Since the event started in 2013, STEP has grown from 300 to more than 4000 attendees in 2016 interacting, engaging and sharing experiences, while the conference has expanded from technology-centric to become the largest gathering for technology, digital and entertainment industries in the MENA region.
Dr. Charles Elachi is Professor (Emeritus) of Electrical Engineering and Planetary Science at the California Institute of Technology. From 2001 to 2016 he was the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Vice President of California Institute of Technology.
He is the Chair of the St. Exupery Innovation Council in Toulouse France, Member of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency International Advisory Council, a member of the Commission on DOE National Laboratories, a member of the Visiting Committee for the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT, the past chair and current member of the UCLA Sciences Board of Visitors, a past member of the Huntington Hospital Board of Trustees in Pasadena, the past chair and member of the Lebanese American University Board of Trustees New York and Beirut, a member of the International Advisory Board of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia, a past member of the International Advisory Council of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and a member of the International Advisory Board of the University Oman. He was a member of the University of Arizona Engineering School Advisory Committee and the Boston University Center of Remote Sensing Advisory Council.
He is a fellow of IEEE and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).
During his 16-year tenure as JPL Director; JPL launched 24 mission.
In his 40 year career at JPL, Dr. Elachi played the lead role in developing the field of spaceborne imaging radar which led to Seasat, SIR-A, SIR-B, SIR-C, Magellan, SRTM and the Cassini Radar. He received numerous national and international awards for his leadership in this field.
During the late 80's and 90's as the Director of Space and Earth Science programs, Dr. Elachi was responsible for the definition and development of numerous JPL flight instruments and missions for Solar System Exploration, the Origins program, Earth Observation and Astrophysics.
In the mid to late 90’s, Dr. Elachi chaired a number of national and international committees which developed NASA roadmaps for the exploration of neighboring Solar Systems (1995), our Solar System (1997) and Mars (1998).
Dr. Elachi participated in a number of archeological expeditions in the Egyptian Desert, the Arabian Peninsula and the Western Chinese Desert in search of old trading routes and buried cities using satellite data, some of which were featured in National Geographic magazine.
He has lectured and given keynote speeches at numerous international conferences and universities inside and outside the U.S., including Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, China, Japan, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Monaco, Morocco and Switzerland. He was also a speaker at the Caltech Alumni Day and the Watson Lectures.
Dr. Elachi has received numerous awards, including the most recent as the Aviation Week Lifetime Achievement Award (2016), 2016 RNASA National Space Trophy, 2016 IAF Allen D. Emil Memorial Award, American University of Beirut Honorary Doctorate (2013).
Chaker Khazaal is a reporter, speaker, Huffington Post contributor, and author of the Confessions of a War Child trilogy.
Born in 1987 as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, Chaker grew up in Bourj El Barajneh camp in Beirut. At a young age, he participated in several local plays and starred in the Palestinian film Sugar of Jaffa. He later immigrated to Canada. Being one of four recipients of the Global Leader of Tomorrow Award, Chaker studied at York University in Toronto and graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in International Development Studies.
He then worked as a public speaker and web-shows host before publishing his first novel, Confessions of a War Child (Part One) in March 2013, later followed by part two (subtitled Lia) published in 2014 and part three (subtitled Sahara) released in 2015. He traveled to refugee camps and conflict zones conducting interviews to inspire the events of his three novels and articles.
Chaker is an advocate for refugees and aspiring young writers. A savvy communicator, he has spoken at a number of platforms including United Nations Headquarters (New York), HuffPost Live, Google (San Francisco), msnbc’s Road Map show, International Youth Conference (Bahrain), Thomson Reuters Foundation (London), and the launch of the 8th Arab Youth Survey (Dubai).
Chaker manages a for-profit program that offers refugees and migrants contractual remote employment in e-marketing, graphics, social media management and web development. Inc. (magazine) listed him 49th in their list of "50 Powerful Arab Businessmen You Should Know”. He has also cooperated with the Social Enterprise Project in Jordan to design the Chaker Scarf, embroidered by Palestinian refugees in Jordan. In addition, Chaker was the chairperson of the judging panel for the United Arab Emirate’s first Young Arab Awards held in Dubai.
In 2015, Esquire Middle East named him Man of the Year; and in 2016, Chaker was ranked first by Arabian Business Magazine in the 100 Most Powerful Arabs Under 40. In the same year, he was presented with the Mentor Arabia Award by Queen Silvia of Sweden and Prince Turki Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In December 2016, Chaker was awarded the Global Trailblazer together with Arianna Huffington by New York based NGO Bridges of Understanding.
