AstroLabs, North Star by Gitex Global Dubai, and DMCC, the world’s flagship free zone and Government of Dubai Authority on commodities trade and enterprise, hosted a unique networking event and panel discussion as part of the North Star/Gitex Global 2022 Dubai week. Hosted by DMCC in its Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) community adjacent to the AstroLabs coworking spaces, 200+ of the next generation of inspiring local, regional, and global entrepreneurs engaged in knowledge-sharing and insight-building. 

‘Networking Under the Stars’ was a natural partnership between Gitex Global, North Star Dubai, DMCC, and AstroLabs as they continue building open innovation ecosystems in the UAE and beyond. For the past two decades, DMCC has attracted the world’s top emerging businesses to build a value-driven ecosystem at the heart of the UAE. DMCC and AstroLabs have worked collaboratively to nurture and expand over 500 top-tier digitally enabled businesses from the region and across the globe that now constitute the extended AstroLabs Jumeirah Lake Towers coworking community. This includes successful digital ventures such as Deliveroo, Checkout.com, Eventtus, Dawn Health, Builder.ai, and many more. 

For the annual edition of the world’s largest global startup event, North Star welcomed 800+ startup exhibitors, 600+ VCs and investors, and 400+ speakers from across the globe to explore the region’s next technological frontiers. As part of its satellite engagement, ‘Networking Under the Stars’ hosted an exclusive panel titled “A Global Launchpad: The UAE, a gateway to MENA and beyond”. The panel was moderated by Wamda Editorial Director, Triska Hamid, and hosted Muhammad El Garem, Co-founder and Head of Launch of Trella, AnuschaIqbal, Co-founder and CEO of Spotii, Rami Tabbara, Co-founder of Stake, and Ekta Bhojwani, VP of Consumer Products at Kitopi. 

The event kicked off with a keynote by Ahmed Bin Sulayem, the Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DMCC, where he welcomed esteemed panelists and guests, and laid out the impact of the DMCC business expansion model that has supported the growth of SMEs and entrepreneurs for two decades. Amidst an audience of global entrepreneurs with cohorts from Brazil, Estonia, Japan, the GCC, Italy, and South Korea, he expressed his confidence in the UAE as a global hub and launchpad for emerging innovations and shared some insights for the path ahead. 

Ahmed Bin Sulayem said: “The partnership between DMCC and AstroLabs goes back a decade, to when AstroLabs selected DMCC to be the home of the only Google tech hub in the UAE. Their trust was well-placed, with DMCC winning the Financial Times’ fDI Magazine ‘Global Free Zone of The Year’ in 2014, and every year since. Right from the start of this partnership, we have held open forums to discuss ideas and engage our active community of startups and entrepreneurs, supporting their rapid growth. Today, we are seeing Dubai’s innovative startups tackle a number of global challenges by utilizing cutting-edge solutions in key fields such as blockchain, Web3.0, and sustainability. Through events like this, which bring the entire community together, Dubai’s entrepreneurs are set to capitalize on unprecedented opportunities.”

The panelists shared insight on scaling their digital offerings within the UAE and the intricacies, challenges, and striking potential of their MENA expansions. Operating in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, the startups proclaimed the critical need for accessing local support networks in driving their go-to-market strategies, where the role of regulators, enablers, connectors, business developers, and most importantly investors & financial solution providers remain of utmost vitality. 

Given the boosted private/public synergies and the hypergrowth in digitalization, the UAE was able to provide the perfect launchpad for these startups to scale up their offerings within the most anticipated digitally-driven industries including fintech, foodtech, transport & logistics, and proptech. 

In a significant testament to the maturity of the AstroLabs community and the greater entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, all panelists hailed from the AstroLabs extended entrepreneurial ecosystem whether by undergoing market entry programs or by taking part in its multi-faceted acceleration programs. AstroLabs has started its journey in incubating and accelerating emerging businesses with tremendous potential for innovation, and a decade later stands at full-fledged sectors of disruption, pioneered by local and global players that managed to succeed and supersede expectations in the UAE. Today, as the company evolves and expands it has set a wider scope of innovation in MENA, enabling these players to enter and expand within the UAE, KSA, and beyond.

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