrepreneur went to the University of California San Diego to study mechanical engineering then finished his Master’s Degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

    It was his drive to break traditions and make it on his own that pushed him to launch his first venture, WWWID. With the help of a few friends and some self-taught coding experience, he started helping small businesses build their own websites. Their startup was very basic and they got few clients back in 1999, but it was merely a side project until he figured out what he really wanted to do.

    The Aha Moment

    In 2000, Elias started another company called Intellect, formerly called Interneer, which provided companies a software platform to automate processes for project management, quality management, HR and other areas.

    It all started when he participated in a business plan competition organized by UCLA, his MS alma mater. He and his partners won first place in the software track and second place overall. The event opened many doors for them and it was a launchpad to raise a seed round from friends, family and a few angel investors.

    At the beginning, Intellect developed a software to help mechanical engineers design processes for projects they’re working on. The product was heavy on content and software so Elias thought it was best to license content and extra information to publish engineering books as an additional revenue stream. Yet in 2001, after the stock market crash and the 9/11 attacks, it became very difficult for him to raise money and grow the business.

    How listening to clients saved the company  

    It was a critical moment for the startup, which had limited funds, so Elias had to choose between shutting it down completely or looking for alternatives to save money.

    “We listened to some of our key early clients. They liked the concept of designing processes that help engineers but did not care about the information coming from engineering handbooks. They wanted the information to come directly from the engineers, the ones who were about to retire, to provide them a way to capture their knowledge before leaving” he explained. So they pivoted from creating expert content to software tools to enable that.

    They started developing software tools for engineers following that with software to address project management, HR and training software, auditing, customer complaints and FDA and ISO compliance software.

    Intellect now works with around 500 corporations from all around the world. Their portfolio includes Emerson, an American multinational company that manufactures products and provides engineering services for industrial, commercial, and consumer markets; Princess Cruises, a cruise line company that started in 1965; Stryker, a Fortune 500 medical technology company that provide products and services in Orthopaedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine, and many others. 

    Thanks to its multinational portfolio of companies, Intellect now operates in the United States, China, Australia, Turkey and other countries. Few years back, Elias tried to expand to the Middle East and talked to potential partners in Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but none of them was the perfect match. He is still hoping to find the right partner one day.

    Intellect is headquartered in Los Angeles but works with people from India, Romania and Turkey. Some of its competition includes quality management software Sparta Systems and Master Control, but Elias believes the key differentiator is that his company empowers clients by allowing them to make changes to their accounts. “We empower them to stay up to date and compliant with regulations without coming to us always. Our vision is to empower them and let them innovate on their own,” he explained.

    Knowledge is only real when transferred

    With over 18 years of experience in mechanical engineering and software development, Elias strongly believes in paying it forward. Through Intellect Innovate, a yearly event for Intellect’s user base, he is connecting partners to potential customers and giving them a stage to to network and to present their ideas. That event also features a hackathon, where participants are given two hours to develop a product using Intellect’s platform. “Our partners would sometimes adopt these applications or sell them to their customers,” he added.

    Another way to give back is through mentoring other startups working in software. The startups Romeo is mentoring include Valcre, a real estate appraisal solution; an early-stage startup building an application that connects construction contractors to vendors; a solution that tracks delivery trucks in the US and another recruiting company.  

    “It’s been very rewarding to help them out and share ideas and an honor to feel that some of these companies are listening to me,” he said jokingly.  

    Elias could have chosen to manage his father’s company and avoid the daily struggles of an entrepreneur, but he chose to forge his own path. He learned a lot and one the most important tips of advice he shared with us was to stop obsessing about someone stealing your ideas, because execution, perseverance and patience are the needed requirements for success.

    He concluded the interview  saying: “The world is full of ideas but not enough people can make them happen.”

  • 19 Nov 2018 2:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Part of its mission to empower the next generation of Lebanese entrepreneurs, LebNet launched its residential mentorship program LebNet Ignite in 2014, to offer startups in Lebanon a two-week bootcamp in San Francisco.

    Startups get access to the required expertise and know-how that will help them scale their businesses globally. Participants will meet investors and learn how to attract global funds, connect with mentors, scale globally and get legal advice. Since its inception, the program graduated 19 startups.

