Angel Investing in Lebanon: Helping to Build an Early-Stage Ecosystem

by IM Fndng CEO & EBAN Board Member, Nicolas Rouhana

Economic growth in Lebanon has been slow to rebound since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2010, averaging less than 2% per year. This slow recovery has been compounded by large numbers of job seekers entering inefficient labor markets. Much of the available capital in the region, including Lebanon, is directed to low-risk options or to larger companies with direct ties to government or an ability to draw on their own capital. Smaller companies and new business startups have difficulty accessing commercial finance, and access to investment capital has been almost non-existent.  

Uncertainty and instability have also affected financial resource flows into the country and constrained private investment, especially after the economic crisis that hit Lebanon in October 2019, following the uprising of the population against a corrupted governing system. Devaluation of the local currency, capital controls and lack of liquidity in banks plunged the country into financial chaos. As a result, the whole Lebanese entrepreneurial eco-system collapsed, VCs and angels’ activities disappeared, as well as a whole load of support programs and accelerators.

As Chairman and CEO of IM Fndng, grouping IM Capital & IM Ventures funds with $60M under management, my team and I are endeavoring to provide needed support to early-stage and growth-stage businesses in order to create and sustain jobs, and encourage increased equity investment, contributing to the goal of providing availability of equity capital and revenue capital for new, innovative, growth-stage start-ups and existing small and medium businesses. 

IM Fndng provides Matching Capital, Equity Guarantee and Technical Assistance to businesses and investors in Lebanon, and with these investment components, we were able to contribute to the development of the Lebanese investment eco-system by launching several new initiatives. As such, we co-created the first Seed accelerator in Lebanon “SpEED@BDD” that graduated more than 35 startups, created and managed 5 business angel groups “Seeders & LWAF” comprising of more than 135 angel investors (one of which women-only investing in women-led startups), trained more than 65 mentors on MIT VMS methodology, co-invested in more than 45 startups, leveraged more than $40M from private capital, and created and maintained more than 800 jobs, with more than 40% women inclusion. The investment sectors covered are quite diverse: SaaS, Internet Platforms & Marketplaces, EdTech, Hardware & IOT, Arts Fashion & Design, Entertainment, Agro-food, Textile and Chemicals.

I am very proud to have contributed to a very strong early-stage investing eco-system in Lebanon from angels and VCs, with stellar metrics in terms of gender, engagement, portfolio building for angels, to building bridges to the early-stage VCs that I am managing. I can share a lot of that experience to the other members of EBAN, especially that I am now on the board, and I am so stimulated that I’ll be able to apply those innovations on a much bigger scale now that’s all of Europe. 

Me being part of EBAN board will also help us developing our current outlook, which is to attract the Angel community to invest in Lebanon, starting with the Lebanese diaspora and European investors, and giving more visibility to the Lebanese scene and opportunities.


About the Author

Dr. Nicolas Rouhana (PhD) is currently the Chairman and CEO of IM Fndng, grouping IM Capital & IM Ventures with $60M funds under management, providing Matching Capital, Equity Guarantee and Technical Assistance to startups, investors, business angels, incubators and accelerators in Lebanon.

Between 2002 & 2015, Nicolas was the Executive Director of Berytech, a leading Technology Business Innovation & Incubation Center in Lebanon. He is also currently President of the Internet Society-Lebanon Chapter and the Chairman of Speed@BDD accelerator, board member of Berytech and several Lebanese technology companies.

Nicolas has a Telecommunications Engineering degree from Saint-Joseph University in Beirut, a PhD in Networking Systems from Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, and an EDP graduate from INSEAD, France.