Women rocking the tech world in the Middle East

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Mar. 13, 2016

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Women rocking the tech world in the Middle East

  1. Women rocking the tech world in the Middle East Aurélie SALVAIRE @asalvaire #shiftbalance
  2. The World's Leading Technology Educator
  3. Pia Mancini: an example of a woman changing the world through technology
  4. Argentina’s Pia Mancini is using technology to destroy barriers between politicians and people around the world • DemocracyOS providesa platform for citizens to engage with politics away from those outdated structures. When a new piece of legislationis brought to congress in Argentina DemocracyOS is used to immediately translate and explain it in plain language. Citizens are also able to discuss and directly “vote” on these new bills using the site or desktop app. • Just two years after it was created, the platform is already being used by the federal government in Mexico to gather feedback on policy proposals, and by an NGO called iWatch to give voice to the Tunisian public in political decision-making. • Her newest project, Democracy.Earth, launched last month and centres on smart contract technology, computer protocols that automatically execute the terms of a contract and will allow decentralised governance of any organisation – from cities to corporations; student unions to football teams.
  5. And actually the Middle East is Beating Out the World in Female Tech Entrepreneurs!
  6. 35% of tech entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are women, a surprising statistic, considering the global norm of 10%.
  7. Why? • Working in tech still allows women to conform with traditional social norms. – “Running an internet start-up from home is the perfect compromise.” • The virtual nature of the internet creates a safe haven. – More meritocratic than corporate world. • Women's own determinationand drive are what spurs them on, and what ultimately makes them succeed. – Sarah Abu Alia, founder of ArtMedium, an online concert organizer, says, "As a woman, you have to fight for everything here — which is great preparation for being an entrepreneur.”
  8. In the innovation-driven Middle East economies, women are proportionately more likely to have opportunity motives • In the Middle East, a preliminary survey of seven universities in countries including Palestine, the UAE and Saudi Arabia by Sana Odeh, clinical professor of computer science at New York University, found 30-70% of the enrollees in computer science programs were women.
  9. Who are these women? A few examples…
  10. Egypt - Samira Negm • The entrepreneurs behind Raye7, a phone app setting out to be the Middle East’s next Blabla Car, were recognised as the world’s second best mobile startup at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. • Samira Negm and her brother Ahmed Negm, who was featured among CairoScene’s 25 entrepreneurs under 25 last August,co-founded the carpooling application in 2014.
  11. UAE - Hebah Fisher • Hebah Fisher and the team behind Kerning Cultures, a weekly podcast of entrepreneurship, philosophy, culture, history, arts, and technology stories from the region, have decided to utilise the power of the radio to present a new, more positive narrative of the Middle East. • Since September 2015, the main aim of their podcast stories has been to show the depth the region’s societies have to offer. • The first story series focuses on entrepreneurship across the region, describing the personal experiences of starting and growing companies in Lebanon, Egypt, and the UAE. • Distributed in partnership with, the series share individual stories of entrepreneurs, as well as contemplate how national dynamics such as revolutions, border conflicts, infrastructure, bureaucracy, stability and instability alike affect the start-up landscapes.
  12. UAE - Thea Myrvold • Teach Me Now started from the idea that anyone should be able to learn or teach online, and that modern technology could help make education accessible and easy.
