Talks that push boundaries

Bringing together local, regional and international leaders under one roof, so you can widen your horizons.

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Curated topics for our community

With an aim to provide a curated view of both Sharjah’s and the wider region’s key entrepreneurship-related developments over the past year, the event’s motivational keynotes, knowledge-sharing panels, and interactive discussions and workshops will feature both regional and international leaders, experts, and decision makers from government, academia, technology, business, and other key sectors.

SEF19 Speaker Lineup

Arlan Hamilton


Aliaune Damala Badara Akon Thiam is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and actor.

Akon also started a project Akon Lighting Africa in 2014 which provides electricity in 15 countries of Africa.

He also launched his own charity for underprivileged children in Africa called Konfidence Foundation.

Areije Al Shakar

HRH Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner is an entrepreneur, international best-selling author and award winning film producer. Gardner’s autobiography, The Pursuit of HappYness became a New York Times #1 best seller, has been translated into over forty languages, including six dialects of Chinese and is currently being translated into Arabic. Gardner is also the inspiration for the critically acclaimed film “The Pursuit of HappYness” for which Will Smith received the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Academy Award nominations for his performance.

Gardner’s second book, “Start Where You Are” also a best seller was published in 2009. Chris is currently finishing his newest book “HappYness 2.0 The Blueprint” which could be available this year. Gardner has recently won a Peabody Award for producing “And Still I Rise,” a documentary about the life of his dear friend and mentor Dr. Maya Angelou.
Gardner has, as he says, re-enlisted in the United States Navy. Last year, he was honored to receive The Lone Sailor Award from the United States Navy Memorial Foundation. Some of the previous winners of this award include: Arnold Palmer, Senator and Astronaut John Glenn and President John F. Kennedy.

Chris Gardner’s sole goal of his media projects and speaking engagements is to help others achieve their fullest potential.

Jonas Kjellberg

Mishal Kanoo

Taavi Roivas

Vishen Lakhiani

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Jim Kwik

Adwa AlDakheel

Adwa AlDakheel, a business woman (founder and CEO of Falak Business Hub and Ns3a Recruitment) a stock analyst, first place winner of 3 Capital Trading Market competitions, a professional guitarist, an author of a best-selling book in Saudi Arabia, a licensed pilot, an award- winning poet, a Squash champion, and one of the most influential figures on Social Media in the GCC region all by the age of 25.

In a recent study done on the most influential Social Media figures in the Middle East, Adwa was in the top three long with Ahmed Alshugairi and Thunayan Khalid; with a reach of over 2+ million individuals on social media, Adwaʼs content revolves around education, social responsibility, and lifestyle. In another study done by Ithraa Consulting Group, university students were asked if they had a role model, and 80 percent of the students answered Adwa Aldakheel – mostly due to her close age to these students.

Because of her eclectic range of interests and subjects to discuss, Adwaʼs personality and content appeal to a large
audience from all different ages and background.

Hussein Al Mahmoudi

Svetlana Velikanova

Svetlana is the Founder and CEO of Harbour.Space – a state-of-the-art university for technology, design and entrepreneurship, based in Barcelona. She is driven to create a space for learning where gifted young people from all over the world can emerge as the most ground-breaking graduates in their field. With the Harbour.Space board, she shares an innovative vision for university education. She strives to connect leading professionals with extraordinary talent through
immersive learning to revolutionize our technology-led future.

Kamran Elahian

Kamran is Founder and Chairman, Global Innovation Catalyst, LLC and advises various governments on the needed transition from fossil-based economies to sustainable innovation economies. In the past, as a global high-tech entrepreneur, he co- founded ten companies, had 6 exits, 3 of them were Unicorn IPOs with a total market cap of over $8B. For 15 yrs., he was Chairman of Global Catalyst Partners, a global VC firm ($350M under management) with investments in the U.S., Japan, China, India, Israel and Singapore. Underlying his vision for global philanthropy is the conviction that modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be instrumental in dissolving barriers between nations and bridging the social and political differences among people. This vision was reflected in Schools-Online, a nonprofit he co-founded in 1996 to connect the world, one school at a time (6400 schools in 36 countries were provided with computers and access to the Internet) and merged with Relief International in 2003; Global Catalyst Foundation, co-founded in 2000 to improve lives through effective education and empowerment of the youth (with special emphasis on young women) using the leverage of ICT, and UN-GAID, a United Nations global forum that promotes ICT in developing countries where he served as Co-Chairman (2009-2011).

