Mar 18,2010

By all accounts, TechWadi’s Global Technology Forum 2010, held March 18 2010 at the PlugandPlayTechCenter incubator in Sunnyvale, CA, was a resounding success. Over 200 high-caliber investors, professionals and entrepreneurs from a dozen countries joined 30 distinguished speakers to discuss entrepreneurship, venture capital, and the economic future of the Arab world.

Feedback since the event has been thunderous. We are organizing a follow-up conference in Washington D.C. in partnership with President Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship, April 28 at the Hotel Palomar.

TechWadi organized this year’s Global Technology Forum as a call-to-action for the Arab and Arab-American Diaspora. The mission: to join together and contribute our resources towards a shared vision of entrepreneurship development in the MENA region, rallying behind President Obama’s initiatives as described in his “A New Beginning” speech at Cairo University.

Tarek El-Sadany The Incubators:
The session kicked off with Saeed Amidi, Founder and CEO of Plug and Play Tech Center – the most successful incubator in the world with 500+ startups and $750 million+ raised in 4 years. Saeed spoke about his experience establishing an incubator and the necessity of a strong support ecosystem to ensure the success of budding entrepreneurs. He was joined by Dr. Tarek El-Sadany, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Communications and IT of Egypt. Tarek is an entrepreneur in his own right and understands Silicon Valley, having founded his own company and served as a VP at Oracle. Tarek spoke about the benefits that the PlugandPlay/Silicon Valley model would bring to MENA.
The Venture Capitalists:
The next two panel discussions featured a veritable army of VCs, many of whom flew directly from the Middle East just for this event. A lively exchange between US-based VCs (InterWest, Canaan, SVB, USVP, and Khosla Ventures) and MENA-based VCs (Ideavelopers, Intel Capital, IV-Holdings, Sawari Ventures, Riyada, and DSOA) ensued on the topic of the region as an attractive target for venture capital and how entrepreneurship could be nurtured and accelerated. The MENA-based VCs painted a confident picture of the region’s future, particularly in technology innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Mentors:
At the conclusion of the VC panels, we broke for lunch and networking under the warm California sun. I was then joined by Dr. Usama Fayyad, chairman of OASIS 500 and former Chief Data Officer at Yahoo!, and Habib Haddad, founder of Yamli and YallaStartup, to discuss the steps we as a community need to take in order to promote – in MENA – more of the same entrepreneurial success that had the room buzzing with excitement. President Obama has set up a program to provide co-investment with VC funds in technology entrepreneurship and developmental projects throughout the MENA region. For this program to succeed, we need one thing above all: the involvement of the Diaspora. We need advisors, mentors, entrepreneurs, and executives. Under the auspices of TechWadi, we are forming the A100, a group of ultra-accomplished and dedicated Arab professionals with the willingness to give back to the region and help a new generation reach new heights. Fifty pros signed up in the first 5 minutes!

Captivated Rapture

The Entrepreneurs:
The afternoon began with high energy, as some unique examples of Arab American success took center stage. Three successful founders from three very different companies presented their points of view – on e-commerce (Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO of, hardware and semiconductors (Dr. Hisham Haddara, CEO of Si-Ware Systems), and software and services (Youssri Helmy, Chairman of Idealratings).

The successful founders/CEOs were followed by our panel of young up-and-comers: a serial entrepreneur and current president of Stanford GSB’s Entrepreneurs Club (Abdullah Assal of GlobalTelecom), a mobile monetization guru (Tamer Hassanein of ZONG), a video-game and marketing expert (Rony Chammas of EA), a CEO/consultant specializing in technology transfer from the US to the MENA region (Dr. Ibrahim Almojel of SDG), and a social media CEO (Akram Benmbarek of Soovox). These Arab American future leaders were most inspiring.

Young Arab Entrepreneurs
The Trend Setters:
The next panel featured some of the most accomplished Arab Americans in Silicon Valley: Dr. Maha Achour, founder and CTO of RAYSPAN, together with Dr. Belgacem Haba, Tessera Fellow and CTO. They spoke at length on the topic of driving entrepreneurship through intellectual property licensing. With over 100 patents in their names, Maha and Belgacem can serve as powerful mentors to young scientists wishing to monetize their discoveries. They were joined on this panel by Dr. Taher Elgamal, founder and CEO of IdentityMind and among the world’s foremost experts on data and internet security.
The Trendsetters, Arab Americans in Silicon Valley
Naeem Zafar and Bassel Ojjeh The Pioneers:
Last but most certainly not least, our event was wrapped up by Naeem Zafar (Lecturer at Berkeley Haas School of Business and founder of Concordia Ventures) and Bassel Ojjeh (CEO at nPario and lead investor in ArabCrunch). Naeem discussed his deep experience as President of OPEN (Organization for Pakistani Entrepreneurs) and the dramatic successes he has seen from their business plan competitions and subsequent mentorship programs. Bassel presented the launch of ArabCrunch.NET, the platform of choice for connecting entrepreneurs, mentors, and VCs through an online community. He ended the conference by re-inforcing the theme of the day; focusing on the next steps required to build this entrepreneurial ecosystem and advance innovation in the region.

