More than a month has passed since Beirut suffered one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosions in history. The blast, which pulverized the Beirut port and ravaged much of the city, left more than 190 people dead, 6,500 injured, 300,000 without a home, and $15 billion worth of property damage. And as the city slowly heals and tends to its wounds, uncertainty and apprehension over the future of the country still linger heavily in the minds of dejected citizens.
But while the state falters, ordinary citizens from all walks of life are coming forward to help one another. On the day following the explosion, young men and women armed with nothing more than brooms and shovels had already taken to the streets to help clear out the debris. Just a few days ago, concerned citizens spent three sleepless nights with rescuers digging through a crumbled building on the faintest sign of life coming from underneath the rubble. Meanwhile, the startup community, for its part, has been hard at work too.
For instance, there is The Makers Hub/Kids Genius, an educational endeavor powered by engineers and hobbyists ‘eager to spread a “Maker Culture” among youngsters’. Kids Genius produces curricula and hands-on activities aimed at teaching kids about machines, electronic components and materials. Following the blast, the company has decided to shift their efforts to support the community, according to its Managing Director. For now, the company is working on shifting a part of their courses online, ensuring that they remain accessible to curious minds, stemming from their belief that a good education ‘along with hands-on application’ remain integral to building a better tomorrow for Lebanon. The Makers Hub/Kids Genius was one of the six successful candidates that made it to TIP’s second cycle.
Then there is Live Love Beirut, an initiative that aims to highlight the beauty of Lebanon and the creator of the lauded Live Love Recycle app, another TIP alumni. Shortly after the blast, Live Love Beirut put together the Beirut Relief Coalition (BRC), a league of nonprofit organizations and initiatives all working towards rebuilding Beirut, helping coordinate several reconstruction and assistance activities, from damage assessment to supplies distribution.
There is also My Say, a Lebanese polling and insights app that is bent on “building the future of democracy” say to its founders. The company, which gamifies polling and statistics, has leveraged its platform to collect all kinds of data related to the blast – from surveying housing needs to the mental health of affected citizens – all for the purpose of sharing it with donors and humanitarian organizations.
And Schedex. Schedex offers smart and automated employee scheduling software-as-a-service for companies that employ workers on a shifts or hourly basis. Schedex’s office was heavily damaged in the blast, but that’s not stopping the company from opening up its platform for NGOs to manage volunteers more efficiently. Furthermore, the company has decided to offer its services free to restaurants until the end of this year.
And it’s not just in Lebanon; Altibbi is lending a hand all the way from Jordan. The telemedicine platform has sought to alleviate the stress of an overstretched healthcare system in Lebanon, offering free medical access for residents of Beirut for free – remote consultations will be particularly useful for cases that do not necessitate in-person attention and follow-ups, easing up the burden on local doctors and hospitals.
And these are just a few examples. Before we wrap up, I wanted to remind you that, even before this ghastly event occurred, Lebanese startups were already battling with a tumbling economic situation as well as a protracted global pandemic, and yet, not even a seismic event such as the blast stopped them from rising to the occasion.