Amir is an entrepreneur, angel investor, startup advisor and mentor. He has invested in and co-founded a number of local businesses, including Toolman, a property maintenance business; Purple PR, a boutique PR company of which he successfully exited in 2012; and Tandem Partners, a startup and small business advisory firm in which he helped over 100 companies plan and grow their businesses. He has looked at early stage businesses from every angle, starting with a Swedish VC firm based in London, followed by a stint at what was the first seed capital fund in the MENA region, the Arab Business Angel Network (part of Dubai International Capital), before becoming an entrepreneur himself.
Arif Naqvi is Founder and Group Chief Executive of The Abraaj Group
Arif Naqvi established The Abraaj Group in 2002 and has served as its Group Chief Executive since inception, building it into one of the leading private equity firms in the world. Abraaj is widely recognized as a pioneer of global growth markets private equity with over 20 country offices including 5 regional hubs in Dubai, Istanbul, Mexico City, Nairobi and Singapore. Mr. Naqvi has over three decades of experience of investing in public and private companies and has led the Group’s investment strategy, resulting in some of the most notable private equity transactions across global growth markets over the last decade.
Mr. Naqvi is a Trustee of the Interpol Foundation and is on the Board of the United Nations Global Compact. He is also a Columbia Global Leadership Council member and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in London.
Mr. Naqvi has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Oslo Business for Peace Award, the highest form of recognition given to individual private sector leaders for fostering peace and stability through business, and the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, a prominent civilian honor awarded by the Government of Pakistan. In 2011, Private Equity International named him as one of the 50 most influential people in the global private equity industry.
In 2008, Mr. Naqvi and his family established the Aman Foundation, the largest private social sector enterprise in Pakistan, which supports sustainable development in healthcare, nutrition and education.
Mr. Naqvi is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Michael is a venture partner at Golden Gate Ventures. Michael studied Management and Control of information science. He started his first businesses in 2001 and 2007 before joining Golden Gate Ventures as a venture partner. Michael has had various positions on a societal and administrative level as a result of which he has been able to build an extensive international network. Michael is a former vice chairman of the Economic Development Board Rotterdam and studied Financial Analysis for Business Valuation, and Private Equity and Venture Capital at Harvard Business School. Michael has over 15 years entrepreneurial and managerial experience.
Walid has more than 15 years of experience in Venture Capital, strategy, corporate finance and engineering within the digital, telecom, software and new media industries. Prior to joining MEVP in 2010, Walid was a lead associate at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and before that he worked as a strategy manager at the UAE’s Prime Ministry Executive Office focusing on public policy initiatives. During his stay in Dubai, he worked on setting-up entrepreneurship related programs and developing incubation in the Arab World through several Dubai based initiatives such as the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation.
Prior to that, Walid worked at Booz & Company as a consultant covering telecom & media. Prior to Booz & Company, Walid worked as an industrial engineer in France. In 2009, he completed Morgan Stanley’s summer associate program within their investment banking M&A division in London. Walid holds an industrial and urban planning engineering degree from Institut National des Science Appliquées de Lyon (INSA de Lyon) and an MBA in finance from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Ahmed El Alfi is the founder of Sawari Ventures a Cairo based Venture Capital firm established in 2010 with a goal to help transform Egyptian and MENA region economies through creation of high impact businesses.
In 2011, Sawari created Flat6Labs, its own startup accelerator. Flat6Labs immerses startup entrepreneurs into real-world challenges of creating and managing sustainable enterprises, supported by a dedicated staff, mentors and over the past 3 years has launched 46 companies in Egypt, 26 companies in Saudi, 14 companies in Abu Dhabi and will be opening Flat6Labs locations soon in Beirut, Manama and Tunis.
In 2013 he established TATP which took over a large part of the American University Cairo downtown campus to form the GrEEK Campus, a 25,000 square meter office park near Tahrir Square where over 100 startups now work and collaborate and was the home of RiseUpSummit.
