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In association with Microsoft for Startups
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June 15, 2021updated 16 Jan 2023 2:47pm

Build your own unicorn: How Microsoft is empowering start-up ecosystems

Microsoft for Startups’ virtual conference ‘Highway to 100 Unicorns’ will provide those engaged in the Middle East’s start-up ecosystem an invaluable opportunity to connect with some of the sector’s leading figures.

By Pete Barden

Abu Dhabi has been hard at work in recent years fostering a regional hub and launchpad for innovative B2B entrepreneurs. ADIO’s strategic five-year partnership with Microsoft builds on this work, introducing a range of initiatives helping regional B2B start-ups engage with larger corporates and get access to the tools and resources they need to scale up.  

Microsoft for Startups’ virtual conference ‘Highway to 100 Unicorns’ will provide those engaged in the region’s start-up ecosystem an invaluable opportunity to connect with some of the sector’s leading figures. (Photo by Serhii Bobyk/Shutterstock)

The partnership kicks off with Highway to 100 Unicorns a webinar series which will be opened by Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, on 21 June. This series offers access to keynote addresses, fireside chats and panel discussions involving more than 100 of the most influential and interesting voices in the region. Topics covered include the greatest challenges facing entrepreneurs today, and emerging trends, insights and best practices to help accelerate new businesses.  

It is essential viewing for anyone interested in the region’s fast-growing B2B tech ecosystem. Below, we pick out a few of the highlights from the nine-day programme.  

Opening Day, 21 June

The Future of Innovation

Panellists Andrew Macadam, global field leader at Microsoft for Startups, Courtney Powell, COO at 500 Startups and Salvatore Lavallo, head of FDI at ADIO, discuss why public-private partnerships are a catalyst for innovation at scale, and delve into how diversity and inclusion are becoming ever more essential ingredients for creating and consolidating a thriving start-up ecosystem.   

Other highlights include: H.E Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, director general, ADIO; Roberto Croci, MD for Microsoft for Startups MEA; Sayed Hashish, UAE general manager at Microsoft; and Reem Al Junaibi, head of technology & data at Hub71.  

Investor Day, 22 June

Unicorns vs. Zebras: Investor Insights

Identified by Forbes as one of the ‘World’s Top 50 Women in Tech’, founder of Dubai-based Global Ventures, Noor Sweid, talks about the evolution of the venture space across the Middle East, Pakistan and Turkey, sharing her essential tips for entrepreneurs on the path to building a Unicorn.  

Other highlights include: Priya Rajan, MD at Silicon Valley Bank; Nader Museitif, SVP for product & business development at Hub71; Amal Dokhan, partner 500 Startups MENA; Shane Shin, founding partner at Shorooq Ventures; Sharif El-Badawi, founding managing partner at Plus VC; Omar Almajdouie, founding partner and CEO at Raed Ventures.  

Accessibility Day, 23 June

Solving for Accessibility & Inclusion

Entrepreneurs from the Microsoft for Startups programme reveal how they’re solving the biggest accessibility and inclusion challenges in creative ways, from leveraging AI to drive D&I strategy, to producing assistive technologies for the deaf and hard of hearing. The panel includes CEO of Predixa, Paula Newby; Sehat Kahani CEO, Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram; CEO at MindRockets, Mohammad Kilany; and CEO and co-founder at Key2enable Jose Rubinger.  

Other highlights include: Ihsan Anabtawi, COO and CMO at Microsoft UAE. Others TBC.  

Tech Day, 28 June

The Cloud Architecture Journey

Chief technology officers from the worlds of blockchain, security, finance and machine learning share the opportunities and challenges they encountered building, optimising and scaling in the cloud. Panellists are Sergii Marchenko, CIO at Securrency, Mossab Hussein, co-founder & CSO at spiderSilk and Gonca Gulcer, co-founder & CTO at QuinAI.   

Other highlights include: Iba Masood, co-founder and CEO at Tara.AI; Bassem Asseh ,VP EMEA GitHub; Sania Kaddoura, cloud architect at Microsoft.   

Founders Day, 29 June

Building Start-ups that Scale

Former regional managing director of Facebook in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, and current CEO at Unifonic, Jonathan Labin, provides his insights on how to elevate businesses from start-ups to scale-ups, rapidly and at low cost.   

Other highlights include: Faisal Toukan, co-founder & CEO at Ziina; Zach Finkelstein, managing partner at Class 5 Global; Carolin-Carmen Neubauer, COO and Co-founder at FERO.Ai; Shamsher Singh, founder & CEO at BLUELIGHT SYSTEMS; Patrick Rogers, co-founder at Clara Technologies + Support Legal; Reem Khouri, co-founder and CEO at Whyise, Eleanor Slinger, regional director, New Statesman Media Group UAE.  


Corporates Day, 30 June

Paths to Startup Profitability with EY

EY Director for Digital Transformation and Startup Coach, Gordon Suttie and EY Partner for Transformation & Innovation, Alex Collins, host a workshop helping entrepreneurs to better define their business model and chart a faster course towards turning a profit.  

Other highlights include: Maria Paula Oliveira, chief innovation officer, MENA at EY; Asad ur Rehman, director media & digital transformation MENA at Unilever; Suryanka Jatain, director – digital & innovation at KPMG Management Consulting; Kai Ling Ting, innovation lead at Etihad. 

Go-to-Market Day, 5 July

Marketing Archetypes with LinkedIn

Getting to grips with brand archetypes is a crucial step in bringing an organisation to life. Here, Enterprise Account Director for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, Ghadah Alawami, runs a workshop helping start-ups to build a compelling brand identity to create lasting connections with customers.  

Other highlights include: Akhtar Badshah, founder and chief catalyst at Catalytic Innovators Group; Elie Habib, Anghami co-Founder; Rami Khoury, CEO at Auxi; Anuscha Iqbal, CEO at; Suna Zoabi – Othman, founder & CEO, Tawazon; Alaa Bakhit, Founder of B12 for Digital Services and professor of practice at HTU.   

Government Day, 6 July

FinTech Regulation with ADGM

Abu Dhabi Global Market’s (ADGM) associate director for financial centre development Dr Bhaskar Dasgupta, and Miriam Kiwan of ADGM’s executive chairman’s office, conduct a fireside chat to discuss how Abu Dhabi is leading the way in developing specially-tailored regulatory frameworks for FinTech firms.  

Other highlights include: Juma Alhamli, senior executive director of strategy and business development at ADGM 

Ecosystems Day, 7 July

Accelerating & Building the Future of the Venture

A diverse range of figures from different stages of the startup value chain come together to discuss the importance of ecosystem enablers in building a strong deal flow pipeline. Panellists are managing partner at Flat6Labs‬, Marie-Therese Fam; Plug and Play Abu Dhabi MD, Babak Ahmadzadeh, managing partner at Modus Capital, Kareem Elsirafy, associate director at startAD, Hana Barakat, manager for incubation and acceleration programmes at İTÜ ARI Teknokent A.Ş.‬, Selma Bahçıvanoğluand I2I Accelerator CEO, Mehvish Arifeen. 

Other highlights include: Lynn Chouman, news editor at LinkedIn; Elodie Robin, Aerospace and Defence Accelerator, Hub 71-Gothams; Shereen Abdulla, podcast host and producer, Spark! With Shereen; Mia Jafari, MD and programmes manager, Intelak Hub.  

  • Register to attend the ‘Highway to 100 Unicorns’ Webinar Series here  

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