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That person in Dubai that every founder & entrepreneur should know according to founders & investors

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

This report has been compiled from contributions of founders and investors from the Dubai Ecosystem from the 18th of Jan, 2023 til the 14th of Feb, 2023, as part 2 of DSRPTD MAG's Dubai Venture City Guide.

Some notable figures in the Dubai startup scene include:

Mudassir Sheikha, CEO of Careem

Careem is the everyday Super App for the greater Middle East region. A pioneer of the region’s ride-hailing economy, Careem provides a host of daily services that people need to move around, order things, and transfer money in one unified smartphone app.

Elie Habib, Co-founder of Anghami

Seasoned entrepreneur - having co-founded several companies - with over 10 years experience in the telecommunications sector, working across the Middle East and North Africa.

Mohamed Alabbar, is a global entrepreneur with interests in real estate, retail, hospitality, e-commerce, technology, logistics, F&B, and venture capital. He is the founder of Emaar properties, as well as the co-founder of

Kushal Shah, Managing Director at e& Capital, and Cofounder of Dubai Angel Investors

Kushal Shah is the Managing Director of Vntures at e& Capital the VC arm of e& Group, also the cofounder of Dubai Angel Investors, Dubai's and the region's leading angel investors syndicate (member managed investment company), and recently Saudi Angel Investors.

One of the unsung heroes (heroine) is Rekha Setpal, Head of in5 Program at in5 Dubai, who works tirelessly with the ecosystem and probably does not receive the adulation that she truly deserves.

Sleem Hasan, CEO, Privity

Sleem is the man when it comes to startups and VCs, aka The Father of Startups, he is very well acquainted with the city, he has been in Dubai for more than 20 years and almost knows all the big players not just in Dubai but globally. He can put you in front of mind blowing opportunities. His portfolio of startups has some of the best selections in the VC universe. His wisdom and experience are second to none.

Gabriel Abed, Ambassador of Barbados to the UAE.

He is also the founder of Abed Group and Founding CEO of, Digital Asset Capital Management, and Alty.

Abed is one of the very rare people who are very well connected at a very high level globally; yet unspoken of.

Oliver von Wolff, CEO, Helion Ventures

Oliver is the founding CEO of Helion Ventures a Web3 VC Fund based out of DIFC in Dubai, what I like to call one of the fastest growing Web3 VCs.

Oliver previously managed and was one of the cofounders of Crypto Oasis Sentio, the world's fastest growing blockchain ecosystem, and also was the managing director of Crypto Valley Labs in Dubai, and Crypto Valley venture capital in Dubai.

Jorge Sebastiao, Co-founder, EcoX

Jorge almost knows everybody not just in Dubai but worldwide. He is one of the oldest people in the Dubai VC space and globally as well. He is the Co-Founder of EcoX Dubai's most famous weekly meetup where everybody met everbody there. You will almost see him speaking at every single tech or startup event or conference everywhere in the world. He might be on a flight twice a day every other day or week. If you don't see him at an event as a speaker then there might be something wrong. As far as he is very well connected he might be out of order, time, organisation, and punctuality as most of the time he is on Zoom calls even when he is attending here or there physically in person he will be almost virtually somewhere else. As this might sound a little bit awkward and maybe unpleasant or disappointing to some but keep on nagging and following up and he will deliver as long as you keep the communication and the followup.

This man can introduce you to a lot of connections in no time.

Very well articulated and understanding of the current situations, shifts, and cycles of the market on both startup and enterprise levels. An established entrepreneur and investor background coupled with high end global profile corporate expertise that gives him the sense of smelling the real from the fake, what works and what doesn't. Its definitely worth the advice and an opinion from Feroz.

Saeed Al Darmaki, CEO and Founder of Sheesha Finance.

As the man behind Sheesha Finance the Web3 Incubator and Accelerator of the future. Think of it as the Mutual Fund of DeFi. He is very well known and respected in the Web3 space across the MENA region and has access to a lot of top tier connections in the space. He cofounded and managed Alphabit Fund in the region, and comes from a tier one financial experience at Mubadala (the world's largest sovereign wealth fund). A lot of big names in the web3 VCs and funds follows Sheesha Finance investment leads.

Dr. Marwan AlZarouni, CEO, Dubai Blockchain Center because of his service to the ecosystem.

Dr. Marwan is the founder and CEO of Dubai Blockchain Center, and Strategic Advisor to Dubai Economy and Tourism Department. He is one of the most prominent thought leaders in the space. He is an early pre-seed investor in a lot of big names in the Web3 space & Emerging Technology in general, and knows a lot of the top high end global profiles. This man brings a lot of value and appreciation.

Ralf Glabischnig, Co-Founder of Crypto Oasis, and Co-Founder of Crypto Valley Labs.

Ralf is one of the most prominent persons when it comes to Web3 and blockchain. He has an amazing journey building the Crypto Valley ecosystem in Zug, and now building Crypto Oasis the world's fastest growing blockchain ecosystem. With a tremendous experience and connectivity spanning the entire crypto sphere, Ralf is the man to go.

Pranav Sharma, Founding Partner, Woodstock Fund.

