Samer Karam

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Samer Karam
NationalityLebanese
OccupationEntrepreneur, investor, author and activist
Years active2004-
WebsiteSamer Karam on LinkedIn

Samer Karam is a Lebanese entrepreneur, investor, author and activist. He founded Seeqnce, the first startup accelerator in Lebanon, created the Accelerate conference, and has had a leading role in building Lebanon's startup ecosystem and promoting, advising, mentoring, and investing in startup ecosystems across the world. He is considered to be "probably the most influential tech person across the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region."[1]

Early career and activism[edit]

Karam created Blogging Beirut, a citizens' photojournalism website, in 2004. During the 2006 Lebanon War, it became one of the most visited blogs in Lebanon.[2] In 2007, he founded his first tech company, Wunbox,[3] with a concept similar to Google Wave.[4] He also started a couple of businesses based on Twitter.[2][5]

In this period, Karam co-authored scientific papers on community information and location technology.[6][7]

With his campaign "Flip the Switch", Karam lobbied the Lebanese minister of communications into tackling the nation's stifling connection speeds. During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, he kept a real-time online register of missing persons.[8][9][10]

Startup initiatives[edit]

In 2010, Karam decided he would assist Lebanese early-stage startups. After a few months of running a collective, he realized that the growing startup scene needed a space. Converting a derelict apartment in Hamra into an office and raising $700,000, Karam founded the startup accelerator Seeqnce.[11] Seeqnce was the first startup accelerator in Lebanon[4] and one of the first in MENA, providing investment, mentoring and offices to each startup. Its first two batches of start-ups raised more than $10 million.[1]

In 2014, Karam turned Seeqnce into Alice, one of the first online accelerators, which was based in London and supported by angel investors. For startups, it offered financial templates, performance metrics, and a global pool of mentors. For investors, it provided a library of startups seeking investment, with financial and business information, investment portfolio management and performance monitoring. Its name was a nod to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, as Karam likened creating a startup to going down the rabbit hole.[12] At Mobile World Congress' 4YFN conference in Barcelona in 2014, he set up the pavilion featuring 14 leading Arab startups.[13]

He was a venture capital advisor of Banque du Liban (BDL, the Central Bank of Lebanon) and was a member of the founding steering committee of BDL's Circular 331 startup fund, worth $600 million. Karam created the Accelerate conference, which was one of the 10 biggest tech conferences in the world in 2016.[14] Together with Nicolas Sehnaoui, he created Beirut Angels, an initiative to gather Lebanese angel investors.[1][15] His initiative Startup Megaphone has promoted the Lebanese startup ecosystem by holding events abroad,[16] such as Startup Lebanon,[17] and creating national strategies and guides endorsed by BDL, such as Lebanon’s Startup Ecosystem Roadmap and Startup Guide Lebanon.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "From bombs to bytes: How Beirut's tech scene is thriving". BBC. 2017-01-20.
  2. ^ a b "Building a career on the web". Gulf News. 2010-07-29.
  3. ^ "Livetwitting: un homme, trois start-up". Le Commerce du Levant. 2010-04-01.
  4. ^ a b "Sky is the Limit for Lebanese Entrepreneurs". Fair Observer. 2015-11-26.
  5. ^ "LiveTweeting, Real-Time Event Coverage With Crowdsourced Translation". Startup Arabia. 2009-12-09.
  6. ^ "Geographic 'place' and 'community information' preferences". University of Minnesota. 2008-01-01.
  7. ^ "Sharing the big apple: a survey study of people, place and locatability". ACM Digital Library. 2005-04-02.
  8. ^ "Le who's who de la blogosphère libanaise". Le Commerce du Levant. 2011-10-07.
  9. ^ "Google's Wael Ghonim still missing in Egypt; company asks for help". Los Angeles Times. 2011-02-01.
  10. ^ "Lebanon web suffers from 'world's slowest connection'". BBC. 2011-10-13.
  11. ^ "From The Heart Of Beirut, Startup Accelerator Seeqnce Plans To Thrive". Tech Crunch. 2012-06-05.
  12. ^ "Going Down the Tech Rabbit Hole with Beirut's Alice". The Wall Street Journal. 2014-01-20.
  13. ^ "Middle East tech news: What you need to know from February". The Next Web. 2014-03-03.
  14. ^ "Steve Wozniak Went To Beirut And Wowed 8,000 People". Forbes. 2016-12-19.
  15. ^ "Beirut's Bright Future As A Tech Hub For MENA, If Its Politicians Will Allow It". Tech Crunch. 2015-04-03.
  16. ^ "Lebanon a gateway to start-ups' success". The National. 2015-10-10.
  17. ^ "La troisième édition de « Startup Lebanon » se tiendra à la Silicon Valley". L'Orient Le Jour. 2018-05-25.
  18. ^ "Publications". Banque du Liban.