This year, Step Conference celebrated it’s 10th anniversary, and no better way to celebrate it than with an in person event! In the own words of Ray Dargham, CEO of Step, “The last two days have been incredible. We put on the best conference to date.”
And the Purpl team couldn’t agree more! What a blast we had, showcasing, networking, pitching, and most importantly witnessing how vibrant and innovative the tech community in the region is!
Here are our top 3 takeaways:
1. Nothing beats in person events
After 2 years of virtual events run over Zoom or other virtual event platforms such as vFairs, we were really excited to get the opportunity to showcase alongside 150+ start ups from the region (being the only fintech start up hailing from Lebanon).
To top it off, we were pre-selected alongside 34 other start ups for the Step Pitching Competition and we made it to the final 10. It was humbling to get a chance to share our story (our WHY, HOW and WHAT) in front of a public audience for the first time!
Being a tech founder in Lebanon can be quite lonely these days, given the whole tech ecosystem abruptly grinded to a halt due to the severe economic and social crisis the country has been experiencing for the past 2 years. Being surrounded by like-minded & driven entrepreneurs, no matter which field they are in, really helps you keep going.
The stunning venue, the energy flowing amongst participants, the human connection, the wisdom shared on stage by fellow entrepreneurs, investors and others, are things that will never be able to translate in the virtual world (no offense to the new buzzword #metaverse).
2. Fintech is no longer just a buzzword and is here to stay
Fintech funding smashed several records last year, surging by 169% from 2020, with $132 billion raised – the most funding in record. Fintechs captured $1 in every $5 from venture capital firms and in 2022 the expectations are to cross the $150 billion mark.
That being said, I do believe valuations are hugely inflated and not sustainable in the long term, but it is hard to ignore the amount of innovation and solutions in the fintech space.
Innovation isn’t always about coming up with new technologies that only early adopters will understand and get exposed to for a couple years before it becomes mainstream, but it is also about making use of existing solutions and improving them, making the adoption by the early and late majority more instantaneous and therefore bigger impact early on.
And this is what we are about at Purpl! It is not just about glitzy and sexy words (NFT, web3 is being used everywhere these days) but about disrupting inefficient solutions to solve big problems. By launching the first remittance and cash out aggregator in Lebanon, we are ending a monopoly on $7BN yearly remittances that has made us the 5th most expensive inward remittance country in the world, in a time when more than 80% of the Lebanese population is living under the poverty line and rely heavily on these remittances from their close and distant families abroad to buy basic necessities, such as food and medicine.
That doesn’t mean we are not looking at innovative ways to then be able to provide less costly and seamless experiences, but let’s focus on solving a simple problem really well before venturing into newer technologies. And this brings me to my 3rd takeaway…
3. Embrace competition & partnerships
It is virtually impossible to solve every world problems on your own and in order to be around for the long run, partnerships are necessary and competition is healthy. Let’s talk first about partnerships between fintechs and incumbent players, which are more and more being embraced in the region. Just a few days ago, Mashreq Bank announced an investment and partnership with Nymcard. Incumbent players should no longer see fintechs as competition, but as an extension and partners that will help them accelerate innovation and growth. Purpl has been working hard on building such partnerships in Lebanon and we hope to be able to announce some of them soon!
On the competition front, the more the better, if you have faith in your drive, capabilities and offering. Firstly, competition means there is a market and you are in the right place. Secondly, competition brings spotlight and interest from investors, you don’t have to convince them about the market opportunity on your own.
One thing is for sure, after a week spent in Dubai, I can confidently tell you that entrepreneurship has not only survived the pandemic, it is now thriving and roaring back in full force!
Written by: Karl Naim