“Give your dream a big hug”

How the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship inspired Elias Maalouli to launch his own company

From: Elias Maalouli
Sent: Monday 03 September 2018 22:35
To: Veroniek Collewaert
Subject: Simple Hello
Dear Veroniek,
Hope you are doing great. I am sitting in my office, it's 12:00 a.m, I've slept 3 hours in total since Friday morning and I just launched my start-up FoundersBei. (…) 
I just want to say that the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship programme really inspired me (the disruption tour to Silicon Valley especially) to start 1 year ago when I went back to Beirut. I remember at Plug & Play, I told you I wanted to open this back in Lebanon, and I remember how you smiled at me. Thank you for all the knowledge you shared with us, it's a big part of where I am today.

Elias Maalouli 

Elias Maalouli (FoundersBei)When our entrepreneurship professor Veroniek Collewaert received this e-mail from Elias, she smiled again. “Because he proves that our Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship really works.” This is his story.

After taking a Masters in International Business Management in Beirut, Elias Maalouli started working with a real estate development company, where he digitized the finance department. “But I quickly felt I had reached a ceiling: Lebanon is a small country with a lot of family businesses. You don’t have a lot of corporate companies where you can easily grow. So, I had the idea of starting my own business. But in order to do so, I wanted to take a masters in finance somewhere in Europe. Vlerick was in the heart of Europe, had good rankings and an appealing brand.”

But you chose to take a Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship…  

Elias Maalouli: “Mind you, I originally applied for the Masters in Financial Management in 2015. But due to issues with my visa, I had to wait for another year. And that was just my luck, because in 2016 Vlerick introduced the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship! I remember looking at the programme and thinking: ‘I must follow my entrepreneurial heart instead of my financial head!’ (laughs)"

“I remember looking at the Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship programme and thinking: ‘I must follow my entrepreneurial heart instead of my financial head!’”

What was your Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship experience like?

Elias: “The whole programme was really interesting, with a lot of events. My classmates and I were like family. Of course, you sharpen the required skills in order to set up your own business, but the real added value for me were the many interactions with entrepreneurs and start-up founders throughout the year. We learned from their successes as well as their mistakes. So I gave that failing-forward philosophy and my dream a big hug! (laughs) Today, I’m not afraid of failure anymore.”

“I’m not afraid of failure anymore”

What did you enjoy the most?

Elias: “Ah, the trip to Silicon Valley, which is still the hub of entrepreneurship and innovation. I knew upfront that this was going to be a big inspiration for me. And I was not disappointed. We visited Plug & Play, a huge incubator space where groups of 3 or 4 people were working on their start-up. I felt the buzz and I remember saying to Veroniek: ‘I’m going to start a co-working space in Beirut.’”

“I have learnt more in the past year than in the 5 working years before I started my Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship”

Last September, you launched FoundersBei. How did that go?


Elias: “When I returned to Beirut, I further developed the idea, did a market analysis, built my network and also discovered myself as an individual. I have learnt more in the past year than in the 5 working years before I started my Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Last September, we officially launched FoundersBei, a co-working space with 15 private offices, 20 co-working spaces, 3 conference rooms and a big venue for events. By the end of this year, we should reach full capacity. But we don’t just offer space, we also give strategic advice, facilitate match-making with possible investors, etc. From 2019 on, we will start with community events, hackathons, start-up competitions, etc. We host startups and companies from different industries, but we focus on social ventures and social entrepreneurship as our country presents multiple social issues in need of solutions. Oh yes, you can say I bring my Masters in Innovation & Entrepreneurship to life! (laughs)”

We wish you the best of luck, Elias!

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