30k people were at MENA’s top 3 startup events in 2016 #Wamda2016

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The startupper calendar gets busier every year.

In 2016 there have been more than 200 events related to entrepreneurship, startups, technology and innovation.

More events, more diversity

Events in 2016 experienced a 50 percent jump from 2015.

Multiple events allowed for the proliferation of sector and stage-specific events. This shows that the ecosystem is growing and there is sufficient demand to hold events that are very tailored to niche topics.

Some events even have a specific format to be adapted to the different host locations. These can be identified as event series such as Seedstar, Arabnet conferences or Mix N’ Mentor.

This growth in variety can be attributed to the dedicated work of organisations such as Wamda or Arabnet.


The top three MENA events were: BDL Accelerate in Lebanon, Riseup Summit in Egypt and the Step Conference in UAE.

Only two years ago the same three events were drawing crowds of 5,600 attendees. In 2016, they were able to gather almost 30,000 people.

The increased awareness and popularity of the events around the startup community has also meant that people, not exclusively in the world of entrepreneurship, were in attendance - from students to members of the public simply curious to know more about investors, startups and the tech world.

The increased awareness and popularity of the events around the startup community has also meant that people, not exclusively in the world of entrepreneurship were attending - from students to members of the publish simply curious to know more about investors, startuppers and the tech world.


The dynamism of the MENA startup scene is to be noticed also in relation to speakers and hosts attending its events. By now, global experts and industry authorities attend MENA conferences and mentoring session.

Among the most prominent speakers was Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple. At Lebanon’s BDL Accelerate he gave a motivational speech backed by personal experiences, repeating that “a lot of what you do in life boils down less to knowledge and skills and more to motivation”.

Joe Kaeser, president and CEO of Siemens, gave his take on startups at Misk Global Forum - that 90 to 95 percent of startups will fail, but the 10 percent who will succeed will change the region, if not the world.

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Targeted events

Events are getting more specific by startup stage, sector and format than before. This gives startups the possibility to attend events that really concern them.

For example, Launch Summit was organized by Altcity in collaboration with more than 50 partners in Beirut. The event was focused on very early stage startups, that in other conferences would not have found the necessary attention and support.

The Collaborative Entrepreneurship Summit, which was held in Dubai in May, focused on the startup-corporation collaborations. Wamda organized this event as part of the broader collaboration with Expo 2022 Dubai. Twenty-two startups and seven corporations pitched their ideas and needs.

Then there was the first Lady Problem Hackathon organized in Gaza by Gaza Sky Geeks and Angel Hack. This three days hackathon focused on solving female-related problems in the Arab world.

So there is an increase in interest and increase in events - a sure sign of the maturation of the regional ecosystem, one that is getting richer and more sophisticated.

Feature image of participants of Wamda and MIT Media Lab’s Redefining Cities workshop week in Dubai, via Wamda.

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