Regional & International Industry Experts
Taking The Stage at STEP2017

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STEP Conference 2017

Smart Dubai Office

Aisha Bin Bishr

Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr is the Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, the government entity charged with overseeing Dubai’s citywide smart transformation, engaging with leadership in the public and private sector to make Dubai a global benchmark smart city.

Prior to that, Dr. Aisha worked as Assistant Director General of the Executive Office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. The Executive Office role is to implement the vision of HH (to make Dubai #1 globally) as well as to be the source of the best futuristic initiatives. Part of her role was leading the Smart Dubai task force team from the time of the announcement of the Smart Dubai initiative in March 2014, to the formation of the Smart Dubai Office.

Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr represents the Smart Dubai Initiative in many communities and conferences such as City Protocol Society, Smart Citiy Expo World Congress as well as at the GSMA Mobile World Congress.

Entrepreneur & Venture Investor

Christopher Schroeder

Christopher M. Schroeder is an American entrepreneur, advisor and investor in interactive technologies and social communications.

He is author of the recent best seller, and first book on startups in the Arab World, Startup Rising -- The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East.

Schroeder was the CEO and Publisher of washingtonpost.newsweek interactive and co-founder of the Silicon Valley venture capital backed

Schroeder serves on the board of advisers of the American University of Cairo School of Business, American University School of International Service, and the boards of directors of the American University of Beirut, The German Marshall Fund and the American Council on Germany.

He is on the Investment Committee of The Wamda Fund, one of the largest venture capital funds in the Middle East. He has co-led the Economic Recovery and Revitalization working group of the Atlantic Council's Middle East Strategy Task Force.

He was named one of LinkedIn's first 50 Influencers. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Business School.

Dentsu Inc.

Kei Shimada

Kei Shimada is a Japanese American entrepreneur from New York. After working for global companies big and small, he successfully established and ran Infinita, one of Japan’s first multinational mobile strategy firms.

Today Kei is Global Director of Innovation and Business Development of Dentsu Inc., Japan’s largest agency. He is responsible for leading a group wide innovation initiative while supporting the growth around 10 core areas of innovative technologies including artificial intelligence, biometrics, drones, fintech, IoT, locational big data, robots, space, VR/AR and wearables.

Kei also works with government ministries and municipal governments on crisis management infrastructures, going beyond the traditional advertising business to cultivate new and sustainable business opportunities. He leads a project team that created Japan's first smart device based evacuation management platform and evacuation shelter database and holds several related patents. The team is the only team in Japan that has won three government awards (each by a different ministry) in this category. He is also the Chief Lab Officer of dmLab, Dentsu’s media innovation lab in South East Asia.

Kei is one of the world’s most prominent speakers. He has delivered keynote presentations and moderated panels on future tech in more than 20 countries around the globe.


Carlos Domingo

Carlos Domingo is Chief Digital Transformation and Innovation Officer at du where he has a dual role of diversifying du from its core connectivity business through innovative digital services in areas like smart cities, Iot or big data as well as transform its core business through a digital services model and the adoption of digital technologies to interact with its customers and employees.

Before that he was Chief Product and Business Development for Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) where he managed all company product development, digital services, alliances and partnerships and business intelligence and analytic.

Carlos has also spent 8 years at Telefonica where he was the CEO of Telefonica R&D and the CEO for New Business and Innovation for Telefonica Digital.

Carlos holds a MSc in computer science from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, a PhD in computer science from the Polytechnic University in Catalonia and post grad business studies from Stanford Graduate School of Business. With more than 20 years of experience in the IT and telecommunications world, he developed his early career in Japan and USA, being VP of Celartem Technologies and eventually becoming the President & CEO of its subsidiary in Seattle after merging Extensis LizardTech and DiamonSoft.

Wamda Capital

Fadi Ghandour

Fadi Ghandour is Chairman and Managing Partner at Wamda Capital. Founder and Vice Chairman of Aramex, Fadi is also Co-Founder of Mena Venture Investments, the leading seed stage tech investment company, and is a founding investor in, and sits on the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut, and the Advisory Council of the MIT Media Lab, and the Board of Abraaj Group. Fadi is passionate about social entrepreneurship where he founded and chairs, Ruwwad for Development, and entrepreneurs-led youth empowerment organization.


Dima Khatib

Dima joined Al Jazeera in 1997 as a broadcast journalist in Al Jazeera's Doha newsroom. She quickly became a news producer, known for managing the coverage of the channel during the Iraq War. She set up bureaus in China and Venezuela for the network and was the first female bureau chief of Al Jazeera's (in Latin America). In 19 years, Dima has reported from over thirty countries, interviewing presidents and people from all walks of life. In 2012 Dima was classified as the most connected woman on Twitter in the Middle East. Dima has also worked for WHO, Swiss Radio International, Radio Qatar (French), AFP and has lectured in journalism at the American University in Dubai. Of Palestinian and Syrian heritage, Dima studied English Literature at Damascus University, holds a Masters' Degree in Translation, Geneva University, Switzerland. She speaks eight languages and writes in four of them. Dima has one published poetry collection in Arabic: Love Refugee.

BuzzFeed News

Sara Yasin

Sara Yasin is a Palestinian-American journalist raised on a steady diet of hummus and fried chicken. When she's not busy making bad jokes on Twitter, she works for BuzzFeed News, leading the News Curation team in New York. She has previously worked at GlobalPost and Mic. She enjoys obsessing how we consume news, and the impact of false stories that go viral about Muslims.

500 Startups

Hasan Haider

Hasan Haider is a Partner at 500 Startups, the most active Venture Capital firm in the world, based in Silicon Valley, with 1,800+ investments in 50+ countries and $330m in AuM. Hasan heads up the firms practice in the MENA region, with the Arabic speaking market being a core area of focus. 500 Startups has invested in close to 40 startups in the region over the course of the last 3 years, including Wuzzuf, Jamalon and fetchr. Hasan is also the CEO and founder of Tenmou, the first business angel’s organization in Bahrain and one of the first in the MENA region, and a founding member of the MENA Angel Investors Network (MAIN), an association of all the active angel investment groups in the region. Hasan’s work in developing angel investment in emerging markets through Tenmou has been picked up as a case study by the World Bank and is taught to Entrepreneurship Policy makers at Babson College.


Mudassir Sheikha

Mudassir looks after growth and expansion. He spent a geeky decade in Silicon Valley before becoming a management consultant in the region. He aspires to build the Middle East's first corporate institution that will improve people's lives and inspire others. When not traveling, he is hanging out with Captains and giving engineers feedback on user interface. He is an alum of McKinsey, Stanford and USC.


Eddy Maroun

Eddy is the co-founder of Anghami – the leading music streaming service in the Middle East. In late 2012, seizing the opportunity of a lack of proper digital music service, Eddy and his partner Elie Habib launched Anghami (meaning My Tunes in Arabic). Since then, Anghami has reached over 33 million users, streams close to 20 million licensed Arabic & English tracks and is integrated with 20 mobile operators. Anghami successfully raised VC money from MEVP and recently from Samena Capital, it also has 2 telcos on board Mobily-KSA and du-UAE - it partnered with MBC the largest media group in the region.


Nadim Ghrayeb

Nadim Ghrayeb, Regional Sales and Marketing Manager for Cadillac Middle East, is responsible for driving all strategies relating to sales operations across the region and the communication of the brand.

His previous position as the Regional Brand Manager for Cadillac Middle East saw him focusing exclusively on achieving long-term marketing objectives and delivering sustainable brand growth solutions.

His previous position as the Regional Brand Manager for Cadillac Middle East saw him focusing exclusively on achieving long-term marketing objectives and delivering sustainable brand growth solutions.

Ghrayeb first joined GM as a Marketing Manager for Cadillac Middle East, a title that saw him spearhead cross-media communications initiatives for the luxury auto brand – spanning myriad product launches – across key markets.

Ghrayeb holds a Bachelor of Science from Beirut’s Lebanese American University.

UAE’s Ambassador to Russia

Omar Ghobash

Omar Saif Ghobash is the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Russian Federation. He is also the author of the recently published book Letters to a Young Muslim, which is written as a series of personal letters to his older son and offers a bold and intimate exploration of what it means to be Muslim in the twenty-first century.

Ghobash began his career with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a diplomat at the UAE Mission to the United Nations. Prior to his appointment to Moscow in 2008, Ghobash founded the Third Line, Dubai’s first international contemporary art gallery showcasing artists from the Middle East. He is also a founding trustee of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which runs with the support of the Booker Prize Foundation in London; sponsors the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation in memory of his father, Saif Ghobash, who was the UAE’s first minister of state for foreign affairs; and serves on the acquisition committee of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the advisory body of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London, and the board of trustees of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi.

Ghobash was born in the emirate of Ras al-Khaimah in 1971 and is of Arab and Russian descent. He studied law at Balliol College, Oxford University, and mathematics at the University of London.


Fadi Naoum

Fadi Naoum is Development Senior Vice President for Sports and Entertainment, the 25th industry at SAP. His key responsibility is the development of flexible and innovative end-to-end-solutions that help sports and entertainment organizations improve their processes and maximize achievement. Its customers include the German Football Association (DFB), San Jose Sharks, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, SAP Arena, Bayern München and several others. The product portfolio of sports and entertainment comprises e.g. Team Management & Team Performance, Ticketing- & Point of Sale innovations. Mr. Naoum has been in global leading SAP positions for more than 15 years. He began his IT career at Lufthansa AG in 1989, where he was project manager on the implementation of SAP software. Fadi holds a Master degree in Economic Data Processing from the Cologne University, Germany.