  13. Teach me now Being half Arabic, her goal has always been to be a part of the growth and development in the region. As a woman and a teacher, her dream is to contribute to world wide educational reform, by breaking down barriers to learning and improving how we transfer and understand knowledge. At 21, Thea created one of the first gamified apps for high school students for Economics. Her passion continued to develop through her teaching. This lead her to create her third venture at 23, a global platform for personalised learning through is a global marketplace for one to one learning in real time. An alternative to current online solutions, TeachMeNow offers live and interactive classes with the teacher or tutor of your Rebranded for schools and governments Will be launched in Arabic in 2016. Working with 5 government projects including Syrian Refugee Support. Microsoft Partnered. Founder Highlights Being half Arabic, her goal has always been to be a part of the growth and development in the region. As a woman and a teacher, her dream is to contribute to world wide educational reform, by breaking down barriers to learning and improving how we transfer and understand knowledge. M: 00971555445320 E: Webster University Geneva, Switzerland 2008- 2011, BA in International Relations, Economics and Psychology. References available upon request At 21, Thea created one of the first gamified apps for high school students for Economics. Her passion continued to develop through her teaching. This lead her to create her third venture at 23, a global platform for personalised learning through Skills: Startups, Funding, Female leadership, Edtech, Gamified Content, mentorship, Speaking, Educational apps, Cloud Saas, Marketplaces, Community building, and Education. Languages: English and Norwegian Fluently, Intermediate French, Sweedish. is a global marketplace for one to one learning in real time. An alternative to current online solutions, TeachMeNow offers live and interactive classes with the teacher or tutor of your choice for students as young as 6 years old. Boasting 1000+ tutors, teachers and Ivy League graduates from around the world. Rebranded for schools and governments Will be launched in Arabic in 2016. Working with 5 government projects including Syrian Refugee Support. Microsoft Partnered. Award winning speaker, top 100 leaders under 30 featured in Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Arabian Business. Founder Highlights
  14. UAE - Leila Ben Gacem • SOUGHA is a social enterprise initiative and launched by Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, aimed at creating opportunities for unemployable or difficult to employ Emiratis with entrepreneurial potential. • In addition, it seeks to preserve the Emirati heritage through headhunting skilled local crafts men and women all over the UAE, and then improve their technical and entrepreneurial skills to enable them to seize market opportunities. • Sougha is the best source for Emirati hand-made products, from local artisans from all over the UAE. At Sougha we work hard to improve the livelihood of the Emirati artisans, to preserve the Emirati heritage on one hand and to improve the socio-economic status of self-employed talented artisans in opportunity deprived locations. • At Sougha we are very selective and ensure that products are made of suitable raw material and crafted responsibly. All Sougha sales income is returned to artisans, and surplus earned is used to train new artisans by providing tools and raw materials.
  15. UAE - Rama Chakaki • Syrian Rama Chakaki is the founder of BarakaBits, a “good news from Middle East” news site with a long-term focus on staying sustainable. • The site’s content covers an array of social and cultural topics, raging from music education to gaming development.
  16. Egypt - Yasmine El-Mehairy • Egyptian Yasmine El-Mehairy foundherself frustrated that there was no online platforms that resonated with many mothers in the Middle East. • So she created the pan-Arab parenting site SuperMama, which offers an array for information from pregnancy tips to cooking videos. • El-Mehairy made sure that SuperMama is in Arabic and written and produced by Arabs.
  17. Lebanon- Hind Hobeika • She founded Instabeat, one of the most promising startups out of the Middle East. • Based in Lebanon, Instabeat monitors swimmers’ heart rates. • She conceived the idea while training for the American University in Beirut’s swimming team.
  18. Egypt- Rana el Kaliouby • Kaliouby founded MIT startup Affectiva in 2011 to help computers more accurately read facial gestures. • Its applications go far and wide: wearable technology, advertising, and polling just to name a few.
  19. Lebanon- Loulou Khazen Baz • Having foundedthe MENA’s first freelance marketplace to provide a solution for the growing unemployment challenges back in 2012,Loulou Khazen Baz, founder of, has now set her eyes on creating virtual jobs for young people in Palestine. • Partnering with Qatar-based social imitative Silatech, Nabbesh has launched Fursati, meaning ‘my opportunity’, a pilot social programme to connect Gulf-based businesses with qualified Palestinian freelancers.
  20. Palestine- Christina Ganim • Kenz, meaning treasure in Arabic, is run by women, for women. • Kenz is a a fashion-forward online lingerie store for the Middle East, an e-commerce startup selling lingerie to women in the region.
  21. Jordan - Rola Fayyad • Rola Fayyad is the founder & CEO of Friendture, an app that allows you to create and manage your social activities, with family and friends, in one central location. • She previously co-foundedMICEit, an events booking engine for the MENA region, accelerated by Oasis 500. • In 2014, Rola was selected top 10 innovativestartups in the Gulf region, by Hadafi women entrepreneurship competition, and followed to be their ambassador. • She serves as a founding member for Girls in Tech – JordanChapter, which is focused to empower, engage and educate women in the technology sector.
