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The Lineup Unfolds with 22 Speakers (Confirmed So Far) Not To Miss at RiseUp Summit 2019

Meet the 22 pioneers and keynote speakers at the MENA's most promising entrepreneurial event.

Staff Writer

The time is ticking and the seventh edition of the RiseUp Summit is just around the block, where hundreds of emerging startups and industry leaders in major local and global ecosystems are gearing up to innovate. Taking place in the American University in Cairo - New Cairo Branch, the region's most game-changing entrepreneurial summit will explore its three main tracks, Capital, Tech, and Creative, with an exciting expansion to each - totaling up to seven tracks. This is to delve deeper into the specifics of leading their "Journey of Growth"; which is this year's theme at RiseUp Summit. 

The RiseUp beehive is racing time to get this summit in order, with a jaw-dropping lineup that is still in the making. Exclusively and fresh from behind the scenes, we let you in on some of the speakers confirmed so far. Meet 22 of the pioneers speaking at the RiseUp Summit 2019.

1. Claudius Boller // Spotify MEA  

Claudius Boller is the Managing Director for Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Spotify. Since joining Spotify in 2017, Claudius has been instrumental in planning Spotify’s entry into the Middle East and Africa, mainly overseeing business strategy and operations while rolling out in new territories. Claudius has a wealth of industry and market experience, having spent seven years working at Universal Music Group. 

2. Karen Cheng // 9Gag

Karen is a full-time digital junkie, fluent in memes and GIFs, a part-time musician and a cat videos enthusiast. Karen joined 9GAG as Head of Social, leading social business across 9GAG's social channels, expanding vertical social communities and content business. Prior to 9GAG, Karen was Director of Social at TBWA\Hong Kong, where she gained 9 years of social and digital marketing experience and specialising in creative content and social strategy. 

3. Gerardo Mazzeo // Nestlé 

Gerardo has a wealth of experience in commercial and marketing roles at Nestlé having spent over 20 years in the company, where he transitioned into leading the company’s global innovation activities since 2012, finding new and innovative ways to solve challenges across the business. By connecting Nestlé businesses with the best and brightest innovators and start-ups, the platform helps Nestlé to forge partnerships that can tackle the projects that matter; enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future. 

4. Brian Collins // COLLINS 

Brian Collins is Chief Creative Officer of COLLINS, an independent experience design company in New York City and San Francisco. Fun fact: Forbes Magazine named them as one of the companies reshaping the future of brand building. Their work has been featured in the likes of The New York Times, Businessweek, and more. Under his leadership, COLLINS was added to Working Not Working’s annual list of Companies Creatives Would Kill To Work For Full-Time. So if you’d think this is the right time to ask him for a job, you know where to catch him! 

5. Wakim Zeidan // General Director Nuqat

Being first and foremost a cultural activist, Wakim founded, and is the General Director of Nuqat, a non-profit organization for cultural development - a platform for cultural programming and community networking in the Middle East. In addition to his leadership role, he has also developed and delivered a range of skills development workshops and programs focusing on ideation, education, communication and culture. By profession, Wakim is a communications director, specializing in advertising, project management, corporate client communication and creative direction. Accumulating an impressive 19 years of experience and counting, Wakim currently serves as the EVP-Corporate Communication at Gatehouse Financial Group handling all communication and marketing on a corporate level, from planning, budgeting, strategic engagement and messaging.

6. Yasmeen Mjalli // Babyfist

Yasmeen Mjalli is a Palestinian social entrepreneur, activist, and Duke University grad student whose work includes critical writing, cross-disciplinary workshops, and social-engagement projects. She is the founder of BabyFist, a Palestinian-based fashion brand which manufactures clothing in Gaza to fund girls’ empowerment projects. As the woman who coined the phrase “Not Your Habibti,” she has this thing for social justice and women's rights.

7. Waleed Sadek // PaySky  

Waleed Sadek is the Founder & CEO of PaySky, the disruptive payments platform with a vision of "Democratizing e-payments", founded in Egypt where it has redefined the whole e-Payments ecosystem in less than 18 months and now expanding into the rest of MEA region & beyond. Prior to founding PaySky, Mr. Sadek founded, co-founded and led multiple startups in FinTech & Enterprise Solutions domains, before starting his entrepreneurial pursue, Mr. Sadek had different management roles at different multinational companies, the latest of which was Visa Inc where he managed New technologies and Innovations for MEA region out of Cairo and Dubai offices and then moved to Visa's London office to manage Visa's Strategy for Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East & Africa (CEMEA) region.

8. Hatem Ayoub // Twitter MENA


Hatem Ayoub is the Regional Marketing Manager for Twitter for the Middle East and North Africa region based out of the EMEA headquarters in Ireland. Over the years, he worked for Yahoo! as a Consultant for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and Microsoft as a Regional Product Marketing Manager for Middle East and Africa. He co-founded Tripdizer (a 500 Startup), served as the CMO and led the Marketing and Growth for Harmonica, securing the acquisition from Match group. He led the Digital Marketing and eCommerce department for Btech and is an Alibaba eFounders Fellow and the Ambassador for Egypt for the fellowship. He is also a Digital Marketing and Growth Hacking instructor, which you can expect him to talk about in this keynote.

