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10 Awe-Inspiring Speakers You Can't Miss at RiseUp Summit 2017

Egypt's largest and most vibrant entrepreneurial event is back with a vengeance this December, bringing some of the craziest movers and shakers in digital business, the creative economy, and the venture capital world.

Staff Writer

As thousands of tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs gear up for the fifth edition of the RiseUp Summit, consolidated as the Middle East's most impactful event, some of the world's leading tech gurus, industry leaders and entrepreneurial giants will descend upon Cairo's Greek Campus on December 1st for a three day adventurous ride across the Middle Eastern startup rollercoaster. From industry leaders, to Emmy-award winning directors, to the bright minds behind The Great Big Story, and Udacity, here's 10 speakers that will rock the stage at this year's RiseUp Summit. 

1. Daniel Pinchbeck

A visionary changemaker and a best-selling author, Daniel Pinchbeck is one of the most intriguing speakers to hit the summit this year. He is the founder of the think-tank Center for Planetary Culture, which produced the "Regenerative Society Wiki," a Wikipedia-like platform for technologists, visionaries and researches to crowdsource solutions for the planetary crisis. Can it get more exciting? He is also the author of best-selling books How Soon Is Now, Breaking Open the Head, and 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and was featured in the 2010 documentary, 2012: Time for Change, directed by Joao Amorim and produced by Mangusta Films. Having hosted the talk show Mindshift, he also co-founded the web magazine Reality Sandwich and His essays and articles have appeared in a vast range of publications, including The New York Times, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and ArtForum, and he has been a columnist for Dazed & Confused.

2. Brian Collins

A guru on the creative economy, Brian Collins is Chief Creative Officer of Collins, a brand and experience design company - based in New York City and San Francisco - which creates experiences, products, and technologies that shape companies and people for the better. His team has won every major creative award there is, and he's seen his work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, and Fast Company - which named him an American Master of Design. His flagship store for Hershey was labelled by Business Week as a design “Wonder of the World,” and his team's design of Helios House in Los Angeles (the first gas station using environmentally sustainable principles), is included in The Cooper Hewitt National Museum of Design. Before Collins, he was the Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of the brand and innovation division of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, racking up clients such as Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Giorgio Armani, and IBM. In 2017, his firm Collins was named by Forbes as one of the companies transforming the future of brand building. 

3. Amira Rashad

Having worked as the Head of Brand for Facebook Middle East, North Africa & Pakistan, Amira Rashad is now the CEO of BulkWhiz, the first bulk grocery e-commerce platform in the Middle East that uses home-grown artificial intelligence. As Facebook's Head of Brand, she worked hand by hand with the MENA's key players in the startup ecosystem. Having advised Fortune 500 companies as a senior consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, she also led teams at PepsiCo, Yahoo, Dun & Bradstreet, and Leo Burnett Advertising, while working in the US, Europe, Middle East and Africa. She is also a board member of Tech Wadi in Silicone Valley and The MIT Enterprise Forum Middle East. 

4. Chris Do

Chris Do is an Emmy-award (yes, you read that right) winning director, designer, strategist and educator. He’s the Chief Strategist and CEO of Blind - a pioneer in the motion design field - and the Founder of The Futur, an online education platform that teaches the business of design to creative thinkers. Blind, founded in 1995, has made hundreds of award-winning commercials, music videos and broadcast promos that combine design, typography, animation, live action and visual effects for screens and clients of all sizes. His firm’s work has been recognised by national and international organisations such as the Emmy’s, Effie Gold, Effie, Huffington Post, Webbie, Communication Arts, London International Awards, One Show, and British D&AD.

5. Ben Whitla 

If you ever came across Great Big Story, chances are you never forgot it. RiseUp is this bringing not one but two of the greatest minds behind it. As the Executive Creative Director, Ben Whitla oversees all digital products, branding, marketing, video aesthetics and motion graphics. With over 10 years of experience as a creative and design director, he is a guru in identifying and crafting the the place where brands and digital meet. Having kicked off his career as a letterpress printer, his interest in design took him across Ride Snowboards and several boutique design studios in Boston. After that it was all digital – Whitla was Creative Director at Beam Interactive where he led the award-winning redesign of’s digital properties, followed by Design Director at Yahoo. 

