So the 7th Step Conference just ended with around 6000 attendees and 300+ startups exhibiting in Dubai. There was also a good amount of country representations this year – Saudia Arabia, Oman and most notably, China!
What was noticed: It becomes immediately noticeable this year that there were more mature founders and startups exhibiting. Their business ideas were more advanced with a good amount of traction. The event also aimed to bring together regional players from across the tech startup ecosystem, which is rapidly expanding to Saudi Arabia – with STEP having its first ever event in KSA scheduled for the end of March this year.
About the talks and panels: they were more focused with good a turn up from startups from across the MENA. The stages were segregated with hosting panels on variety of topics such as: launching, digital growth, growth strategies and digital marketing. Along with Saudi Arabia, there was a stronger presence of startups from Oman and China.
China rising: As the biggest foreign direct investor in the region, Chinese companies are dominating the region’s technology markets with a thrust of startups wanting to access this region. I have also noted that Chinese VCs had brought some of their portfolio startups to aid them with market access and business development support at this year’s STEP. It’ll be very interesting to see how these number rise (of Chinese founders) in upcoming startup events this year.
What to watch out for: Given STEP’s success this year, it’ll be interesting to keep track of the string of the upcoming startup conferences in 2019. UAE events that solely focus on startups have increased (probably) 10-fold – STEP, GITEX, ArabNet, Forbes’, ADGM’s Fintech Festival, Sheraa’s SEF – just to name a few.