Student entrepreneurs shared their ideas and networked with successful entrepreneurs on Thursday, March 30, during the innovation and entrepreneurship forum “Make It Work.”
The forum, which took place in West Hall, was launched by the AUB Student Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the Entrepreneurship Club (eClub), and the Nature Conservation Center (NCC).
“We have certain expectations of what it is to be an entrepreneur without having a concrete understanding of what it actually is. We also have the creativity that we only channel into projects and grades although we have so much more potential,” said Make It Work Founder and Chief Organizer Lama Miri
The forum was divided into three sections: “In the Works,” which was a tech versus art exhibition, “Make It Happen,” which was a networking forum, and “Working it Out,” a panel discussion with the CEO of Speed@BDD, the CEO and co-founder of AltCity, the director of the Nature Conservation Center, and the founder of CIVVIES.
“Make It Work aims at giving you this push, to inspire you enough and to motivate you to do more, and the best way to do that is to connect you to people who do what you’re thinking of doing —which is entrepreneurship— and who can satisfy your curiosity and answer your questions at the same time,” said Miri.
“Make It Happen” provided a space for students to pitch their projects to local incubators and accelerators. These projects ranged from solar water heaters and a new waste minimization system to sensor-equipped goggles and an efficient way of detecting oral cancer. Another room of West Hall was dedicated to startups such as Synkers, Carpolo, and Parkr.
“I think this event offers hope, a chance for entrepreneurs to know that we can do something,” said Nivine Halabi, a student at the forum who pitched her online nutrition platform that offers weight plans, light restaurant menus, and comfortable office equipment. “I have this idea but I don’t know where to implement it, so I think it’s a chance for people who have ideas to share.”
Each panelist in the “Working It Out” discussion offered valuable advice for young entrepreneurs, following a few words given by Dean of Student Affairs Talal Nizameddin, Ph.D., and Founder Lama Miri.
Sami Abou Saab, the CEO of Speed@BDD, suggested that students make use of the rich variety of majors and tools offered at AUB, considering that the university offers several different centers and new educational tracks to help entrepreneurs, but also suggested they expand their networks.
“Start here but also, whenever in need, be open to see what’s out there, what other universities are offering, what other skills are out there, what other diversity you can bring to the table by reaching out to bigger communities and bigger networks of people,” said Abou Saab, who also discussed the importance of sharing ideas with others before they were finished to get feedback and improve them.
AltCity’s David Munir Nabti, who at some point asked the entire auditorium to yell out their names as loud as they could, told students to take every opportunity they could to network, to test out ideas, and to gain experience outside of the classroom. Taking risks is also essential for Nabti, who thinks that it’s easier to take a risk and ask for forgiveness instead of playing it safe and asking for permission.
Both Abou Saab and Nabti stressed the importance of pursuing something that students are passionate about, rather than going after the money.
“People who are only in it to make money are generally really bad entrepreneurs,” said Nabti.
NCC Director Najat Saliba called upon the power of observation during the panel, telling students to look around and see what their community needs when thinking about their startups and endeavors.
“I think what’s lacking is observation and not conversation,” said Saliba.
Aya Hoteit, who founded CIVVIES to produce sustainable fabrics in an eco-friendly way, told students to go beyond learning and mastering one skill. Winning the IBDAA award while she was a student at AUB, Hoteit shared her experience during the panel, which she called both her first victory and failure.
“I always thought that we had to master one skill and then we go from there to wherever we want, and we can be successful,” said Hoteit. “I went to IBDAA, I presented one project, and then I realized that it requires a lot more. Making an idea happen requires a set of skills, so that was the first point of failure. I won IBDAA, but I failed at taking my idea past that point.”
The “In The Works” space brought together quirky technological devices and unfinished student works in a “tech vs art” exhibition that reflected the student creativity and innovation present within the AUB community.
While being on stage was a “bittersweet moment” for Lama Miri, she later told Outlook about her intent to push Make It Work even further into something that tackles more specific issues but in the same spirit.
“This was the early beginning of Make It Work,” said Miri. “You’ll be seeing it more and more, and very soon.”