This year’s STEP Conference, the flagship event during STEP2017, will deliver its most impressive speaker lineup yet for its fifth edition. Packing serious star power, confirmed speakers include some of the most influential Arabs in the world, as well as heavyweights from the tech, digital and entertainment industries. The event takes place at Dubai International Marine Club on 5th and 6th April, and is followed by STEP Music on 7th April.

With a unique focus on the intersection of technology, digital media and entertainment, and its unrivaled interactive format, STEP Conference enjoys a reputation as the meeting place for progressive young Arabs intent on placing the MENA region at the forefront of innovation.

“Our mission at STEP Group has always been to inspire progressive change in the Arab world by bringing together exceptional talent and promoting positive dialogue. It’s been five years since we launched STEP Conference and that mission is even more resolute today. We want to counter the rampant fearmongering in the world by celebrating Arab excellence, encouraging tolerance and inspiring greatness,” said Ray Dargham, CEO, STEP Group.

Additionally, STEP Group, the fast-growing new media and technology company in the Middle East, this year celebrates the fifth edition of its flagship STEP Conference with the launch of STEP Music. Presented as STEP2017, the two events will take place at the Dubai International Marine Club with STEP Conference running from 5th to 6th April, followed by STEP Music on 7th April.

“STEP Music is a logical addition to our events portfolio and a natural evolution of the STEP Conference,” explains Dargham. “STEP Conference has always been about the convergence and advancement of the technology, digital and entertainment industries. In line with this core mission, STEP Music and Anghami will bring together the most influential local artists, record labels, and music industry professionals to help them recognize their Arab dream while contributing to the development of the Middle East entertainment industry.”

Eddy Maroun, CEO & Co-founder at Anghami adds: “At Anghami we believe in the synergies that exist between artists, music fans and brands where everyone unites for the love of music. We’re witnessing exciting times for the music industry with music streaming creating unprecedented opportunities for rising talents, independent and established artists alike to reach their potential and scale. As a market leader, Anghami is committed to the growth of the region’s music industry and is proud to partner with STEP Music for what will be a real manifestation of today’s music pulse in MENA.”

Since its launch in 2013, STEP Conference has become the MENA region’s largest gathering for technology, digital and entertainment industries. It has also earned a reputation as the hunting ground for investors keen to find the next tech unicorn in the Middle East. More than 10,000 entrepreneurs, investors and tech and media enthusiasts are expected to attend the annual two-day event, which is packed with talks, exhibitions and signature STEP features.

Keynote presentations not to be missed include BBC journalist Kim Ghattas’ on-stage interview with Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Ambassador to Russia and author of Letters to a Young Muslim. Joining him is Colin Rhys, creative director at Hyperloop One, a company that is leading the effort to move passenger and cargo at airline speeds at a fraction of the cost of air travel.

True to its entrepreneurial roots, STEP Conference remains the hunting ground for investors looking for the next tech unicorn in the Middle East. It has also become a magnet for some of the world’s biggest technology companies who view Dubai as their launchpad to new markets.  This year’s tech track will open with an address by Osman Sultan, Chief Executive Officer of du. It will also feature talks with leading startup founders, such Mudassir Sheikha, the founder of the MENA unicorn company Careem, as well as top venture capitalist firms.

The rest of the tech lineup includes individuals and companies that are embracing cutting-edge technologies in the frontiers of culture, science and medicine. Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) with Ramzi Rizk, founder of world leading photo community EyeEm, David Llorente of Narrativa, a company that provides automated reporting products, and Omar Tawakol of WorkFit, a company that is developing a personal scheduling assistant.
  • Food delivery with global and regional powerhouses Zomato, Deliveroo and Talabat
  • Medtech and immersive technologies with Proximie and TouchSurgery, two companies that use virtual reality and augmented reality to assist surgeons in remote areas
  • The future of space exploration with Charles Elachi, the previous head of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs
  • And Sport and technology with SAP whose software helps train and prepare the German National Football team.
  • All the latest in Bitcoin, Blockchain, and other technologies that are upending the financial industry, with the founders of BitOasis, Otonomos, Beehive, and Finalytix

With demand for digital media content in Arabic continuing to accelerate, and Arabs’ use of social media channels outpacing most markets in the world, STEP Conference will bring together those at the vanguard of the region’s digital transformation. In addition to talks from Facebook, Criteo, and Dentsu Inc., the lineup includes:

  • Tim Kobe, Founder & CEO of Eight Inc, Matteo Penzo, Executive Director, Technology at frog, to discuss the convergence of hardward, software, and retail design.
  • Chaker Khazaal, author of ‘Confessions of a War Child’ trilogy, sits down for a one-on-one with journalist Jaafar Abdul Karim from the German broadcaster DW
  • Digital media dynamos Dima Khatib from AJ+ and Lorna Blount from the BBC will go head to head with Dina Amin from Google and Kinda Ibrahim from Twitter to debate the roles of platforms and publishers.
  • Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, also from AJ+, and Sara Yasin from Buzzfeed News, tackle the issue of fake news
  • And Karl Sharro, architect, satirist and commentator on the Middle East discusses the power of digital satire.

In the entertainment track visitors will enjoy the best of the region’s comedy scene with Fahad Al Butairi, Saudi Arabia’s first professional stand-up comedian and Tima Shomali, dubbed “the Tina Fey of the Arab World”, both tackling cultural taboos through the lens of humor.  Also in the entertainment track is a dedicated focus on gaming, including names such as MJ Fahmi, founder of Babil Games, a gaming company that was recently acquired by the Swedish Stillfront Group for $17M, and Hussam Hammo, founder of the leading mobile game publisher Tamatem games, which boasts 31 million downloads.

Finally, curated by Cinema Akil, the film track will feature some of the most accomplished and promising individuals in the Middle East film scene – including pioneers such as Hala Lotfi, Perihan Abu Zeid, and Youssef Shazli to name a few – and will place special emphasis on indie cinemas, women film directors, and video on demand.

“Every year we listen to the feedback of our participants to make each STEP Conference better than the last. We’re really excited about this year’s speaker lineup which features some of the region’s top influencers. We’re confident they will continue to challenge existing paradigms and bring to light those industries in MENA that are ripe for further disruption,” said Dargham.

Finally, curated by Cinema Akil, the film track will feature some of the most accomplished and promising individuals in the Middle East film scene – including pioneers such as Hala Lotfi, Perihan Abu Zeid, and Youssef Shazli to name a few – and will place special emphasis on indie cinemas, women film directors, and video on demand.

Early bird tickets for STEP2017, which include access to both STEP Conference and STEP Music are available now and can be purchased from the STEP2017 website – www.stepconference.com