Michael Lints

In 2013 Michael got acquainted with Golden Gate Ventures and moved his family to Singapore to join Golden Gate Ventures. Initially as a Venture Partner in 2013 to help with fundraising, strategic partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions. Michael has helped raise over $60M USD for Golden Gate Ventures and its portfolio companies and is now a Partner at Golden Gate Ventures.

In 2018 Michael joined the Kauffman Fellowship program in the US, which focuses on up and coming leadership in the venture capital industry.

Christian Lindener

Bernhard Schambeck

Bernhard Schambeck is Head of the BMW Startup Garage, the Venture Client unit of the BMW Group. The BMW Startup Garage helps early-stage startups to succeed in this multi-trillion-dollar industry.

Bernhard has successfully worked with numerous early-stage startups throughout his professional career – some of which are now leaders in their industry or even among the world’s biggest companies. His 20+ years in the automotive industry as well as his experience in working with startups and as a founder of his own company allow him to understand both sides: the corporate and startup worlds.

Bernhard joined BMW in 1996 and has since worked in several positions, including as:
– Project Lead Electric/Electronic and Interior for the BMW X1
– Head of HMI (Human Machine Interface) Team for the new MINI product line
– Senior Technology Engineer at the BMW Tech Office/Palo Alto USA
– Series Development Engineer Interior Components

He holds a degree in Precision Engineering and Microsystems from the University of Applied Science in Munich.

Jon Karas

Jon has been a successful entertainment industry entrepreneur raising capital, producing and packaging films and representing notable talent for over 20 years. He is partnered with Global Superstar and Entrepreneur in the new AKoin cryptocurrency created to stimulate youth entrepreneurship across Africa, India and developing countries. He is a founding Advisory Board member of Slate Entertainment Group, creator of disruptive crypto driven streaming and ticketing platforms. He was an advisor to the Hemisphere Tent Pole Fund (WORLD WAR Z, SMURFS, MEN IN BLACK 3). Producer of HELLGATE starring William Hurt, BITTER/SWEET, BELIEVE IN ME starring Bruce Dern, and CHECKING OUT starring Peter Falk. Founded the highly successful talent management company Infinity Management International in 1990, which represents top film and television writers, directors, and producers. Involved with the sale, packaging and financing of numerous feature films and television programs over the past several decades. He practiced law in the transactional legal practice of two top Park Avenue law firms prior to joining the WILLIAM MORRIS AGENCY. Jon has a broad range of global studio, television, media, finance and talent connections.

Eric Dawson

Eric Dawson is the CEO of Peace First, an organization he helped launch at 18. Mr. Dawson received three degrees from Harvard University: a specialized B.A. in economics, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, and political science; M.Ed in human development psychology; and an M.Div. in pastoral care and counseling. He is an Ashoka, Echoing Green, and Pop!Tech Fellow. Besides the odd jobs of bartending, electron microscopy, TV commercials, and serving as the driver for the author of Curious George, Eric got his professional start directing a summer camp in Boston’s public housing complexes. His book, Putting Peace First: Seven Commitments to Change the World was recently released by Penguin Random House.

Hind Hobeika

Hind invented, developed and sold the first version of Instabeat in 56 countries. She has been invited around the world to speak about the product and the future of technology in swimming, most notably at the White House, Harvard Arab Weekend Conference, TED Talent, World Economic Forum in China. She was also selected as top five Arab innovators under 35 by MIT Tech Review and among the 100 Women on the BBC List. To date, Instabeat has raised a total of $6M in venture funding.

Bassel Idriss

Bassel Idriss is co-founder and CEO of Generics; a consumer tech startup that solves for poor fitting, uncomfortable earphones. Generics mak(d)e custom eartips to the shape and size of individual ears through an App, photogrammetry and 3D Printing. Previously, Idriss spent 15 years in the corporate world, predominantly with Procter & Gamble leading global brands, businesses and organisations. Idriss has successes with double digit top and bottom line growth, leadership market shares, product launches, awards and celebrations. He also learned from failure; ideas that gloriously flopped, strategies that fell short and over engineered product solutions. Idriss is also a grateful son, loving husband, devoted father, sincere friend and passionate sportsman.

