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Creative Cluster: Bringing together talent, keeping it at home

  • Beirut Creative Cluster

BEIRUT: If businesses pool together their creativity, they can help each other grow and realize their potential – better than they would on their own. This is the idea behind the new Beirut Creative Cluster.

“Lebanon is a small market. If we want to compete on a global scale, we need to think about cooperating – not competing – with the companies next door,” says Salim Tannous, founder and head of the BCC, whose background in media and technology helped him in developing the strategy.

Launched last summer, but still in its infancy, the project based at the business development center Berytech, aims to give new companies a boost by giving them the institutional support they need to make it past the crucial first five years. The initiative brings together 25 companies – 23 so far – from different sectors with the aim of them benefiting from one another’s talents.

So far, members of this cluster, which doesn’t yet have a physical location apart from all being Lebanese and coordinating with Berytech, include professionals at various stages of media production, including design, sound, post-production and marketing.

“We’re getting heads of companies to come together and discuss certain projects,” says Tannous, who believes that such collaboration could save those involved both time and money by pooling their common resources.

This could include inviting international experts to Lebanon to hold training workshops for all members.

There have been previous attempts to start clusters in Lebanon that failed. But Tannous believes this one will be different because of the expert and institutional support – such as a small amount of seed funding from the European Union – and dedication of its members, although he admits it has been no easy feat.

“Most companies I came across were very skeptical. They didn’t know what a cluster was,” he says. “The idea of [businesses] collaborating in Lebanon is a new idea.”

Although new to Lebanon, the concept of a business cluster has existed since the 1990s, introduced by U.S. author Michael Porter and later popularized by economist Paul Krugman.

A study conducted by Iconoval, an image cluster in Alsace, found that while the survival rate for companies younger than five years is typically around 50 percent, those that are part of a cluster have a nearly 90 percent survival rate – a good sign for Lebanon’s budding technology companies.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2013, on page 5.
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