  22. Lebanon - Layal G. Jebran • GM & CEO of Running Cycling Circle, the first bicycle delivery service in Lebanon • Recovering architect and designer, turned Social Entrepreneur, Layal founded her first successful startup by the name of "Lyl Big Designs" during university years, that connected freelance designers to clients, at the moment advising several young entrepreneurs and early stage startups while co-founding and managing “” a coding online school in Arabic for free. • Started PiC, an NGO which was among the final 20 out of 394 worldwide initiatives, at the Hivos Social Innovation Award in the Netherlands. Nominated for becoming an Ashoka Fellow in the Summer. • Former Lead of the Projects Management Department at Zoomaal Inc., Crowdfunding Expert in the MENA region. Curator of Startup Weekend Beirut.
  23. Palestine - Lama Mansour • The founders, business development consultant Lama Mansour and engineer Ismat Tuffaha, are both 22 years old and both Palestinian. • Bold Knot Is A Top-Up Charger Built By A Startup From The West Bank.
  24. Jordan - Afnan Ali • Eureka Tech Talk ignites spark for tech and entrepreneurship in Jordanian kids. • Eureka, according to Ali, aims to make learning about tech and innovation a fun and inclusive affair.
  25. Jordan - Ola Doudin • Ola is cofounder of BitOasis, a bitcoin consumer wallet and instant exchange focused on cash-based emerging markets. • BitOasis aims to change the way people transact and send money by making it easy and secure to use bitcoin. • Ola is also co-founder of Yellow, a bitcoin payment processor, and currently serves as an advisor.
  26. Jordan - Sima Najjar Hijjawi • produces ‘how-to’ videos in Arabic tailored to the Arab world. – How to teach people to do things in a language that is not their own? – As a user of the countless Internet ‘how-to’ videos, the majority of which are in English, Sima Najjar decided to provide the answer – in more ways than one. – She created, a video-content website for short, quality presentations in Arabic, keif meaning ‘how’.
  27. Jordan - Eman Hylooz • Abjjad provides an online and mobile social network for readers, authors and publishers of Arabic literature. • Abjjad – which is the first four letters of the original Arabic alphabet – is an Arabic literature catalogue available via the Internet and a mobile application. • The platform allows users to share their favourite publications through reviews and ratings, writers can meet their fan base and publishers have the opportunity to boost their digital marketing.
  28. Layla El Zeyn • Founder of Elymu • A transformational learning platform, ELYMU promotes its proprietary research- based education frameworks with offline programs and online SaaS tools.
  29. Jordan - Noor El-Fadl • Noor El-Fadl’s website tasmeem Middle East, is the first online networking site for creative talents in the Middle East, and has been voted best internet startup in the region, by public and expert judges, at the ArabNet 2010 conference held in Beirut from March 25-26.
  30. UAE - Mona Ataya • Mona Ataya is proving to be one of the UAE’s most prominent of women entrepreneurs. • The co-founder of, arguably the most successfulonlinesearch engine for jobs in the Middle East, is now working to disrupt the well- ingrained retail space in the UAE with the goal of assisting mothers with their maternity, infant and childcare product needs. • Ataya’s latest venture is Mumzworld, a rapidly growing e-commerce website through which customers now have access to a comprehensive catalog of thousands of childcare and maternity-related items from hundreds of world-class brands, ranging from the likes of Baby Einstein to Fisher Price.
  31. Egypt- Rania Badr El Din • Mother-to-be Egypt is a private organization providing essential, up-to- date information to families throughout Egypt under the brand name Mother & Child.
  32. Lebanon - Rima Al-Sheikh • Rima Al Sheikh is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of the Middle East’s first virtual skills marketplace, Nabbesh. • She is also the CEO and co-founder of, an online product agency, with a mission to give business the opportunity to build beautiful and high-performing online experiences by deploying the most robust and proven, leading edge technologies in the fields of behavioural psychology, customer analytics and web engineering.
  33. Egypt - Yasmin Helal • Througha grass-roots community-based and community-drivenmodel, Educate- Me serves underprivileged communities witha visionof giving every child the knowledge, skills and attitudes that enables him/her to have the freedom and opportunity to aspire to their dreams. • She was also a professional basketball player at Gezira club and the Egyptian National team, where her journey included more than 38 medals.