He also founded Nafham the top online video educational platform covering the Egyptian, Saudi and Syrian public school curriculums, Nafham currently gives over 110,000 free video lessons per day, Nafham recently won the WISE awards in Doha as one of the most innovative education companies.
He has extensive experience in creating and nurturing early stage companies, is or has been a member of the Board of Directors or Advisors of Waqf Endowment, Polytechnic School Pasadena, Claremont Graduate School of Religion, several non profit and for profit corporate boards and is also an avid collector of Islamic coins.
Issa’s career has focused on finance and investments for the past 11 years.
He started his career in investment banking and transitioned into the regional Venture Capital space in 2008. He was one of the founding members of IV Holdings / Accelerator technologies, one of the first venture funds in the Arab world. His venture experience focused on early stage / growth companies in the TMT space. Issa consulted at Yahoo! to help shape their growth plans from both an investment and business development perspective. He then joined N2V, a regional online holding company, as the Head of business development and investment as well as their acting director in one of their largest ecommerce investment. He recently rejoined twofour54 as the Head of investment which includes overseeing their Venture activities.
He has successfully executed diverse operational strategies, originated deal flow, conducted in-depth market research and competitive analysis, as well as performed appraisals of target investment opportunities’ business models to ensure profit maximization. He closed over 35+ investment deals (from $100K to $3.5M), managed over $100m in MENA Venture funds and served as a BOD member for a number of companies, providing commercial and business strategies, along with general operational, financial, and strategic support as needed. In 2015, he lead and supported the exit of twofour54’s largest two investments.
Issa holds an MBA with focus on Strategy, Entrepreneurship, Mergers & Acquisition, Corporate Finance from Cass Business School (City University of London) and a bachelor degree in Commerce from Concordia University.
Angus Paterson is a partner with STC Ventures, one of the leading VCs in the MENA region, backed by Saudi Telecom, and independently managed by Iris Capital. STC Ventures aim is to help empower entrepreneurs to create market leading, innovative businesses in the broader digital sector across the GCC, wider MENA region and Turkey, in addition to funding globally minded international companies seeking capital and access to the MENA region. Angus is responsible for STC Ventures’ investments in companies such as Careem, the leading on-demand transportation provider regionally, Compareit4me, the no.1 finance comparison site in the Middle East, and TransferTo, a global leader in mobile remittance. Angus has over 15 years investment and corporate finance advisory experience focused on the TMT and digital sectors. Prior to STC Ventures, Angus was responsible for setting up and leading the venture capital activities of Abu Dhabi based twofour54.
Elissa Freiha learned how to confidently be an angel investor by investing with and getting mentored by her peers. The experience inspired her to co-found this platform to empower other women to do the same. She oversees marketing, business development, sales, events, and member satisfaction, having previously worked in these fields in publishing, F&B, and entertainment. She was included in Arabian Business “The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015“. She received her Bachelors in Communications from the American University of Paris. She is Emirati of Lebanese and American descent and speaks English, Arabic, French, and Spanish fluently.
Christos is an experienced entrepreneur and investor based in Dubai. He is Founder and Managing Partner of Iliad Partners, a new early stage technology venture capital firm.
Before Iliad, he was the Director of Business Development of Yahoo Maktoob, where he led the company’s strategic partnerships in MENA, previously a management consultant with Booz & Company advising C-level and Board-level clients in the TMT industries in the region.
Christos has been actively involved in multiple startups as a co-founder, investor and executive. He is co-founder and seed investor of GlamBox, a MENA e-commerce startup with $4M in funding from MBC Ventures, STC Ventures, GCC private investors and angels. He was Commercial Director of Upstream, a mobile advertising start-up (exit via LBO), and early team member at GovWorks, a New York-based internet startup with $60M in funding from KKR and Mayfield (acquired by First Data Corporation). He has been an angel investor and advisor to several startups, and is a mentor, judge and supporter of MITEF Pan-Arab Region, Endeavor, ArabNet, Startup Weekend and Young Arab Leaders (YAL).
