The UAE’s unprecedented support to its startup community was evident at the two-day Step conference which opened on Wednesday. Massive support from all key sectors was displayed as mentors, venture capitalists, accelerators, investors and incubators showed their solidarity to boost entrepreneurial skills of youth.

The conference has so far recorded 6,000-plus attendees with 1,000-plus participating entrepreneurs and $1 billion in funding.

“The Step conference provides a one-stop location for regional and international entrepreneurs, brands, influencers, investors, government representatives, future technology stakeholders and young learners to be updated on the latest trends in technology and learn from industry leaders,” said Necip Ozyucel, Cloud and Enterprise Group Lead, Microsoft Gulf.

“I look forward to participating at the conference and highlight how Artificial Intelligence can augment human capabilities, versus replacing them. Microsoft is in constant pursuit towards designing technology that complements rather than substitutes human labour, which further encourages business leaders to drive their digital transformation agenda. Our aim is to amplify human ingenuity with intelligent technology and empower them to achieve more. The ethical use of AI, its role in improving accessibility and AI’s impact for humanitarian benefit are also some of the key areas that are at the heart of our efforts when it comes to Microsoft’s approach to AI,” adds Ozyucel.

Ray Dargham, co-founder and CEO, Step Group, said: “This year, we are seeing a lot more interest from investors and startups in Asia, China and Europe who are keen to invest or expand into the Middle East. There is also a growing participation from the automotive industry with several partners showcasing their electric vehicles and mobility technology. Porsche is showcasing their Mission E concept electric vehicle for the first time in the region. There is a lot of focus on integrating AI into businesses and governments. Step compared to last year is bigger and much better. Step is showcasing 180 startups that were filtered and selected from more than 600 applications.”

Dubai Startup Hub, an initiative of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is exhibiting and promoting the ‘Co-Founder Dubai’ programme at Step Conference 2019. Startups interested in applying can visit the Dubai Startup Hub stand at the Step Conference to learn more about the programme’s benefits and requirements. Applications for the programme should be submitted through the Dubai Startup Hub’s website. Following the application process, 10 UAE startups will be selected to participate in the match-making programme. Applications in the second phase will be open to aspiring co-founders who will later be shortlisted. By the end of the pilot, the selected startups will meet with potential co-founders and choose one candidate that will join their respective teams.

Natalia Sycheva, manager of entrepreneurship at Dubai Chamber, said: “Co-Founder Dubai takes an innovative approach to supporting startups as it is designed around their unique needs and aspirations. The holistic programme complements other initiatives offered to entrepreneurs in the UAE under the Dubai Startup Hub platform. The programme will provide both new startup businesses and aspiring co-founders with far-reaching benefits, including comprehensive training, matchmaking days, a dedicated curriculum and high-caliber talent, ultimately enabling startups to grow in the region.”

Benjamin Harbor, managing partner MSA Capital, said: “We can anticipate 2019 to deliver huge growth with enthusiastic entrepreneurs and highly involved and supportive government will boost the entire startup ecosystem in the region. The Step conference this year has recorded a bigger turnout, displaying an exceptional platform to demonstrate technology and innovation that will shape future of the UAE.”

Zoho Corp, a global leader in IT and business management solutions, is participating in Step and providing free services to startups as long as they are in the incubation phase. Ali Shabdar, business development director MEA, Zoho Corp, said: “Zoho provides complementary services to startups, so they can put their hard-earned money into their product and focus on building and delivering amazing products. Startups can enjoy our offerings with complimentary Zoho One licences for as long as they are in the incubation phase. We have launched successful initiatives in other countries and hundreds of startups have enjoyed our platform to run their growing business. Today at the Step Conference, we are launching the same service in the UAE and will expand to the entire startup community in the region in 2019.” 

– sandhya@khaleejtimes.com

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