The Follow-Up:
The next day Newbury Ventures hosted an entrepreneur/VC roundtable at our offices in Redwood Shores, where the founders of promising companies came and pitched to a room-full of both US-based and MENA-based venture capital firms. We had young and promising minds with business plans that spanned across the board: a new developer’s platform for online gaming, a dramatic new approach to remote education, a powerful tool to manage sales relationships across industries, a well-tested IT-based strategy to detect and contain future disease epidemics, and a map-based approach to real estate sales in the Middle East, to name a few.

It is clear that Arab Americans and the Arab world as a whole are ready for the next step: infusion of Silicon Valley experience, guidance, and mentorship which will help propel the region towards becoming a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. Leveraging the brand of TechWadi, we intend to rally the community support that is needed to ensure our initiative’s success.

Warm Regards,

Ossama Hassanein
Chairman, TechWadi

Hosted by:

Conference Agenda:

Registration and breakfast
Opening remarks and conference objectives
Youssri Helmy and Dina Ibrahim (TechWadi)
Incubators: Exporting the cutting edge of Silicon Valley
Saeed Amidi (CEO, Plug and Play)
Hazem Abdelazim, PhD (CEO, ITIDA)
MENA: Investor perspectives on tapping a new world of opportunity
Tarek Assaad (Managing Partner, Ideavelopers)
Emile Cubeisy (Managing Director, IV Holdings)
Hany Al-Sonbaty (Partner, Sawari Ventures)
Walid Bakr (Partner, Riyada Enterprise Development)
Feroz Sanaulla (Director, Intel Capital META)
Mohammed Alzubi (Director, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority)
Session Leader: Karim Fahmy (Director, Intel Capital USA)
Coffee break
Silicon Valley: VC trends and transplantation – how can the model work in the MENA region?
Maha Ibrahim, PhD (General Partner, Canaan Partners)
Khaled Nasr (Partner, InterWest Partners)
Nadim Maluf, PhD (Entrepreneur-in-Residence, USVP)
Ramy Adeeb (Principal, Khosla Ventures)
Session Leader: Elie Habib (Co-founder, LebNet)
President Obama’s Global Technology and Innovation Fund: How you can make a difference
Ossama Hassanein, PhD (Newbury Ventures)
Success stories from MENA and Silicon Valley
Hisham Haddara, PhD (CEO and founder, Si-Ware Systems)
Nadia Mansour (VP Sales, Turin Networks)
Ronaldo Mouchawar (CEO,
Akram Benmbarek (CEO and founder, Soovox)
Session Leader: Youssri Helmy (Chairman, Idealratings)
Networking break
Spotlight on a new generation of Arab entrepreneurs
Ibrahim Almojel, PhD (Strategic Decisions Group)
Tamer Hassanein (ZONG Mobile Payments)
Rony Chammas (Electronic Arts)
Session Leader: Abdullah Assal (President, Stanford GSB E-Club)
Ali Diab (VP Product Management, AdMob)
Taher Elgamal (CEO, IdentityMind)
Maha Achour, PhD (CTO and cofounder, RAYSPAN)
Belgacem Haba, PhD (CTO, Tessera)
Session Leader: Ghazi Benothman (Partner, Minah Ventures)
Networking break
Building blocks: Creating the new ecosystem
Bassel Ojjeh (CEO, nPario)
Ash Lilani (President, SVB India & China)
Naeem Zafar (President, OPEN Silicon Valley)
Habib Haddad (Founder,
Cocktail reception/Networking session

Our Speakers

Saeed Amidi

CEO, Plug and Play
Maha Ibrahim, PhD
GP, Canaan Partners
Ossama Hassanein, PhD
Managing Director,
Newbury Ventures
Khaled Nasr
Khaled Nasr

Partner, InterWest
Emile Cubeisy

Managing Director, IV Holdings
Nadim Maluf
Hazem Abdelazim, PhD

Hany Al-Sonbaty
Partner, Sawari Ventures
Tarek Asaad
Managing Partner, Ideavelopers
Bassel Ojjeh
Lead Investor, ArabCrunch Group
Karim Fahmy
Director, Intel Capital
Maha Achour
Walid Bakr
Director, Riyada Enterprise Development
Ronaldo Mouchawar
Mohammed Alzubi
Director, DSOA
Ash Lilani

President, SVB India & China
Belgacem Haba, PhD
CTO, Tessera
Ali Diab
VP Product Development, AdMob
Akram Benmbarek
CEO, Soovox

Taher Elgamal, PhD

CEO, IdentityMind
Youssri Helmy
Chairman, Idealratings

Dina Ibrahim
Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University

Ramy Adeeb
Principal, Khosla Ventures
Naeem Zafar
President, OPEN Silicon Valley

Ghazi Benothman
Partner, Minah Ventures

Ibrahim Almojel
Consultant, SDG
Hisham Haddara, PhD
CEO, Si-Ware Systems
Abdullah Assal

President, Stanford MBA Entrepreneurship Club
Rony Chammas
Product & Marketing Manager, EA
Tamer Hassanein
Monetization Guru, ZONG

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