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How is the UK helping to accelerate Lebanese tech startups?

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By Euronews
How is the UK helping to accelerate Lebanese tech startups?

The UK Lebanon Tech Hub (UKLTH) is an international programme supporting the growth of Lebanon’s knowledge economy.

In recent years, the initiative has backed more than 80 Lebanese startups, raising more than US$ 60 million and creating around 2,000 jobs in Lebanon.

The goal is to help startups from Lebanon to break into European and global markets, attracting investors and raising capital.

"What we basically offer the companies is a range of business services to enable them to grow within the country and outside Lebanon. The UK came as a natural and logical choice because of the unlimited opportunities that it offers to companies and due to its proximity to other global hubs," explains Houssein El Sayed, UKLTH's investment manager.

The hub allows surgeons like Nadine Hachach-Haram to help operate in a patient in Beirut, or anywhere else in the world, while she’s in London.

Nadine Hachach-Haram’s startup is backed up by UKLTH and allows doctors to take part in medical procedures remotely

Her start-up is supported by the tech hub and combines surgery to augmented reality, enabling doctors to “scrub in” virtually and take a part in procedures at a distance.

“For example, a couple of months ago, we had a difficult abdominal wall reconstruction case between the American University of Beirut and there were some experts from here as well, at [London’s] St Thomas Hospital, who were interacting through that case,” she explains. “It’s important to point out these were both leading surgeons on each side, but it was really a great way for them to share their expertise and share different approaches to managing such a difficult case.”

Companies in the retail market are also getting a kick start from this partnership between Britain and Lebanon.

Slidr, an algorithm-based website designed to drive down prices of tech gadgets, was originally created in Lebanon, but has now made London its home.

Talal Cheaib runs Slidr, an e-commerce website made possible with the UK-Lebanon tech hub partnership

“The idea came up in Lebanon when my partners were thinking how they could use the power of the crowd and they had a fascination with the e-commerce,” says partner Talal Cheaib. “The e-commerce market in the UK is over 100 billion dollars and the mobile penetration is growing 19 percent per year, so it was a natural choice.”

Bassam Jalgha, co-Founder of Band Industries, a Beirut-based start-up making its mark in the music market with gadgets that auto-tune guitars is also part of the hub. He believes breaking into markets beyond Lebanon is daunting but tools to help start-ups are increasingly there to help this happen.

“From one side, it’s quite hard for a start-up to grow to a new market, they need to understand the regulations, laws and also to understand the industry and how it operates in every local market,” Jalgha says “But, from the other hand, now in our modern times, there are many tools and many companies, even like law firms, that understand start-ups better.”

Thousands of kilometres apart, London and Beirut are becoming closer when it comes to tech, helping the smart brains of a generation to bring the innovations of tomorrow to global markets.