It’s been a wildly eventful January for the Middle East’s entrepreneurs. As the region was abuzz with opportunities and competitions for startup hustlers, global prospects for startups were tainted by uncertainty, as US president Donald Trump attempted to ban the entrance of citizens from 7 Muslim-majority countries - including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – to the northern country, home to Silicon Valley and other global startups hubs.
But across the region, both in tech hubs like Dubai and small cities in Egypt’s deep south, there is a flurry of events promising to galvanise an ever-growing regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. From celebrated mammoth conferences such as the Step Conference, to interesting initiatives like Techne Drift - an offspring of Egypt’s Techne Summit - going on a roadshow to Egypt’s most remote areas, these events set the scene for a hell of a year. Whether you are an entrepreneur, a university student, a social media hustler or a fresh graduate aiming to delve into the startup world, we’ve rounded up seven of the most vibrant and impact-driven events to attend in the coming months.
1. Techne Drifts (in different cities across Egypt)
After the success of its parent Techne Summit in Alexandria for two consecutive years, co-founder Tarek El Kady realised the existing gap between entrepreneurs in cities like Cairo and Alexandria and those living in the corners of the vast country. Their new offspring, Techne Drifts, is a series of one-day events in the format of a roadshow, which will travel through governorates in Egypt starting on February 14th. The three upcoming drifts will include Upper Egypt - Asiut, Sohag, and Aswan – on February 14th to 17th, the Nile Delta on February 28th to March 2nd, and the Suez Canal, on March 15th and 17th. For more information, check Techne Drift’s website.
2. ArabNet Beirut, Beirut
One of the coolest summits to be held in Lebanon, Arabnet will gather over 1300 professionals and entrepreneurs from IT, finance, marketing, manufacturing and other major industries. Starting on February 20th, the event will stretch for two days until February 22nd at Hilton Beirut Habtoor Grand Hotel, to discuss the latest trends in the digital industry and explore strategies and innovation in the digital field. To register and see the agenda, visit their website.
3. Lynx International Festival of Creativity, Dubai
A rather unusual festival with a quirky proposal, the Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity is an annual event for the creative communications industry to learn, network, and be inspired. Starting on March 5th, the event will offer a two-day marathon to celebrate creativity in all its forms. The festival, which takes place at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah, will close on March 8th with the Lynx Awards to celebrate the region’s best creative work. Registrations are open until February 12 on their website.
4. Innovation Arabia, Dubai
One of the biggest entrepreneurship events in Dubai, Innovation Arabia aims to gather like-minded entrepreneurs in one place, in order to expand networks and share the knowledge. It’s an innovation-centered conference as they believe that innovation is a central engine and driving force of economic growth and development, and will be held on March 6th to 8th at the Dubai Marina. Check out their website for more info.
5. Step conference, Dubai
With a heavy focus on music this year through the Step Music Festival which will be held during the annual summit, the Step Conference’s fifth edition is kickstarting on April 5th and 6th, setting off to showcase over 400 startups and kickass speakers, from Ajplus' Ahmed Shihab El-din, to cartoonist Khalid AlBaih, to MIT Media Lab’s director Sultan Al Qassemi. Having grown from 300 attendees in 2013 to more than 4000 in 2016, the conference has now expanded from tech-centric to become the largest gathering for technology, digital, and entertainment industries in the region. For more information check their website.
6. Maker Faire, Cairo
The greatest gathering for geeks, artists, engineers, makers, entrepreneurs and craftsmen focused on making cool things is taking place on April 8th. Thousands of attendees will be coming to showcase incredible inventions and ideas, whether it's robots, Quad Copters or Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVS). Organised by FabLab Egypt, the event brought together 5,000 people in 2015 and a massive 10,000 strong crowd in 2016 at Cairo’s tech hub, the Greek Campus. This year, the event will be held in AUC new campus, in 5th settlement, Cairo. For extra details about the event check their website, and check out last year’s coolest finds here.
7. Social Media Summit, Dubai
Setting off on April 19th in Downtown Dubai, the Social Media Summit brings together the insane energy of thousands of people - they are expecting over 1200 attendees - from the MENA region’s most influential marketers, CEOs, business owners and social media entrepreneurs. The summit is set to inspire visitors, bringing a fresh perspective on social media marketing, as well as key strategic insights on social media trends. To know more about the summit, check their website.
Main image by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.