Rolling updates on Beirut, a city and a tech community devastated

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It was only relatively recently, in October 2018, that TechCrunch held Startup Battlefield MENA to unpack startups in the Middle East and North Africa. When TechCrunch went looking for a city in the region to host the event in, it quickly became clear that Beirut was the one for us. Vibrant, full of creative entrepreneurs, and a fantastic startup scene made it a natural TechCrunch choice.

That year Beirut came into its own as tech cluster, with the ongoing emergence of the Beirut Digital District, Antwork and similar initiatives and spaces in the city.

Beirut has created many stand-out startups including Instabug and MYKI, as well as local VC funds including BeryTech Fund and Leap Ventures among others.

Startup Battlefield MENA was a huge success and helped shine a light on that ecosystem.

But it goes without saying that both Lebanon’s financial and political crisis last year, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, has hit Beirut very hard.

We have therefore witnessed the explosion yesterday, which devastated the city and so many lives, with enormous sadness. Our hearts go out to everyone there.

So this post will not be a traditional TechCrunch post about startups and investors.

This will be kept as a rolling list of updates and stories from the tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and investors in a city which is close to TechCrunch’s heart and will be updated as we get information, and put into sections.

Any tech founders or investors in Beirut can email me a statement about how they are doing, if they are well, how their team are doing, if their office was damaged etc. Any stories AT ALL can be sent to mike [AT] mikebutcher.me and I will assemble them for publication here. Put “Beirut” in the subject line.

URGENT NEEDS:
Maps of Shelters, Initiative to Locate Victims https://helplebanon.carrd.co/

FINANCIAL DONATIONS:
You can donate to the Disaster Relief Fund, Lebanese Red Cross and others here.

Lebanese Red Cross donations should be done on desktop (not mobile as their app has some glitches).

Impact Lebanon, a non-profit organization, is a social incubator for driven Lebanese around the world and is raising a crowd-funder here.

Life Lebanon is a relief fund created by the Lebanese in Finance organization (a serious organization formed of expats mostly in UK and US)

DONATE BLOOD:
To donate blood in Lebanon: https://dsclebanon.org/who-we-are | http://www.redcross.org.lb/SubPage.aspx?pageid=317

Vetted and reliable NGOs worth supporting:
Lebanese Red Cross
Offre Joie
Chance Association
Bank to School
Arc En Ciel
Bassma
Sesobel

VOLUNTEERING:
Offre-Joie is an organization that is very respectable and has done good work in reconstruction post-civil war, it’s now seeking volunteers and raising a relief fund here.

MEDIA / INFORMATION:
The961 is one of the leading Lebanese English media/news sites and nd one of the handful of independent and non-politically backed media outlets in the country. Check their Instagram page for pictures/details of missing people by families and friends following the explosion. They are working with a couple of full stack developers from the dev community in Lebanon to develop a platform of some sort where people can submit missing people and their info. It will be set up directly on The961.com as an extension to the news site. It’s also launched a fundraiser for the Lebanese Red Cross through their NGO (legally registered in Canada).

STORIES FROM THE GROUND:

• Entrepreneur Omar Itani: “Yesterday I lost a lot, my car, my house, my phone, one of our shops. The shop was inaugurated less than three months ago, we have poured hundreds of hours of work into the shop and invested thousands and thousands of dollars. Since its opening, the shop has been doing tremendously well and became one of the city’s fashion landmarks. Today the shop is only a memory nothing remains, all vanished in a second.” Read here.

• Business Empower is a Beirut-based technology company that offers e-commerce, data analytics, security and cloud solutions for several local and multi-national companies. The business has sustained significant damage from the event. It was stablished in 2008 by founder Mouhammad Fakhoury. Fakhoury, a Syracuse University alumni and previous Software Engineer at Adobe Systems and Microsoft, who moved to Lebanon to start his own company. Thankfully no one was physically hurt, employees were working remotely due to covid-19 restrictions.

MORE UPDATES WILL FOLLOW….

(Image credit: AP Photo/Hussein Malla)(Hussein Malla)

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