Wamda Hosts A Decade of Entrepreneurship at Area 2071 Dubai


TechInAfrica — Wamda and Area 2071 held a panel discussion on Wednesday, November 6, to discuss the growth of the startup ecosystem over the past ten years, as well as investigate the challenges that remain to be addressed.

The event opened with words by Khalfan Juma Belhoul, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Dubai Future Foundation. Moderated by Wamda executive chairman Fadi Ghandour, the session featured Magnus Olsson, co-founder and managing director at Careem, Rabea Ataya, co-founder and CEO at, and Ronaldo Mouchawar, co-founder of, vice-president of Amazon Middle East and North Africa.

Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation, said that Dubai supports entrepreneurs and brilliant minds from around the world and provides them with the infrastructure to develop their businesses, and turn their innovative ideas into reality, and thus contribute to building innovative solutions to current challenges.

“Area 2071 represents on a global scale a successful model of an entrepreneurial and supportive community of innovators, founders, government entities, corporates, and investors brought together to facilitate and accelerate collaboration,” said Belhoul.

“Since we started in 2000, we have seen an incredible amount of change in the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem,” said Rabea Ataya, founder and CEO of “On the plus side, the role of entrepreneurship in addressing regional economic and unemployment woes is better recognised. The number of mentorship programmes is growing, as is venture capital and government interest,” Ataya added.

Founders have witnessed a proliferation of startup communities, accelerators, incubators, and industry- or stage-specific programmes catering to startups of all stages across the region.

“The entrepreneurial ecosystem has come a long way from when we first launched Souq in 2005. The e-commerce sector was in its early stages with many suppliers doubt to have their products online and others unclear on how the internet worked. Our aspiration when we started the company was to create a local marketplace for the Arab world by leveraging technology. Today and after our acquisition, customers can choose from tens of millions of products available on from local and international sellers,” said Ronaldo Mouchawar, co-founder of Souq and VP of Amazon MENA.

The speakers noted that there has seemingly been a shift in mindsets, with an increasing number of individuals looking to establish their businesses to become agents of their futures and communities.

“In 2000, when we were out looking to raise capital, there were no venture capital funds to begin with – only friends and family, and no other ways to raise money. Today, there are hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of venture funds across the region. Even from a human capital perspective, bright minds see startups as opportunities to learn and grow, whereas 20 years ago, most smart people were interested in joining big multinationals. It was a pretty crazy time to start an internet business,” said Ataya. “There’s also been a shift in mindset with investors backing up startups with seed funding and the government launching initiatives to encourage budding entrepreneurs,” said Mouchawar.

“The journeys of, and Careem have boosted the ecosystem by creating role models, encouraging a more entrepreneurial mindset across the region, and proving that it is possible to launch, grow and exponentially scale a business across our region,” said Wamda executive chairman Fadi Ghandour.

“We have seen the ecosystem mature and evolve, with governments and corporates launching initiatives to encourage founders and ease business challenges. We are also observing unprecedented startup activity in new sectors, such as food tech, blockchain, Software as a Service (SaaS), e-commerce enablers, as well as fintech. Our responsibility as ecosystem enablers is to continuously support, nurture, and invest in startups as well as help founders navigate the complexity of the Mena region,” said Ghandour.

Magnus Olsson, co-founder and managing director of Careem, highlighted the importance of Dubai and the UAE’s support for entrepreneurs and startups as well as its innovative environment, which encourages work on modern solutions contributing to the development of new economic sectors. He also noted the wide opportunities available to startups across the region which encourages local and international talent capable of supporting future sectors such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain.



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