A new London office for Lebanese tech entrepreneurs, enabling them to use the UK as a springboard for global growth, has opened in the heart of Tech City in Shoreditch.
The London office is the first overseas base of the new UK Lebanon Tech Hub, which aims to support the growth of the knowledge economy in Lebanon.
It will allow the most promising Lebanese companies to base themselves at home but visit London to tap into UK expertise and mentoring, develop partnerships, and use it as a platform to break into new markets.
The UK Lebanon Tech Hub, launched on 30 April, is a joint initiative by Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s Central Bank, and the UK government through the British Embassy in Beirut.
In the past, Lebanese business success has usually been achieved overseas: 90 per cent of Lebanese live abroad and the diaspora is estimated to be around 14 million.
But in the last few years the ICT sector in Lebanon has witnessed significant growth: during 2009-2014 due to factors such as the ‘youth bulge’, a new generation are looking to take forward opportunities within their own country, rather than move abroad to start up.
The tech sector has grown by an average annual rate of 7.9 per cent to reach a market size of US $381 million in 2014. The Beirut Digital District (BDD), launched in September 2012 that hosts the country’s growing tech community, is symbolic of this change.
Government assistance has also improved, with entrepreneurs receiving financial support through various initiatives including the Banque du Liban’s Circular 331 scheme, launched in 2013, which made available $400 million to encourage banks to invest in the knowledge economy through direct investments or venture capital funds. Under the scheme, the Banque du Liban covers 75 per cent of investment by commercial banks.
Colm Reilly, CEO of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub, said:
“For thousands of years Lebanon has had a reputation for trading and entrepreneurship. Despite tough conditions in the region, this spirit is evident in the new generation of entrepreneurs that are developing the country’s tech scene.
“With the opening of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub office in Silicon roundabout, Lebanese companies can be based in Beirut and also access London’s flourishing tech cluster. With an office in the heart of the capital, they can use it as launch pad for global growth.”
The Tech Hub hopes to stimulate more start-ups that go on to bigger things, such as shahiya.com, an Arabic recipe site established in 2010, which received around$500,000 in VC funding in 2012. It has three million monthly users and was sold last year to Cookpad, Japan’s largest recipe site Cookpad for $13.5m.
More information about the UK Lebanon Tech Hub can be found at:http://www.uklebhub.com/en/Home