6. Vish Markhijani 

Having held leadership positions in high-growth companies such as Zynga, Yandex, and Yahoo - where he scaled the business to millions of users - Vishal Makhijani is CEO of Udacity. Having began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers in the New York and Silicon Valley offices, he served Fortune 500 and startup clients, and has held board positions on several public and private companies - he is currently on the board of both Prosperworks and Pepperdata. Before joining Yandex, he was senior vice president of Yahoo’s Search Group - where he lead the group to over $1 billion in revenue and open sourced Yahoo’s search engine - and before then, he was the general manager at Inktomi, where he orchestrated the sale of the company to Yahoo.

7. Sarah Heck

An experienced supporter of the startup ecosystem, Sarah Heck is not only a key player in Stripe Atlas - a Stripe platform focused on helping more entrepreneurs start and grow internet businesses worldwide - but also serves as an advisor to the Obama Foundation on international entrepreneurship and youth programmes. Her experience in the public sphere stretches to the National Security Council at the White House, where she worked on global entrepreneurship policy, private sector engagement, youth demographics, and expanding the impact of US public diplomacy on national security. She also worked at the State Department serving as Chief of Staff for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Sarah is a Truman National Security Project Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations Term Member, and serves on the board of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

8. Nour M. Al-Hassan

A powerful advocate for women empowerment, Nour Al-Hassan is the founder and CEO of Tarjama, a UAE-based translation company with a unique approach:  training and employing the largest network of Arabic-speaking female translators in the world, with over 300 women trained and over 200 of them hired. Since its establishment in 2008, Tarjama has translated over 150 million words in 30 languages for companies and organisations across the world. Mindful of cultural and traditional barriers and opportunities for women, the company offers flexible schedules, work-from-home options, and competitive salaries. Nour has also pledged to train a total of 300 Saudi women by the end of 2018, enabling them with skills that can offer them better employment opportunities. Building on Tarjama’s success in women’s economic empowerment and the regional and international network of partners it has created, Nour has recently launched Ureed, a ground-breaking online platform designed to maximise the global economic impact of women’s contribution to the workforce by serving as a marketplace for all Arab translators, editors, and interpreters in the region. 

9. Brian Wong

Once the youngest person to ever receive venture capital funding - he is only 26 - Brian Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Kiip; a startup that redefines how brands connect with consumers through a rewards platform that targets “achievement moments” in mobile games and apps. Backed by Verizon Ventures, AmEx Ventures, US Cellular, North Atlantic Capital, Hummer Winblad, Relay Ventures, True Ventures, and others, the company has raised over $32 million in funding to date. Kiip has been recognised by Forbes as one of the 4 Hot Online Ad Companies to Put on Your Watch List, named on the Dow Jones FasTech50 and is listed on Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies in the World. Last year, he published his first book, The Cheat Code, which contains 71 bite­-sized and virtually effortless shortcuts to get a leg up on the competition, garner attention for creative thinkers and their ideas, and to accelerate success - a book that is quickly becoming the go-to book for entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial advice for our generation.

10. Mona Ataya

One of the Middle East’s most renowned female entrepreneurs. Mona Ataya is the Founder and CEO of, the pioneer and Leading e-commerce Vertical for Mother, Baby and Child shopping in the Middle East. was founded 7 years ago with the vision of empowering mothers to make the most informed purchase decisions for their children and ultimately making their lives easier. Key to Mumzworld’s DNA is creating a brand with a meaningful social impact and its aggressive expansion plans, led by its incursion into Saudi Arabia in 2017. Mona has won numerous awards in the past year including the 100 most Powerful Arab Women 2014 and 2015, and amongst the World's 100 Most Powerful Arabs - Generation Next - Arabian Business, 2014. 

Find out more and get tickets for RiseUp here.




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