Eight Inc.

Tim Kobe

Tim Kobe founded the globally recognized strategic and experience design firm Eight Inc. in 1989. Today, Eight Inc. has offices in San Francisco, New York, Honolulu, Tokyo, London, Singapore, and Dubai and across China and is a leader in innovation and branded experience working with companies such as Apple, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Nike, Lincoln and Citibank. Eight Inc.'s projects have received international design awards and have been published across Asia, Europe, and the United States including Fast Company, Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg. Kobe has spoken globally in large-scale public conferences and events, private organizations and colleges and universities. He is also a trustee at Art Center College of Design and currently serving as Chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee. Kobe also serves on the Board of Directors for the Grabhorn Institute in San Francisco California and divides his time between California and Singapore.


Anthony Le Roux

Anthony joined Uber in December 2013 as General Manager of Cape Town. A year and a half later, he moved to Poland to manage and expand Uber’s Eastern Europe - covering Poland, the Baltics, the Balkans as well as the CIS markets. In mid 2016, he moved back to Cape Town, now overseeing the whole of Uber’s Middle East, Africa and Pakistan (MEA) rides business. In this role, Anthony covers market strategy and operations in the MEA region, and works with expansion teams to identify and manage new market entries.

Having grown up in South Africa, Anthony began his career in investment banking at Standard Bank, providing mergers and acquisitions advice to a broad range of companies in the SSA market. He holds an MBA from INSEAD, an undergraduate degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Cape Town, a Higher Diploma in Taxation Law from the University of the Witwatersrand, and is a CFA Charterholder. Anthony has a passion for technology, entrepreneurship and innovation.


Matteo Penzo

Matteo is an entrepreneur and a technology practice executive at frog, a global design and strategy firm, covering Europe and the Middle East.

With more than 18 years of technology, software design and development experience, Matteo consults top-clients in executing and deploying their product vision across the globe.

In 2005 he founded the internationally successful “Frontiers Conference” event, which brings innovators in business and design together. Most recently, Matteo founded “Talent Garden Milano," the biggest co-working space in Italy, which provides talent, brilliant minds, and startups an environment to connect, grow and blossom.

And he is bald.

Planetary Scientist

Charles Elachi

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).


Karl Sharro

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.


Omer Unsal

Omer started his investment banking career working for Citibank/Salomon Smith Barney and UBS Warburg investment banking divisions in New York City between the years 1999 and 2003. During his tenor in New York, Omer concentrated on M&A and leveraged finance advisory transactions in general industrials, healthcare, and technology industries in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Omer then moved to Istanbul in 2004 where he worked as a Vice President in HC Istanbul Securities’ –an independent investment banking boutique focusing on Turkish M&A advisory services, between the years 2004 and 2005, before founding Odin Financial Advisors in March 2006. Today, Odin Financial Advisors is one of the leading independent investment banking services firms in Turkey having completed US$3.5 bn in transaction volume.

Since 2012, Omer concentrates majority of his time in technology deal making. As a result, Odin Financial Advisors, as of 3Q 2016, became the No. 1 technology investment banking advisory services firm in Turkey. Odin’s success in technology deal making created Aventio MB in December 2016. Aventio MB is the first emerging markets focused technology merchant banking advisory services firm operating with offices in London, Istanbul and Dubai.

Omer spends majority of his time at Aventio today focusing on emerging market technology deal making as well as serving as the Chairman of Odin Financial Advisors. Omer is also a member of Endeavor, the leading high-impact entrepreneurship movement around the world, and part of the Endeavor mentorship program in Istanbul and Dubai. Omer is also an Associate Member of Invest Europe.

Omer has B.A. dual degree in Political Science and Economics from Connecticut College in the U.S. Omer received an award of excellent for his outstanding achievements by the Political Science Association of the U.S. in 1999.

Wamda Capital

Khaled Talhouni

Khaled is Managing Partner at Wamda Capital, a Venture Capital fund investing in technology-enabled companies in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. He started his career at Dubai International Capital where he supported the development of the MENA region’s first seed capital fund. Since then Khaled assumed a number of venture capital and startup roles including heading investments and strategy at twofour54 in Abu Dhabi. Khaled has centered his career around identifying and investing in disruptive businesses that displace incumbent inefficiencies in traditional sectors of the economy. His areas of interest include ecommerce, Fintech, marketplaces, digital content and enterprise solutions. Through out his career Khaled has focused on building lasting partnerships with the entrepreneurs delivering the region’s digital economy.

Khaled has invested in and managed over 60 early stage transactions including Careem, Littlebits, Mumzworld, Insider, Modanisa and Luxury Closet and Step Group.

Khaled attended Duke University and graduated with a BA in Economics.


Idriss Al Rifai

Idriss Al Rifai is an entrepreneur passionate about disrupting the Middle East retail market with technologies and customer-centric services that enable the growth of e-commerce in the region. Idriss has developed and optimized a last mile delivery solution specifically for the e-commerce needs and requirements in the Middle East.

In 2012, Idriss founded Fetchr, formerly MENA360, which has evolved to become a full end-to-end logistic solution, backed by technology, for e-commerce companies, regional players, social media sellers as well as SMBs in the MENA region. Fetchr is also the first company in MENA to raise $11M in Series A funding, led by a top Silicon Valley VC, New Enterprise Associates.

Previously Idriss worked for MarkaVIP, a leading ecommerce player in the MENA region, where we headed the operations and built an in-house logistics department for the company to expedite deliveries. Prior to this he worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group.

Idriss holds degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris (Sciences Po) and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is also a Rath and Fulbright scholar and Endeavor entrepreneur.

Mindshare MENA

Ravi Rao

Ravi has a track record of having been in marketing, account management and media.

A management graduate with a career of 25+ years in advertising & media for Unilever, PepsiCo, P&G, Henkel, Mars, Wrigley, FedEx, Dubai Holding, he comes back for a second stint in the MENA region. He was earlier with Mindshare India managing South Asia and is now the CEO for Mindshare MENA.

He loves to paint, yearns to be an archaeologist in the far future, but continues to be fascinated with developments in new media.


Antoine de Trogoff

Antoine de Trogoff; Head of Content at UM MENA setup the regions edition of UM’s global content division in 2014. UM Studios is the branded content division that works with all of UM MENA’s clients and supports them with content strategy, creation and distribution. Along with the launch of this division, he has been spearheading all the commercial and creative aspects of client projects by deploying content creation partnerships and fusing marketing strategies to content distribution.

New to Dubai, Antoine moved from Mediacom International in the UK where he ran two major global accounts: Shell and Dassault Systemes and also headed up the Content Partnership division. With over 10 years of experience in the advertising industry, Antoine actually studied Marketing & Finance in Paris and New York and after his first working experience in France; he soon realized that the UK was leading the industry with new and innovative thinking and decided to move to London where he spent the last 7 years.

In addition to his role as head of content, Antoine has been quite active with speaking sessions and contribution of thought leadership pieces. He was a panelist at the inaugural Festival of Media MENA in Dubai and has also been nominated as a thought leadership brand ambassador to represent UM in the MENA region.


Lorna Blount

Lorna Blount is a world-renowned social media expert with more than a decade of experience in some of the world's most influential media organisations across the globe. Previously at Sky News and Asia, she currently works at BBC World News in London as a multi platform producer and journalist, focusing on using social media as a tool for both newsgathering and audience building. Passionate about technology, she covers social media trends and developments in the industry, in addition to overall social and mobile strategy for the channel.


Kim Ghattas

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.


Damien Drap

Damien holds a MS in Industrial Engineering from École Centrale de Paris. He started his career in strategy consulting, spending a few years at Oliver Wyman where he advised leaders of the largest Retail and CPG actors in Europe and the US.

Damien joined Uber in its early days in France in 2013, where he started as one of the first Operations Managers, building what is one of the largest markets for the company today. In 2015, he moved to a regional role, serving as Strategy & Planning manager for Western Europe, before moving to Amsterdam in 2016 to lead the S&P team for the entire EMEA region in 2016.

Since December 2016, Damien leads the UberEATS business in the United Arab Emirates.

Publicis Communication

Samer Shoueiry

With 18+ years of academic and professional experience across business, design and innovation, I currently act as Publicis Communication MEA's Executive Head of Digital and Social Marketing, evolving the new capabilities we and our clients need to succeed in the Connected Age. Over 6 years at Leo Burnett MENA, I established the LB MENA network Social and Digital design practice, founded and championed our Social Content Lab, Experience Design and Experience Strategy disciplines, expanded our regional and global client portfolio as Regional Digital Director, and cultivated native digital design thinking to generate groundbreaking brand experiences as the first Digital Director for Innovation and Strategy. With Publicis Communications MEA, I have a new regional remit across Leo Burnett, Saatchi and Publicis, driving the development and integration of offices and capabilities all-through MENA, especially at the intersection of Business Transformation and Innovation. In addition to working with some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies, I have the privilege to mentor agile Internet of Things (IoT) start-ups via the Publicis 90 Accelerator.


Anis Harb

Anis is Deliveroo's General Manager in the G.C.C. He is focused on scaling Deliveroo's presence in the region.

Anis has spent 5+ years in B2C technology businesses, most recently as a Category Manager at Amazon UK. Prior to this, he was an Investment Banker at J.P. Morgan New York.