  34. Morocco - Yasmine El Baggari • Yasmine El Baggari has launchedVoyaj, an online platform that serves as the intersection where technology and personal interaction meet. • Voyaj matches hosts and travelers worldwide to provide meaningfulexchanges, opening hearts and minds. The Voyaj mission is to build relationships between like-minded people who believe one-on-one relationships can lead to a more peaceful world. Matches are based on common interests and values, and curiosity about other cultures and locations. • Voyaj matches travelers and hosts who want to sharean authenticexperience.
  35. UAE - Iba Masood • Co-founder,, a web-based careers portal tailored specifically to their young graduates needs. • What makes it special? ‘We exclusively post internships and vacancies for students and fresh graduates with zero to two years of experience,’ says Iba, 22, a very recent graduate herself. ‘It saves wasting time applying for “graduate” jobs that actually want people with four or five years of experience.
  36. Palestine - Abeer Abu Ghaith Branded Palestine’s first female high-tech entrepreneur. Staylinked: Interface between Palestinian freelancers and businesses from all over the world that need to outsource certain services. Within the list of 100 most powerful Arab Women.
  37. Gaza - Mariam Abu Itawi Mariam Abu Eatewi’s Wasselni, called “the Uber of Gaza,” makes it easier to carpool in Palestine by connecting passengers and drivers through their website and mobile app. One of the missions of Wasselni is to provide women with a safe means of transportation.
  38. What about the ecosystem? A few examples…
  39. Glowork KSA: First female recruitment Gulf
  40. Women VCs: Hala Fadel and Noor Sweid • With their VC firm Leap Ventures, Hala and Noor are looking to provide some big ticket investments for startups in the ICT sectors, and by default, they are also providing the second. • Including Sweid and Fadel, there are four female VCs in the Middle East. The other two are Salaam Saadeh of Active-M and Neveen El Tahri who founded Delta Inspire and 138 Pyramids. • That may not seem like a lot, but comparatively it’s not bad. In 2014 Fortune magazine found that just over four percent of partner-level VCs in the US were women.
  41. Salwa Katkhuda • Salwa is the Program Manager of TechWadi's Sprint Business Accelerator in Silicon Valley, where she builds tailor made programs for promising Middle Eastern technology startups looking to grow in the US market. • Prior to joining Sprint, Salwa was a founding member of Oasis 500, the first seed acceleration and investment program for early stage startups in the MENA. She held the position of Investment Manager at Oasis 500, where she was responsible for recruiting and investing in early stage technology startups. Salwa worked with companies during the acceleration program to reach proof of concept and prepared them for follow on funding from angel investors and venture capital funds. Salwa has worked with more than 1,500 entrepreneurs, invested in more than 70 startups from across the MENA region and directly helped companies raise more than USD 18M in follow on funding since 2011.
  42. Nina Galbraith Curley – Breakthrough • Nina Curley is co-lead at Breakthrough, an initiative in partnership with the Dubai Businesswomen Council, designed to enable the environment and mindset necessary for gender balance in business across the Middle East, through specialized workshops, masterminds, executive coaching, and events that focus on leadership as well as hard skills such as financial literacy. • Previously, she ran Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi, an accelerator program for technology startups focused on digital content and media, and prior to that, she served as the Editor-in-Chief of Wamda, a platform for empowering entrepreneurs, where she covered startup news across 19 markets and helped to mentor and support startups across the MENA region. • During that time, she launched Wamda for Women, an initiative to support female founders. • With a background in cognitive neuroscience and decision-making, she is passionate about enabling a sense of autonomy, purpose, creativity, and sacredness in others to support self-actualization.
  43. The first accelerator in Gaza
  44. Saudi Girls Revolution Game • Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the heroines of SGR are a badass group of Saudi women who come together in a government enforced camp. Rising out of this brutality the women build and race suped-up motorcycles. • Their mission; to fight the evil tyrannical rulers of the corrupted Arabian Empire.
  45. Bahraini Esra’s Al-Shafei is a leading Internet activist in the Middle East • She requested not to show her face publicly for security reasons due to the Bahraini government’s restrictions on media and political freedoms. • Now based in Bahrain, she is the founder of Migrant-Rights,which works to improve conditions for domestic workers around the Middle East. • Al-Shafei also created,a crowdsourcing platform for gathering information on protests.