He is currently writing his fourth book, Tale of Tala.
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is an Emmy-nominated journalist and a Correspondent/Producer for VICE on HBO. In 2015, he was featured on the Arabian Business power list of the planet’s 100 most influential young Arabs. In 2012 he was featured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list of ‘young disruptors, innovators and media entrepreneurs impatient to change the world’.
Ahmed joined VICE from HuffPost Live, an award-winning online network he helped launch in 2012. There, he produced and hosted World Brief, a 30 minute interactive global news show, averaging one million views a day.
In 2010, Ahmed created, produced and co-hosted Al Jazeera English’s “The Stream,” an award-winning interactive talk show that earned him an Emmy nomination for Most Innovative Program in 2012.
Before joining Al Jazeera English, Ahmed helped launch the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar where he worked as a Correspondent and ran the site’s editorial content. Before Qatar, Ahmed worked in New York as a Digital Producer at PBS’s award-winning series Wide Angle, a videographer for FRONTLINE/World and for The New York Times foreign desk.
In 2009 Ahmed began teaching digital media courses as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School Of Journalism, his alma mater. He graduated from the program in 2007 with honors. In 2013, Ahmed published his first book, ‘Demanding Dignity’ with a co-editor.
Ahmed has interviewed Presidents and A-list celebrities, but his passion is in giving voice to the voiceless and reporting under-covered stories across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the U.S. Ahmed often appears as a commentator for CNN, NBC, BBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, Yahoo and other online platforms. He also speaks at leading media, technology, and economic conferences around the world, including the UN, World Economic Forum, SXSW, Aspen Ideas Festival and Google Zeitgeist. In 2013, the Network of Arab-American Professionals honored him with the 2013 Professional Excellence Award.
Tima Shomali is an Arab Producer/ Writer and Comedy actress from Jordan, as well as the founder of Filmizion Productions. She stood out in Jordan’s comedy world through her boldness on screen and her ability to present societal issues in a new light. She was the first female comedian in Jordan to have her own YouTube show and has since created a large regional following and fanbase.
Tima has a BA in Business Administration and Finance and was granted an MFA scholarship from The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts - where she majored in screenwriting and producing.
She went on to write with local comedy show “Bath Bayakha” – in which she also made her debut as the lead comedy actress. The show was broadcasted on YouTube, OSN TV Network and Ro’ya TV.
Finding a voice in comedy, she then created her own YouTube show, "FemaleShow" in 2012 through her company Filmizion Productions in partnership with Kharabeesh. FemaleShow was an instant regional success as it tackled the comedic nature of relationships with a focus on a couple’s dating journey into marriage and starting a family. It has released three seasons so far, which were shown on Ro’ya TV as well as its online YouTube channel.
FemaleShow is the most viewed show in Jordan and has been rated as one of the top five web series in The Arab World. The FemaleShow YouTube channel has received more than 50 million views to date.
Following the FemaleShow success, Tima did not limit herself to comedy, but branched out into drama as she produced the TV series "Zain," which was aired on MBC1, Abu Dhabi TV and MBC+. She also found a place in talk shows, both as one of the hosts of Emirates TV, "DardaChat" and worked behind the scenes as the supervising producer in the groundbreaking, Nida’a Show (an Arabic version of The Oprah Winfrey Show) - presented by Zainab Salbi alongside The Oprah Winfrey Show producers - Katy Davis and Lisa Morin.
Tima was nominated for "Best Jordanian Actress" in Tyche awards in 2012 based on the audience’s voting. In 2015, Tima was invited as a Key Speaker by Tina Brown at the annual “Women in the world” Summit (hosted by Tina Brown) in New York. In both 2015 and 2016, Tima was named one of the most influential young Arabs in the world by Arabian Business Magazine.
Fahad Albutairi is the first Saudi stand-up comedian to appear on stage professionally, he is also an actor, a creative producer and a writer. Fahad is a co-founder of Telfaz11, a leading Saudi online entertainment network, and the first entertainment network in the Middle East to receive three Gold Play Button awards from YouTube.
Since his debut in the Middle East on October 2, 2008, he has shared stage with the likes of Gabriel Iglesias, Sebastian Maniscalco, Bobby Lee, Dean Edwards and Eddie Griffin. In March 2013, both The Washington Post and The National named Fahad Albutairi the "Seinfeld of Saudi Arabia.” On January 15, 2016, Fahad Albutairi performed at the Hollywood Laugh Factory with Maz Jobrani, Tony Rock, Steve Hofstetter and many others.
