East. Michelle Lee founded the program with the "the vision of expanding technological opportunity to more people, especially those coming from vulnerable backgrounds." One of StartMENAUp's goals is to highlight the current and rising tech stars coming out of MENA, so it's a real pleasure to share these short profiles of two of the program's participants - Ahmed Haj Ahmed and Siham Tamisili Khanji!
Zach Finkelstein, Founding Partner, Class 5 Global
On the surface, Zach Finkelstein may seem like an unlikely investor in the Middle East. Having grown up in the U.S. with no personal connection to the region, Zach did his undergrad at University of Pennsylvania, and went into investment banking in New York City. However, after moving into venture capital as his next career step, Zach quickly warmed to the potential lying in emerging markets, including the MENA region. After leading investments in MENA, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere, Zach actually jumped into the operating seat with a particularly well-known and growing portfolio company at the time, joining Careem as their VP of Corporate Development. Since 2018, he’s brought that experience and confidence in emerging markets to Class 5 Global as a Managing Partner.
Salam Al-Nukta, Cofounder and CEO of ChangeMakers Syria
As many of my readers may know, Salam is the Arabic word for peace. Salam Al-Nukta, the Damascene Cofounder and CEO of ChangeMakers Syria, highlighted this point right at the beginning of our discussion. In preparing this post, I found a John F. Kennedy quote about peace that I felt poignantly described the journey that Salam had shared with me: “Peace is a daily, weekly, monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
Adnen Ben Hadj Yahia aka “Nino,” Cofounder of El Space
Adnen, known as Nino to his friends, graduated from Tunis Business School in the years following the Arab Spring’s most successful revolution and has worked at the forefront of the small mediterranean country’s social innovation sector since. In between founding two startups and furthering his studies in the U.S., Nino co founded El Space with his friends, Tunisia’s premier social innovation hub. Over the past five years, El Space has grown to occupy two physical locations, as well as the metaphorical heart of a growing community of Tunisian entrepreneurs using business to create positive change in their country.