Beirut is rapidly shaping up as a crucial player in the region’s startup scene. Venture spoke to four Lebanese female entrepreneurs who have made major headway in Lebanon, the region, and even the world with their startups and creations.
By Dina Al Wakeel
The Lebanese economy is mired in problems. Growth and consumer and investor confidence continue to be held back by regional instability and a long-standing local political impasse.
Still, the Lebanese are a resilient bunch, with an abundance of potential and innovation. A positive development for all Lebanese startups has been a recent Central Bank decision to unlock $400 million for startup investments. This move, coupled with a serious attempt to create a tech hub in Beirut, will boost Lebanese startups’ competitive edge.
Here, Venture features four diverse Lebanese entrepreneurs, all of whom are women, for creating a successful business in a strenuous environment, for acting as a boon to the local, and in some cases even regional and global, economy, and the arduous task they still have ahead to maintain their success.
Today we feature Hind Hobeika, the Founder of Instabeat.
Hind Hobeika has caused a commotion in the swimming world, both sport and industry. In 2013, Hobeika, a former professional swimmer, created Instabeat, a revolutionary swimming tracking device that monitors heart rate.
She noticed the need for such a device during her time as a swimmer. The Google Glass-like technology provides swimmers with calorie count, number of laps, number of flip turns, and breathing pattern, in addition to their heartbeat. It also provides them with real-time feedback and the chance to track their progress.
“Instabeat is giving swimmers insights about their practice they were not able to get before,” Hobeika told Venture. “They understand more about their performance, how their bodies are reacting to their training and improving over time. Furthermore, Instabeat allows swimmers to optimize their workout by giving them real-time feedback.”
In 2012, Instabeat won first prize at the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab Business Plan Competition and third prize at MBC’s Stars of Science Competition in 2010.
The engineer, who graduated from the American University of Beirut and previously worked for the likes of Procter & Gamble, is currently in San Francisco where she is working closely with a manufacturing partner to prepare for the product launch.
According to Hobeika, who founded her Instabeat startup in 2011, there will be a full commercial launch very soon as they are currently at the final stage of mass production. The device costs $149 in pre-order mode, she said, adding that they are working on deals with distributors, but it’s still too soon to reveal further details.
As Hobeika prepares to launch her innovation around the globe, she reflects on the difficulties she faced during the past couple of years to turn an idea into a marketed product. Manufacturing, she said, is the biggest hurdle, fearing that she has underestimated its complexity, capital, and time requirements.
Yet Hobeika, whose team is composed of nine people, including engineers, designers, and a manufacturing team, is pleased that she has taken this project this far. “Instabeat was a life changing experience to me,” she said. “It was the first project that I pushed this far and took it all the way to market. I hope it becomes a worldwide hit, but if not, it has taught me how to make any dream of mine true.”
This is part three of a four-piece story. Part one features Chantal Abou Jaoude, the Cofounder and Managing Partner at EDGE and EDGE Middle East. Part two features Christelle Fakhoury, the Cofounder and CEO of C2C (Le Club Des Deux Clowns). Part four is coming soon.