Kim Ghattas covers international affairs for the BBC from her base in Washington D.C. She also covered the 2016 American presidential campaign. She writes a regular column for Foreign Policy magazine. She was the BBC's State Department correspondent from 2008 until 2013, travelling around the world with three secretaries of state. She wrote a NYT best seller The Secretary- a Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power. Before moving to DC, she covered the Middle East for a decade, for the BBC and the Financial Times among others, from her base in Beirut, where she was born and raised. In 2006, she was part of an Emmy-Award-winning BBC team covering the Lebanon-Israel conflict. She has covered Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran extensively. Her work has also been published by the Daily Beast, TIME magazine, and the Washington Post. She appears regularly on NPR and American television shows to discuss foreign policy.
Khalid Albaih is a Sudanese cartoonist living in Doha, Qatar. His stark, politically- charged images rose to prominence during the early stages of the Arab Spring protests. Posting his work in the public domain through social media, Albaih quickly became an artist from the revolution, his work being shared online across Arabia and around the world. His cartoons were made into stencils to be reproduced on walls in Beirut and Cairo.
Albaih has been profiled by both the BBC and the New York Times. He has also published his work in the Atlanticand Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Alongside worldwide attention and major publications, Albaih has staged major exhibitions of his work, most recently at the Edge of Arabia Crossway Foundation in London .Khalid constantly publishing new works on his Facebook page Khartoon! (a play on Khartoom, the Sudanese capital) for all to consider, use, and share.
Dr. Karim El Solh is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Capital, one of the largest and most active alternative asset management firms in the Middle East. Under his leadership, Gulf Capital has been associated with some of the region’s most prominent private equity transactions and has won numerous awards including ‘Best Private Equity Firm in the Middle East’ for five years in a row (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015) 2015 and the “Best Private Equity Firm” in the Middle East and North Africa by Private Equity International, as well as “Best SMEs Credit Fund in the Middle East’ in 2015. Gulf Capital currently manages over AED 12.4 billion (US$4 billion) of assets across 10 funds and investment vehicles: private equity, credit and mezzanine and real estate.
Prior to founding Gulf Capital, Dr El Solh was the CEO of the Abu Dhabi investment bank, The National Investor. Under his leadership, the Firm was involved in a number of groundbreaking private equity transactions and was ranked the number one IPO underwriter in the Gulf.
Dr. El Solh holds a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Cornell University, an MBA from Georgetown University and a Doctorate in Economics from the Institute D’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Science Po).
Oisin Lunny is part of the Market Development team at OpenMarket, providing mobile engagement solutions for global Fortune 2000 companies.
Oisin’s background of over 21 years in technology and media includes roles as UK Managing Director for the world’s largest social space for teens, and Global Product Manager for Media Services at Europe’s largest network operator.
Oisin speaks and moderates at conferences globally, maintaining a parallel profile as film composer, producer, and DJ. Oisin has spoken at over 130 conferences, contributes to The Guardian and Digital Doughnut, sits on advisory boards for SXSW and The Economist Big Think, and was named the #5 most engaged marketer in the UK by LinkedIn.
Karl Sharro is an architect, satirist and commentator on the Middle East. He is a Director at PLP Architecture in London and co-author of Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture which was included in 100 Artists’ Manifestos: from the Futurists to the Stuckists, a survey of 100 influential art manifestos from the last 100 years.
Karl has practised architecture in London and Beirut, and taught for five years at the American University of Beirut. He wrote a chapter on Density vs Sprawl in the The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated and a chapter entitled 'The Visionary City' in The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs. He is also the author of Style: In defence of Islamic Architecture. He has been involved in the design of various buildings and master plans in the UK, Europe and the Middle East, as well as theoretical projects that look at how cities could look in the future.
Karl has written for a number of international publications and organisations, such as The Independent, The Sunday Times, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Open Democracy, The Globe and Mail, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Creative Time Reports, New Humanist, Vice, The National, Al-Akhbar English, Now, Jadaliyya, Syria Deeply, Daily News Egypt, World Architecture News, Index on Censorship, Die Presse, Springerin, The Architectural Review, Mark Magazine, Novo, Urban Design, Glass, Blueprint, An-nahar Cultural Supplement, and Culture Wars. He blogs at Karl reMarks, where his satirical writing is published.