    “LebNet Ignite was the best experience ever. We had access to people we can never have access to in Lebanon,” said Audrey Nakad, cofounder at Synkers, an online private tutoring platform. The Lebanese market is in need of more role models and success stories they can look up to and seek advice from, she added.

    Similarly, Charlie El Khoury, cofounder at Nar, added that “we lack success stories. We need people to look up to. In San Francisco, you always find people to help.”

    His startup Nar is a smart-drone software solution that integrates with drones to track wildfires and oil leakages.

    Photo: During a feedback session with LebNet Ignite startups, held by LebNet president George Akiki this month at Speed Lebanon.

    Customized mentorship for each startup

    The program featured one-on-one sessions with LebNet members, coaching and brainstorming dinners, which were startup-focused. “LebNet  organized [for us] a dinner with 5 mentors, and it was about Synkers challenges, how to enhance algorithms and growth hacking and they answered all of our questions,” added Nakad.

    Another participant found an advisor who helped him throughout their journey. “Connections are extremely important. One of LebNet’s members, Amer Hajj, is now our advisor. He’s been in the healthcare sector and we were lucky to have someone who wanted to be involved,” said Ziad Alame, founder and CEO of Spike, a diabetes management mobile application.

    Alame’s startup recently won the GITEX competition in Dubai and was shortlisted to participate in Seedstars MENA Regional Summit, which is happening in Beirut on November 29.

    A mentor is not an advisor

    Like Alame, finding the right mentor for a startup is crucial at every stage. Yet mentors are confused with advisors/coaches, knowing that the latter have a deeper involvement, which is often remunerated.

    Marc Suidan, Mergers and Acquisitions Tech sector leader at PwC and a LebNet member, advised entrepreneurs to distinguish between the role of mentors and that of advisors/investors/board members. The former guides entrepreneurs to a certain direction until they are able to execute on their own and the latter is when entrepreneurs bring someone to the company for a longer period of time and potentially give them shares in it, hence a different level of commitment and involvement.

    “If mentorship requires a lot of time then maybe a startup needs to talk to investors as well. Mentors don’t own decisions, [they are] just a sounding board. If there’s a match, if should become more organized and deeper,” said Suidan.

    Adding to what Suidan said, Elie Antoun, a veteran LebNet member and a serial CEO with a handful of experience in corporate development, management and growth, strongly believes that mentorship comes down to setting objectives and expectations so nobody gets disappointed. “You have to be careful to distinguish between mentoring and consulting. Consulting you pay for it. Mentoring there’s an emotional involvement,” he clarified.

    For this reason, his strategy with helping startups is to focus on a few, help them at a certain stage then connect them to another mentor who can fill in the gaps and he does this all for free. Mentors should not demand shares or money in return. “Giving a mentor 1 percent is very expensive. You only give this to an early board member. Advisors take 0.2 or 0.5 percent and you will use them a lot. Engage with those who have time and passion for you. Don’t be shy to ask for help”

    LebNet Ignite startups

    Its 6th edition held on February 2018, LebNet Ignite welcomed two new startups, making a total of 19 graduated startups until now. In the upcoming editions, the program will be reinforced with follow-ups.

    “We need to setup a structured mentorship program. We will do it as much as the mentee wants it and mentors might be re-assigned. It will be for people who will be very aggressive. We need to move quickly and don’t want to design something so heavy that takes 6 months to setup,” said George Akiki, cofounder and president of LebNet.

    In addition to this, Akiki also spoke about the possibility of setting up a network of angel investors, who will fill in the gap between seed money received by entrepreneurs in Lebanon and bigger tickets in the US. “We don’t want to come at a pre-seed level, we don’t want to compete with what’s happening locally [Lebanon].”

    The startups:

    1- Brate, an online marketplace for products, services and businesses
    2- Nar, a drone software that tracks wildfires and oil leakages.
    3- Vision in Motion
    4- Synkers, an online platform for private tutoring.
    5- Jellyfish, a budget management software.
    6- Zoomal, a crowdfunding platform in the Arab World.
    7- Rational Pixels, a dynamic advertising format for online games
    8- TeensWhoCode, a coding academy for kids and teenagers.
    9- Spike, a mobile application for patients with diabetes.
    10- Neotic, a customized AI solution for traders.
    11- Cherpa, an educational platform teaching robotics, coding, AI and others courses.
    12- Vbout, a marketing and analytics tool
    13- Petriotics, an online pet shot.
    14- Riego,  a solar powered, agricultural irrigation dynamic-control device.
    15- Sqwirl, an idea-generation lab for startups.
    16- Neumann, a data platform for businesses specialized in data collecting, mapping, and visualizing.
    17- Makerbrane, an online and offline platform for creating and playing games.
    18- Wango, a dating application.