Pranav is one of the most authentic and genuine persons in the blockchain world. Founded Woodstock Fund one of the top web3 funds that has the acumen of picking the winners and also their deals are usually followed by the giants such as Pantera and Binance. I have got to know thim since the early days of ElRond and 1inch.

Gaurav Dubey, Founder and CEO of TDeFi, Infotech Hub, and O1ex

Gaurav is a very pragmatic and practical person. As the founding CEO of TDeFi the first virtual DeFi incubator and accelerator now turned into a full fledged Web3 advisory, consulting, and incubator, also a market maker and investment VC through various branches such as TDX, TDMM, TDVC within the TDeFi ecosystem. I have got to know him since the early days of Polygon Matic and Biconomy.

Contributors to the Dubai Venture City Guide report:

Feroz Sanaulla, Global Co-Head of Crypto Economy and Partner at Roland Berger heading Financial Services, mainly fintech, insuretech and digital banking solutions. He has been active in building the operational blockchain solutions business offering to financial services companies (e.g. identity solutions, L/C and escrow solutions, 3rd party interaction protocols for banks. He has a vast regional network and am often a sounding board to C-level executives regionally. He has traveled extensively and has worked with clients in US, Europe and Asia.

With his past experience as a VC, he has also assisted incubators and worked with all of the major regional and silicon valley based VC and PE funds

Nathan Cooper, Chief Program and Innovation Officer at Sheesha Finance.

Nathan Cooper, MBA is a highly skilled and experienced Strategy and Execution professional with a proven track record of defining and delivering change plans to drive business readiness and employee adoption. With 20 years of experience, he has successfully led initiatives in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the US and Canada, focusing on Operational Excellence, Change Management and is passionate about building ecosystems, connecting needs to resources, addressing root causes of complex systems problems and impacting culture change.

Nathan's exceptional communication, collaboration, and presentation skills, along with his ability to work with geographically dispersed teams, make him a valuable asset in fostering strong global partnerships, aligning business strategy and delivering communications and training interventions. He uses his experience in customer-centred design thinking, critical analysis and synthesis, data analytics, technical expertise, and interdisciplinary collaboration to innovate experiences, product-service development, and workflow efficiency.

As the Chief Program and Innovation Officer of Sheesha Finance, Nathan drives organizational growth through innovative solutions and effective team management, consistently delivering measurable results across the business development, marketing, IT and projects departments. He also advises on innovation and new technologies to clients, investors and startups he advises. He was previously a Senior Program Manager at Société General and a Technical Program Manager of Operational Analytics at the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, holding multiple certifications including Scrum and Agile, and is In his final year completing his doctoral studies in Strategy and Innovation.

Jorge Sebastiao, CEO at Global Blockchain Organization, and Co-Founder of EcoX.

International ICT speaker. Seasoned CTO, with Blockchain, Web 3.0, AI, NFT, IoT, Gaming, Digital Twin, Cyber Security, Managed Services, Cloud Computing, Big Data, & ICT innovation professional focused on business value; brings experience, creativity, structure, motivation, & agility. Over 35 years of ICT experience, covering, innovation, architecture as well as risk management, compliance, auditing, certification, business continuity, & disaster recovery. Served sectors include Telecom, Oil & Gas, Financial , Government, Defense, HealthCare, & Education. Created the process A6 of security: Assess, Architect, Apply, Administer, Awareness & Agility. He architects practical & business focused solutions using standards & industry best practices.

He has been the speaker at numerous international conferences with topics including: ICS Security, ICT Security, Business Continuity, ICT Architecture (TOGAF), Wireless Security, Regulatory Compliance, Physical Security, Biometrics and Smart Cards, Ethical Hacking, ISO27001, ISO27002 (ISMS), ISO2000 (ITIL), ISO13335 (Risk Management), ISO22301 (BCMS), CobIT, Basel II, EMV-2, PCI-compliance, SOX, Info warfare, Fraud, Identity Theft, SAP-Security, CISSP, Forensics & Incidence Response.

Jorge is action and results oriented with passion to deliver a results in a collaborative approach.

Mr. Sebastiao also co-authored book "La Face Cachée du Credit".

Languages Advanced: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Learning: Italian, Greek, Arabic, Russian

Quote “Information security is a continuous skilled process…”

Specialties: Cyber Security, Cloud Services, blockchain, big data, IoT, Managed Services, Business Continuity, BCP, Disaster Recovery, DRP, Virtualization, CMS, Workflow, Storage Management, Infrastructure, Information Security, IT Architecture, TOGAF, Satellite, Wireless, VoIP, Managed Services, Physical Security, Homeland Security, CCTV, Training, Security Awareness, Ethical Hacking, Security Monitoring, Forensics, Data Recovery

Muhammad Salman Anjum, Salman has been named a “Top 100 Blockchain Leader in World.” As a Founder and Chief Mate of InvoiceMate he is co-creating future of invoice financing with blockchain enabled invoice financing marketplace. Aiming to solve real world business issue of inefficient invoice processing and enabling businesses reach out to all important working capital finance.

