Speed@BDD Graduates 6 Startups - Next Stop: Silicon Valley

Alexis Baghdadi, Jan 14 2016

Congratulations to the first 6 Lebanese startups that graduated from Speed@BDD’s first 3-month acceleration cycle.

The startups were showcased at the accelerator’s Demo Day held at the American University of Beirut, and had the chance to pitch their ideas in front of potential investors.

The lineup was sincerely impressive and the startups stood out because of their original ideas. “We had the privilege of working with some of the best entrepreneurs and we are thrilled to experience Lebanon’s transformation into a regional hub for global innovation,” said Sami Abou Saab, CEO of Speed@BDD.

Meet the Graduates

  • Blitz

This mobile-based social platform is a community for gamers, offering them the possibility of building and posting gaming challenges they can compete in. Blitz includes an option for users to build cashpot prizes through crowdfunding to reward the winners. The developers are also planning to build a web platform for PC users.

  • Carpolo

Carpolo was originally named Tulos, and was designed as a carpooling app for university students. The idea won the Samir and Claude Abillama Eco-Entrepreneurship Award in 2015 and received a $20,000 prize towards its development.

Renamed Carpolo, the concept evolved into a carpooling app for wider communities seeking reliable and inexpensive commuting solutions (with the added bonus of producing fewer emissions). It provides real-time, location-based ride matching services with a rewards system whereby users can accumulate points and exchange them for gifts or vouchers.

  • Modeo

The Modeo app is an A-Z do-it-yourself concept that enables users to design their own furniture (from tables to chairs, shelves, and storage compartments) based on 3 standard modular parts only - almost like Lego building blocks - and see their designs in augmented reality. The app then calculates the number and price of the necessary parts for each designed item, and Modeo ships the parts to customers who can easily assemble them.

Emile Arayes and Aline Gemayel founded Modeo with the idea of making customizable furniture practical, easily accessible, and affordable. The parts are available in different colors and sizes, and can be reassembled to create new design and items. The co-founders are currently fine-tuning the concept and experimenting with different materials to manufacture the parts.

  • Next Automated Robots (NAR)

On the long-term, Charlie Khoury and Nicolas Zaatar want NAR to spearhead the integration of cost-effective and highly performing drones in various industries for different applications.

The mission of their first drone is to detect wildfires and alert civil defense and firefighting teams. Their prototype won the National Microsoft Imagine Cup award (World Citizenship category) and the Global Social Venture Competition. The quasi-final version of their drone combines the aerodynamic advantages of planes with the mobility of drones, giving it a greater range and autonomy (thanks to reduced power consumption). NAR’s first markets for this drone will be Lebanon and California, where wildfires constitute a serious threat.

  • Rafiqi

The Rafiqi app (available on Google Play) is a social platform where users can suggest events and activities they are interested in, or look for other users’ activities and join in.
This event-matching feature is available to some degree on other platforms like Facebook, but has relatively limited options and visibility. For this reason, the developers decided to focus on it exclusively and create a free and friendly platform to make it easier for users to find people with similar interests. The app’s content is user-generated and available to users within a same geographic range.

  • RationalPixels

RationalPixels is a patent-pending software technology that allows the automatic placement of products in existing video content. The developers aim to streamline and facilitate the process of embedding unblockable and unskippable targeted advertising on video publishers’ websites, thus guaranteeing that advertised products reach more viewers.

This solution is accessible to a wide range of advertisers, and does not require them to have experience in digital advertising technology. According to the developers, only one similar solution exists globally, but the process is six times faster at RationalPixels.

Silicon Valley, Here Come the Lebanese Startups

NAR and RationalPixels came out as the top 2 teams in this first batch, and were selected for the LebNet Ignite acceleration and mentorship program in Silicon Valley.

This 2-week program is powered by the Blackbox Connect accelerator. It is designed to help Lebanese startups scale globally through trainings and mentorship sessions with venture capitalists, successful founders, and experts in team composition, product launches, and business and growth strategies.

Behind the Scenes of Lebanon’s First Acceleration Program

Another standout factor at the Demo Day was the surprising business maturity of the startups. “Surprising” because Speed@BDD is Beirut’s first fully-dedicated accelerator and investment fund after a long wait.

The accelerator’s effectives include veteran investors, entrepreneurs, and mentors produced by Lebanon’s nascent startup ecosystem, as well as international experts.

“We had high-caliber startups for this first cycle, and so we had to provide them with equally high-caliber sessions,” said Abou Saab. The huge success of the accelerator’s first cycle has set the bar high for the next round, but Abou Saab said they are to the challenge. “Lebanon needs more accelerators to cater to the world-class startups that it is producing,” he added.

According to him, the startups themselves can bring huge added value to the program, enabling the sharing and exchange of ideas. For example, the developers of RationalPixels all hold PhD’s in various fields of computer sciences, and were an invaluable “partner” for many of the other startups present there.

“Speed@BDD was an ecosystem within the ecosystem,” said Ahmad Wehbe of Rafiqi, who values the 3-month acceleration program very highly.

Apply Now for the Second Round of Acceleration

Speed@BDD is aiming to run 2 investment cycles per year. The accelerator has already started accepting applications on a rolling basis for its second batch, scheduled to start in April 2016.

The program is open to startups at the idea or minimum viable product (MVP) stage, and has a total duration of 3 months. Each selected startup could receive up to $30,000, and will also benefit from free working space, product development and business development workshops, accounting services, legal services, and mentorship in exchange for a 10% equity stake.

The application deadline is February 22, 2016. Full details can be found on Speed@BDD’s website: www.speedlebanon.com

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