Lebanese health startup heads to Silicon Valley

A Lebanese startup that helps diabetics closely monitor their daily food and medicine intake has been selected for a $50,000 equity investment and will soon travel to Silicon Valley. Spike, an app founded by serial entrepreneur Ziad Alame, was selected among a newly graduated batch of seven startups trained by Speed, which held a demonstration Monday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut of companies that had gone through its latest acceleration cycle.

“With the funds now, we’ll definitely be hiring people who would normally work at companies outside Lebanon,” said Alame, whose concept was sparked by his own daily struggle of monitoring his Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease that affects more than 125 million people worldwide. He expects to expand globally in the coming months.

For the Lebanese government, the country’s growing entrepreneurial sector presents an opportunity to develop the knowledge economy and create new jobs in the private sector.

“We’re working closely with the startup ecosystem. The message that needs to get out is his [Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s] initiative and commitment to the new knowledge economy and the startup ecosystem,” said Ghiath Barazi, adviser to the prime minister.

“Over the past 12 months, since we’ve been involved, it has become clear that the dynamics existing within the ecosystem allows it to move more quickly than the government can react. Any success, between government and ecosystem has to be led by the private sector,” he added.

In addition to Spike, the newly graduated startups included Actachef, an online platform for ordering fresh food to cook; Cabbis, a tool for traditional taxi companies to transition to an Uber-like model; Cravehome, an online platform for buying fresh homemade meals; DrApp, a platform for online consultation between patients and their doctors; Tapklik, real-time advertising technology that helps businesses in the Middle East reach their target audience; and TeensWhoCode, a community for computer developers under the age of 18 to learn new programming skills, which was also selected to travel to Silicon Valley.

Since Speed started its accelerator program in 2015, it has graduated 34 companies and over 100 entrepreneurs, creating around 600 jobs.

“We want our startups to scale, not be confined to Lebanon,” Speed CEO Sami Abou Saab said.

Source: Brooke Anderson| The Daily Star