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39. Abdallah Absi
\nThe 23-year-old college dropout and serial social entrepreneur is aiming to make the Arab world a hub for innovation.
\nHaving started six of his own digital companies, he now also advises other start-ups and wannabe entrepreneurs on how to break through to success. Based in the creative environment of Beirut, Absi is a common fixture at nearly all entrepreneurial events in the capital, including his own weekly gatherings through the eClub, which he founded to provide fellow entrepreneurs in Lebanon an opportunity to discuss issues and learn from each other, not to mention network.
\nHis most well-known business is perhaps Zoomaal, a leading crowdfunding platform that supports creativity in the Arab world and is funded by four major institutional investors. Others include Rifflex, Askolar, CrowdVolt.com, YallaSMSme, TimeToSMS and LebAutos. But we will be hearing a lot more from Absi — he says he has at least 70 other ideas, from mobile apps to disruptive knowledge sharing platforms, “baking”.
\nAbsi has won more than ten awards in entrepreneurship and computer science and in 2014 was recognised as a World Economic Forum ‘Global Shaper’.
\n“Nothing makes me happier than motivating and empowering people to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses,” he says.
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42. Badr Al Olama
\nCEO, Strata Manufacturing
\nScience and technology
\nBadr Al Olama is CEO of Strata Manufacturing, Mubadala Aerospace’s advanced aero-structures manufacturing facility in Al Ain. Since his appointment in 2012, he has led the development of the Nibras Al Ain Aerospace Park, a joint initiative between Mubadala Aerospace and Abu Dhabi Airports Company intended to house global aerospace firms’ regional operations and drive the knowledge economy as part of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. He previously served as the company’s deputy CEO since April 2011.
\nA graduate of Harvard Law School in the US and the College of Sharia and Law at the UAE University, Al Olama was a legal consultant at Habib Al Mulla & Co law firm — now Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla — prior to joining Mubadala. He serves on the board of directors at Sanad Aero Solutions, another Mubadala Aerospace company, and is president of the UAE Harvard Alumni Society.
\nAl Olama also serves as chairman of regional children’s development charity Bidayaat, which runs social, cultural and educational programmes in association with partners. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Manufacturing.
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50. Hosam Zowawi
\nAustralia (Saudi Arabia)
\nScience and technology
\nHosam Zowawi is a clinical microbiologist specialising in antibiotic-resistant bacterial diseases — so-called “superbugs”. He is part-way through his PhD studies at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Clinical Research in Brisbane, analysing bacteria sourced from the GCC to identify the predominate genotype spread in GCC hospitals, and promote the importance of ongoing surveillance of multidrug-resistant organisms across the Gulf.
\nAlthough he now lives in Australia, the 31-year-old was born in Saudi Arabia, and his PhD is funded by several Gulf organisations including Kuwait University, the King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz University for Health Science and Oman’s Royal Hospital.
\nAs part of his studies, Zowawi developed a fast diagnostic tool called “Rapid Superbug” that identifies an infection more quickly.
\nIn 2014 he won the Young Laureate, Science & Health award in the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, and told Arabian Business last year his main motivation for pursuing his line of research is “the sense of responsibility” he feels to prevent humans from future infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “On a daily basis, I am witnessing pathogens with frightening survival capability. Preventing those odds to spread in our communities is a real responsibility I have to carry.”
\nHe describes himself on his Twitter profile as “a superbug fighter and polo player”, and adds that he is “the son of noble parents, husband of the most supportive and intelligent queen, and father of a clever princess”.
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59. Maryam Matar
\nScience and technology
\nA health campaigner, Maryam Matar has dedicated her career to fighting genetic diseases and sits on the boards of numerous organisations that work to protect public health. She is founder of the UAE’s Down’s Syndrome Association and the Genetic Disease Association, the latter of which she chairs.
\nA certified family physician, Matar graduated from the Dubai Medical College in 1999 and later specialised in Community Medicine, which is based on in-depth involvement of the practitioner with the patient’s social, financial and psychological issues as well as health-related diagnosis and treatment. She initiated many national community outreach programmes such as the ‘UAE Free of Thalassemia by 2012’ campaign, and the Wellness Centre institution.
