Launching a startup requires a lot of dedication for the entrepreneur from the inception of the idea to receiving the necessary funding. In the Lebanese ecosystem, entrepreneurs seem to worry about the latter.
The question, which many founders are eager to get the answer of is, “how can Lebanese entrepreneurs increase their chances of receiving funds?” I reached out to the Fund Manager at MIC Ventures, Lara Fadlallah, to get her insights.
Lara holds an MSc in Finance with Merit from Cass Business School in London, and a BA with Distinction from the American University of Beirut. She also has had plenty of work experience in major investment banking firms such as Morgan Stanley in London, as well as private equity firms like White Wolf Capital LLC in Florida.
What are the qualities you look for in an entrepreneur from a VC perspective?
Resilience and perseverance: Startups go through many ups and downs. A successful entrepreneur should be able to go the distance, hang on for the ride, and work on overcoming challenges.
Passion: Passion drives conviction and confidence, which in turn drive perseverance, discipline, and curiosity.
Curiosity: Consumer behaviors and needs are constantly evolving. It is very important for an entrepreneur to be curious about how these behaviors and needs are evolving. The desire to learn and improve allows the entrepreneur to better respond to his audience.
What are the criteria on which you decide which startup to invest in?
First of all, we are adamant about having a strong management team, where at least one of the co-founders has the necessary tech skills. We also like teams that have proven that they have good money management skills and strong cash discipline. We want businesses to be able to survive and thrive without constant injection of cash. Obviously we want to see scalability, and a transformational value proposition.
In your opinion, what are the unexplored areas or fields that entrepreneurs should focus on in the Lebanese ecosystem?
Fintech is always an interesting vertical. Only a few players exist in the Lebanese ecosystem and we believe that the banking industry is ready to be disrupted. B2B startups that are focused on providing business efficiencies usually grab our attention. We are in a period of cost cutting, and most business, governments, banks, etc. are looking for solutions to reduce costs as well as improve customer satisfaction.
What should entrepreneurs keep in mind when pitching their startups to investors?
Be well prepared and do your homework. Show that you understand the ins and outs, and the strong and weak points of the business, the competition, and the market. You need to have a solid 360 degree understanding of your business and competition.
Be able to communicate your passion towards your company and to clearly describe the problem tackled and solution provided.
In your opinion, what makes a startup stand out from its competitors?
We invest in people. Successful businesses are not only the ones that offer a unique\original product or service. Successful startups have a solid team behind them.
As success does not happen overnight, what tips would you give entrepreneurs who might consider giving up?
“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th”. Entrepreneurs must not lose focus of their goals and the bigger picture. Sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and not get bogged down with small details that may not be too important.