On April 6, a DIY festival Beirut Mini Maker Faire was held in Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, a small country in the Middle East. This was the first held in Beirut. The development of creative ideas rooted in Lebanon and a sincere exchange of views on the startup scene was seen.
East meets west
Lebanon is well known cultural and historical place, the nation located at the Mediterranean sea meets the culture between east and west. Phoenician people are part of the roots of Lebanese, they were the first to use iron and steal in the history of humans.
It is not a large country, but it is full of complex cultures, with 4,26,000 people in the area.
In the city full of beautiful buildings, mosques and churches are everywhere, and in the church I visited, I was praying to Jesus Christ in Arabic. That is the history of Lebanon.
The beautiful city named Beirut, another name is “Paris in the middle east”, the capital of Lebanon and their running the first Mini Maker Faire Beirut on 6th Aplil 2019.
Craft / Technology / Industrial … Beirut Mini Maker Faire Across Multiple Communities
Omar Hussein, one of the organizers BMMF, says: “There are many hardware enthusiasts in Lebanon, but unfortunately there is not enough movement to connect each other. The Middle East and North Africa countries around Lebanon had more opportunities, and there were more exhibitors and participants, so we were able to connect with more people.”
I think that the first edition of Beirut Mini Faire was great! The ambiance, the makers, the attendees, everything was a good fit. We have also received a lot of positive feedback. People are already asking when is the next faire going to be.
There’s a lot of hardware enthusiasts/makers’ potential in Lebanon but unfortunately, not enough of emphasis on it. So the maker faire came in to :
-Convene and interconnect makers from around Lebanon and MENA region
-Connecting makers from Lebanon, MENA region with various stakeholders
-Present exhibitors with investment opportunities
-Amplify the potential of Lebanese makers through series of technical skills workshops => better prepared skilled workforce
-Support local tech, hands-on, and hardware based businesses => encourage “Made In Lebanon” driven economy over service driven economy
-Propel concept of in-house manufacturing for businesses with mass produced products
The BMMF hosted by Antwork, a coworking space in the Beirut, Beit al Atlas also. Berytech and others of the entrepreneurial community, it was not a large-scale faire, with only 80 pairs of exhibitors a day, but in Lebanon and Beirut Reflecting the nature of the city, it was a place where various communities met and mixed. It’s not a free ticket, and 300 paid visitors are a great success.
Lebanon is a country with a tradition of handicrafts that produces excellent designers. With such a community in the background, BMMF was an event where various handicrafts were prominent.
Coworking space Beit Al Atlas hosted me and Chibitronics CEO Jie Qi. This is also a multicultural maker space, and various parties gather at the party.
Designers present handmade items
Beirut has the face of a literary city with 21 universities. A number of projects that normally remained in university research were brought to the Maker Fair, attracting the attention of visitors.
BMMF also has Maker Faire’s goodness.
Of course, DIY hobbyists, Tokyo and others that can be found in Maker Faire anywhere in the world are also exhibiting at BMMF. The makers of the Lebanese PCB community tell me that they order from Shenzhen in China,
He showed me a board made of various things, such as “Always use the service of Shenzhen such as Fusion PCB and PCBWay!”
They study drones at university, and when I point my camera at the drone, they fly slowly towards me to get a good shot.
The organizer, Omar, recalls the event, “I wanted to make an event as early as possible, and I wanted to make it a mix of designers and artists, hobbies and professionals, and those.”
Session: Hardware Companies Make More Sustainable Company Operations
Various panel discussions were held all day in the conference room in the hall, but the focused session was held by Band Industry founder of global hardware incubator HAX alumni, Bassam “Hardware is Hard” session.
Bassam is successfully growing the company with two successful Kiskstarter campaigns, $ 178,000 (the first generation, 2013) and $ 500,000 (the second generation, 2017), on hardware that automates the tuning of guitars called Roadie He talked about hardware startups in Lebanon:
I started in Silicon Valley in 2009 and returned to Lebanon in 2012. In 2014, he joined HAX to travel to Shenzhen, China, and has since been frequented by Shenzhen.
Of course the hardware itself is manufactured in abyss. There is no hardware ecosystem such as plastic exterior, PCB trim, wireless certification, etc. It is difficult to move prototypes involving such partners outside of Shenzhen.
However, such an environment is only in Shenzhen and a few other places, and except for some places, it is not “where better than Lebanon”.. And in hardware companies, there are various parts in addition to their manufacture, and you have to do everything properly.
Prototyping to focus in product concepts, and marketing that targets the world are no different than anywhere else, even in Lebanon. There are German engineers in my company, but if we were based in Germany, the cost of the company would be prohibitively high.
In China’s eco system, the cost may not be as different as there is in Lebanon, but the lifestyle there is not at all good for thinking about the fundamentals.
Here in Lebanon, the company can operate without stress, including the ease of work, the ease of finding a collaborator who can tell the story, and cost control. Because hardware startups have a lot to do, it’s important to work in an environment where you have control.
He talked about running a hardware startup in Lebanon, and also asked questions from the venue: “Becoming an entrepreneur, I think it’s going to change a lot of things in life and be a long choice,” “What is the disadvantage?”
It was a big applause from the hall that they answered, “It is the best reward to learn various things and to keep learning now. The drawback is that you could not get rich too much …”.
Everyone is creative and everyone is techie: Aya Bdeir, Little Bits CEO
Another highlight of the BMMF is the hands-on workshop on soldering, programming, etc., all around the venue.
Technology and startup culture spread across borders, and refining technology and creativity is the act of opening the door to your life anywhere in the world.
All the BMMF workshops that were held for various ages were very successful.
Multilingual Lebanese work around the world. Aya Bdeir, who acquired Ph.D. at MIT Media Lab and was the founder of Little Bits, a world-renowned educational toy, is the representative.
The BMMF venue, Antwork, is a co-working space / office share with many companies (many software and service companies), and also has a maker space, Lamba Lab inside.
On the wall of the maker space, Aya’s words “Everyone is creative and everyone is techie” are listed. I felt that it is a term that points to the future of Lebanon with a clear aim.
Many of the main members of BMMF, such as Bassam, Omar, and others mentioned above, are members of this Lamba Lab, and they are connected with more people by opening a maker faire, and participate in various fields such as skills, business, investment, and research. It can be said that the BMMF’s greatest purpose has been achieved when each individual has expanded their possibilities.
This report originally published in Japanese at the tsumug edge site. Masakazu Takasu interviewed and wrote both Japanese and English.