Member's Blog
Beirut Startup Enters Wearable Technology Market
Written by Malek

In Beirut, a small sports technology startup is also aiming to make a splash in the sector with its heart-rate monitor that tracks a swimmer’s laps, turns and timing, and can be fitted to any pair of goggles.

Instabeat’s monitor provides instant visual feedback on a swimmer’s heart rate and is designed to limit the level of drag when flowing through the water.

The company has already been making waves in the Middle East’s startup scene. It just closed an undisclosed round of funding from a group of Middle Eastern investors to produce the product and will begin delivering 1000 pieces in the first quarter of next year, according to founder Hind Hobeika.

Dubai-based Jabbar Internet Group, Jordan-based MENA Venture Investment and a group of angel investors have stumped up this latest round of cash. But Instabeat also raised $75,000 last year on U.S. based crowdfunding site Indiegogo and won $50,000 in 2012 for winning the MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab competition, she said.

“We’re creating a small community around the product,” said Ms. Hobeika, who started the company after swimming professionally while studying mechanical engineering at American University of Beirut.

The first batch of pieces will be sent out to 47 countries to investors that supported the fundraising on Indiegogo, as well as buyers that have purchased through the startup’s website.

The Instabeat monitor is being sold for $150, with an additional delivery charge of $25, said Ms. Hobeika. Later this year, she hopes to begin selling the monitor in retail stores, such as consumer electronic and sports shops, and plans to examine new technology for skiing, bicycling and running.

The patented swimming monitor is manufactured in the U.S. with components from China, while a team of five sits in Beirut running the company. However, Ms. Hobeika believes she’ll almost inevitably have to move to the U.S. or Europe at some point due to a whole host of obstacles in Lebanon.

The lack of a manufacturing culture in the Middle East has led to a dearth of talent, she said, while few people in the region are attracted to work for a 25-year-old female running a threadbare and unstable startup. “Nothing about being a startup in Beirut is easy,” added Ms. Hobeika.