\nShe is deputy chairperson of Dubai Cares, a board member of the Marriage Fund, Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, Dubai Women Establishment and the Canadian University of Dubai. She has also served as director-general of the Community Development Authority, and was the first woman to become under-secretary for the Ministry of Health.
\nMatar has been honoured with numerous awards for her work over the years, including Best Healthcare Project across all Higher Colleges of Technology campuses in the UAE in 2002, Best Community Project of the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Programme for Leadership Development (2004) and the Emirates Business Women Award for Professional Excellence (2004), among others.
\nShe has claimed she wears 11 different hats in one week because of her involvement in such a wide variety of organisations.
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68. Reem Khouri
\nFounder and CEO, Kaamen
\nReem Khouri learned a thing or two from her former mentor and boss, Aramex founder Fadi Ghandour. Having worked for him as manager of CEO operations for six years from 2007, Khouri developed a passion for supporting entrepreneurs and social inclusion. Five months after leaving Aramex, she launched her own firm, Kaamen, in April 2014.
\nKaamen, which means untapped potential in Arabic, is an enterprise that creates and implements profitable social investments and programmes that allow organisations to benefit from the returns and potentially become leaders of social progress. It works by partnering with other enterprises, governments, non-profit organisations and communities. The firm is based on Khouri’s belief that in the long-term profit can only be sustainable if societies become part of the business model.
\nThe 34-year-old also serves on the board of directors of non-profit organisation Ruwwad, which helps underprivileged or troubled communities in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt overcome marginalisation through youth activism, civic engagement and education.
\nKhouri is on several other boards including the Ruwwad Micro Venture Fund, Ethaar Journeys and Nakhweh.
\nShe currently works between Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia and has plans to expand into Asia and the US.
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70. Iqbal Al Asaad
\nFew can say they graduated from high school aged 12 only to become the world’s youngest Arab doctor at 20. No one but Iqbal Al Asaad, that is.
\nEarning the title in 2013, Al Asaad completed high school in Lebanon with exceptional skills in mathematics and biochemistry. She then caught the attention of Lebanon’s education minister who helped secured her a medical scholarship in Cornell University’s Qatar branch, Weill Cornell Medical College. Al Asaad completed her residency in paediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
\nHowever, working in the US was not in Al Asaad’s plans. Growing up in Lebanon, she had visited her relatives in refugee camps and dreamt of building them hospitals and providing them with free medical care. But her dream is yet to be fulfilled. She is banned from working in Lebanon’s public hospitals because of her Palestinian heritage, despite support from government ministers.
\nBut Al Asaad is doing well nonetheless, having been recognised for her accomplishment and honoured by former Lebanese president Michel Suleiman and the Palestinian National Authority with a Qods award.
\nAl Asaad credits her success to her toddler self, who spent days listening to her father tutor her older brothers.
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78. May Habib
\nCo-founder and CEO, Qordoba
\nMay Habib’s impressive record started at Harvard University, where she gained a degree in Economics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilisations in 2007. With that in hand, she began working at Lehman Brothers, where she helped US software companies raise capital.
\nFrom 2009 to 2011, Habib was vice-president of the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, where she helped to build a portfolio she says is now worth more than $20bn.
\nToday, she is the co-founder and CEO of Qordoba, a technology, cloud-based company that globalises digital content and employs 31 staff.
\n“If you had told someone you were building a tech team in the Middle East a few years ago, they would have thought you were insane! Today we’re showing we can write software here that disrupts industries,” Habib told the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards in 2014.
\nHabib was born in Lebanon, grew up in Canada and spent several years in the US before moving to the Middle East in 2009.
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80. Soha Al Qeshawi
\nSoha Al Qeshawi’s dream of working with spacecraft came true when she joined NASA’s Space Shuttle programme immediately after graduating from the University of Houston, where she studied engineering. The Palestinian, who grew up in Gaza City, is currently working on NASA’s Orion spacecraft programme, helping to design and engineer the vessel, which is intended to one day transport astronauts into deep space.
\n“I get to simulate Orion missions almost every day, just as if we’re flying in space,” she told Middle East Monitor last year. “Working with bits and bytes all day is much cooler than you might think.”