A key influencer in the space of Enterprise Blockchain adaption, Salman has moderated events & presented keynotes at stages around the world including a talk at esteemed TEDx platform. He’s a Blockchain & FinTech specialist in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Faculty. A results-driven professional with over 20 years in corporate & entrepreneurial roles aligning People, Performance and Profit. He has been featured as success story in “Soul Beats @ UAE” the book published by Dubai Government. Pursuing his Doctorate degree, he is a CIPD Member and one of the pioneer Lead Auditors of ISO 29990:2010 for L&D operations.

Salman lives, plays and works in Dubai and on stages around the world committed to empower the human potential.

Walid Hanna, Founder, Chairman, and Co-CEO of MEVP Middle East Venture Partners, a $260M AUM VC firm focused on Tech investing in MENA, with offices in Dubai, Beirut, Cairo, Riyadh, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

Walid has been active in venture capital and new venture development for the past 20 years, successfully completed more than 50 VC investments in the past 10 years and several exits.

Walid has also co-founded, invested in, and led several startups in the MENA region, spanning a range of industries with a focus on technology. Walid holds a Bachelor's of Economics from McGill University (Canada), and a Master's in Finance from Hautes Études Commerciales, H.E.C (France).

Fatma Elsafty, Founder and CEO of MetaEssence.

Fatma ElSafty, is an experienced blockchain business and technical lead with over 15 years of hands-on experience in many vital businesses and the capacity of enterprise and solutions architecture division and enterprise IT solutions implementation and management in different industries including telecommunications, Banking, insurance, education, healthcare and government services. Coming from engineering background; Fatma was able to provide innovative IT solutions supported by solid architectural design using the latest technologies and platforms in the market. Her experience in blockchain and cloud computing enabled her to harness the power of both technologies and work with startups and big companies alike to scale up and achieve sustainable growth. Fatma's main passion is to use her skillset to shape today's technology into innovative, sustainable solutions that simplify, secure, and streamline vital business transactions to bring a high return on investment combined with high customer satisfaction. Fatma is a passionate self-learner and very curious to explore and try new ideas and share her experience with others. Her frequent participation in international technology summits exposed her directly to the latest innovations from every corner of the globe and enabled her to align her solutions to the market needs while building valuable business connections with customers, partners, technology providers, and colleagues.

Sleem Hasan, Founder and CEO of Privity. AKA The Father of Startups. Experienced Owner with a demonstrated history of working in Venture Capital and the Japanese Capital Markets. Skilled in Investor Relations, Securities, Asset Management, Investment Advisory, and working with Technology Entrepreneurs. Strong entrepreneurship professional with a Part III Mathematical Tripos from Cambridge University & M.A.(Hons) Mathematics from Oxford University.

Ahmed Refaie, Founder, CEO, and Global CIO at G.P.I. Global Partners Investments Limited, and DSRPTD Host.

A Financial Engineer, Investment Architect, Mathematician and Computer Engineer who turned into the entertainment industry at a very young age to run the concerts for the most famous singers and Djs from all over the world at the most sought after and international venues. Shifted tremendously to leading a military troop as a lieutenant in the Air Defense Forces fulfilling his service.

Switched to business and finance and started the second wave of his career as an equity portfolio and fund manager, and FX trader. Deeply experienced in the hedge fund industry. Ahmed instructs the CFA Charter levels 2 and 3 as well as teaching on different topics for banking and investment professionals and practitioners such as Technical Analysis & Trading, Asset Selection and Allocation, Alternative Investments, Cryptoassets, Tokenisation, Hedge Funds, Family Offices, and Risk Management. Also with extensive experience in the MICE Industry engaging in running, organising, and managing Tech VC conferences and events globally.

Refaie is a four time entrepreneur in 4 different sectors (Retail, FnB, Education, and Finance) across two regions (Middle East and Europe).

Refaie leads G.P.I. the London based asset allocator for sovereign wealth and MFO Fund of Funds Manager Selection, as well as FDI Foreign Direct Investment Promotion Agency for governments for G2G Startup Acceleration Programmes and PPP Public Private Partnerships Investor Relations and Communication.

Refaie runs, manages, and administrates the Tech VC Browser of the World where they host their very own annual DSRPTD Summit (The world's most untold and unspoken off happening in the VC world) which brings the DSRPTD MBA Course to life, with a lot of initiatives and activities such DSRPTD Expeditions (The Open Accelerator of the World), Web3 Master Course, in addition to a Media Powerhouse (behind the PR, Marketing, speakers, and investors at almost all major tech & VC events and conferences from LA to Tokyo) consisting of DSRPTD Blog, DSRPTD MAG, DSRPTD Reports, DSRPTD News, DSRPTD Radio, and DSRPTD TV (On Demand Streaming of the World's Top Tech Events). Also DSRPTD Press (PR Wire). In addition to branch activities such as (Deal listing and launchpad), and (Open and free databases of all the investors in the world).

Refaie holds a BEng in Computer Engineering, the PMT Professional Market Trader Certification, Cambridge International Diploma in Business majoring in Marketing and HRM, the European Business Competence Licence Level A, and a MSc in Financial Engineering.

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