Dreaming of a connection
Ali Chehade’s The Dream Matcher Experience connects dreamers to their dreams.
For most, dreams are something intangible; out of reach hopes that might never be realized. Ali Chehade though, an LAU Communications Arts graduate, is trying to bring people’s dreams a little closer to reality.
After working within the media production industry in the U.S. and Lebanon, a master’s degree in Professional Media and Media Management at the Southern Illinois University of Carbondale inspired a career-shift into entrepreneurship. He set up The Dream Matcher Experience, a live social networking event that matches people to fulfill their dreams.
Inspired by the global startup movement, Chehade sought out workshops to kick-start his knowledge and help launch his own business. “I had a really cool idea that I wanted to make happen. I’d read books on the start of Facebook and I thought ‘I want to do this!’ I want to be that guy. Maybe even better.’ “
His original concept was to create his own online startup, a social networking website that acts as a virtual Good Samaritan. Users’ dreams, which could be anything from meeting a celebrity to holidaying on an isolated Caribbean island, are matched through the website with those who can fulfill them. Chehade gathered together a small team in the U.S. and begun developing the online platform, before moving back to Lebanon
Facing a difficult investment climate in Lebanon to find the funding needed to develop the online platform, rather than abandoning the idea Chehade put it on hold and adapted his concept to real life. “I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I booked a venue two weeks ahead of time anyway, told the team and then started brainstorming.”
Since then Chehade has run eight successful Dream Matcher events in Beirut at AltCity, plus two in the U.S. At the events, a room full of strangers is separated into groups, each learning about each other’s intimate dreams. Once the dreams are pinned down, a Post-it note wall full of dreams is created. People are then connected with their dream partners, if a match exists.
So far, Chehade’s Dream Matcher events have fulfilled numerous dreams, from the nutritionist wanting to learn food photography, hooked with free lessons with a photographer, to a Haifa Wehbe fan who met her idol.
Chehade has hopes the concept will evolve on an international scale, following the success of event formats such as TEDx and Startup Weekend. He’s in the process of building a website to simplify the process of licensing the event, offering international organizers a platform to sell tickets, track event attendees and follow up successful dream matches. He also envisions the concept being used as a corporate team-building experience.
Though Chehade is passionate about helping establish an entrepreneur movement in Lebanon, he acknowledges the ‘tough’ climate here for entrepreneurs. “Unfortunately many leave the country. Even Lebanese investors would rather invest in your start up if it’s based in Dubai,” he says. Open to opportunities abroad Chehade’s own dream still has Lebanese roots: “If I have a company with 5,000 employees I want it to be in Lebanon.”