The 9th edition STEP Conference, the leading technology festival for emerging markets, has concluded in Dubai with over Dh600 million ($163 million) worth of funding deals announced between companies, regional and homegrown startups.

The two-day event held under the theme of “the World in Dubai” drew 7,000 visitors with a total of 300 international and local exhibitors from 24 countries and 200 speakers taking part in the event.

Ray Dargham, founder & CEO at STEP, said: “One of the best things about this year’s STEP Conference is breaking our record with 300 showcasing startups from all over the world. We are also proud to have several funds and startup investments announced at STEP 2020.”

Ammar Al Malik, managing director of Dubai Internet City, added: “Over the last nine years, STEP has evolved into one of the largest and most exciting tech festivals in the region, and as a strategic partner, we are extremely proud to have contributed to its growth. Continuing the success of previous years, the 2020 edition of STEP, a proven hot bed for entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors, was a great way for DIC to kick-off its plans for the year and reiterate its notable economic contributions to the UAE and beyond.

“This year, DIC hosted ‘Float Your Pitch’ competition, and the response received was remarkable and earmarked another great event for us.”

Some of the key announcements from the conference:

New investment platform Nuwa Capital was launched by managing partner Khaled Talhouni and is targeting up to $100 million in commitments in emerging markets, primarily covering the Mena region, including Saudi Arabia and UAE, East Africa, Pakistan and Turkey

Khaled Talhouni, managing partner at Nuwa Capital said: "We are at a pivotal moment for the ecosystem, where beyond capital, it has never been so important to provide founders with the right mentors, partners and operators, dedicated to helping them navigate the region's complex operating environment, and that is the vision behind Nuwa. Year after year, STEP continues to be Mena's hallmark event for startups, investors and other main stakeholders of the industry, and we as Nuwa Capital were very glad to have launched at the heart of the ecosystem."

Vezeeta, Middle East and Africa’s leading digital healthcare platform secured $40 Million in its Series D round led by Gulf Capital, the Middle East’s largest and most active alternative asset management firm. The round had strong support from existing investor, Saudi Technology Ventures (STV), who led Vezeeta’s Series C round in September 2018.

Okadoc, the leading instant doctor appointment booking platform, closed its $10 million Series A round, following a $2.3 million seed round in 2018. The latest fundraising round is the largest heathtech Series A in Mena.

EAT app, a Dubai-based online restaurant reservation platform used throughout the Middle East, has raised a $5 million Series B round of funding led by 500 Startups and Derayah VC. This brings EAT’s total amount of money raised to $9.2 million.

Other key highlights from the conference:

• Shorages, a simple e-commerce storage and fulfillment services for small and media companies, won the Volkswagen Mobility Challenge.

• Wamda, a startup ecosystem enabler in the Middle East, launched its 'The state of the pre-seed startups in Mena' report in collaboration with STEP Conference at the event on 11 February 2020.

• Dubai Chamber Market Access program took place on sidelines of STEP where corporates such as EmiratesNBD and Mediclinic amongst others were matched with startups.

• Top conversations were led by Khalfan Belhoul, moderated by Fadi Ghandour; the head of Emerging Technology and Global Partnerships at the Smart Dubai Office, Chief Digital Director Zeina El Kaissi and Henrik Landerholm, Ambassador of Sweden.

• Khadoum, an app that enables users to unlock a set of missions presented in the form of volunteer ideas and community challenges, won the STEP pitch competition

• Amna Al Qubaisi, the first female Emirati racing driver joined STEP Show. – TradeArabia News Service

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