Christos holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and a B.S. in International Relations from Georgetown University.
Yousef Tuqan Tuqan is one of the MENA region’s most experienced and respected technology entrepreneurs, with a diverse career in the UAE that spans over 19 years. Throughout this time Yousef has led the digital strategy and delivery of some of the Middle East’s most iconic brands.
Yousef is currently the Entrepreneur-In-Residence at WAMDA Capital, a Venture Capital fund focusing on technology investments in the Arab World. He was formerly the Chief Innovation Officer of Leo Burnett/Publicis Group MENA, and the CEO of Flip Media, a digital agency that was acquired by Leo Burnett in 2012.
Yousef is the most outspoken and visible evangelist for the role of digital marketing in the region. He is a regular university lecturer & keynote speaker, and is a frequent contributor to regional and international publications and events.
Yousef has also taken an active role in the MENA tech scene, acting as a mentor & advisory board member to the next generation of Arab technology entrepreneurs.
He is an Advisory Board member for brndstr, The Online Project & Harmony Cosmetics, and a Mentor to organisations including Endeavor UAE, Flat6Labs & AltCity.
Yousef is a Board Member of the International Advertising Association’s UAE Chapter and the charity Gulf For Good, and is an aspiring TV chef.
Fares Ghandour, Partner, Early-Stage Investment Principal- is currently focused on execut- ing the Fund’s seed stage strategy. He worked previously as Investment Manager at MVI and community manager at Wamda Platform. Fares has more than a dozen seed stage transactions executed including portfolio management and other operational support for key MVI companies. At the Wamda Platform, Fares ran their flagship event Mix ‘N Mentor in 13 cities where entrepreneurs were introduced strategic mentors. Fares also organized the first MIT Media Lab workshop in the Region at twofour54.
Stephanie Holden, is the Head of Strategy and Business Development for MBC Group, and jointly heads MBC Ventures, MBC’s venture capital investment arm. While at MBC, Stephanie has lead the Group’s M&A investments, partnerships and joint ventures. Before assuming her position at MBC in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Stephanie was an Associate with McKinsey and Company (Dubai) where she worked with clients in the Middle East regarding education reform, healthcare reform, valuation and business plan development. During the Internet boom of the nineties, Stephanie worked as a Project Manager at Priceline.com and was responsible for International Implementation. Additionally, she was a Manager of Finance who maintained Priceline’s financial IPO model and worked with Priceline’s debt offering. Stephanie was able to pursue her love for media while working at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank, California through projects in Studio Strategic Planning. From 1995 through 1998, Stephanie was a Financial M&A Analyst at Merrill Lynch in New York as well as Singapore designing pro forma mergers, leverage buyouts and divestiture and recapitalization models. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she earned her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a Minor in Economics and a Concentration in Multinational Management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania; her MBA from the Harvard Business School (HBS) in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and her MPA from the John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG) at Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As a high school and college student, Stephanie studied abroad in Hong Kong and Moscow.
Kamal Hassan is a dynamic speaker and thought leader in the areas of innovation, technology, business model design and entrepreneurship. His style is described as innovative and inspiring with a very interesting, creative, and novel way of imparting information to the audience. His high-energy, interactive keynotes and presentations are consistently among the highest rated at any event.
A 20-year veteran of the business world, with experience in the United States, Asia, South America and the Middle East, Mr. Hassan brings a new perspective to regional dialogues. Mr. Hassan is the founder and CEO of Innovation 360, the organization behind the first regional innovation accelerator for startups, i360accelerator. In addition to working with clients on business model design and innovation strategy, he also facilitates workshops for innovative entrepreneurs, such as i360PlayCamp.
STEP Conference is growing to become MENA’s most prominent event to discover new startups. In STEP2017, over 400 startups will be showcasing their products and services, and we will be organizing an invite-only investor-startup dinner with MENA’s leading investors to get the opportunity to share stories, and explore more about the tech growth in the region.