August 8, 2014
The final stop on our Coworking Week world tour takes us to Lebanon, where innovators, corporations, and the government have combined forces to create a coworking space in the heart of its capital city.
What we found particularly interesting about this coworking space is the grand infrastructure behind it. Most coworking spaces around the world, including The Common Desk, are essentially grassroots initiatives geared toward creating a local community for freelancers and entrepreneurs, and are most often created by people who are part of that community.
Digihive, on the other hand, is the child of a major corporation (Berytech), a developer (Zein Real Estate), and a government agency (the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunication). Its goal, quite simply, is to grow the number of start-ups and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) operating in the country and make Lebanon, and Beirut in particular, a center of innovation in the world of technology.
Digihive is housed in the carefully planned Beirut Digital District (BDD), across the street from the Ministry of Finance building in the heart of the city’s active business center. The district itself is, in fact, an initiative of the same entities responsible for its coworking space. But don’t be fooled by the corporate/ government overlord vibe that the infrastructure and history of Digihive and the BDD seem to suggest.
Berytech itself was founded by local folks at Lebanon’s Saint Joseph University specifically to encourage an environment conducive to the development of start-ups. Its whole function is to provide incubation, business support, counseling, funding, networking and hosting for entrepreneurs.
The corporation’s and the government’s hope is that, by enabling independent Lebanese innovators to participate in wealth and job creation, they might encourage the retention
of graduates and those with hi-level skills within Lebanon and, ultimately, spur a much-needed economic revival throughout the country.
That these traditionally top-down entities are so focused on collaboration and local innovation and recognize the value of coworking in such a space seems a noteworthy step in a positive direction.
Logo and images of building and conference room gathered from the Berytech website