9. Amir Zarkesh // Polyup

Amir Zarkesh is a co-founder of Polyup, a startup that is transforming K12 math education to enable a global community of creative and engaged problem solvers. Amir has been the co-founder, executive, and inventor at various high-tech companies, including Bluechip Systems and Crunch Media Works, as well as 3Plus1 Technology which was acquired by a private equity. Prior to that, Dr. Zarkesh was a co-founder and President of iBRIDGES helping young high-tech entrepreneurs. He received UC Teacher Excellence Award from UCLA. Amir received PhD in Theoretical Particle Physics and two masters in EE and Physics from UCLA.

10. Marcel Muenster // The Gritti Fund

Marcel Muenster is a serial entrepreneur, a Johns Hopkins-trained medical doctor, public health professional, and former management consultant. He is the founder of Doctor in Your Pocket, a global digital medical concierge service, giving international travelers access to trusted local, virtual, and house call doctors around the clock anywhere in the world. In 2015, Marcel was a finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In his latest endeavor, Marcel founded The Gritti Fund, the world's first investment fund focused on the founder’s mental and physical well-being by empowering them to own their potential.

11. Jeff Abbott // Global Scaling Academy 

Jeff Abbott is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Global Scaling Academy. He is active globally in ecosystem development and has mentored hundreds of startups, as director of the startup accelerator at Arizona State University, and as Chief Mentor for European Innovation Academy, mentor at Qatar Science and Technology Park, ScaleIT, Nordic Innovation, Startup Chile, among others. Jeff's experience for more than 20 years is at the intersection of corporate innovation and startups, and he leads GSA’s partnership with Valuer.ai, designed to match scaling startups with corporate partners. He is proficient in 5 languages, and has lived and worked in the US, Europe and Latin America.

12. Kamran Elahian // Global Innovation Catalyst 

Kamran is Founder and Chairman, Global Innovation Catalyst, LLC and advises various governments on the needed transition from fossil-based economies to sustainable innovation economies. In the past, as a global high-tech entrepreneur, he co- founded ten companies, had 6 exits, 3 of them were Unicorn IPOs with a total market cap of over $8B. For 15 yrs., he was Chairman of Global Catalyst Partners, a global VC firm ($350M under management) with investments in the U.S., Japan, China, India, Israel and Singapore. Underlying his vision for global philanthropy is the conviction that modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be instrumental in dissolving barriers between nations and bridging the social and political differences among people. 

13. Phil Pallen Brand // Phil Pallen Collective

Phil deconstructs personal branding and digital marketing to empower leaders, corporations, employees, and entrepreneurs. Phil has worked with hundreds of brands across all industries, including a Shark on Shark Tank, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, politicians, and some of the most important names in entertainment. His insights have been featured in media outlets around the world, including CNN, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, and The Daily Mail, and he frequently speaks at conferences in cities all over the globe, including London, Tokyo, Dubai, São Paulo, Auckland, Helsinki, and Los Angeles, and now Cairo, where he will be gracing the stage to share his expertise.

14. Alya Mooro // Writer

Egyptian born and London raised, Alya Mooro has written for publications including Refinery29, the Washington Post and the Telegraph. Her first book The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes is out worldwide via Little A, Amazon Publishing, and is a number one bestseller across a number of categories including biographies and Middle Eastern literature. Alya has collaborated with brands including Nike, ASOS and Absolut and guested on numerous national radio stations. She is a representative voice both for her generation and for multi-cultural women everywhere.

15. Nasri Atallah // Last Floor Productions

Nasri Atallah is British-Lebanese writer, television documentary presenter and producer. He co-founded Last Floor Productions in October 2019, to create compelling, character-driven, genre fiction for television, film and audio. Last Floor is committed to bringing a diverse range of Arab voices into the global entertainment industry and to have fun while they do it. For over a decade, he has also worked in various ways to produce, promote and export film, digital content, music, writing, mainly from the Middle East. He also advised artists, brands & non-profits in the creative industries on strategy. He is also currently co-developing The New Arabs, a six-part television documentary about the Arab world that he will also host. Currently, he's developing smaller documentaries with independent filmmakers in the Middle East, as well as being a regular guest on the BBC Arts Hour and have appeared on BBC’s World Book Cafe and Monocle24, which focuses on Arab culture, pop culture & multiculturalism, the media industry, and storytelling. 

16. Mona Hamdy // Emotional Particle 

Mona Hamdy is a teaching fellow of Applied Ethics at Harvard University. Her research pursues a modern morality for the 21st century— based on meaning, story, and holistic existence in our data-soaked, hyperconnected machine age. Prior to co-founding the Al Baydha Society and Development Corporation in Saudi Arabia in 2009, Mona served as the Executive Director of the Mosaic Foundation. Comprised of the spouses of the Arab ambassadors posted to Washington, DC, Mosaic was dedicated to improving the lives of women and children around the world and increasing cross-cultural understanding between the people of the Arab World and the United States. Mona is the Arab World ambassador for Sir Richard Branson's Global Blockchain Business Council. She is currently found studying the cello, biohacking her sleep, and preparing to hike the Camino de Santiago.

