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

The event has so far recorded over 6,000 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 at Microsoft Gulf. “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.”

Ray Dargham, co-founder and CEO of 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.

The Dubai Startup Hub, an initiative of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, exhibited and promoted the Co-Founder Dubai programme at the event. 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 the 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 at 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.”

Ali Shabdar, business development director the MEA at Zoho, 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.”

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