Three Lebanese startups have just been given a boost of $1.15 million to expand their operations regionally. The Building Block Equity Fund, backed by Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program and managed by Middle East Venture Partners, is investing $400,000 in the fast food chain Shawarmanji, $250,000 in Arab recipe web portal Shahiya and $500,000 in the online book distribution company Cedar Books.
During a ceremony Wednesday evening at Sursock Gardens, Bader Group President Robert Fadel said the funding was aimed at “providing young entrepren1eurs and people with innovative ideas and projects with funding ranging between $50,000 and $100,000 so that they can achieve their ambitions.”
He added, “Investing in startups is referred to as venture investment, but Bader believes that encouraging entrepreneurs and SMEs does not entail any kind of adventure; rather it is an investment with guaranteed returns for the Lebanese economy and a proactive tool to achieve economic growth and provide job opportunities.”
This funding announcement is one of many initiatives over the past several years to encourage the development of entrepreneurship and small- and medium-sized enterprises as Lebanon looks to move toward a more knowledge- and innovation-based economy.
Building Block CEO Khaled Zeidan said the fund invested in Shahia because of its success in generating users, 1.1 million so far, with a 15 percent monthly increase in traffic. The investment in Cedar Books was a result of the company’s three years of successful operation as its revenues rose from $2.9 million in 2009 to $12 million in 2012. The investment in Shawarmanji follows the young chain’s growth into six branches, five in Lebanon and one in Dubai, since it first opened last year.
Zeidan said these investments showed that productivity and creativity are still alive in Lebanon, despite the country’s economic difficulties. He said that “the companies that benefited from these investments were chosen according to international standards pertaining to the solidity of the business and the competence of those behind it. We believe that creative startups with a promising future are the cornerstone for the local economy and for providing job opportunities. This is why we are helping them to develop and expand.”