\nAs a senior software engineer, Al Qeshawi’s roles range from testing the systems at launch, through flight, and back to Earth, to finding and resolving issues and retesting to ensure safety.
\nAl Qeshawi has been hailed for her positive role for Arab women across the world. Her advice to young girls, would be to, “always dream big, and work really hard to make your dream come true. Mine did,” she said.
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84. Jihad Kawas
\nCoder, digital entrepreneur
\nSan Francisco (Lebanon)
\nBeing paid by a billionaire to skip college and get straight into a day job does not happen very often, but when PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel offered Jihad Kawas $100,000 to work on his start-up Saily, the young Lebanese high school student jumped at the chance. He was one of 20 to secure funding from over 3,000 applicants.
\nKawas’ app Saily aims to change the way we buy and sell online. Described as Instagram for classified listings, Saily is a photo-focused app that connects sellers to buyers nearby. It allows neighbours and communities to communicate and negotiate prices on everything from an Apple computer to used Nikes. In its first seven months, Saily recorded 150,000 users – the current registration rate is 1,000 users per day – and rung up more than $5m in sales.
\nBefore graduating from high school in Beirut in the spring of 2015, Kawas had already taught himself to code and forged a path as a digital entrepreneur.
\nA son of small business owners, Kawas started his first company at the age of 13. He has won global entrepreneurship competitions, and given two TEDx talks. He currently resides in San Francisco.
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88. Nadine Hanafi
\nAn award-winning entrepreneur, Miami-based Nadine Hanafi specialises in teaching people how to tell a story better.
\nKnown to some of her clients at the ‘PowerPoint Whisperer’ (in reference to the film ‘Horse Whisperer’), Nadine has made a name for herself by helping people to transform their presentations through her company We Are Visual.
\nShe was featured as one of the US’s leading entrepreneurs under 35 by Empact, an organisation that celebrates the impact and diversity of young entrepreneurs.
\nOriginally from Morocco, Hanafi started the presentation design from her living room in 2013 and within 14 months she grew the business to six-figure revenue with no external capital.
\nIn December 2014, it was voted Miami’s Most Innovative Start-up and received the award for Best Design.
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89. Mariam Abultewi
\nAs the creator of the Gazan version of Uber, 26-year old Mariam Abultewi has shown the type of creativeness that is required when telecommunications are greatly restricted. Her version of Uber works offline.
\nAbultewi came up with the idea for Wasselni when, as a 22-year-old, she was waiting for a lift in the middle of the Gaza Strip.
\nFunding for the idea was not initially forthcoming when she pitched it to investors in 2011. With the help of Gaza Sky Geeks, the first start-up accelerator in the Gaza Strip, she scored funding from Palinno, a Palestinian operation that works in both Gaza and the West Bank. It was one of the first start-up investments in Gaza, and she sees it as a step toward changing attitudes that still linger in the Middle East.
\nTaxi drivers and taxi companies who join the Wasselni system are sent real-time notifications from users using the mobile and web app connected to Wi-Fi. The taxi company deals with incoming requests from customers and then forwards them to drivers who do not have smartphones. The taxi drivers/companies pay a portion of their Wasselni-linked earnings back to the company.
\nWasselni also works as a social network, allowing users to follow each other, find their friends’ trips, add comments on each other’s posts, and even ask to join their friends’ trips.
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93. Ayah Bdeir
\nAyah Bdeir is the creator of littleBits, an open source system of preassembled, modular circuits that snap together with magnets. Similar to how lego brought construction into millions of homes, littleBits help to make learning about electronics fun, easy and creative.
\nAn engineer, inventor and interactive artist, Ayah received her master’s degree from the MIT Media Lab and undergraduate degrees in computer engineering and sociology from the American University of Beirut.
\nShe has taught graduate classes at NYU and Parsons and taught numerous workshops to encourage non-engineers – particularly young girls – to become interested in science and technology. She is also the founder of karaj, a media lab in Beirut for experimental art, architecture and technology.
\nlittleBits won the top prize at the Toy Fair in New York in 2012, has won the Editor’s Choice Award from MAKE magazine, and in 2011 was added to the digital collection of the prestigious Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.