Anis earned a B.A. in Economics from Northwestern University, and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania.

Earlybird Venture Capital

Cem Sertoglu

Cem Sertoglu is an entrepreneur and venture capital investor, focused on technology ventures in Turkey and CEE since 2006. He is currently a Partner at Earlybird Digital East Fund in Istanbul. His investment highlights include YemekSepeti and GittiGidiyor, the two largest exits in Turkish internet, as well as, Hazelcast, PropertyFinder, and Wikimart.

Previously, Cem was the Founder & CEO of SelectMinds (now a part of Oracle) in New York, the global leader in social talent management software. One of the social software pioneers, the company’s solutions enable the human capital management programs at some of the world’s largest companies. Prior to founding SelectMinds in 1999, Cem worked as a Strategy Consultant in New York for six years.

Cem holds a BA in Economics from The University of Texas at Austin.


Virginia Salas Kastilio

Virginia Salas Kastilio is the world’s #1 Female Snapchat Business Influencer (Inc. Mag) who is known for growing her biggest social following on Snapchat itself, which is something only a few people in the world so far have achieved. After 5 years of working in Corporate IT at Apple and Oracle, she has dedicated herself fully to being a Snapchat Strategist and Speaker. Virginia is currently launching the BBC's Snapchat channel in London. Her other clients include Nasdaq, Heroics and Soulpancake to name just a few. She’s uncannily good at chicken impressions and enjoys contemporary dancing.


Omar Tawakol

Omar Tawakol is the Chief Executive Officer of Workfit, and has a passion for helping people become more productive.

Prior to Workfit, Omar Tawakol was the founder and CEO of BlueKai which was the leading Data Management Platform company in the advertising industry. Oracle acquired BlueKai and at Oracle, Omar was the SVP & GM of the Oracle Data Cloud (ODC). Through organic growth and acquisition, the ODC became the largest Data-as-a-Service business in the marketing industry serving 97 of the top 100 US digital marketers.

He earned an MS in computer science from Stanford University and a BS in engineering from MIT.

Rocket Internet MENA

Eyad Alkassar

Eyad grew up in Germany, where he earned a Ph.D. Summa Cum Laude in Computer Science. During his studies he was a fellow of the German National Academic Foundation. Since he joined Rocket Internet as Managing Director of The Middle East, Eyad co-founded and run over a dozen of companies which raised hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Amongst others Eyad was a Co-founder of and in the fall of 2013, he became the Founder of the Middle East Internet Group


Jad Hindy

Seasoned marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience in marketing, communication and brand building across the Middle East and North Africa region.

One of the first digital and social marketers in the region and an active speaker and mentor on the topics of digital communications and social media. In his previous roles, he was the Founder of Engaged Brands, Founder and CEO of Netizency, Regional Director of Innovation and Digital Strategy at Leo Burnett, Head of Brand and Innovation at Virgin Mobile Qatar, Vice President of Marketing Communications at du and General Manager at Leo Burnett Kuwait. Jad is also a director and board member at TiE.

Bahrain Economic Development Board

Simon Galpin

Dr. Simon Galpin was appointed Managing Director of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) in February 2016.

Previously, Dr Galpin was the Director-General of Investment Promotion at Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK), the Government Department responsible for attracting and facilitating foreign direct investment into Hong Kong, and helped establish the Department as one of the world's leading investment promotion agencies.

With senior management experience in both the private and public sectors, Dr. Galpin was also actively involved in promoting Hong Kong’s expanding start-up ecosystem. Prior to joining InvestHK, Dr. Galpin spent ten years with Scottish Enterprise – at that time Europe’s largest economic development agency. He was initially posted to Hong Kong in 1992 but also worked in Glasgow, Taipei, Sydney and London.

Dr. Galpin holds Masters degrees in Business Administration, Local Economic Development and International Business Law and recently graduated as a Doctor of Juridical Science.


Hadi Kabalan

Hadi Kabalan is a managing director at Otonomos, a fintech and legaltech company which puts private companies on blockchain. Otonomos enables entrepreneurs to easily form their companies online and fund and govern them digitally, with all actions legally valid in the jurisdictions in which Otonomos is present. Currently Otonomos is in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Cayman Islands, BVI, and soon Delaware in the USA.

Prior to joining Otonomos Hadi spent 18 years in finance, investing in and advising technology companies, including 12 years at Goldman Sachs Asset Management where he managed the Global Technology Fund.

Hadi has a Bsc Hons in Banking and International Finance from CASS Business School, a Certificate in Fintech Future Commerce from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a CFA Charterholder.

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority

Sirine Fadoul

Sirine Fadoul is Incubation Manager at DTEC Tech Startup Incubator, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority – Government of Dubai – in charge of the Investment Selection and Incubation Program working closely with tech entrepreneurs on their strategic and operational plans. She sits on the advisory board of several tech startups in Dubai and MENA.

Sirine was awarded Mentor of the Year 2016 by Arabian Business Awards.

She is a founding member of Girls in Tech Middle East and a Mentor and Coach for The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women Program.

Barjeel Art Foundation

Sultan AlQassemi

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a United Arab Emirates-based columnist whose articles have appeared in The Financial Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, The New York Times Room for Debate, Foreign Policy, Open Democracy, and The Globe and Mail, as well as other notable publications.

Al Qassemi is also a prominent commentator on Arab affairs on Twitter. Rising in prominence during the Arab Spring, his tweets became a major news source, rivalling the major news networks at the time, until TIME magazine listed him in the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011.”

Al Qassemi is an MIT Media Labs Director’s Fellow, and in 2014, Arabian Business placed Al Qassemi in its list of World’s 100 Most Powerful Arabs under the Thinkers category. He continues both to write and tweet about the Arab world both from his home in Sharjah, as well as while giving lectures internationally.

Al Qassemi is also the founder of the Barjeel Art Foundation, an independent initiative established to contribute to the intellectual development of the art scene in the Arab region by building a prominent and publicly accessible art collection in the United Arab Emirates. Barjeel Art Foundation currently has exhibitions at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, and the Whitechapel Gallery in London.


Milos Maricic

Milos is the Head of Web Projects at the International Committee of the Red Cross, the world's biggest and oldest humanitarian organization, where he oversees the strategic development of the ICRC's digital platforms. He has spent his career at the intersection of journalism and digital media, having held senior positions at the Digital Edition of the New York Times (NYC) and at the Economist (London). He is fluent in eight languages and an accomplished speaker at TEDx events and conferences.

Gulf Capital

Karim El Solh

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).


Mai Medhat

Mai Medhat is the CEO and co-founder of Eventtus; an events engagement platform and the leading event app provider in the Middle East. Mai is an Egyptian tech entrepreneur holds a Computer Engineering degree from Ain Shams University. She co-founded Eventtus in 2012 with a mission to mobilize events and help attendees make the most of events. The company served 9,000 events and 150,000 attendees since then and growing into 15+ countries.

Mai has been recognized by the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 as one of the most promising entrepreneurs and was invited to represent Middle East startups in an iconic panel with Former President Barak Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook.


Ali Mostafa

Ali F. Mostafa is one of the pioneering Emirati filmmakers. Growing up in the UAE, Ali pursued his goal in 2003 when he enrolled at the London Film School to obtain an M.A. of practical training in film. He set up his own production company, AFM Films in 2007, producing feature films, short films, documentaries, TV commercials, and corporate films. Ali's short graduation film 'Under the Sun' has been officially selected and nominated for best Foreign Film in various international festivals across the world. It also won 'Best Emirates Film 2006' In the Emirates Film Competition held in the countries Capital, Abu Dhabi. Ali's work gained him recognition as 'Best Emirati Filmmaker' by the Dubai International Film Festival in 2007. Digital Studio magazine awarded him '2010 Young Filmmaker of the Year' with Ali's, and the UAE's biggest achievement in film, his feature debut City of Life. His sophomore film, From A to B, was the first Emirati film to open the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. His latest feature, produced by Imagenation Abu Dhabi, is the Arab worlds first post-apocalyptic thriller and titled The Worthy. Ali was awarded Man of The Year in 2014 by Esquire magazine's Man At His Best Awards for his achievements in helping build a UAE film industry.


Nasri Atallah

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.


Talal Bayaa

Talal Bayaa is the CEO and co-founder of Bayzat, a UAE-based technology start-up that empowers businesses with smart and effective insurance & HR solutions.

Launched officially in April 2013, the platform is the first one-stop-shop to offer a real-time comparison of health insurance rates in UAE and much more. The company has recently introduced HR Administration services that help companies automate all their admin work from data entry to managing employee records.

Prior to setting up his own company, Talal worked for a private equity & corporate finance firm, followed by two years at an investment bank.

After sensing an opportunity in the financial products market, Talal started Bayzat with his school friend and now co-founder Brian Habibi. The duo led Bayzat to where it is today, and is now known widely as the company that provides insurance and smart HR solutions that simplify and empower lives with using world-class technology.

Talal studied bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles, USA. He is a CFA Charter holder as well as finance, investment and banking expert.

Deutsche Welle (DW)

Jaafar Abdul-Karim

Jaafar Abdul Karim is an award wining journalist and host of the interactive talkshow “ShababTalk” at Deutsche Welle. “ShababTalk” critically confronts socially charged topics, such as politics, religion, human rights and sexuality. The show was named “Best Arabic Talk Show” by Arab State Broadcasting Union in Tunisia in 2015. In 2016, it was named “Best Youth Arab Talk Show” at the Al Haitham Media Awards in Amman, Jordan.