  • 01 Nov 2018 2:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “In the US, if every position is filled, if every person looking for a technology job gets hired, there are so many positions that can’t be filled for at least 20 years,” said Ahmad Al-Amine, cofounder of outsourcing management company TechGenies. “That’s how much shortage of tech talent there is in the US.”

    A shortage of tech talent in the US is driving many multinational companies to seek IT support outside, according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Georgetown University and the reason might have to do with education.

    report by global management consulting and professional services firm Accenture, stated that today’s education and training systems are not keeping up with the current and future demand for skills. As intelligent systems and machines are reshaping the nature of work, people will need entirely new skill sets, the same report stated.

    The fact that small to medium businesses are competing with giant tech companies for tech talent puts the former at a disadvantage as it’s hard to offer the same salaries and benefits.

    How can small businesses survive? 

    These factors, combined with the challenges that come with outsourcing (quality, constant follow-ups, commitment and meeting deadlines) don’t make it easier for smaller entities in the US.

    So how can smaller entities find the right tech talent?

    Two Lebanese entrepreneurs, Mark Hamdan and Ahmad Al-Amine, might have found a solution called TechGenies. Launched in 2015 and headquartered in Texas, the company acts as a middleman between those seeking technical help and those providing it, while guaranteeing proper execution and delivery.

    TechGenies offers businesses seeking outsourcing a dedicated team or individual (Genie) who will work on their technology projects from its inception to delivery. For instance, TechGenies will hire, train and manage this individual or team and will also follow up and track the work to guarantee a proper execution.

    “Outsourcing companies work in a way where you have no control over who works on your product. They bill you by the hour then move on,” said cofounder Al-Amine in an interview with LebNet.

    The business model worked. Hamdan tested it during HRsmart, a previous company he founded and sold it to Deltek in 2015, and he believed there’s a need for it in the market. Yet brand awareness was a challenge.

    The founders needed to make themselves visible to potential clients and create a trust with them. “The biggest challenge we have is explain to others how we are different,” said Al-Amine. However, they knew that the challenge was time-related and once they started working with several clients, things became smoother.

    Now, TechGenies completed around 490 projects and works with up to 25 clients. It has several operational countries, with offices in Toronto, Mexico city, Beirut, Gurugram and Cebu.

    Making outsourcing an in-house solution

    To guarantee each client gets the right match, TechGenies hire people on demand.

    “From day one, clients know exactly who they’re going to work with and what they’re going to work on and that helps them become excited about the project they are working on,” explained Al-Amine. The team becomes part of the client’s team yet TechGenies takes care of the hiring and managing process. “In our case, this has helped us retain people. Our retention is around 95 percent, including the country we’re in and India, which has a very high turnover rate.”

    The demand for tech jobs is on the rise but will take on several forms in the coming years. A report published by the World Economic Forum on The Future of Jobs revealed that the nature of work will change towards more flexible work habits; new demanding industries such as advanced robotics, AI, machine learning and biotechnology will require new skill sets and reskilling and upskilling workers will become a necessity.

    We will have enormous opportunities and challenges but it will be exciting to see how advanced technologies will shape the way we work, hire and interact. 

  • 09 Oct 2018 5:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    With a Ph.D. in in Cellular and Molecular Biology, Farah Fawaz developed a passion for science and living organisms since the beginning of her career.

    After working for several years in the healthcare industry, Fawaz – a LebNet board member – is working on developing a biotech community under LebNet, to scout biotech innovations, empower startups in this field and provide support and expertise.

    In a chat with LebNet, Fawaz talked about her journey and the vision behind the biotech community, the role of women and achieving a work/life balance.