Hattaf Ansari

A graduate of the American University of Sharjah, he is an early stage and growth investor based in New Zealand. He most recently spun out of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund; and co-founded Ampliphi Ventures. He is an angel investor and founded New Zealand’s only under 35 investor network and has published research in the Australasian Journal of Applied Finance on development of early stage capital markets.

G. Nagesh Rao

G. Nagesh Rao has worked in the Public, Private, and NGO sectors over the last 20+ years. He is well known for co-developing programmatic endeavors such as i6 (Green) Challenge, Patents for Humanity, VT-Arc Additive Manufacturing Prize Challenge, AAAS-Lemelson Invention Ambassadors Program, SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, and USAID’s-SBAR Program. Furthermore he has worked on IP-Portfolios, Global Strategies, Consumer Products, and Technology R&D, for a variety of leading SMEs over the years. Nagesh is a 2004 Mirzayan Fellow of The National Academies and a 2016 USA Eisenhower Fellow. His credentials include a BSc from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a MSc from Albany Law School-Union University, and a MBA from University of Maryland-College Park, as well patent bar certified to practice Patent Law from the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Megan Mitchell

Megan Mitchell leads all aspects of the Legatum Center’s student programming focusing on student entrepreneurs building and scaling companies during and following graduation.  Prior to joining MIT in January of 2017, Megan managed UBS Americas’ Elevating Entrepreneurs initiative, a portfolio of philanthropic partnerships and programs
focused on driving toward a more inclusive entrepreneurial landscape. This included Project Entrepreneur, a collaboration with Rent the Runway Foundation to increase the pipeline of women building economically impactful companies. Prior to UBS, Megan oversaw co-curricular and experiential learning activities for Wharton Entrepreneurship, including the annual business plan competition and global internship program. She also served as a member of the Venture Initiation Program management team, and led development of the department’s venture development programs at the school’s San Francisco campus. Megan holds a BA in Economics and Public Policy Studies from Duke University and a MSEd from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Travis Hunter

Travis Hunter leads the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP), an initiative of MIT Sloan Global Programs. Through his role as Associate Director, Travis engages with regional leaders to implement strategies that support their regional innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems. Prior to joining MIT in 2016, Travis was the Director of the Quincy Center for Innovation (QCI) where he expanded the center to support over 50 startups. During his
time at the QCI, he oversaw partnerships with private and public organizations, expanded programming, and brought together funding opportunities.

Tarek El Bolbol

Rana Nawas

Rana Nawas is a corporate veteran turned speaker and podcaster, on a mission to help women win. She does this through
inspiring keynotes, strategic advisory and her podcast, When Women Win – a show where female role models from diverse backgrounds share their inspirational stories and practical tools for success.

Rana’s 17-year corporate career spanned McKinsey & Company’s London Office, the Dubai Government, and GE Capital in various strategy and sales roles.

She has spoken at numerous corporations, events and conferences, on topics ranging from gender parity to owning your narrative. These audiences have labelled Rana “thought-provoking”, “fact-driven” and “inspiring”.

Anisa Al Sharif

A Certified Hand in Hand instructor and Social Entrepreneur, Anisa Al Sharif is also a conscious parenting educator and a Social Policy Expert. She is passionate about family issues, child development and education.

The Founder of Tanshia, a social enterprise and platform that promotes Conscious Parenting approaches and Child-Led Learning practices, she leads parenting support groups and other community-based initiatives.

Anisa is Emirati. For 13 years, she worked for Dubai Government as a Social Development Policy Advisor. As head of the Socio-Economic Development Department at Dubai’s Executive Council, she worked on key strategies – including the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015 – and led the development of public policies in the areas of education, human capital development, parenting, Third Sector and PWD inclusion. She currently works as an independent advisor on public social policy.

Asmae Lemniei

Asmae is an innovation and acceleration expert focusing on driving corporate innovation programs & strategic digital transformations from one side and advising tech accelerators & startups from the other.

Asmae helps her clients innovate and reinvent themselves to become hyper-relevant in our digital world.

Asmae believes that the convergence of exponential technologies, radical innovations and future accelerations, when value-based, contribute to building sustainable markets, advancing humanity and creating the greater good for all.