Jaafar writes a trilingual column for ZEIT ONLINE, and produces a video blog for SPIGEL ONLINE. Since 2015, Jaafar has been touring the Arab region with his talk show, he has hosted debates in Baghdad, Tunis, Rabat, Cairo, Beirut, Amman, Doha, Sulaymanyah with many more cities planned in 2017.

In addition to his work for “ShababTalk”, Jaafar has reported extensively for Deutsche Welle from conflict areas in the Middle East. His recent reporting has focused on the refugee crisis, among many others. He has visited refugee camps in Gaziantep, Turkey, Lesbos, Greece, Bar Elais, Lebanon and Zaatari, Jordan.

Jaafar was named Germany’s “Reporter of the Year” by mediummagazine for 2016. Born in Liberia and raised in Switzerland, Jaafar studied communications and computer science at TU Dresden and INSA Lyon. He has also completed a directing course at the London Film Academy. He holds a Masters in Communication and Leadership from Quadriga University in Berlin. He is based in Berlin.

Kanwal Sarfraz

Kanwal Sarfraz is co-founder and chief operating officer at Middle East’s go-to online marketplace, Prior to joining Wadi, Kanwal worked at McKinsey and Company, where she served leading GCC enterprises on strategy, operations and customer experience topics. Kanwal has worked for global firms Unilever and Gallup in Pakistan, as well as trying her hand at teaching which she still enjoys immensely. Kanwal holds an MPhil in Economics from Clare College, Cambridge University (UK) and an undergraduate degree in Economics from LUMS (Pakistan). Kanwal is a Commonwealth and Noon scholar.


David Llorente

David is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for disruptive innovation and technology. Following these principles David founded Narrativa in 2015. Narrativa’s technology extracts insights from data and automatically transforms them into natural language narratives using Artificial Intelligence.

As an entrepreneur David previously founded 4 startups including one successful exit.

Before starting his entrepreneurial carrier, David held executive positions in Business and Strategy Development for leading companies in the fast growing online gaming industry in Europe, USA and Latin America. In the first years of his professional career David worked as a researcher specializing in Artificial Intelligence.

David studied Physics at Autónoma University of Madrid and Computer Engineering at Rey Juan Carlos University also in Madrid. He also completed entrepreneurial studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

David is originally from Spain and for the last 15 years has lived in Italy, France, USA, Estonia and Germany.


Serag Meneassy

Serag Meneassy is the Co Founder of the MENA regions first A.I. platform focused on building chatbots that redefine customer experience across messaging platforms. He and his team are pioneering the A.I. industry in the region and are looking to establish Dubai as a major player in the future of A.I. He has previously worked at Groupon, Deloitte and Rocket Internet.


Elissa Freiha

Elissa Freiha is one of the region's most active angel investors and the co-founder of WOMENA, a UAE-based angel investment platform for that encourages women to invest in tech startups. Since launch in December 2014, WOMENA has empowered and educated women to invest over 1.8 million AED in MENA startups, with their unique model and educational workshops. She has received multiple awards for her work, including being named by Forbes Middle East as one of the Most Inspiring Business Leaders in the UAE, and in Arabian Business’ 100 Most Powerful Arab women and Arabian Business’ 100 Most Influential Arabs under 40.

BECO Capital

Dany Farha

Dany is the Co-founder and CEO at BECO Capital, a Venture Capital firm that provides early stage growth capital and hands-on operational support for technology companies in the MENA region with a focus on the GCC.

BECO Capital has been associated with some of the most successful technology venture capital transactions in the region. The Firm is a hands-on partner that assists its portfolio companies through growth finance and operational support. Its team brings a rich and diverse experience in venture capital, technology, entrepreneurship and finance, triggering value creation across all the business and operational functions of portfolio companies. This includes helping them to expand to new markets across the GCC, acquire key talent, implement operational improvements, adopt corporate governance practices and raise further growth capital.

Leading these efforts is Dany Farha, with his 20 year track record in the region as a successful serial entrepreneur and investor, with many exits from ventures in a variety of industries. Dany co-founded and exited, the Middle East’s largest job site, Butlers, the UAE’s largest commercial laundry company and Intercat, one of the largest catering companies in the UAE. Prior to that, Dany worked at Lehman Brothers in London for 3 years after gaining a BSc from UCL (University College London) in Statistics, Operations Research and Economics.

He currently sits on the board of the PropertyFinder Group and several other portfolio companies.

Wamda Capital

Fares Ghandour

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.


Chaker Khazaal

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.


Omar Soudodi

Omar is the Managing Director of PayFort one the leading online payment service providers in the Arab World. Prior to PayFort Omar successfully launched in Egypt to become one of top 30 most visited sites and number one e-commerce site in Egypt.

Prior to Omar co-founded the first online loan origination website in the Middle East in late 2005 and sold majority of company to ORASCOM Development in 2006. Omar started his career in the US in various capacities in Banks to include consumer banking, business banking, International banking and commercial banking for Bank of America, California Bank and Trust and Sunwest Bank after studying Financial Management at California State Fullerton and obtaining a Financial Advisor Certification from the NASD.

Omar is actively involved the Arab World business community serving as an advisory board member for American University in Cairo as well as a mentor at FlatSixlabs and Injaz Middle East.


Ken Ripley

Kenneth “Ken” Ripley is VP of sales for AnchorFree and their wildly popular internet safety and security product Hotspot Shield, the largest VPN in the world, reaching over 30% of all internet users in MENA.

Most recently, at Al Jazeera America, Ken positioned AJAM as the first national cable TV network to make its entire inventory available in the Programmatic TV and Digital marketplaces.

Ken has always stayed ahead of the media/marketing curve. At the birth of Interactive Advertising, he launched and managed market leader TiVo’s partnership group.

Additionally Ken has launched and run sales divisions for Columbia TriStar Television Ad Sales, Sony’s Game Show Network, Discovery Communications Digital Networks Sales Team and Discovery’s Sales Development Group, DirecTV’s Ad Sales Company, Al Jazeera America’s Sales Team and IGA Worldwide’s Sales and Partnership Group (In Game Advertising),

Ken lives in Darien, Connecticut USA, has three children and looks forward to the day when college payments are a distant memory.


Craig Moore

As Founder and CEO, Craig is responsible for overseeing the overall strategic direction and managing the day-to-day operations of Beehive. Before founding Beehive, Craig was a Founder & COO of Butterfly Software, a UK based data analytics and migration software company, acquired by IBM in September 2012. Prior to Butterfly his experience includes sales, consulting and finance roles at various multinational companies such as Dell, EMC, Hitachi and HSBC with an emphasis on shaping effective go to market and value propositions.

Beehive, the first peer to peer (P2P) lending platform in the UAE, is emerging as a leading disruptor in the fintech industry, providing an alternative finance solution. Launched in 2014 with the support Rick Pudner, former Group CEO of Emirates NBD, Beehive is an online lending platform that directly connects businesses looking for finance with investors that can invest and support their growth. The Beehive platform applies the innovative technology of crowdfunding, connecting a business with a crowd of investors, to eliminate the cost and complexity of conventional finance. The result is a more efficient, streamlined process that gives UAE businesses faster access to lower cost loans and investors attractive returns on their money.

Since launch, Beehive has registered almost 4500 investors and successfully facilitated funding of more than AED 75 million to around 150 business funding requests.


Oisin Lunny

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.

Build | Brand | Experience

Jos Dirkx

Jos Dirkx is an award-winning media and communications professional, a two-time TedX speaker, and a Women Deliver Young Leader. She is the MD of a creative communications consultancy based out of Dubai.

She founded an award-winning NGO, Girls & Football South Africa, which received recognition from First Lady Michelle Obama. She co-launched a mobile health app, mGirls, which delivers free, daily health care information to 65,000 girls in South Africa via text.

Her upbringing in 12 countries and travel through 95 different countries fuels her passion for cross-cultural communications and is inspiration for her next venture, the DxBAcademy, which focuses on re-inspiring creativity for professional success.

Wamda Capital

Walid Faza

Walid Faza is a Partner at Wamda Capital, a $70m venture capital fund, investing in high growth and capital efficient technology business led by exceptional entrepreneurs. Previously, Walid has been the Investment Manager for both Mena Venture Investments (MVI) and Wamda Capital 1, which has collectively deployed close to $20m in over 80 seed stage companies spanning 12 countries. Responsible for screening, structuring, negotiating and executing investments as well as providing networking opportunities, strategic direction and ongoing management to the funds’ portfolio companies. Walid sits on the board of several regional companies, is an advisor to many startups and has extensive managerial, leadership and investment experience.

Golden Gate Ventures

Michael Lints

Michael studied Management and Control of information science in The Hague, The Netherlands. After his graduation, he worked briefly as a project manager at one of the largest insurance companies in the Netherlands, after which he started his own IT business. In 2007, he founded his own venture fund focused on Dutch SME’s before joining Golden Gate Ventures as a venture partner in 2013. 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. He is a former vice chairman of the Economic Development Board Rotterdam and a regular speaker at conferences.

In 2011 and 2014 he studied Financial Analysis for Business Valuation, and Private Equity and Venture Capital at Harvard Business School in Boston. He has various hobbies. Sports is one of his favourites. He was a member of the Dutch Karate Team for 3 years during his late teens and he loves to run and cycle.

