Written by Aya Sadder - Expecting to grow to 8,000 people in 2017, Ray Dargham – Founder of STEP Group, announced as he welcomed 4,000+ through the doors at Dubai International Marine Club this April. With the wave of startups, speakers, incubators, angels and VC’s exhibiting at STEP, the crowd seemed to want more. It’s a good thing there’s still 2017.
While most of the startups have come to exhibit their hard work over the course of weeks, months and some even a few years, and yet expectations are as high as the cost of the tickets and every minute echoes the sound of excitement, mixed with fear, sweat and competition. Albeit all of this, there was still one big discussion that was on the tongue of all the startups: the need for funding. VC’s like LEAP Ventures & MEVP among others took to the stage pieces of advice that would help startups remain successful in a highly condensed market like the UAE. Tena Pick, Head of Advisory at VentureFin, stated that “a good business idea comes from a desire to change the status quo as opposed to starting a business as a means to gain purely financial profit.” Among the startups at STEP this year, I have listed a few below that are bringing that innovation and creativity to the table.
“If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians.” – Warren Buffet.
Entrepreneur Middle East‘s Editor-in-chief, Fida Chaaban, moderated the opening panel at STEP 2016 to begin the discussion around the investment opportunities that are investable and why? Ms. Hala Fadel, Co-Founder at LEAP Ventures, responded with figures: “we should be investing at least 0.3% of the overall GDP capital injected into the UAE economy which is about 1.2 billion USD in funding.” Although she is correct to look at global best practices that have played out successfully; in this region, if we are to do it correctly, we need to have the right infrastructure in place that allows for more failures and testing in the marketplace before we can drop in a much more serious amount of capital. We need a lot more funding support from the government in STEM & Fintech as the future shines bright for these industries.
Here are some of the startups that are moving the needle forward in the technology space in the MENA region:
1) Vybz: The latest and greatest in the entertainment technology space right now. Vybz is a musical social network bridging the gap between established artists, up & coming musicians and fans.
2) Justmop.com: Need a shiny place in a fancy city like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or Doha? Justmop gets the job done. They are an online on-demand marketplace for booking cleaners to help you keep your most precious resource, your time.
3) IRIS Solutions: One of the most innovative and latest technology solutions to autism. The Sensory Box created by IRIS Solutions is a cutting-edge & affordable approach to create a rehabilitation-friendly and safe environment – mostly but not only – for households with children who are affected by developmental disorders.
4) Bridg: On a mission to spread Fintech to masses and let people know they hear them when it comes to the pain of dealing with their banks.
5) Magnitt: A portal that helps and supports startups from concept exploration to launch and growth. All you have to do is join their platform to connect with Investors, Mentors and Potential Partners!
6) Gruptrip: No more forgetting who owes what, forgetting to share the photos, worrying what the itinerary is going to look like. With Gruptrip, everybody gets to see what’s going on through a click of a button. Available both on the app store and play store.
7) Higher Education: Education is the backbone of a society. And Higher Education provides a one stop destination to find out about all universities, colleges, higher education service providers and courses on offer in the United Arab Emirates.