17. Bill Wood // Bill Wood Ventures

Based in Austin, Texas, Bill Wood is one of the most successful and respected venture capitalists in Texas. His track record spans over three decades and parallels the extraordinary emergence of Austin as one of the world’s strongest technology driven economies. He has provided start-up financing, board level guidance and mentoring to dozens of start-ups, several of which have achieved multi-billion-dollar market capitalizations. He is a past recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur-of-the-Year Award. In 2006, he founded Silverton Partners which is widely regarded as the most respected firm in the region. In 2018, with several years of experience under his belt, Bill retired from Silverton but continues to invest in early stage companies through Bill Wood Ventures, his family office.

18. Danny Warshay // Nelson Centre for Entrepreneurship at Brown University 

Danny is first and foremost an entrepreneur,  where he began his entrepreneurial pursuits while being an undergraduate at Brown as a member of the Clearview Software startup leadership team. Apple acquired Clearview in 1989, and since then, he has co-founded and sold companies in fields ranging from software and advanced materials to consumer products and media (acquired by Medline, Time, Belo Corporation, Sealed Air, Penton Media). Since 2005, he has been teaching and leading workshops on entrepreneurship around the world. Brown’s Critical Review has recognized his course ENGN1010, The Entrepreneurial Process, as the highest rated course on campus. In addition to spending time with his wonderful wife and three terrific children, Danny loves the mental and physical challenges and rewards of vinyasa yoga. He is also an avid “and tortured” sports fan.

19. Sara Raza // Contemporary Global Art Curator and Writer


Sara Raza is a curator and writer on global art, and was the winner of the ArtTable New Leadership Award for Women in the Arts (2016). Sara was most recently the Guggenheim UBS MAP curator for the Middle East and North Africa and curated “But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, (2016), which traveled to the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan. In 2019, she was appointed as the first guest curator at the Rubin Museum of Art for the Year of Power and curated the exhibition "Clapping with Stones: Art & Acts of Resistance." Sara has curated exhibitions and projects for several international biennials, festivals and museums, including recently the Rubin Museum of Art Mathaf Arab Modern Art Museum, Doha, Qatar and MacKenzie Art Gallery, Saskatchewan, Canada. She has also curated the Tashkent Biennial, Uzbekistan and “Rhizoma: Saudi Pavilion, Venice Biennial; and the Baku Public Art Festival Azerbaijan.

20. Ben Burns // The Futur

Currently, Ben serves in a dual role as both the Chief Operating Officer of The Futur and as Digital Creative Director at Blind. The Futur helps creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs develop personally and professionally by providing premier digital educational content. Ben leads the talented marketing and operations teams, who have succeeded in increasing revenue 300% year over year for the past three years. Whereas Blind is a brand strategy consultancy specializing in technology, real estate, and entertainment. Ben leads a team of designers, writers, and technologists and participates in select client projects.

21. Tarek Atrissi // Principal Designer


Lebanese-Dutch Tarek Atrissi is one of the most recognised designers across the Arab world. He has gained an international reputation for his graphic work and has received prestigious awards and honors throughout his design career. In 2000, he established his Netherlands-based design studio, Tarek Atrissi Design. The studio’s typographic and cross cultural design approach produced projects that left a significant influence on contemporary graphic design landscape in the Middle East. Atrissi was listed in 2017 as one of the most influential 100 Lebanese professional figures around the globe. His work has been showcased in a group exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and is in the permanent Design collection of the Affiche Museum in Holland. He has held two solo exhibitions displaying his graphic and typographic work: the first at the VCU Qatar Gallery in Doha, and the second in Amsterdam at De Levante foundation in Amsterdam. His awards include the Type Directors Clubs, two Adobe Design Achievement Awards, the Aquent Design award, the Dutch Design,, to name a few.

22. Salma Elwardany // Writer 

You can find her drinking tea, eating cake and dismantling the patriarchy. Writer, poet and activist, Salma El-Wardany was born in Egypt and raised in the North of England, returning home to Cairo just in time for the Arab Spring. Between protesting and fighting in the revolution, she started a blog to document her experiences, discuss womanhood and explore the tumultuous identity of being female, of colour and Muslim. Since returning from Egypt she's set up an international business, worked with Edinburgh University on the Dangerous Woman Project, The British Library, The Wellcome Collection, given 2 TEDx Talks and writes for magazines like HuffPost, Buzzfeed, and Stylist. Salma was most recently published in the best selling anthology ‘It’s Not About The Burqa’ and is working on her debut novel while also performing her poetry across the U.S and U.K, and is a BBC Radio London presenter.

 Want to be a speaker among those stars? Join the lineup here.  

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