He has spoken on a range of issues such as art, architecture, urbanism and politics, at MoMA, the Barbican, Internazionale Ferrara and many others. He appears regularly on the BBC and other media outlets. He presented his argument for open borders in a TedX talk in London in 2011 and an argument for removing planning constraints and allowing people to build whatever they want in BBC Radio 4 'Four Thought' broadcast. He has also taken part in BBC Radio 3 programmes reviewing the Islamic Art gallery at the Louvre Museumin Paris and The Shard in London. His idea for a ‘1000 Mile-City’ along the East Mediterranean coast was broadcast on the BBC’s This Week’s World as part of the ‘Think Again’ strand, exploring radical ideas for the future.
Dr. Nadine H Haram is a Surgeon, Lecturer and Clinical Entrepreneur. She gained a BSc with distinction from University College London, receiving the Jack Drummond and Jackson Lewis prizes, for top marks in the Faculty and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and subsequently enrolled in the accelerated graduate entry program at Barts and the London, where she graduated in 2009, with distinction and earned the Harvey Minasian Prize for academic excellence. Since then she has been appointed as an NHS Clinical Entrepreneur, Council member of BAPRAS Innovation UK, a UCL Honorary Clinical Lecturer, SAC Plastic Surgery Simulation task force, President of BFIRST trainee members committee, and council member of the Royal Society of Medicine Plastic surgery section.
Nadine drew on her passion for innovation, education and global surgery and co-founded Proximie in 2014, an augmented reality platform that allows doctors to virtually transport themselves in to any operating room to guide, teach, train and support other surgeons and medical experts independent of any specific hardware.
When she isn’t working Nadine spends her time with her husband and 3 children in London.
Hussam Hammo is a serial entrepreneur, CEO and founder of Tamatem Inc. the leading mobile games publisher in the MENA region. He founded the world's first Arabic social network in 2006 which was acquired by Maktoob.com which was later acquired by Yahoo. Hussam also co-founded a regional gaming studio called Wizards Productions in 2008 and in 2013 he founded Tamatem which is part of the 500Startups portfolio, Tamatem currently has an office in Amman, Jordan & Cairo, Egypt.
Nasri Atallah is British-Lebanese author and media entrepreneur. He is Head of Media Partnerships at cultural discovery platform Bookwitty and works on the Creative Cluster & Artist-in-Residence programs at Keeward.
His writing on travel, multiculturalism, pop culture and the media industry has appeared in The Guardian, Brownbook and GQ, amongst other places. In 2011, Atallah published a collection of essays entitled Our Man in Beirut. He is currently working on his first novel, due to be released in 2017.
Atallah regularly comments on issues related to media, culture and the Middle East in places such as the BBC, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post & The New York Times.
Atallah holds a BA in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut and an MSc in International Politics of the Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.
Ekaterina Solomeina is a creative director, entrepreneur and TEDx speaker. She is a founder of Future London Academy and Design Director at Mind Gym.
For the past 14 years, Ekaterina has worked with top design and innovation companies around the world, including Mind Gym, LOWE, NB Studio, St. Lukes and Michael Wolff, helping grow brands, developing design teams and creating new products. Her client list includes Versace, Coca-Cola, IBM, Russian Standard, Sony, Microsoft, Samsung and Walmart.
Her passion for education has led her to start Future London Academy – introducing a completely different way to learn and improve in your field, offering a 1-week program for professionals which are taught directly by top companies in the industry, including Google, Facebook, Ustwo, Pentagram, Wolff Olins and BBC.
For the past 3 years, Ekaterina has been exploring the link between behavioural psychology and design, using the latest research in the field to understand how designers can create better user experiences.
Ekaterina is a regular speaker for creative organizations and educational institutions across the globe, including TEDx, Brunel University, Rambler&Co, Yandex, London School of Economics and others.
Ramzi Rizk is a Lebanese-born entrepreneur, and a founder and CTO of EyeEm; the Berlin-based photography community and marketplace. EyeEm's distinct blend of talented photographers sharing beautiful and authentic photos, and unique, deep learning powered photo classification, ranking and search technologies have made it one of the fastest growing photography platforms in the world. Before founding EyeEm, Ramzi spent years as a doctoral candidate researching privacy in Social Media, and as an engineering manager leading development teams focused on mobile and web. Ramzi is a passionate software architect, photographer and pianist. Together with his team at EyeEm, he organizes @PhotoHackDay, a global hackathon focusing on Photography. Ramzi loves product, scalable architecture, and the magical space where product, engineering and business meet.