Startup Accelerator Spotlight: Speed@BDD


Speed@BDD is tasked with producing Lebanon’s next high-growth businesses, particularly in the software, digital and Web/mobile industries.


CEO, Sami Abou Saab

Name of Accelerator: Speed@BDD

Location: Beirut, Lebanon


CEO Interviewed: Sami Abou Saab

This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.

In 2 sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.

Speed@BDD is a Beirut-based tech startup accelerator that strives to create an elite community for top-notch startups in Lebanon. We accept startups at the idea and early stages. Speed@BDD is tasked with producing the region’s next high-growth businesses, particularly in the software, digital and Web/mobile industries.

Why is your accelerator program unique? Describe the benefits of participation in your program.

Our program is unique for multiple reasons:

  • Speed@BDDA unique track record of 27 startups in Lebanon. 7 of which raised follow-on funding with a total of 2.25M USD in early stage funding, and 1 of which we were able to exit for a good return.
  • In-house business and technology coaches who follow the startups’ evolution weekly.
  • 100 mentors – including serial entrepreneurs, investors, and successful businesspeople from Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.
  • Follow-on immersion program in Silicon Valley sponsored by Speed@BDD for two teams per batch.

What is the most difficult part of working with startups?

The most difficult part of working with startups is to convince very passionate founders not to do certain things. This is especially true if it goes against what they have been working on for a long time. Founders tend to become emotional about their products, and it’s always difficult to make them separate that from what makes business sense for their startup.

Two Important Ways to Use Feedback to Improve Business Performance

What do you enjoy most about working with entrepreneurial startups?

I most enjoy connecting entrepreneurs with experts and corporations to provide them with advanced advisement and support for them to get access to market. The most fulfilling moment is when the startups show early signs of success due to those connections and start winning customers and even competitions. Each success for the startup feels as if it’s a personal success.

Tell us about your success stories. Which are the most interesting companies to have participated in your program?

Speed@BDDIt’s always difficult to pick and choose which startup is most successful. They all feel like our “children,” and it’s as if we’re picking which one we like more than the others. That said, if we look at success metrics, some of those criteria that define success are related to follow-on funding, customers acquired, and competitions won.

Identifying Startup Success: Use Backward Planning to establish Milestones & Metrics

So far, we have had good traction with high tech startups and a couple of them are doing very well – NARRational Pixels and Vision in Motion. In addition, Synkers, Cherpa, Carpolo, Neotic and Groovy Antoid are all doing great today. That said, many of the other startups in our alumni portfolio are growing and moving in the right direction and could be considered successful already.

What are the most importation factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?

Joining an accelerator is a matter of fit more than anything else. There are startups that do not need an accelerator to reach VCs and get funding. Then there are others that even if they join an accelerator, they wouldn’t get the value of spending that time in such an environment. That said, here are the 3 most important factors that entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating joining an accelerator:

  1. Coachability
    Are the entrepreneurs open to listen to feedback, pivot their model, and incorporate the input received from the mentors and coaches? This is a very important trait, since benefiting from an accelerator lies mostly in the ability of the entrepreneur to take feedback with an open mind and incorporate it in the startup. That’s the most important thing to learn, develop and evolve.
  2. Full-time
    Are entrepreneurs doing their startup part-time? That doesn’t work. A startup is at least a 5-year journey. If an entrepreneur is not willing to commit full-time to the accelerator for the 3-6 months period, then there is no way they can make the startup take-off and succeed.
  3. Network
    When joining an accelerator, entrepreneurs must always evaluate if it has the right network. Partners can get them access to the right experts, markets, and investors. This is the most important value that startups get from an accelerator and most of the learning and value is extracted from the network.Speed@BDD

What else would you like to share?

Speed@BDD started 2 years ago, and we have been very steady on our journey to build the next big thing from Lebanon for the region and the world. So far, we have had some early successes. We expect things to keep evolving and reach a point where something that will disrupt the world comes out of Lebanon. Our efforts, jointly with the nascent ecosystem, will lead to outcomes that weren’t even possible a couple of years ago.

Are you familiar with accelerators you believe should be spotlighted?  If so, we would like to hear from you.  Tell us about them in the comments below!

Pam Goforth

Pam Goforth is Research Manager for FundingSage, which provides valuable information, tools and resources to entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow and fund a business.