Beirut, 9 January, 2015 – Endeavor Lebanon and Lebanese International Finance Executives (LIFE) held the Global Lebanese Entrepreneurs and Investors Summit, a unique meeting that brought together over 300 expatriate Lebanese investors and business executives, and local entrepreneurs, and investors with the goal to create a dialogue between Lebanon's economic stakeholders and the Diaspora positioning Lebanon as a market for investment. Staged at the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut on December 22nd, 2014, under the patronage and in attendance of the Governor of Banque Du Liban H.E. Mr. Riad Salame, the day-long summit showcased the constructive evolution of Lebanon's entrepreneurial ecosystem and success stories, and connected the country's scale-up SMEs' entrepreneurs with international business leaders and investors.
Adel Afiouni, Board member of LIFE, stated in his opening note: " Lebanon prides itself in a unique and exceptional pool of expatriates abroad, businessmen, entrepreneurs, wealthy investors and senior executives. They have access to capital, to expertise and to global business connections, which is exactly what Lebanon's rising entrepreneurs and SMEs need to thrive. Today we want to bridge that gap and increase the capable expatriates' involvement in the Lebanese economy and their investments in Lebanon beyond real estate, bank deposits or government bonds. This partnership with Endeavor aims to encourage the business and investment dialogue between expatriates and local SMEs and create more connectivity, and we plan to take it forward with more specific and measurable objectives in the coming years".
Hundreds of high net-worth, venture capital and growth equity investors flocked to the summit from the world's major financial centers in New York, London, Paris, Geneva, Singapore and Dubai. The international executives and investors attended with a strong appetite to explore the latest on the entrepreneurial scene in their motherland and find investment opportunities in businesses, built by a young and bright generation of Lebanese entrepreneurs in non-traditional sectors. Active local investors Khaled Zeidan, Souheil Hajjar, Joe Issa El Khoury, Walid Hanna and Gilles de Clerck spotlighted in their panel the intricacies and the returns of investing in Lebanon, particularly in new industries such as technology and design, and shared first-hand experience in venturing in Lebanese businesses.
On a different panel, international investors Samir Brikho, Wahid Chammas, Habib Kairouz, Fady Abouchalache and Marc Malek discussed various ways through which Lebanon can attract international investors.
Tarek Sadi, Managing Director of Endeavor Lebanon, said: "Lebanon boasts a vibrant scene of entrepreneurial talent and SMEs with great potential to grow, but this potential remains capped due to lack of access to capital and international markets. This summit, organized with our partners LIFE, has given birth to an investor network that specifically strengthens that weak link and creates the missing connections. Hundreds of people are here today because they truly care to revive the country's economy and help it grow, and we will capitalize on their keen interest, capabilities and international experience to transform the entrepreneurial sector in Lebanon".
In his keynote speech, H.E. Mr. Riad Salame stated that the Banque Du Liban plans to license a stock exchange that would list SMEs and family-owned businesses, to facilitate exit strategies for Lebanese entrepreneurs. This will come in a series of several important initiatives undertaken by BDL in the past two years to support local entrepreneurs, including the issuance of circular 331 that put $400 million at the disposal of start ups and other stakeholders.
In another keynote speech, Gilbert Ghostine, leading global business executive from Lebanese origin and CEO of Firmenich, engaged the audience with his perspective on how Lebanon can be transformed into a competitive business platform, and the role of leadership and culture in the investor-investee relationship. Mentors and investors Hala Fadel and Nadim Chammas summarized to attendees the latest developments in the Lebanese entrepreneurial sector, its growth potential, and successful global businesses that were built and grown out of Lebanon.
From their end, High-Impact entrepreneurs Labib Shalak, Jamil Corbani, Mohamad Arayssi, Anis Rahal and Nada Debs shared their success stories, failures, and insights on how they attracted capital despite the many challenges and risks inherent in the country.
In the closing session, former ministers Jihad Azour, Nicolas Sehnaoui, Marwan Kheireddine and prominent entrepreneur and investor Maroun Chammas weighed in with their outlook on the Lebanese entrepreneurial ecosystem and making the best use of the 331 circular to charge the economy's engine.
Throughout the day, the summit participants seized the chance to network and make personal introductions and business connections during coffee breaks, lunch and Christmas drinks. Organized and led by entrepreneurship-support NGO Endeavor and the Lebanese International Finance Executives (LIFE) society, the event was sponsored by BankMed and Banque Libano-Francaise (BLF).
breaks down barriers that prevent entrepreneurs from reaching their high-impact potential. Hailed by NYT
columnist Thomas Friedman as the "mentor capitalist" model and “the best anti-poverty program of all,” Endeavor identifies entrepreneurs leading high-growth innovative companies around the world. These entrepreneurs are given world-class strategic advice, access to key networks and other tools that will catapult them to success. With Endeavor's guidance they become “high-impact” – expanding employment, generating wealth and inspiring others to innovate. Often overlooked, these local entrepreneurs are now jumpstarting private sector development in their countries. Endeavor Lebanon currently supports 21 entrepreneurs from 16 companies.
Lebanese International Finance Executives
(LIFE) provides a platform to channel the influence of Lebanese finance executives towards accomplishing three aims: connect, nurture and promote. LIFE achieves these objectives through a number of activities including business networking events, providing internships, scholarships and mentoring for young aspiring talent as well as providing career transition advice for mid-career professionals. LIFE also aims at investing in entrepreneurship in Lebanon and at raising awareness of Lebanon within international financial circles.
LIFE currently boasts over 750 members globally with chapters in the US, UK, France, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Singapore and the UAE and has a senior committee in Lebanon. LIFE organises events monthly in all of its chapters and two major events every 18 months, the LIFE Senior Leadership Offsite and the Gala dinner. The latest Gala dinner took place on November 14th, 2014 in London and helped LIFE reach a new fundraising record of over US $1.3M channeled towards the Nurture programmes.
LIFE was established in 2009 and is funded by its members’ fees, by individual donors as well as by the country’s major banks.
LIFE Generation is the charity arm of LIFE, it is registered in Beirut, France, the UK and Switzerland and is funded by large institutional donations, by a breadth of individual donations and by its Gala dinners.