The Rainmakers: The UAE's startup stars
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The Rainmakers: The UAE’s startup stars

The Rainmakers: The UAE’s startup stars

Revealed: The movers and shakers powering the growth of the UAE’s startup ecosystem, brought to you by Gulf Business in partnership with Virtuzone

Gulf Business

Startups are often referred to as the ‘growth engines’ for any economy. In the UAE, backed by a supportive regulatory framework that welcomes innovation at every stage, entrepreneurs from across an eclectic mix of sectors have achieved remarkable growth, in turn feeding the booming ecosystem to create a train of success stories.

According to official stats, the wider SME sector contributed an estimated 53 per cent to the UAE’s GDP in 2019, up from about 49 per cent in 2018. Small-and-medium-sized businesses also accounted for approximately 95 per cent of the companies in the country and for employing 86 per cent of the total workforce in the non-oil private sector.

While challenges persist – whether it’s setup costs, financing, scaling or external factors such as the Covid-19 crisis which struck every industry hard, several startups in the UAE have managed to stay the course, assisted by mentors and business enablers.

To highlight the true stars within the startup ecosystem, Gulf Business, in collaboration with leading company formation specialists Virtuzone, put together the names of the movers and shakers within the space – whether it’s company founders, venture capitalists, government officials or mentors.

By no means is this list exhaustive, but it provides a glimpse into the people powering the startup space and driving the UAE’s agenda to be a global startup hub.

Names arranged in no specific order


Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha


Co-founders, Careem

Michael Lahyani


Founder and CEO, Propertyfinder

Rashid Al Ghurair


Founder and CEO, Cafu

Eddie Maroun and Elie Habib


Co-founders, Anghami

Ambareen Musa


Founder and CEO,

Kunal Kapoor


Founder and CEO, The Luxury Closet


Jon Richards


CEO, Yallacompare

Sky Kurtz


Founder and CEO, Pure Harvest Smart Farms

Saygin Yalcin


CEO and founder,

Mona Ataya


Founder and CEO,

Bader Ataya, Mohamad Ballout, Andres Arenas
and Saman Darkan


Co-founders, Kitopi

Jad Sayegh, Nadine Mezher and Mark Chahwan


Co-founders, Sarwa

Michael Truschler


Co-founder and CEO, FlexxPay

Fodhil Benturquia


Founder and CEO, Okadoc

Hosam Arab


Co-founder and CEO, tabby

Craig Moore


Founder and CEO, Beehive

Vilhelm Hedberg


Founder, ekar

Donna Benton


Founder, The Benton Group

Huda Kattan


Founder, Huda Beauty

Mohamed Khaled


Founder and CEO, Hotdesk

Talal Bayaa, Brian Habib and Tarek Bayaa


Co-founders, Bayzat

Maaz Sheikh


Co-founder and CEO, Starzplay

John Tsioris


Co-founder and CEO, Instashop

Marwan Hachem


Founder and CEO, YAP

Gaurav Biswas


Founder and CEO, Trukker



Sheikh Khalid bin Mohamed


Chairman, Abu Dhabi Executive Committee (Ghadan 21)

Fadi Ghandour


Executive chairman, Wamda Capital

Dany Farha


Managing partner, Beco Capital

Najla Al Midfa


CEO, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa)

Mahmoud Adi and Shane Shin


Co-founders, Shorooq Partners

Mohamad Sabouneh


Managing director, Startupbootcamp Fintech Dubai

Mayank Singhal


Head of Venture Capital and Technology, ADQ (DisruptAD)

Raja Al Mazrouei


Executive vice president, DIFC Fintech Hive

Abdullah Mutawi


Co-founder and chairman, Dubai Angel Investors

Salem Bou Aoun


Founder and CEO, Novos Capital

Hanan Harhara Al Yafei


CEO, Hub71

Louis Lebbos and
Muhammed Mekki


Founders, AstroLabs

Samih Toukan


Chairman, Jabbar Internet Group

Walid Hanna


Founder and chairman, Middle East Venture Partners

Mohamed Alabbar


Chairman, Zand/Founder,

Kamal Hassan and Yousif Al Mutawa


Founders, Turn8 Venture Capital

Abdallah and Ghaith Yafi


Co-founders, B&Y Venture Partners

Noor Sweid


Founder, Global Ventures

Ramesh Jagannathan


Managing director, startAD



Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi


UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Abdul Baset AI Janahi


CEO, Dubai SME

Shaker Zainal


Head, Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund

Sami Al Qamzi


Director general, Dubai Economy

Fahad Al Gergawi


CEO, Dubai FDI

William Chappell


CFO and EVP, Technology and Entrepreneurship, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (Dtec)

Esam Mahmoud


Senior vice president, Etisalat SMB

Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO, and Dr Noah Raford, chief of Global Affairs


Dubai Future Foundation

Hamad Buamim


President and CEO, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Sheikh Dr Rashid bin Hamad Bin Mohammed


Chairman, Fujairah Creative City

Vic Barreto


CEO, Capital Club Dubai

Philip Bahoshy


Founder and CEO, Magnitt

Ammar Al Malik


Managing director, Dubai Internet City (in5)

Ronaldo Mouchawar


VP, Amazon MENA/Co-founder,

Dr Khalid Al Midfa


Chairman, Shams

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saqr Al Qasimi


Chairman, RAKEZ


Ones to watch

Amir Milad


Founder and CEO, Karma Media

Jad Antoun and Khalid Ashmawy


Co-founders, Huspy

Ritesh Tilani and Alper


Co-founders, Joi Gifts


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