This year marks the tech festival’s 10th anniversary and the event will be celebrating a decade of inspiring entrepreneurship, enabling innovation and generating new economic value in the region with an action-packed agenda for two days in a row, starting 23rd February.
Organized in strategic partnership with Dubai Internet City, the region’s leading technology hub, the 2022 edition of Step will tackle hot-ticket topics like Web3, NFTs, blockchain, fintech, and more. The speaker-line-up features pioneers from the global industry. Paul Misener, the Vice President of Global Innovation Policy and Communication at Amazon, and Michelle Arrazcaeta, head of Brand Strategy & Collaborations at Polaroid will deliver keynote addresses at the event. Also bringing original insights fresh off a historic milestone is Elie Habib, the founder of the music streaming service Anghami, which earlier this month became the first Arab tech company to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
In an exclusive interview with Communicate, Co-Founder and CEO at Step, Ray Dargham highlights the event’s journey over the last decade, “10 years has been a roller coaster, to say the least. The regional ecosystem of Dubai has grown rapidly. When we first started in Dubai, in 2012, we struggled to get eight start-ups on board and now we have more than 300 of them showcasing with us annually. A total of 1500 start-ups have showcased with us since then,” says Dargham.
The event will cover five key tracks, including fintech with an emphasis on payments, crypto, and e-commerce; future innovations with a focus on AI, mobility, energy, and cloud; digital with media, marketing and content; the start track, which will explore the startup landscape in the region; and finally wellness track deep-diving into health-tech and lifestyle.
Visitors can dive into the future of tech as start-ups exhibit innovative products and services while looking back at the past decade of nurturing the region’s start-up ecosystem. “A lot has changed since the pandemic, we're covering everything from the new Web3, blockchain to the Metaverse and cryptocurrency. In general, there is quite a focus on the art and tech space in the region, we’ve also added a new track this year - Wellness. This track will cover everything around health and mental well-being, including topics of working from home, wellness at work, etc,” explains Dargham.
Engaging talks taking place at the main stage on 23 February include reflections on a decade of MENA’s start-up ecosystem, a panel discussion featuring regulators and key stakeholders who are playing a significant role in shaping up the startup ecosystem. MAGNiTT, a data platform for Emerging Venture Markets, will deliver a keynote featuring the latest data and insights on the region’s start-up landscape. A panel discussion titled World-class interest in emerging markets will discuss how global investors are showing great interest in start-ups in emerging markets like MENA and the advantages and challenges they bring. Another session titled Web3 - a buzzword or a new reality? will see experts discussing whether Web3 will replace the internet and what a future with it might be like.
Later in the day, a session on funding and valuations will see experts tackling how determining start-up valuations should really work. In his keynote address, Eugene Willemsen, CEO Africa, Middle East, and South Asia of PepsiCo International, will share key findings while Alex Bouaziz, the Co-Founder & CEO of Deel, will speak about the company’s global payroll solution. A start-up-led panel discussion on scaling and growing beyond funding will address how expanding, scaling and growing is not only about funding. The day will also see a Keynote address by Ali Shabdar, Regional Director MEA of Zoho, a multinational technology company that makes web-based business tools.
The second day opens with the keynote address by Paul Misener, VP of Global Innovation Policy at Amazon followed by the opening of the wellness track. The first session at the wellness stage will discuss the changing nature of agriculture and consumer awareness. Another session by Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Rima Bazzi and Social Impact Strategist, Nadine Chammas, will focus on the evolution of mental health. Overall, the event adds to Dubai’s profile as the region’s leading hub for talent, innovation and entrepreneurship.
“What’s different about this year is that we are back to hosting in-person after two years and people want to be present. I think everyone is feeling safe really looking forward to being there and being back. The venue is beautiful and everyone can spend time outside in the fresh air, networking. We’ve hosted virtual events, which went well as well. But networking is very difficult to achieve virtually and that's what people miss. They want to be able to meet be around each other and have shared experiences,” concludes Dargham.