SHARJAH: As the UAE prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary this December, the upcoming Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival (SEF 2021) will take a closer look at the factors influencing the country’s start-up sector growth over the next 50 years.

The event will see Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, lead a keynote discussion titled "50 Years of the UAE: The Progress of a Nation", which will be moderated by the Co-Founder of Careem, Magnus Olsson, on 22nd November, the first day of SEF 2021. The two will also discuss the ever-increasing role and impact of the start-up sector on the growth of the UAE, and the importance of creating the entrepreneurs of tomorrow by adapting the education system of today.

They will be joined by more than 50 voices of change – rising stars in business and culture, industry titans, creatives, young sports figures, region’s top entrepreneurs – who will converge at Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa)’s flagship event to engage and inspire 4,000 established and aspiring founders through the festival’s vibrant and diverse discussion agenda.

The two-day event is being held under the theme, #WhenStarsCollide. For the first time in its five-year history, the physical event will be free-to-attend for all visitors, enabling everyone in the UAE to learn from experts, forge life-changing connections and unleash their entrepreneurship potential.

Day 1 22nd November, Monday What does it take to be a changemaker? Featuring young regional talent, such as actor and singer Rashed AlNuaimi, and Manar Al Hinai, co-Founder of Sekka, is the first SEF 2021 panel session, "What it Feels Like to Be A Changemaker". It will focus on the fears, societal pressures, and the daily struggles of Arab entrepreneurs and creatives as they build successful careers and challenge societal norms while keeping their mental wellbeing in check.

Omar Samra and Omar Nour from Egypt will be presenting a keynote titled "Aiming for the Stars". They will share how the extraordinary experience of a fight for survival during a perilous 3,000 nautical mile journey across the Atlantic has taught them how to push their resolve and challenge their way of life as both entrepreneurs and adventurers.

The co-CEO and co-Founder of the internationally acclaimed app, Calm, Michael Acton Smith will present an on-stage masterclass titled "Keep Calm and Carry On: Turning Your Dreams into Reality". He will demonstrate the worth of pursuing an idea no matter how outlandish it may seem.

Bassel Al Nahlaoui, MD - Mobility, Careem – one of the first start-up unicorns of the Middle East, will discuss how others can follow their lead in shaping innovators of the future, with Christian Eid, founder and CEO, DuckLife and Asma Alyamani, Head of Product, Mamo Pay at a panel discussion titled Today's Employees, Tomorrow's Entrepreneurs: Lessons from the "Careem Cartel".

The upsurge in conversations around mental health worldwide finds its way into SEF 2021 with a panel discussion titled, "Mind Over Matter: Rethinking the Hustle and Grind of Being an Entrepreneur". Voicing their thoughts on the subject are Craig McDonald, co-Founder, YallaParking; and Amna Al Haddad, the UAE Olympic weightlifter. The discussion will present perspectives of entrepreneurs on both spectrums of the mental health debate – those who put themselves first and tap out of the hustle when they feel the need, and those who weather it all with a single-minded focus on the goal. Which is better? The metaverse is the world’s big idea at the moment, and the panel session, "Reality Bites: Going Meta About the Metaverse", will go past the buzzwords of physical, augmented, and virtual reality and shared online spaces to dwell on its real-world applications. Joining the conversation will be Anthony Monteard, co-Founder, Jumy; Anwaar AlMahmeed, CFA, Managing Director, Republic MENA; Amrita Sethi, artist; and Simon Hudson, CEO, Cheeze.

Other sessions on the agenda of the opening day of SEF 2021 include a keynote address titled "Stepping into Your Power: Why You Need to Awaken the Spiritual Entrepreneur in You" by Pauline Nguyen, one of Australia’s most impactful speakers and development coach and Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley.

Day 2 23rd November, Tuesday In an honest 30-minute fireside chat, "The Untold Truths About Being A Great CEO", leading executives from across MENA, Nisreen Shocair, CEO – Middle East, YOOX Net-a-Porter; Amir Farha, founder, COTU; and Farida El Agamy, General Manager, Tharawat Family Business Forum, will explore how the pandemic has questioned and challenged traditional leadership.

Ali Tabrizi, the 27-year-old filmmaker who has turned the spotlight on the impact of the commercial fishing industry with his documentary, Seaspiracy, will headline the Fireside Chat sessions in the session titled "Making Change Happen", along with Sean Dennis, Co-Founder and CEO of UAE start-up Seafood Souq and Ibrahim Zu’bi, Chief Sustainability Officer at Majid Al Futtaim-Holding, while Tahmima Anam, author of The Startup Wife, calls for rewriting the women-in-tech narrative in "Subverting Stereotypes: Rethinking Gender Dynamics in The Startup Realm".

Lifestyle entrepreneur and high-performance business coach Lewis Howes, the NYT bestselling author of "The School of Greatness", will share insights into living your dreams, making an impact, and leaving a legacy in the world in his keynote address titled, "Chasing Greatness".

Aida Muluneh, Founder and Director, Addis Foto Fest, will explore how entrepreneurs in the creative sector can be boosted and bolstered in the MENA region and beyond in a panel session titled, "I'm An Entrepreneur Too: Giving Creatives Their Due".


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