- Pressing regional business and technological setbacks and opportunities
- Meeting aims to foster empowering conversations and action among public and private sector organizations committed to adopt constructive change
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London: The 17th edition of the Middle East Conference of London Business School, brought together over 14 of the region’s biggest movers and shakers in Venture Capital, Technology, Strategy, Entrepreneurship, and more at the Royal Lancaster hotel in London.
Held under the theme ‘Investing in Transformation’, the conference brought together prominent business leaders and professionals for a set of discussions, panels, keynote speeches, and insights on the region’s hottest business trends. Guest speakers included Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon, Faisal Rehman, Partner SoftBank Investment Advisers Middle East, Abdulrahman Tarabzouni, CEO and Managing Director of STV, Omar Almajdouie, Founding partner and CEO of Raed Ventures, George Sarraf, Partner and the Managing Director, Strategy& Middle East, Abdulaziz Al Loughami, Co-founder & Managing Partner at Faith Capital to name a few.
In her opening remarks, Dana Shaheen, President of the London Business School Middle East Club and Conference Co-Chair explained that this one-of-a-kind conference which is the largest annual meetup of Middle Eastern business leaders and professionals outside of the region, is aimed at discussing the all the trends impacting regional business today, such as the transformation theme chosen this year.
She said: “The Middle East region is on the verge of a massive digital disruption, fueled by a strong digital population, and some of the highest mobile penetration rates globally. Companies, businesses, investors and governments alike are investing time, capital and resources to transform regional economies away from legacy industries and into high-growth sectors such as e-commerce and technology to sustain a competitive advantage in today’s rapidly evolving world.”
The Conference’s first panel of the day featured three Venture Capital veterans and explored the early-stage investments being made to promote the tech and startup sector. Omar Al Majdouie, Founding partner and CEO of Raed Ventures , commented on the importance of Venture Capital as an asset class to promote economic activity, he said: “GCC governments are very much aware of the benefits Venture Capital brings to society, beyond financial returns. By investing in innovation, you are by default investing in ideas which improve societal welfare and provide better lives for people.”
Almajdouie was joined by Amir Farha, Managing Partner and Co-Founder BECO Capital and Omar Sati, Managing Director at DASH Ventures (DASH), who both agreed that due to this focus on VC, the startup ecosystem in the middle east has started to mature. Farha said: “we are noticing a trend that entrepreneurs are starting to tackle global problems which have a much wider market than just the Middle East, and innovating for emerging markets as a whole.”
Sati also explained: “We are beginning to see funds of funds coming up that are taking a big portion of their money to specifically invest in venture capital funds, and this is all part of the maturing ecosystem that we are seeing.”
The London Business School Middle East Conference also brought together founders and chiefs of noon, Careem and Anghami to discuss building unicorns in the Middle East. The three startup giants discussed the opportunities and challenges startups face to scale in our region today.
The panelists identified two major issues facing regional startups, namely lack of specialised talent and absence of infrastructure.
They believe that with consumer internet is in its infancy in our region, with some of the highest social media usage rates in the world, the Middle East region presents a golden opportunity for tech start ups. However, they also highlighted that given the lack of the required infrastructure, service business will -in order for a to take off and succeed in the Middle East- need to build their own logistics, fulfillment centers, etc. and operate as platforms.
According to Faraz Khalid, CEO at Noon.com, this is a key differentiator between emerging markets and those more mature markets in the west.
Faraz also stressed on the importance of skilled talent saying: “Another issue to scale is talent. In the region we still do not have expert consumer internet experience, therefore, we need to either import talent from abroad or train talent according to best practices.”
The London Business School Middle East Conference closed with major take-aways including that the region is ripe for disruption. That it is undergoing an exciting time of transformation, due to high-growth sectors such as technology, but yet continues to face challenges in infrastructure, financial inclusion, and talent shortage which hinder the speed in which startups can grow.
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© Press Release 2019