Yesterday, April 17, Darwazah Startup Accelerate Demo Day held a conference alongside the final leg of its competition for Lebanese start-ups. Throughout the evening, the debate on whether or not we should be in love with entrepreneurship as the future of business – a topic that has been hovering around a lot in recent years all over the world – is what many speakers kept coming back to.
It started with Darwazah Center for Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship’s director Bijan Azad stating that three in ten startups survive a period of ten years, and one out of three succeed visibly. Most importantly, Azad advised entrepreneurs not to fall in love with their ideas because future challenges will divert them from their original concepts. However, co-founder of music streaming platform Anghami Eddy Maroun contradicted Azad’s advice, explaining that being an entrepreneur isn’t only a job, it becomes an obsession. Maroun insisted you should be engrossed in the idea; otherwise, you will not be motivated to proceed with developing your business. Had he and his partner Elie Habib not been inspired by their own personal need to listen to music while engaging in other activities and not being online, they would have not become what they are now, Maroun explained. Still, Maroun debunked the hype around entrepreneurship, first urging youngsters to gain corporate experience before starting a business. He then explained that entrepreneurship can be a trap of sorts: yes, entrepreneurship is all the hype, but it shouldn’t be the ultimate benchmark leading aspiring businessmen to lose track of everything else. Only should one go for an opportunity if it actually presents itself, not because being an entrepreneur is trendy.
Nutshell Nut Butters founder and AUB grad Lama Abi Mosleh focused on the challenges facing start-ups in Lebanon, including bureaucratic governmental procedures – which she described as mundane and never-ending;and her own emotional turmoil, health and well-being (“One day you will be celebrating your wins and the next you will just crash,” she explained). Abi Mosleh also insisted on the flurry of activity on social media that complicates product differentiation and awareness raising, a point that Maroun had also insisted on, especially in the case of music streaming where piracy is a major concern.
The last word went to Said Darwazah, son of Samih Darwazah (founder of multinational pharmaceuticals company HIKMA of the center organizing the event), who used the story of HIKMA to show how there should be a middle ground between falling in love with an idea and remaining flexible enough to adapt it to the market’s demand: his father’s original concept had to be eventually dropped to effectively start the business.
No doubt the debate will keep on raging for a while.