FuckUp Nights Beirut Vol.VIII

Opinion04.04.2019Marielle Marktanner

It’s not often that we celebrate failures. Just take a quick glance at your social media platforms. Are you seeing wedding proposals or divorce announcements? Acceptances into top universities or lamenting faces over academic rejections? Statistics for booming businesses or posts of bankruptcy from their disheartened owners? I know I’m seeing a lot more of the former than the latter. But that changed last Friday at Volume VIII of FuckUp Nights Beirut, where we celebrated the professional failures of Lebanese entrepreneurs as learning experiences for the future.

While I’ll admit that I don’t know much about starting my own business, I can only imagine that it’s not an easy feat… especially in Lebanon, where growing numbers of recent university graduates are choosing to emigrate and start their careers abroad due to promises of higher returns and greater political stability. Nevertheless, entrepreneurial opportunities in Lebanon are slowly beginning to blossom, especially after Banque du Liban kicked off the Circular 331 program in 2014 with prospects of creating $400 million capital in revenue. So through private and public sector incentives, the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lebanon has a positive outlook for the future. In fact, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor conducted by the Lebanese American University (LAU), in 2017, “six out of ten adults saw good opportunities to start a business” in Lebanon, while “nearly one in four adults in Lebanon was either starting or running a new business.” Our speakers at FuckUp Night, Paul Saber, Issam Hachem, Walid Wannous and moderator Ali Chehade also resonated with the local start-up scene in Lebanon and therefore shared stories of their personal failures with the audience.

Paul Saber, co-Founder and CEO of eTobb, shared seven lessons from his failed business experience. Lighthearted and insightful, Paul told the audience that among his biggest fuck-ups was starting a business with his (now ex) girlfriend and pursuing a career in a field that didn’t really interest him. For every fuck-up he shared, he added a corresponding life lesson he learned from the experience. His take home message was to choose your business partner wisely and to work in the field that one is passionate about.

Next, Issam Hachem took the floor. Issam spoke about his digital solutions business and the fuck-ups he experienced throughout his career on that front. Ironically, Issam experienced technical difficulties as he spoke about coding in his field. Nonetheless, Issam left the audience with an encouraging impression of the business world, particularly in Lebanon, and remarked that a true entrepreneur must pursue what feels right, despite the challenges of breaking from one’s comfort zone.

Following Issam, the mic was passed to Walid Wannous, Co-founder & Director of Digital Productions at Koein. As he spoke about the changing times, Walid drove home the message: “the most important thing in a business is to adapt.” This particularly rings true for Lebanon, where I find that flexibility is a crucial element of the societal structure. Furthermore, Walid spoke of the necessity to be prepared for failure at any time. It can happen to any one, in any situation, so one might as well have a back up plan. 

Last but not least, moderator of the event Ali Chehade, also spoke about his professional failures and what they’ve taught him throughout his career. Then he invited members of the audience to share stories from their fuck-ups as well. From taking out student loans to poor dating decisions and career mishaps, the audience engaged in lively and honest dialogue about failing forward and the new doors it’s opened for them instead.

Before ending the night, the audience got the chance to socialize and network over drinks and pizza (courtesy of Margherita Pizzeria).

All in all, I truly felt that the FuckUp Night was the perfect opportunity for past and present entrepreneurs to share stories of their personal failures while rising entrepreneurs gained the courage or hint of motivation to grasp their window of opportunity. With the uplifting mood and encouraging vibe, it once again proved to me the immense potential young people in this country and region have, especially when given the proper resources and tools to pursue their passions while striving for big goals.

Pictures from the event may be found on our Facebook page. Also, feel free to listen to the event podcast here.