Sheraa Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) just announced that it will be donating the sum of USD $100,000 in equity-free donations to 10 Lebanese startups, with the mission of rebuilding the city and reigniting the innovation movement in Beirut. The 10 Lebanese startups are members of MITEF Pan Arab alumni community and have long been contributing to the growth and development of their surrounding communities.
The #UnitedForBeirut initiative comes in response to the devastating explosion that took place in the Lebanese capital earlier this month which decimated a large area of the city. Entrepreneurs and small business owners were among the impacted people, bringing their operations to a complete halt.
Monetary support, while equally important to humanitarian aid, had proven to be an urgent need to many, especially with the economy facing an unprecedented crash. Startups have been spearheading the relief efforts across the city with some ‘pivoting’ to help with food distribution, medicine delivery, and healthcare. The Lebanese innovators are making great use of their regional connections and expertise to streamline the rebuilding process.
The $100K fund that was set up by Sheraa will translate to grants of US$10,000 each for 10 select startups integral to the redevelopment of Beirut. This initiative is part of a US$1 million Solidarity Fund Sheraa announced earlier this year in honour of the #UbuntuLoveChallenge, a global initiative launched this April by Sheraa Chairperson, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, and thought leader, Mamadou Kwidjim Toure, founder of the Africa 2.0 Foundation, to inspire changemakers worldwide to actively help their communities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.
The 10 startups, selected with the support of the MIT Enterprise Forum (MITEF) Pan Arab, will also receive up to US$10,000 each in Amazon Web Services (AWS) Activate credits as part of the AWS Activate program (https://aws.amazon.com/activate/), and could also benefit from technical support, training, mentorship, and go-to-market support to help them develop and grow their business.
Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa, said: "Sheraa’s first priority is to support founders in their time of need, and that includes those beyond our borders who have been affected by the tragic Beirut explosion. By providing these leading Lebanese startups with financial grants, Sheraa is expanding its mandate beyond Sharjah to help empower founders across the region.
We are proud to have partnered with MITEF Pan Arab to select 10 Lebanese startups to receive Sheraa’s grants, as they operate in sectors we believe will be vital to enabling Beirut’s local community. We are also proud to collaborate with Amazon Web Services to provide in-kind support.
We are confident that the vital contributions of these ventures will boost Lebanon’s socioeconomic development efforts and help restore the city of Beirut. This confidence stems from Sheraa’s longstanding belief that impact-driven and tech-enabled startups can contribute immensely to developing a strong and diversified economy, anywhere in the world,” Al Midfa added.
Maya Rahal, Managing Director of MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab, said: “Despite the tragic event that hit Beirut and its people last month, we have hope that the future generation of action leaders, civil society, and entrepreneurs will lead for a better world. This partnership with Sheraa is yet another proof of the power of community, which we have witnessed recently on the ground in Beirut, and throughout our work during the past 14 years.”
She added: “Our network of startup founders has shown unprecedented solidarity and support to their surrounding community, where they used their expertise to provide immediate food and shelter to affected people. While selecting the beneficiaries for this donation, we paid particular attention to the impact that the financial contribution will make in the short and long term. We have complete faith that our alumni will rise to the tremendous challenge ahead of them: to rebuild Lebanon and to thrive against all odds.”
Ned Jaroudi, Startup and Venture Capital Business Development Manager, MENA at AWS said, “We are pleased to collaborate with Sheraa and MITEF Pan Arab on this important initiative to support Lebanon’s startups. Entrepreneurship has always been key to problem solving, whether it’s building disruptive business services or developing solutions with positive social impact. We look forward to working with the startups as part of the #UnitedForBeirut initiative, helping them benefit from the power of cloud computing as they innovate solutions to rebuild the community and accelerate its recovery efforts.”
10 high-potential startups selected for their capacity to boost efforts to rebuild Beirut
In the aftermath of the Beirut tragedy, startups have navigated seemingly unsurmountable on-ground challenges to take the lead in carrying out life-saving emergency relief efforts across the city, helping with food distribution, medicine delivery and healthcare. After carefully studying possible beneficiaries of the #UnitedForBeirut initiative, Sheraa and MITEF Pan Arab have selected 10 high-potential and socially minded tech-driven startups, which operate in sectors like housing, water sanitation, healthcare, ecommerce, among others – all vital to ensuring both immediate and long-term wellbeing of Beirut’s local community.
Winning startups were selected based on the impact they suffered due to the crisis, how they plan to use the grant donation, and a presentation of their two-year development plans based out of Beirut. All chosen startups also plan to leverage their regional connections and expertise to create jobs in the future and deliver a sustainable positive impact on Lebanon’s economy.
The 10 startups include:
- Buildink, a 3D concrete printing company that designs and builds single-storey houses fitted with custom designed furniture in just one week, reducing the total construction time up to 75 percent;
- Mruna, which has developed a decentralised network of nature-based wastewater treatment systems that are remotely monitored by IoT devices and require minimal operational maintenance;
- Moodfit, an online interior design and furnishing platform that helps people furnish their homes by connecting them with professional interior designers;
- FabricAID, a social enterprise that collects, sorts, and redistributes clothes to disadvantaged communities at micro prices ($0.1 - $0.5 per item) while reducing fabric waste;
- Sympaticus, a sustainable tech-driven social enterprise that seeks to improve access to mental health services for women in the MENA region through mobile application services.
- B.O.T (Bridge. Outsource. Transform), Lebanon’s first impact sourcing platform that uses market intelligence and technology to provide managed remote freelance work opportunities to unemployed youth and women from vulnerable communities;
- KwikPak Shelter, a ready-to-deploy emergency housing concept for refugees and vulnerable people forced to migrate and communities caught in natural disaster zones who are no longer able to cope or meet their basic shelter needs for survival;
- Compost Baladi SAL, a social business specialised in sustainable organic waste management that seeks to promote the recovery of valuable resources from biowaste;
- Basma, a medical device company that provides orthodontic and restorative treatment globally using 3D printed devices through their own network of doctors; and
- Kids Genius (The Makers Hub), a makerspace designed especially for youth aged between 7 and 18, which is equipped with tools and machines that cover different fields of technology related to hardware development.