30 Under 30: GCC’s Top Young Achievers (21–30)

Meet the exceptional young people who are re-inventing the MENA region.

Alicia Buller
August 26, 2012

As Middle East internet penetration rises – a direct result of the Arab Spring – many of the 30 under 30 nominees have launched new enterprises across e-commerce, networking and social media. Others have taken advantage of the huge youth unemployment bulge to catalyse entrepreneurial think tanks and venture capital platforms.

21. Mahmoud Hazem

Co-founder, Wejha Age: 24 Origin: Kuwait Residence: Cairo, Egypt Mahmoud Hazem is a serial entrepreneur with a track record of building and selling web start-ups. Currently, he’s the co-founder of Wejha, a web startup in the seed stage that utilises social networks to deliver trusted travel reviews. While he was still a student in 2008, Hazem co-founded Mrrha, a web start-up that streamlined the process of uploading files to the internet for sharing purposes. One year later the firm was acquired by UAE company Creative Solutions. Hazem is a mentor for INJAZ Egypt Universities’ students and co-organised the first Startup Weekend Cairo event.

22. Ahmed Khalil Al-Junaibi

UAE footballer Age: 21 Origin: UAE Residence: Sharjah, UAE The 21-year-old Emirati footballer, who represented the UAE national team at the London Olympics 2012, has been compared to Cameroon’s captain Samuel Eto’o for his exceptional skills on the field. The talented Al Ahli striker scored two brilliant goals against Uzbekistan in a crucial match in March this year, helping the UAE national team qualify for their maiden Olympic Games. A favourite of UAE football manager Srecko Katanec, Khalil was also awarded the 2008 Asian Youth Player of the Year.

23. Mahmoud Elshafie

Geo-physicist, Shell International/Qabila Media Productions CEO Age: 28 Origin: Egypt Residence: Cairo, Egypt Mahmoud has been working for six years with Shell International Exploration and Production as a geo- physicist. He is also the chairman and CEO of Qabila Media Productions – an upcoming media content creator that capitalises on crowd-sourcing and social media. Qabila came runner-up in the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Business Plan Competition 2012, winning $10,000 in start-up capital. Mahmoud holds a Masters degree in Petroleum Geoscience from the University of London, and a Bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering from the American University in Cairo.

24. Tarek Kuzbari

Managing director, Kaspersky Lab Middle East and Turkey Age: 28 Origin: Syria Residence: Dubai, UAE An IT wizard, Kuzbari took over as the Middle East and Turkey head of global software security company Kaspersky Lab in 2008. Since then, he has been engaged in spearheading its regional growth. Earlier this year, Kaspersky Lab announced the launch of an online music service in association with Universal Music Group. The website offers customers free music downloads and a chance to participate in raffles and competitions to win concert tickets, CDs and exclusive merchandising from Universal Music.

25. Olly Wood

MC, singer, producer Age: 29 Origin: UK Residence: Dubai,UAE By day, Olly Wood is the business development manager for Blink Events; by night he transforms into one the most successful MCs this region has seen. Wood even closed Coldplay’s Abu Dhabi New Year’s Eve 2011 gig in front of 28,000 people. Wood also comprises one half of dance act Hollaphonic, along with partner Greg Stainer. In September 2012, Wood is set to officially announce their multi-album deal with a major record label for global release – the first time that a Middle East dance music act has been signed up to a worldwide label.

26. Jalal Bin Thaneya

The walker Age: 25 Origin: UAE Residence: Dubai, UAE Bin Thaneya believes in raising awareness for special needs through his own physical activities. Most recently, he walked 2,000 km from Ruwais, UAE, to Makkah in Saudi Arabia. The grueling trek took 50 days and raised generous amounts for charity. Previously, the legendary walker has climbed Emirates Towers and crossed the Empty Quarter on foot. As an Emirati, Bin Thaneya feels strongly about the integration of the special needs community into UAE society.

27. Muhammed Mekki

Co-founder and managing director, Namshi Age: 29 Origin: Iraqi American Residence: Dubai, UAE Mekki is managing director of e-commerce site Namshi.com. Founded in Dubai in October 2011, the e-tailer already boasts the widest selection of fashion brands in the region – over 10,000 products to date. Mekki was a Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Scholar at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business where he gained his MBA in entrepreneurship.

28. Mona Ibrahim Al Kattan

Managing partner of MasterMind PR and The Dollhouse Beauty Salon Age: 27 Origin: Iraqi American Residence: Dubai, UAE Al Kattan’s experience as a DIFC-based banking analyst held her in good stead for the businesses she was about to launch. Just a few years after graduating, the serial entrepreneur has no less than three companies under her belt. She kicked off as partner of MasterMind Consultants, a PR firm based in Dubai’s Knowledge Village in 2009, followed with the co-founding of The Dollhouse Beauty Lounge (2011) and The Puppet Show ladies fashion label (2012).

29. Deem Albassam and Sara Falaknaz

Co-founders, Innovation Machine Age: 26 and 25 Origin: Saudi Arabia and UAE Residence: Dubai, UAE The two young women, passionate about promoting entrepreneurship in the Middle East, co-funded event company Innovation Machine with Kamal Hassan. The company organises StartUp Weekends in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. But that’s not all they do: Albassam, originally from Saudi Arabia, is also the creator, founder and operating owner of the gourmet Switch Restaurant and Lounge in the Dubai Mall. Sara Falaknaz, a UAE national, previously worked with the Citigroup, and is currently an executive director at Dubai Holding.

30. Amr Katamesh

Poet Age: 25 Origin: Egypt Residence: Cairo, Egypt The Egyptian poet won the heart of millions with his satirical work, beating eleven other contestants to win the coveted title of the reality show ‘Arabs Got Talent’ last year. The young man pocketed a cool grand prize of SAR500,000, a brand new Chevrolet Camaro and a contract with MBC. Cairo-based Katamesh popularised the Halamentishy style of poetry, using witty material inspired by the Egyptian revolution. A speaker at TEDxYouth in Alexandria last year, he boasts close to 19,000 followers on Twitter.
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