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Communications of the ACM

Arab World special section: Hot topics

Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Lebanon

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In Lebanon, and way before the arrival of seed money, venture capital, and other forms of equity support for start-ups and innovative ventures, the main source of support came from the SMEs bank loans guarantee programs provided by Kafalat.a With successful platforms implemented by the Lebanese Central Bank through initiatives such as Kafalat, the entrepreneurship ecosystem started to take shape and flourish through universities in the early 2000s. The catalyst was support from the Lebanese Central Bank in 2014 in the form of Circular 331,b,c injecting an estimated US$400 million in the Lebanese enterprise market through private equity funds, with the support of local banks. Such support gave rise to the U.K. Lebanon Tech Hub in 2015 (UKTH), an international accelerator initiative between the U.K. government through the U.K. embassy and the Lebanese Central Bank, in addition to the launch of new accelerators and incubators including Speed in 2015, Flat6Labs, and Smart ESA in 2016. In parallel, the World Bank supported the launch of the iSME Fund, a private equity fund entrusted to Kafalat to manage in 2015, and Circular 331 provided the support to launch Berytech Funds, Broadgate Y Venture Partners, Middle East Venture Partners, and many more venture capital and private equity funds.d

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Success Stories

Despite the challenges that Lebanon has faced over the past five years, several success stories materialized in its entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since 2015, UKTH/The Nucleus Ventures accelerated 100 start-ups, created 2,000 jobs, with 42 start-ups reaching the seed funding stage, 10 series A, four series B stages, and one successful entry in the online gaming space. Three current companies in the Nucleus Ventures portfolio have valuations above US$10 million, with Proximie valued at over US$30 million.


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