Michael was recently selected to join 30 professionals in a leadership research by Quartz and Hennesey VSOP


Hussam Hammo

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 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.


Tanaz Dizadji

As the Founder and CEO of insydo, Tanaz has used her background in marketing, finance and tech to build an undercover city guide to Dubai. This search-centric product provides people with curated recommendations and has gained a following of over 300,000 unique visitors per month since its launch in January 2016. In April 2017, Tanaz will launch her second company, Brand Ripplr, an influencer-marketing platform that is set to stir the region’s advertising sector.

Graduating with a BSc in Accounting and Finance from the University of Warwick, Tanaz started her career as a chartered accountant in investment management at PwC in London.

Before delving into the world of technology, Tanaz was the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Omnicom Media Group and led philanthropic and artistic projects for the Elephant Parade and START.

When she’s not fusing the world of coding and content, Tanaz blogs on LinkedIn and shares the journey of her digital start-up.

Tanaz was recognized as one of the UAE’s 50 Most Influential Brits.

B&Y Venture Partners

Fadi Bizri

Fadi is a Partner at B&Y Venture Partners, a $46M venture capital fund based in Beirut, focused on investing in high-potential technology startups, with a global mandate. BYVP focuses on seed-stage startups in MENA, and on growth-stage startups internationally.

Fadi co-founded and is currently a board director at Speed, Lebanon’s only early-stage tech startup accelerator, which invests in highly scalable Lebanese companies with global ambitions. Previously, he had co-founded Seeqnce, the first accelerator in Lebanon. Featured in The Economist and The Wall Street Journal among others, Seeqnce resulted in the creation of several successful local startups that target international markets.

He also co-founded SE Factory, a coding bootcamp for low-income youth. SE Factory helps talented students train on the necessary practical programming skills as well as soft skills that are required by the job market, subsequently providing access to top software development jobs.

Previously, he led Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program, a leading Lebanese entrepreneurship support organization, and one of the first points of entry for most early-stage Lebanese tech startups seeking investment, mentorship and training.

Fadi is a mentor and board member at a number of startups and advises organizations such as the World Bank, academic institutions and Lebanese government ministries on entrepreneurship policy and initiatives.


Ahmed Shihab-Eldin

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin is an Emmy-nominated journalist working for AJ+ as a Senior Correspondent. In 2010, Ahmed created, produced and co-hosted Al Jazeera English’s “The Stream,” an award- winning interactive talk show nominated for an Emmy award for Most Innovative Program in 2012. That year, Ahmed helped launch the award-winning HuffPost Live for the Huffington post where he produced and hosted World Brief, a 30 minute interactive global news show, averaging one million views a day. Ahmed joined VICE in 2015 where he served as a correspondent/producer for eight pieces on their groundbreaking, award-winning documentary series VICE on HBO. In 2015 and 2016, 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 & media entrepreneurs impatient to change the world’.

Before joining Al Jazeera English in 2009, Ahmed helped launch the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar where he worked as a Correspondent and led 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, where he graduated with honors in 2007. In 2013, Ahmed published his first book, 'Demanding Dignity'

Ahmed has interviewed Presidents and A-list celebrities, but his passion is in giving voice to the voiceless and reporting under-covered global stories. Ahmed often appears as a commentator for CNN, NBC, BBC, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, Yahoo and other online platforms. He is often invited to speak at leading media, technology, and ideas 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.


Mayada Samy

Mayada grew up as a third culture kid with a goal of showcasing the beauty of Middle Eastern society to the rest of the world. Just as her organization ‘trivago’ advocates, she believes in the value of diversity and in how essential it is for the success of any business. Mayada was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, completed her BSc in Marketing and International Business in Cairo & moved to Germany in 2014 where she launched the first trivago platform catering to the MENA region. Overseeing various strategic, product and marketing activities, she has grown the trivago brand and expanded it to the rest of the Arabic speaking markets in less than a year’s time. When she's not at trivago, she is hanging out with underground musicians and obsessing about capturing every moment on her Instagram feed.

YouTuber & Comedian

Ibrahim Saleh

Comedian, actor, and TV presenter. Ibrahim hosts The Broadcast Show on YouTube.

He is an influencer on social networks and an activist on YouTube and in his stand-up comedy routines. He’s also a humanitarian.


Elias Mouawad

Started his career as a publisher in 1992 in Lebanon where he published two monthly tabloids, “Echo” and “Bizutt”, targeting university students.

Moved to the GCC in 1999 to join Choueiri Group – one the largest media representation agencies in the region – as an account director.

In 2006 he joined Zee Network as Territory Head for Middle East North Africa and Pakistan. During his tenure, he significantly contributed to the restructuring of all operations that resulted in a turnaround in the network profits from the region and played a key role in launching Zee Aflam – a new channel for the network – and positioning it in the top 20 Arabic channels 6 months after launch.

After his tenure with Zee network he launched a media consultancy boutique where he played an integral role in the operations, development, launch and successful establishment of the company. He contributed to the success of several media businesses he consulted for and still maintains a role as a board member in some of them.

Elias joined Kharabeesh in December 2105 as Chief Growth officer. He currently heads the content and commercial divisions.


Farshad Dabeshkhoy

Farshad Dabeshkhoy is the Commercial Director for the Middle East at Criteo, overseeing all of the client side activities across the region. Prior to this he was based in London and Dubai, working closely with the publishers for Criteo, heading the Business Development team, across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. Prior to joining Criteo, Farshad worked with the same regions, at AppNexus located in London as a client advisor to both buyers and sellers.

Valora Digital

Borja Burguillos

Founder & Chairman of Valora Digital, a global sport tech startup. Valora Digital develops Valorafutbol, a platform that helps the football & sports ecosystem to leverage their fan engagement in the new sports age. Valorafutbol is a reference site for user-generated football performance rankings globally, allowing everyone to rate players, play with friends, share and browse related content.

Valora Digital has a presence around the world, with multiple alliances and strategic partnerships with global media and digital players. Valora Digital’s partners are distributed across Europe, America, Middle East & North of Africa and India.

Borja possesses 10+ years of combined experience in Management Consulting and Corporate Strategy.


Walid Mansour

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.


Ramzi Rizk

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.


Tima Shomali

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.

Jumeirah Group

Yousef Tuqan

Yousef Tuqan Tuqan is one of the MENA region’s most experienced marketing leaders, with a diverse career in the UAE that spans over 20 years. Throughout this time Yousef has led the digital strategy and delivery of some of the Middle East’s most iconic brands.

He is currently the Group Vice President of Brand Marketing & Loyalty at Jumeirah Group.

He was formerly the CEO of Flip Media (a digital agency that was acquired by Leo Burnett), the Chief Innovation Officer of Leo Burnett/Publicis Group MENA, and the Vice President for Marketing & Analytics at app-based car booking service Careem, the fastest-growing tech company in the MENA region

Yousef is the most outspoken and visible evangelist for the role of digital marketing in the region. Yousef has also taken an active role in the MENA tech scene, serving as a mentor & advisory board member to the next generation of Arab technology entrepreneurs.

Yousef is a Board Member of the International Advertising Association's UAE Chapter.

Alfan Group

Mohammad Fattal

Mohammad Fattal is the CEO and Founder of Alfan Group, a next-generation digital media company with over 800 million monthly viewers and 250 unique channels across its Multi-Platform Network. Starting off in 2010 by creating his own content Mohammad quickly saw the opportunity and began building his digital channel network. With a degree in economics and a Masters in Entrepreneurship, Mohammad built Alfan during his academic career and started focusing full time on Alfan in late 2014. Currently, Alfan has operations in Toronto, Abu Dhabi and Dubai with a vision of developing and creating content locally to reach a global audience.

BECO Capital

Amir Farha

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.

IFC World Bank

Issa Aghabi

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.

Brand Strategist

Phil Pallen

Phil Pallen builds brands for TV personalities, experts and businesses. You've seen his clients making deals on Shark Tank, advising country leaders, winning a Nobel Peace Prize, and changing lives with an incredible business idea. Based in LA, Phil is often featured by media outlets like Entertainment Tonight Arabic, Access Hollywood, and The Daily Mail, and speaks at conferences around the globe.


Sara Hamdan

Sara is editor of Think with Google MENA, a blog at Google that's all about embracing the digital transformation. She also has a travel and style blog called Holidays in Heels. Formerly, she was the main writer for The International New York Times in Dubai on business and culture for six years.


Rohin Thampi

Rohin Thampi is the Regional Director for Zomato in the Middle East. Having graduated with a B.Tech Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2007, he went on to pursue a PGDM from IIM Ahmedabad in 2009. Prior to joining Zomato, Rohin has worked in multiple sectors such as FMCG and Real Estate. He has successfully handled and grown the business for Zomato in Bangalore, India and in his current role he oversees all operations for Zomato at a regional level, across the Middle East & South Africa.


Nadine Haram

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.

Barajoun Entertainment

Ayman Jamal

Ayman Jamal is well known as the Founder and Producer of Barajoun Entertainment, a leading animation and visual effects studio in the MENA region, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He holds an MBA in Marketing with more than 18 years of extensive experience in Creative Communications, Marketing, Banking, and Production.

Ayman is a prolific entrepreneur who has established eight companies in the past 14 years and one of his companies (Visualizit) won the 1st Position in “The 100 Fastest-Growing Companies” in Saudi Arabia by the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority back in 2011.

