Innovative Business Plans Compete at AKSOB

Students devise business solutions to everyday problems.

By Raissa Batakji

Dr. Maya Shayya (C) with her students, who came in first and second place.
Jury members (L to R) Naji Boulos, Sarah Fathallah, Rony Abdel-Hay, Carine Fersan, and Elie Aoun.
Students present their business plan, ValeTrust, to jury members. They came in third.

Well into the evening of Tuesday, December 4, students from the Adnan Kassar School of Business (AKSOB) presented their business plans to a jury of top executives from local and multinational corporations.

For the event, which was organized by the Department of Management Studies, student teams were shortlisted across seven sections of the course Developing a Business Plan, offered on both Beirut and Byblos campuses.

According to Amal Rouhana, course coordinator, the competition aims to motivate students and potentially match winners with business accelerators and incubators to help bring their ideas to life. “The experience offers a unique opportunity for them to cultivate innovative ideas, expose their skills and apply what they have learnt,” said Rouhana.

Course instructors Dr. Maya Shayya, Tarek Shebaya and Kim Issa worked with their students over the semester to help them understand, identify, and simulate both business plans and market challenges that typically face startups. “The corporate world is increasingly competitive, so it’s crucial for our students to go through this simulation and hear the feedback firsthand from leading corporate executives,” said Dr. Josiane Sreih, department chair and associate professor, in her welcome address.

Indeed, the jury did not hold back. They took time to give feedback, probe students and offer constructive advice following each group’s presentation. Among the jury members were Promedic Chair Rony Abdel-Hay, Tamayyaz Chair Elie Aoun, Marketing and Communication Consultant Naji Boulos, Nestle HR Manager Sarah Fathallah, and Senior Brand Manager at BLC Bank Carine Fersan.

“Students’ ideas were brilliant,” declared Fersan, who is also the head of WE Initiative, a BLC Bank project that offers full-fledged support to startups, beyond financing. “They were solution-oriented, structured, and demonstrated an entrepreneurial-level of competing – which is impressive, considering their age and level of experience,” she added.

At the end of the event, jury members huddled to share notes and offer their final scores. Instead of the anticipated three, one extra team was announced a winner, as two groups tied for third place.

The team behind Beirut Farm, an innovative plan to grow food using hydroponic technology that is both sustainable and eco-friendly, won first place, while House Doc – an app that facilitates locating and reviewing house maintenance providers in Beirut – came in second. 

“We are thrilled to have won – we worked very hard on this project,” said Karen Geha, one of five students who made up the winning team.

During her speech, Dr. Sreih had underlined LAU’s integrated program of pedagogical innovation, in line with the Third Strategic Plan (SPIII). “LAU is at the forefront of innovation, especially with the establishment of the Fouad Makhzoumi Innovation Center,” she said, revealing that the school had recently added the Innovation and Entrepreneurship course to its Business Management curriculum, and will be pushing students to present forward-looking business models every semester.