To celebrate this rising tide of entrepreneurship, our Forum this year focused on the most outstanding achievers. Together with MIT Arab Startup Competition we organizing a weeklong program to host the top MENA startups ready for global growth. During the week, entrepreneurs pitched to VCs and Angel Investors, participated in workshops with brilliant Silicon Valley partners, and benefited from a game-changing mentorship day. The week was capped with our fifth annual Forum on June 14, highlighting the most impressive MENA entrepreneurs from all over the world.
The Forum was led by two brilliant TechWadi leaders: our Board member Deena Shakir, Business Development Manager at Google; and Ramy Adeeb, a Senior Director at Yahoo! with experience as en entrepreneur and a venture capitalist. Among many brilliant speakers, a keynote address on “Building a Knowledge Based Economy by Dr. Ahmed Hassanein Heikal, Chairman and Founder of Qalaa Holdings, one of the biggest private equity firms in the MENA region was unforgettable. As was the public return of Wael Ghonim, alongside Mo Gawdat of Google[X], discussing his new position as an EIR at Google Ventures, and the path forward for the MENA region – a path led by entrepreneurs.
The first topic of conversation was on The Expanding Oasis: Leadership in Building Billion Dollar Businesses. Having built or ran companies, humorously referred to as Unicorns, the panelists shared their secret sauce about how to build and run billion dollar corporations – in less than 10 years! – further cultivating the oasis of MENA entrepreneurs. Led by TW100 Member Dr. Ford Tamer, CEO of Inphi, Dr. Magic Abraham, Chairman of comScore, Omar Tawakol, Founder and CEO of recently acquired BlueKai, Dr. Louay Eldada, Founder and CEO of Quanergy Systems, and Sam Daoud, CTO at Souq.com, discussed inspirational journeys and set the bar high for those attending. Learn more here.
An optimistic talk on going from Local to Global: Scaling Internationally Through Joint Ventures, featuring two world-renowned pioneers in innovation and economic development, then laid out a road map for scaling in the Media, IT and Knowledge industries. Moustapha Sarhank, Chairman Emeritus of Sarhank Group, and Dr. David E. Martin, Founder of M-CAM, led the optimistic discussion, centered on the power of collaboration for success. Learn more here.
The Keynote by Dr. Heikal followed, dissecting both the paths to success and growth in the developing world through his personal story: “Success is neither a point in time nor a destination. It is a journey made of many decisions and choices, filled with high and low points, achievements and setbacks. Most importantly, it is a journey that none of us can travel entirely on our own. I have been part of some truly amazing success stories, and a number of rather less-than-fortunate ventures. Through it all, it has been the people who have walked beside me that have made the journey truly worthwhile. It is to my colleagues, friends and, most of all, my family, that I attribute the lion’s share of my accomplishments,” said the Stanford PhD, in one of his rare public talks in the US. Learn more hear.
With the visiting entrepreneurs from MENA eager to progress their businesses, a look into the Rising Financing and Support Ecosystem, bridging MENA and Silicon Valley, was a practical and engaging discussion. Financing for MENA entrepreneurs quintupled last year, as has the impact of institutions and organizations that support MENA-based entrepreneurs. Our panelists, who made it happen, included TW100 members Khaled Nasr, Partner at InterWest Partners; Tarek Assaad, Managing Partner, Ideavelopers; Walid Mansour, Managing Partner at MEVP; as well as Randa Akeel, Senior Economist at the World Bank, Robert Mitchell, Partner at Crowdfund Capital Advisors; and Tarek Sadi, Managing Director at Endeavor Lebanon. Learn more here.
One of the primary differences in the ecosystem of support in Silicon Valley, is the role of corporate partners in the expansion and acceleration of startions. Outlining their approaches, leaders with experience at some of the largest names in technology: Facebook, Microsoft, Google, illustrated the need for Innovation for Growth and the Paradigm of Entrepreneurship. Multinationals now reach out to connect with innovators that deliver unique and valuable solutions to their clients, hence changing the landscape of startup business acceleration. Our panelists included Ahmad Abdulkader, Principal Research Scientist, Facebook; James Armistead, Executive VP of Multichannel Banking, Bank of the West; Tarek Elabbady, Senior Director, Microsoft; Nasseem Tuffaha, General Manager at Microsoft; and Osama Bedier, Board Director at WePay and recent founder of Poynt. Learn more here.
Women-led high tech startups achieve 35% higher return on investment. In MENA we are witnessing the golden age of Arab women leaders, with higher percentages of female entrepreneurs as compared with Silicon Valley. Female leaders in innovation then discussed their journeys of ascent, including: Dina Sherif, Senior Advisor for Engagement, Silatech, Nafeesa Syeed and Rahilla Zafar, Co-Authors, Arab Women Rising, and our two newest Board Members, Rama Chakaki, Founder and CEO, BarakaBits; and Dr. Rana El Kaliouby, Co-Founder and CSO, Affectiva. Learn more here.
Throughout the day, the 19 startups visiting from the Middle East had the chance to pitch to the greater TechWadi community of leaders, mentors, and potential advisors and investors, a unique opportunity considering the nascent ecosystem in MENA.
In the grande, and inspirational, finale, two TechWadi leaders from Google took the stage to leave us with a message of hope. The dialogue between Wael Ghonim and Mo Gawdat followed by the always-poetic closing by TechWadi Chairman Dr. Ossama Hassanein, closed a brilliant day and week bringing together the top Arab entrepreneurs around the world to celebrate the bright future ahead. Hear the closing remarks below.
Thanks to all of our Board members, mentors, members, partners and community for making the unforgettable day happen. And a special thanks to our sponsors: the Skoll FOundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, Bank of the West, Lahlouh, Souq, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo for the continued support.