His passion for storytelling and expertise in developing Media Content, Branded Entertainment, Animation and Documentaries inspired him to produce his first full animation feature film “BILAL”, which tells a story about faith, hope, and courage. His work paved a way to pursue his ultimate goal of inspiring people through his masterpiece of producing stories that impart values and life-changing experience to different generations of all mankind.

Despite being an enthusiast in the business world, he spares some time from his own schedule to share notable insights about life and deliver public service messages on different occasions. Whilst his charity campaigns focuses on promoting better values for better living, he has also the knowledge to influence one’s perspective using his own well-designed model of “perception”, making FilmFestivals.Com call him, “The Guru of Perception Change”.


Ali Al-Sayed

Recipient of the “Comedian of the Year Award 2016” – Esquire Magazine “Host of Comedy Central Presents… Stand-Up” “One of the most influential comedians in the world” – Toastmasters Magazine US “Funniest people of 2012” – Rolling Stone Dubai’s Ali Al Sayed started writing, performing and producing comedy in 2008. His lightning fast wit and rapport with audiences has allowed him to perform in numerous shows on the iconic and historic Comic Strip Live in New York – Headlining in Caroline’s on Broadway, performing in the Gotham Comedy Club and the New York American Arab Comedy Festival. Ali has performed further major international gigs including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Theatre of Change Festival in Greece where he has taught on numerous occasions.

Further to his Stand-Up career, Ali has featured Specials on PBS, CBS, BBC World, articles in New York Times, and classed as “Funniest People in 2012” by Rolling Stone. Numerous shows and interviews have been aired on UAE and New York Radio stations.

As the Co-founder of Dubomedy, who do “all things comedy”, Ali co-started the first comedy school in the region, introducing Stand-Up Comedy from an Arab perspective and paving the way for many young comedians.

Producing numerous accredited festivals with Dubomedy International Performing Arts Festival, Dubai International Comedy Carnival, led Ali onto having a weekly segment on Abu Dhabi TV and as OSN Consultant, Producer and Presenter. Interviewing artists like Usher, Dave Chapelle, Nick Frost, Cheb Khalid are to name only a few acclaimed highlights.

Ali was recently involved in the Dubai Comedy Festival not only as curator to the event, but also debued his very own Comedy Special “Onestly Sbeaking” as part of the 10 day bill of hit comedians. The festival saw a perfect line-up of global talent including Dave Chappelle and Trevor Noah, combined with the Hottest comedians in the region, with the likes of Badr Salah, Fahad Al Butteri & Ibrahim Khairallah.

With a significant number of followers and viral acclimation, Ali was recently scouted and considered for a supporting role in Will Smith’s latest movie ‘Focus’. In Nov 2015 Ali guest starred in Dubai’s most successful short film yet – “Two Bellmen Two”. He is now scripting his first feature film and working on a new Arabic show for 2016/2017.

Listed in Forbes, Voted in Top 3 Best Male Personality category for 4 years running and as brand ambassador for Etisalat, Ali Al Sayed is currently one of the hottest comedians in the UAE.

Ali’s aim is creating a comedy industry instead of only importing entertainment – but to export entertainment and give comedians from the Arab world the opportunity on the international big stage.

“UAE’s King of Comedy” Ahlan! Magazine “Impossible not to laugh at” Timeout Dubai “Highly Commended” Timeout Night Life Awards

Dentsu Aegis Network

Ramzi Haddad

Ramzi Haddad, Managing Director – Emerging Markets at Dentsu Aegis Network MENA, has over 14 years of solid experience in client servicing and business development assignments whilst working with renowned agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi, BBDO and McCann Erickson networks in Beirut, Milan and Dubai. Ramzi Haddad joined the network as General Manager of Carat in the UAE and Lower Gulf in September 2013 and lead the move to a cluster structure for client servicing teams that broke up silos between digital and traditional media and set the agency on a mission to become fully hybrid by 2017. He also lead on developing of local business in the UAE and with network partners which has seen Carat win the World Future Energy Summit of Abu Dhabi and Ajman Bank among others. He is now responsible for local and regional business for UAE, Lower Gulf, Pakistan and Iran and will be charged with growing the network of partners in terms of scale and capability.


Maaz Sheikh

Maaz Sheikh brings more than 20 years’ experience in media and telecom sectors, spanning technical, operational, sales & marketing functions at Fortune 100, as well as early stage technology companies operating in the US, Europe, and the Middle East.

Maaz started his professional career with Sprint Corporation, where he developed a passion for cutting edge technologies to improve consumer experience. After Sprint Corp, Maaz held consulting positions with Ernst & Young’s San Francisco office where he provided technology and marketing consulting services to media and telecom companies. Maaz also held various positions in US-based technology and communications corporations including Product Manager at Concentric Network (now XO Communications), Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Virtela Communications (an NTT Communications Company) and Vice President of Worldwide Sales & Marketing at StorePerform Technologies (now JDA Software).

Maaz spent a part of his childhood growing up in Dubai and returned to the region in 2006 to join Showtime Arabia (now OSN). As Chief Sales & Operations Officer at OSN, he was responsible for regional growth, customer service and spearheading overall customer operations across the Middle East.

As CEO of STARZ Play, Maaz is inspiring his team to deliver a new and highly anticipated digital media platform. With its internet–savvy population, the region is a leader in adopting innovative technologies and under Maaz’s leadership, STARZ Play is ushering in a bold new world of entertainment options.

Maaz holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Oklahoma State University and an M.B.A from The University of Kansas. He currently lives in Dubai with his wife and two sons.


Dikdyuti Sen

Dikdyuti (DK) Sen, is the Chief Marketing Officer for Delivery Hero's business in the MENA region. The business operates 6 brands in 8 countries, with Talabat as the flagship brand. Prior to Delivery Hero, DK has a decade of experience with Google and Groupon in India and Asia-Pacific, in areas of General Management, Integrated Marketing Strategy, Online Advertising, Social Media, SEO, Web Analytics, Web Technologies, Business Intelligence, and Training. He has a M.Sc in Electronics.


Fahad Albutairi

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.


Ola Doudin

Ola is cofounder & CEO of BitOasis. Based in Dubai with an outlook towards emerging markets, BitOasis is a fintech startup building the infrastructure for new digital payment products using blockchain technology. Ola previously worked as an Associate in IT Advisory for financial institutions at Ernst & Young London. Moving back to the Middle East, she was involved in various entrepreneurship initiatives supporting and mentoring tech startups and social entrepreneurs.

Touch Surgery

Jean Nehme

Dr Jean Nehme MBBS BSc MRCS MSc (Hons) is a co-founder and CEO of Touch Surgery. Jean co-founded Touch Surgery whilst training in Plastic Surgery in London, UK. Jean has an honours Masters degree in surgical technology from Imperial College London. Jean was recently named by Debretts as one of the most influential 500 people in the UK.


Michael Lahyani

In 2005, Michael recognised a gap in the real estate advertising space in the Middle East. He moved to Dubai to launch, soon becoming the most popular property portal in the region.

Today, the company operates across seven markets and employs over 200 people, attracting high-profile local and international investors. In 2013, the company won the SMEinfo “Online Business of the Year" Award and the "Dubai SME 100", an index of the Dubai Economic Department, twice in a row.

Arabian Business Start up CEO of the Year in 2016 and the first Endeavor Entrepreneur of the UAE Chapter, Michael has become a regular speaker at the Harvard Business Conferences on Entrepreneurship. Michael is also a founding partner at Merro, a vehicle that invests in online marketplaces across the globe.

Prior to founding propertyfinder Group, Michael began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in his hometown of Geneva. He holds a Master in Economics and Finance from HEC Lausanne.

Stand Up Comedian

Yaser Bakr

Yaser Bakr was born in Vienna, Austria, on August 27, 1978. Raised and lived most of his Life in Jeddah, Then went to the eastern provincYe to get his Collage Degree in Electrical engineering from KFUPM. Yaser worked in various Multinational companies in Saudi reaching the position of VP of BD and marketing. During which Yaser became a media figure in 2003 when he launched his Blog ( and then a SM influencer & YouTube comedian/presenter in 2008.

Yaser then became a stand-up comedian preforming all over Saudi. and in 2012, he created AlComedy Club (formally known as jeddah Comedy Club).Which is Saudi's first comedy club. and ever since then he has been performing and managing AlComedy Club. in addition to appearing on various shows on traditional and digital media.

Fifa World Champion

Abdulaziz AlShehri

Fifa World Champion 4 Times Saudi Arabia Champion 3 Times Middle East and Asia Champion First ever Saudi Arabian Player to become A Pro FIFA Player. First ever player in Asia and Middle East to win the FIFA interactive World Cup. For the first time ever as FIWC champion , Abdulaziz's pictures were featured on every copy of Fifa16 on both consoles Xbox, Playstation and PC.

Future London Academy

Ekaterina Solomeina

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.

The National

Khalid Al Ameri

Khalid Al Ameri is an Emirati writer and presenter. He is currently a columnist for The National and was most recently a presenter for the Ramadan Series on CNN’s "Connect The World with Becky Anderson”. Khalid was featured on the 2016 Arabian Business list of Top 100 influential young Arabs and holds an MBA from Stanford University.


