Granted, we only spent a short time at the Step Conference when we last visited Dubai, but we got a great insight into the Middle East Start-up Scene. And there is a lot happening right now.
Positioning itself at the intersection of media, technology, and design the third Step Conference took place in April in Dubai’s famous art district, Al Serkal Avenue. Having met the organizers of Step Conference two weeks prior to the event at the Restronaut Dinner we were already completely intrigued by the idea of attending the conference and ultimately integrated the visit into our two-days Innovation Bootcamp that we held with one of our clients.
Inspiring keynotes with exciting live demos, creative workshops, 3D printers, drones, live music and more kept attendees entertained. The HUB Lounge posed a great opportunity to meet entrepreneurs and investors who were presenting their business ideas and their accelerator programs respectively. Next door on the main stage we saw some interesting and inspiring talks. We even participated in some interviews 😉 Click here for the official photos from the event. The Step Conference is only one manifestation of the growing number of entrepreneurs in the Middle East. But is the Middle East a growing market for innovation? In his book “Start-up Rising” Christopher M. Schroeder highlights the strong problem solving mindset of the region’s new breed of entrepreneurs. A study conducted by Booz & Co. in cooperation with Google finds 40% of the population of the MENA region (Middle East and Northern Africa) belonging to the Arab Digital Generation, born between 1977 and 1997. Over 40% of them would like to start their own business. Schroeder sees the biggest potential for entrepreneurial ventures in the areas of mobile technology, solar energy and social networks. The young entrepreneurs see the problems within the region – and try to fix them instead of waiting for someone else to do so. This mindset already led to successful business ventures such as souq.com, the largest e-commerce site in the region or maktoob.com, the yahoo of the Middle East. The vast populations and the large spending capacity create opportunity spaces for innovation. Key for success is to understand the significant distinctions from the West. Tailoring the offers to these realities leads to a potential multiplier effect due to the increased access to modern technology and the quick adoption of such in the region. Watch this CNN Video: Chris Schroeder about the innovation revolution in the Middle East. With the number of entrepreneurs more and more entrepreneur support organizations emerge on a regular basis. Incubator and accelerator programs can be found throughout the region. Dubai is one important hub for entrepreneurs and its significance is said to grow even further. We will stay curious and keep observing!