At first glance, Chile and Lebanon appear to have little in common. After all, they’re separated by thousands of kilometers, speak different languages, have dissimilar economies, and engage in relatively small bilateral trade.
But a closer look reveals striking similarities between the two countries. Both are discovering new and important identities within in their respective regions. Both are emerging from turbulent political histories while enduring various infrastructural and resource constraints. And both possess creative and well-educated youth who are struggling to find work in traditional sectors.
Perhaps most importantly, Chile and Lebanon both share a unique opportunity to emerge as entrepreneurial hubs in their regions.
In July 2015, the World Bank and Lebanon’s Ministry of Telecommunications hosted a week-long event aimed at harnessing these similarities to share knowledge and experiences between the two countries’ burgeoning innovation ecosystems. The series of activities, called “A Conversation with Chilean Changemakers”, was implemented locally by Berytech – a startup incubator and support program – and brought to Beirut four Chileans who have championed their country’s rise to entrepreneurial prominence in recent years.
The event was funded by the World Bank’s South-South Knowledge Exchange Facility and supports the Mobile Internet Ecosystem Project (MIEP, www.mie-p.org), a collaboration between the World Bank and Lebanon’s Ministry of Telecommunications to foster entrepreneurship and economic growth.
Promoting bilateral knowledge sharing
“Chile’s tech scene is driven by several unique academic, private sector, and government-supported institutions working together towards a shared vision of innovation and entrepreneurship,” explained His Excellency Boutrous Harb, Lebanon’s Minister of Telecommunications. “By better understanding how Chile advanced its startup ecosystem, we can be better equipped to tap Lebanon’s potential as a regional hub of entrepreneurship.”
With this in mind, the week’s events included:
- A study tour of Lebanon’s diverse and growing innovation ecosystem stakeholders;
- Targeted focus groups between Chile’s changemakers and representatives of Lebanon’s university, venture capital and financial sector, as well as government stakeholders; and
- A public forum for the broader community to interact with the delegates.
The events were designed to catalyze future conversation, consultation and collaboration between the two countries’ innovation ecosystem stakeholders – as well as to expose them to their surprising and promising similarities.
These similarities were not lost on the likes of Sebastian Vidal, one of the Chilean delegates and CEO of Startup Chile, a government-funded startup support program considered one of the world’s most successful institutions for promoting entrepreneurship. After spending a two-day study tour meeting venture capitalists, accelerators, co-working and creative spaces, media and culture organizations, and entrepreneurs, he reflected, “I’m actually really impressed about everything I’ve seen in the ecosystem. Many patterns here in Lebanon – such as the organic emergence of co-working spaces and accelerators, or the increased exposure to venture capitalists in the region – closely reflect those we saw three years ago when Chile reached its tipping point of entrepreneurship. The pieces are really beginning to fall into place here in Lebanon as well.”