Jihad Kawas

Jihad Kawas is the founder & CEO of Saily Inc, a company that develops one of the top ranking shopping apps on the US App Store with over 1,000,000 members. A recipient of the $100K Thiel Fellowship grant and a college dropout, the 19 year old currently resides in Silicon Valley where he focuses on growing his company. Jihad is also keen on education reformation and has delivered two TED talks on this subject. Jihad's work has attracted press attention from around the world and has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Finance, Bloomberg Businessweek, Mashable, and VICE. Jihad has been selected as the "Young Entrepreneur Of The Year" in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine, has been on the cover of Arabian Business Magazine and is currently ranked one of the most influential young Arabs in the world by the same publication.

More to be announced soon

STEP Music 2017

Universal Music MENA

Patrick Boulos

Patrick Boulos is Universal Music's CEO for the Middle East and North Africa. In this capacity, he is in charge of the Group's strategy and growth in this region, which holds great promise for the development of cultural exchanges. He builds strategic partnerships and develops innovative services and tools to promote the diverse musical offering of Universal's labels. He also works to expand this catalogue by discovering local talent. Patrick’s connection with music started at a very early age; since his childhood he was surrounded by a strong musical influence and environment as his mother was a piano instructor, and he enrolled in music classes himself. A lot of his leisure time was spent listening to records, and reading about new musical trends and developments and the music makers on the scene. Attending live shows was always his passion, and his first was at the age of 11. His journey with Universal Music Group started in 2001 in Paris, France, after multiple years of advertising experience with multinational ad agencies. He moved to the Middle East in 2010 to establish the operation of the company in Dubai and to found Universal Music MENA to look after the multiple markets of this region.


Ramy Essam

Ramy Essam became an overnight sensation during the Egyptian revolution, when the songs he performed in Tahrir Square became the anthems of a whole generation of young Egyptians struggling for a better future. International media attention quickly followed, and before long Ramy’s name was known far beyond Egypt. His song “Irhal” (“Leave”) was ranked Number Three in Time Out London’s ‘100 Songs That Changed History’.

In October 2014, Ramy was offered safe city residence in Malmö, Sweden, where he has been working on new material, creating an album where heavy rock riffs join forces with infectious Oriental beats and political street poetry demanding social justice, gender equality and human rights.

Ramy is an artist of, and for, the people. Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello, who signed Ramy to his Firebrand Records label, has described Ramy as the “hard-rock Bob Dylan of the Middle East”.

JMR Productions

Jean-Marie Riachi

Jean-Marie Riachi is a multi-award-winning Lebanese arranger, composer and record producer. The first record he produced was Elissa’s Baddi Doub, which catapulted them both to stardom. In 2001, he founded the acclaimed JMR Studios in Rabieh. In 2002, he created his own label, Oriental Music Publishing.

Jean-Marie has produced songs for numerous advertisements and films throughout his career, including “Nour El Shams”, the theme tune for the 2001 movie Spy Game, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.

In 2006, he arranged and mixed "Light the Way", performed by José Carreras and Majida El Roumi at the opening ceremony of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. He also composed “La Ma Kholssit Lehkayi”, the all-star tribute to ex-Lebanese prime minister Rafik El Hariri, which has since become a local political anthem. In 2009, Jean-Marie teamed up with several prominent Lebanese pop singers, including Ramy Ayach and Yara, to produce the multilingual Belaaks, which presented a unique fusion between ethnic oriental instruments and an acoustic jazz band. The platinum-certified album was followed by an equally successful sequel, Belaaks 2, in 2015, which showcased unique collaborations with John Legend and Julio Iglesias.

He is currently the musical director and producer of the Arabic edition of The Voice, rated the most popular TV show in the Arab world. Jean-Marie continues to produce dozens of best-selling albums and countless hits for the biggest Arabic pop singers. He has also branched out into more alternative music genres, developing grassroots musical concepts such as "Laylet Tarab" with a selection of The Voice finalists, and producing Lebanese indie band Adonis’s latest album.


Hamza Hawsawi

Hamza Hawsawi, also known as Ayzee, is a prolific singer-songwriter hailing from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is best known for winning The X Factor Arabia in 2015. Hamza’s work is inspired by R&B, soul and pop music. Hamza is currently working on his debut album – recorded and produced in London, Dubai and Los Angeles – and says he can't wait to share it all with his loving and supportive fans. Although he was signed to Sony Music after winning The X Factor Arabia, he is releasing his album independently. The first single from the album, “Love A Little”, was released in January.

The Wanton Bishops

Nader Mansour

Nader Mansour is the man behind Lebanese rock & roll outfit The Wanton Bishops. Born and raised somewhere between the Lebanese mountains and Beirut, Nader left his country in 2005 to pursue financial engineering studies in Paris, France. It wasn't long before music hijacked his soul, making everything else seem like a faint hint of life.

Nader first started playing harmonica in Parisian Jazz and Blues clubs, but it was his love of rock & roll, classical oriental music, and Beirut that sent him straight back home to form what has become the adventure of his life, The Wanton Bishops. A self-released debut EP, Bad Rhyme, in 2013, followed by a highly acclaimed full length album Sleep With The Lights On, established The Wanton Bishops as a leading force in Lebanon and the Middle East and opened the doors wide for the band to start touring.

A couple of years later, having toured from Europe to the US, Africa to India, headlining festivals, supporting prestigious names (The Who, Guns N' Roses, Lana Del Rey, Sting), Nader and his band have performed at Glastonbury, SXSW, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Rocking The Daisies and more, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the global musical spectrum. In 2016, the band released their second EP, Nowhere Everywhere, making a shift from raw blues rock to a mix of ethnic-electronic psychedelic rock & roll that Nader calls “Lebanese Rock & Roll”. Nader arrives in Dubai on a short detour from the band’s current intensive European tour.

Sony Music Entertainment

Arun Sajjan

Arun heads the Digital Business and Marketing for Sony Music Entertainment in the Middle East region. Arun has more than 14 years experience in the music and entertainment business. He joined Sony Music in 2011 and has since been part of the ever-growing business of digital music. Since moving to Dubai with Sony Music, Arun has seen digital music develop rapidly in the region with the launch of services like Anghami, Apple Music and Deezer. Arun has worked extensively in the Indian subcontinent and Middle East region, and being part of a global company like Sony Music he gets to experience learnings from all over the world. Apart from heading the Digital Business arm, Arun has also been active in A&R, having signed Dubai-based acts including Clarita De Quiroz and Two Tone, as well as Bollywood projects, to Sony Music’s local roster. Prior to working with Sony Music, Arun worked at two of the biggest mobile Value Added Services platform companies – OnMobile and Buongiorno – working on the entertainment side of the business. Arun holds a Management degree in International Business and Marketing.

OUTLAW Productions

DJ Outlaw

DJ Outlaw (Mohammed Al Mohri) was born and raised in Bahrain, and is the founding member of Outlaw Productions creative studio. His DJ career started in 1997, but it was 2009 before he released his debut studio album History in the Making, featuring many local and international artists. It was the first Bahraini hip-hop album to be distributed in musical outlets across the country as well as being sold on digital distribution platforms including iTunes and Amazon. His annual mixtape series “The Middle East Invasion” (which is currently on volume six) presents Arab artitsts handpicked by Outlaw so that the world can experience what Arabian hip-hop has to offer. Most recently Outlaw joined Radio Bahrain 96.5FM in October of 2016 and is now hosting his own Hiphop/RnB drive time show every Friday.

Outlaw has been producing music since 2003. “Bahrain Unite” and 2011’s “Arab World Unite” were two of his biggest projects so far – the latter, featuring seven artists from around the Arab world, was released on Saudi hip-hop artist Qusai’s album, and both tracks garnered international media attention. In 2014, the hit single “Samboosa” – produced by Outlaw and performed by Kuwaiti Outlaw Productions artist, Daffy – quickly went viral, bagging 100,000 views on YouTube within a week of the video release. In July 2016, 9ARAT, a collaborative album between Outlaw Productions artists Flipperachi and Daffy produced by DJ Outlaw, was released, claiming the Number One spot on the iTunes MENA charts. The video for one of the album’s singles “EE LAA” was released in July 2016, and now has over 10 million YouTube views. The single also reached Number One on the iTunes MENA general and hip-hop charts.

Outlaw has also worked with artists including G-unit, DJ Lord Sear, MC Lyte, Jaz O, The Outlawz, TQ, Ace Hood, Freeway, Mad Skillz, Fatman Scoop and actor Orlando Jones. He has shared a stage with DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Tony Touch, Junior Jack, Yves Larock, Fatman Scoop, DJ KOOL, Shortie Blitz, Just Blaze, Tabu of the Black Eyed Peas, and most recently, DMC of RUN DMC.


Rami H. Mustafa

Rami H. Mustafa is best known as the guitarist of the hugely successful Dubai-based extreme metal band, Nervecell – the Middle East’s biggest-selling metal act, hailed as one of the “50 Heroes of the New Metal Revolution” by Metal Hammer magazine. He is also an entrepreneur: He’s the owner of Shredder’s Planet Musical Instruments and Studio, and managing partner of coffee franchise Icons Coffee Couture. Being a passionate, self-taught musician and an MBA graduate, Rami has used his talent and skills in both music and in business. Rami and Nervecell have toured around the world and shared the stage with Metallica, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Decapitated, Suffocation and many more. Rami is sponsored by Ibanez Guitars, ENGL Amplifiers, EMG Pickups, GHS Strings and others.

