An Interview With Middle East Based Accelerator: Seeqnce

Last week we interview Fahad Bizri, a founding member of Seeqnce.

Seeqnce is a highly acclaimed Internet Startup Accelerator based out of Beirut, Lebanon.It operates a year-long accelerator program, taking inspiration from best practices of global accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars, coupled with an in-depth understanding of specificities & cultural nuances of the Arab World.

Fadi Bizri is a Founding Member and Program Director at Seeqnce. Fadi is a serial entrepreneur and consultant with product management expertise. He has acted as a Project Manager for Cinemoz and is also a Co-Founder of iSpicePhotos, an award-winning iPad application that allows consumers to interactively browse and analyse their Facebook photo collections.

Why did you start Seeqnce?

We started Seeqnce in 2010 as a way to bring together internet entrepreneurs and help energize the startup ecosystem in Lebanon.

You use lean startup methodology at Seeqnce. How has it helped you and the startups to become successful?

Seeqnce being only a few years old is itself in some ways a startup. We naturally followed lean startup methodology by starting small. The initial Seeqnce office was tiny, however it quickly encountered interest from entrepreneurs, with presentations, workshops and coworking activities taking place there. The strongly positive feedback encouraged us to move to a bigger space and to structure a more ambitious, year-long program, called the Seeqnce Accelerator Program. Since it began in early 2012, the Program and the lean startups coming out of it have become a force to be reckoned with in the region.

What stage do you look for companies at?

The Seeqnce Accelerator Program (SqP) generally works at the seed stage, where individuals and teams can apply to the program with only an idea or concept, and even that isn’t necessary because they can eventually join other teams with an idea. The SqP then offers the chosen teams an end to end 6 months acceleration package which includes mentorship, investment, a space and other premium services.
On another note, Seeqnce Directors also provide off-Program advisory on a case by case basis for seed, early stage and growth stage startups.

What is one thing you wish founders knew before coming in?

Really understanding that this is not a 9 to 5 job, and that you have to be highly driven and with a very strong “get things done” attitude. Nothing lowers team morale like a member who is not carrying his own weight.

What else surprises startups about the incubation process?

A lot of things! For example, many coFounders come from a consulting background and don’t understand that being overly analytic can kill a startup. A lot of time has to be spent teaching coFounders to launch quickly and not wait for the perfect product to be ready.

What are some of the top lessons you learned from starting companies yourself?

The right team with the right achievement-oriented mindset and the right advice is key to success.

Success stories/startups that Seeqnce has mentored?, the “Hulu of the Arab World” was fully accelerated by Seeqnce and is now valued at over $7.5M after 2 years of work.

Any other advice to upcoming entrepreneurs?

There’s no such thing as part time entrepreneurship. You have to throw yourself completely into it. Also, if you’re not fast in the internet sector, you’re dead. Any entrepreneur that cannot launch a web/mobile product prototype within a month or two has already failed.

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