Smart ESA to launch fintech and B2B accelerator. First program to benefit from Central Bank’s Circular 331 - Lebanon

Smart ESA to launch
fintech and B2B accelerator
First program to benefit from Central Bank’s Circular 331
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ESA Business School’s incubator and accelerator, Smart ESA, plans to launch before the end of 2019 an acceleration program that will mainly focus on financial technology (fintech) and business-to-business (B2B) solutions, said Jihad Bitar, Director of Smart ESA.

This will be ESA’s first acceleration program to benefit from the Circular 331 of the Central Bank (BDL). The university has so far been tapping its own financial resources.

Smart ESA will inject cash in early-stage startups in exchange for equity.

The nine-month program could include various fintech solutions such as blockchain technology, according to Bitar. Lebanon’s fintech market is still underdeveloped, he said.

The B2B solution could include developing software for businesses, Bitar said.

The program will leverage ESA Business School’s relationship with banks and the financial sector in Lebanon and abroad to provide market access to startups and help them build networks, Bitar said. Startups will be able to market their solutions to the banks, which may outsource fintech services to those startups, he said.

Smart ESA will provide startups with required training and mentorship. The most successful startups will have access to services of accelerators in France and the United States that work with Smart ESA.

Smart ESA launched in 2016 as an initiative of BDL, the French Embassy, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris and Ile-de-France. Sixty-five startups have graduated from the program.

Circular 331 provides incentives to banks to encourage them to acquire equity in startups operating in the knowledge economy and creative and innovative sectors. The knowledge economy, as defined by BDL, usually includes information technology, electronics, and other sectors that use technological solutions.
Reported by Shikrallah Nakhoul
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Date Posted: Apr 15, 2019