Musician / Multimedia Artist

Zahed Sultan

Zahed Sultan is a multimedia artist, social entrepreneur, culture producer and filmmaker from Kuwait. He is the founder of El Boutique Creative Group (EBCG), a multi-disciplinary organization devoted to social impact and arts & culture. EBCG’s platforms serve to invigorate society with creative energy via conscious thought. His music has been licensed for television, film and music compilations. Zahed has been featured on renowned media platforms as an emerging artist and tours internationally with a live audio-visual experience.


Hana Malhas

Hana Malhas is a Jordanian singer-songwriter, and the founder and host of BalaFeesh, a concert series that promotes independent artists in the Arab world. Over the past three years BalaFeesh has grown to represent an intimate listening experience, and a platform that supports several online and offline initiatives in the Arab indie music scene. Hana combines a unique blend of music and business perspectives, with experiences ranging from performance to songwriting and composition; and from artist management to financial consulting and strategy planning within the entrepreneurial environment of the online media and music industries. On stage, Hana is a storyteller with an expressive vocal delivery; her voice is at times haunting, and hard-hitting at others. She performs with her band The Overthinkers, engaging audiences with an indie folk-pop sound. Her 2012 EP release Hana Malhas & The Overthinkers features the song “How We Love”, which was nominated for the 12th annual Independent Music Awards in the Folk/Singer-songwriter Song Category. JO Magazine’s Nick Seeley described Hana as “a songstress with a 10,000-watt voice… it’s as if the music is taking over her body, channeling through her lungs in a sort of velvet explosion…she has an infectious smile, and a playful way of grooving onstage, performing with either piano or guitar.” This year, Hana is working on multiple music projects, including producing new initiatives under the BalaFeesh umbrella, as well as spending time in the studio for 2017 releases.


Olly Wood

Oliver (Olly) Wood is widely known as one half of the multi-award-winning electronic music duo Hollaphonic, the first ever dance music duo to be signed to a major label (Universal) in the Middle East. His vast experience in the music industry has seen him work on promoter, label and artist sides, starting his growth from a business perspective working for EMI Records UK on high-profile releases from such artists as Kylie Minogue, Coldplay, Paul McCartney and Robbie Williams. During that time, Wood revolutionized the way many labels engage within universities and venues on-ground through playbacks and club launch nights. Finally back in his preferred position as a recording artist alongside best friend Greg Stainer, Hollaphonic have gone from strength to strength since their 2013 inception with a Number One debut album, multiple Number One singles across more than eight countries, cross-platform brand partnerships with the likes of adidas, Red Bull, Rolls Royce, Neff, Toyota, Emirates Airlines and Jumeirah, airplay on international radio and a Number Three globally trending Shazam track – the highly successful “Dangerous”. Things are looking good for a band and brand that epitomize the exciting evolution of the regional music industry.

Spoken Word Poet

Afra Atiq

Afra started talking at eight months old, and, as her mother puts it, she was never quiet again. She has performed her spoken-word poetry (and slammed) on local and international stages. She was named Best Performer for 2015-16 by Abu Dhabi-based open-mic event Rooftop Rhythms and, most recently, became the first Emirati to ever perform at the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe in New York. In addition, Afra is the only Emirati to perform at the Bowery Poetry Club and win the PoetNY poetry slam at the same venue.

She enjoys giving back to the community through workshops and mentorships. She has been a featured performer/speaker at platforms like the Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, TedxAUS, NYUAD, Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival, and Sheraa Sharjah.

Afra holds a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy (specializing in Middle Eastern politics, gender policies, and power dynamics) and is currently pursuing her PhD at UAE University. Performing takes centre stage in her life, though. Afra performs both serious and comedic pieces in a contemporary fusion of English and Arabic.

Laish Hip-Hop

Big Hass

Hassane Dennaoui , a.k.a "Big Hass" is the host of Saudi’s first & only FM hip-hop radio show Laish Hip-Hop? and the founder of Re-Volt Blog which focuses on underground artists and Re-Volt Magazine which is a bi-monthly online magazine dedicated to hip-hop and Arab culture. He believes in music liberation and supporting local and regional artists. His passion is all about being true to hip-hop culture and its essence. In 2013, he founded "THE BEAT" – a series of events aimed at supporting local artists by having them perform live. Hass has interviewed the likes of LL Cool J, Russell Simmons, K'naan, DMC, Shadia Mansour, Lowkey, Dj Premier, Dj Kool Herc, Omar Offendum, The Narcicyst, Outlandish, el Seed and many other regional talents. Hass recently relocated from Jeddah to Dubai.

Music Producer

Ayham Homsi

Music producer and songwriter Ayham Homsi (aka A Y) is renowned for using his ambition to push the indie music scene forward while discovering and developing upcoming talent from the region, such as 2016 X Factor winner Hamza Hausawi.Refusing to conform, Ayham has always been motivated to break away from the region's mould and industry standards. He has encouraged all artists he has worked with to express themselves honestly, regardless of society’s norms and language barriers. Following his beliefs, he founded The Harmony (HRMNY) along with his brother, Moh Flow. HRMNY is a creative collective whose aim is to push the quality of independent music in the region to an international level. He executively produced Moh Flow’s debut album This is Yo(u) which earned them features on iTunes Middle East and France, in addition to securing their first Soundcloud worldwide Top 10. He is currently working on fellow HRMNY artist Majeed’s new project that is slated for release early in 2017. Internationally, Ayham has been working closely with songwriters in the UK and USA to place music with reputable artists and his first major song with an international artist is also scheduled for a 2017 release.



Since arriving in the UAE in 2011, award-winning English singer-songwriter Abbo has been at the forefront of Dubai's booming underground acoustic music scene. He’s a popular performer in his own right, reaching the finals of Rolling Stone Middle East's 'Street To Stage' competition and releasing his debut EP, 2013's The Lend, as well as being the frontman of DaVinci Park, whose debut album, 2016’s Overlooking Florence, reached Number One on the UAE iTunes chart. But he's also developed several open-mic nights, under his 'GoPlayTheWorld' brand, where many of the city's best young performers have honed their craft – something Abbo also helps with in one-to-one mentoring sessions for up-and-coming artists. In 2016, Abbo funded and oversaw the production of GoPlayTheWorld: Volume One, a collection of original tracks from UAE musicians which also reached Number One on iTunes UAE. He's currently making plans for Volume Two.


Basem Abuarab

Basem Abuarab is the manager of Almoharek, a music booking agency focused on the Arab region. Since 2009, Almoharek has represented more than 35 artists regionally and internationally, and helped shed early light on many of today's most popular Arab artists and bands. Almoharek is part of eka3, an independent organisation dedicated to creating and empowering the market infrastructure necessary for quality Arabic music to grow. Basem has been involved in the local music scene since 2006 as a performer, writer and professional


Ali Al Saeed

Ali Al Saeed is an award-winning author and music entrepenuer from Bahrain who founded indie label Museland Records in 2013. Ali also launched Museland Festival – an event featuring international and regional independent artists – in Bahrain in 2014. Under the label, bands including Belly of Paris and The Relocators have released records and toured the region and Museland has issued four compilations. Apart from his music-related interests, Ali has also written four books, established a grassroots arts movement in Bahrain titled Elham (which ran from 2006-2014), and currently works in Dubai as Associate Creative Director at Digital Ape, an online branded content creation company that also works with creative artists and social media influencers.

Talent Manager

Elia Mssawir

Elia Mssawir is a bassist, developer and booker from Beirut, Lebanon. He has worked with several major names in the music industry – including Snoop Dogg, Serj Tankian, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Tiny Tempah – and has helped develop many regional artists; he is currently the manager of Dubai-based funk-pop band Carl & The Reda Mafia. In 2009, Elia established the underground music platform ‘’, which became one of the main references – and champions – for underground music in the Middle East. In 2014, Elia he co-founded the UK-based Omerta Management, where he booked tours and festivals for bands from around the Middle East.


Dania Ismail

Dania Ismail is the Founder of Third Eye Agency, a music events production and consulting agency based in Dubai and the creator of Electric Days and The Other Side, both alternative music event concepts that showcase local and regional musical talents in electronic, live, and various alternative music genres. She is also the Co-Founder of Jusoor, an NGO created to harness the potential of Syria’s youth through Education, Career Development, Entrepreneurship and Community Engagement, and the Founder and Director of the Jusoor Entrepreneurship Program.

Previously, Dania served as Strategy and Business Development Manager for nine years with MBC Group, the largest Broadcast/Media company in the Middle East, where she launched MBC Ventures, the corporate venture capital fund for MBC Group, and managed the fund’s investments and portfolio companies.


Adam Grundey

Adam is a journalist based in Dubai. For the past seven years, he has been heavily involved in covering the music scene in the Middle East. From its launch in 2010 until it closed in 2014, Adam was editor of Rolling Stone Middle East. There, he interviewed many alternative and mainstream artists from the Arab world, including Mashrou’ Leila, Kadim Al Sahir, Zeid Hamdan, Cairokee, Ramy Ayach, Nawal Al Zoghbi, The Wanton Bishops, Autostrad, Cairokee, and more. From 2014 until October 2016, Adam was editor of – a website dedicated to independent and alternative pop culture in the Arab world, heavily focused on music – from almost-unknown bedroom artists to the biggest names in the Middle East’s alternative music scene. Currently, Adam is freelancing. He writes regularly for Red Bull’s website about alternative musicians from the Arab world. He also helped to curate STEP Music.

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