    LebNet: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what made you become interested in biotech

    Fawaz: As far as I can recall, I have been curious and inquisitive about living organisms and understanding the underlying mechanisms that govern life at the macro, micro and molecular levels. My schooling and career are a direct consequence of this passion. I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the American University of Beirut. I then received a Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I moved on and completed my post-doctoral studies at the University of California in San Francisco. From academics, I moved to the Biotech industry where I held various roles with increasing responsibilities in research, development, and commercial operations in different companies such as Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Berlex Biosciences/Schering AG, Bayer AG, Intarcia Therapeutics, and most recently at Allogene Therapeutics. Throughout my career, my drive has been to make a difference in people’s lives while working on what I like best, science.

    LebNet: What are the mission and vision behind the biotech community?

    Fawaz: Over the past years, LebNet has experienced a tremendous success in growing the Hi-Tech network across the U.S. and in Lebanon and in supporting both these communities. As LebNet matures, and we continue to attract new members entering the workforce, reaching out to professionals in another exciting, fast-paced and impactful technical area namely, Biotech, would strengthen our organization. Furthermore, bringing together professionals from both disciplines would no doubt provide opportunities to advance areas that overlap both fields.  

    The mission of the LebNet’s Biotech community is to establish a network of professionals in the field across the US and Lebanon. Such a network will provide these professionals with a forum to connect, meet, exchange ideas, and create opportunities for advancement at the individual and community levels.  

    LebNet: What activities and programs are you planning on hosting for this community? 

    Fawaz: In line with the events and programs that have been sponsored by LebNet, we would like to host several events across the country as we grow the network, featuring guest speakers, panel discussions, and interviews with leaders in the field. Furthermore, we would like to support several programs, such as establishing mentorships, pairing senior leaders in the network with mid- and entry level individuals, as well as connecting members to secure internship programs for new graduates as well as graduate/college students.

    LebNet: What type of support do you need? 

    Fawaz: The immediate goal for the Biotech community is to establish a presence first in the US and reach out to colleagues in Lebanon next. As we establish, point contacts in the various cities, the biotech community will further expand.

    LebNet: Why should members join? What’s the added value?

    Fawaz: Networking is a key element for personal development and advancement of ideas. Traditionally, fewer Lebanese individuals chose Biological and Chemical Sciences, key disciplines for the biotech industry, as their professional career. This is demonstrated by the small number of Lebanese people in the Biotech field in comparison to Hi-Tech or other professional areas, albeit this is based on anecdotal observations. The strength in numbers and bringing people together, both in the US and Lebanon, will only help individuals as well as the Biotech industry to advance. Leveraging the existing Hi-Tech network is an added bonus that could potentially help foster new interdisciplinary ideas.  

    LebNet: How are you planning on growing this network? 

    Fawaz: As an immediate action, I have started to reach out to Lebanese colleagues and friends who are in the field in the U.S. I hope to have volunteer point people in the various existing LebNet communities who will then support us in expanding the network. Planning events, as mentioned earlier will also help us to attract members and grow the network.

    LebNet: Do you think there are enough women working in biotech? How will you be focusing on women? 

    Fawaz: As the Biotech industry has grown, women representation has increased and women are now an integral representative group of this industry, certainly at the individual contributor and manager levels. It is however imperative to increase the representation of women at the mid-management and senior levels of organizations. This can be supported by providing mentorships, coaching, and shadowing opportunities to women within or across industries. Furthermore, providing internships for college/graduate students or fresh graduates may help fast track young women scientists on a path that will encourage them to grow and remain within the industry.

    LebNet: How do you achieve a good work/life balance? 

    Fawaz: As a professional woman in Science and mother of two young women, this is a topic that is dear to my heart. What has worked for me is to define my priorities at the time, and work toward achieving the goals associated with them, recognizing that there may be sacrifices at times, either in one’s career or personal life. These priorities can be re-visited as one progresses in their career and as personal demands shift. It is also crucial, when balancing family and career to have a partner that is supportive of your career and professional development, and/or a reliable support system to help as needed or in cases of emergency. Finally, carving time for oneself, no matter how small, to recharge is also a must.

    Those interested in joining the community or collaborating can reach out to Farah Fawaz: f.fawaz@comcast.net

LebNet, a non-profit organization, serves as a multi-faceted platform for Lebanese professionals residing in the US and Canada, entrepreneurs, investors, business partners in a broad technology eco-system, and acts as a bridge to their counterparts in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East


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