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Introducing the AUS NVC Judges: A roundup of the region’s most impressive entrepreneurs, philanthropists and business leaders
The countdown is on to the inaugural American University of Sharjah New Venture Challenge (AUS NVC). Just weeks remain before semifinalists from across the world converge in Sharjah to compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to pitch their ideas to some of the Middle Eastâs most successful investors. It is therefore timely to announce the impressive line-up of judges selected to decide which teams are most deserving of the AUS NVC prize listâamounting to over US $200,000 in total.
This is your chance to get to know the judges and learn about the experience they bring to the competition. These people have impressive resumes, so it is difficult to summarize their expertise in just a few lines, but below is a snapshot of their key credentials:
Paul Bagatelas is the Chief Investment Officer of Aviatrans International, based in Dubai. Previously, he was Managing Director and Head of the United Arab Emirates and Strategic Growth Markets for Private Banking for Emirates NBD Bank. Prior to this, he was a Managing Director for Investor Relations in the Middle East at The Carlyle Group.
Danish Chotani brings with him decadesâ of experience in the investment management space. Having headed investment management for one of the regionâs largest private endowments for over a decade, followed by another decade in investment management leadership positions for one of Europe's largest private banks, Danish brings a unique combination of product knowledge and connectivity with some of the regionâs wealthiest offices.
Nicolas Esmieu is a business leader with more than 21 yearsâ experience operating within the healthcare domain in emerging markets, primarily in the Middle East, South East Asia, Europe and Africa. Nicolas has expertise in the design and implementation of strategies in areas related to business development and expansion, sales, marketing, manufacturing and legal compliance.
Tammer Qaddumi is a founding partner of VentureSouq. Previously, he was Vice President of Private Equity at Waha Capital, a diversified investment company based in Abu Dhabi with assets of c. $3 billion. Prior to joining Waha, Tammer worked with UBS and HSBC in New York and Dubai, respectively. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Damascus, Syria and worked with the Office of Presidential Personnel at the White House in Washington, DC.
Charles Blaschke is the founder and CEO of Dubai-based smart energy efficiency provider Taka Solutions. He started the company in 2013 after working in the automotive, mining, industrial and technology consulting industries. Charles and the company specialize in fully financed, paid-from-savings Energy Performance Contracting efficiency projects.
Jimmy Takieddine is the managing partner and co-founder of Alpha Seekers Holdings, a modern-day investment holding company with a diverse portfolio of companies and the active COO of Skrambler, a full-service Student Affinity Network that connects a verified global student audience with relevant brands and servicesâacross every consumer touchpointâcreating lifetime brand affinities.
Ahmed Ejaz is the Project Executive at Taka Solutions, a Dubai-based smart energy efficiency provider. Ahmed worked within the construction industry for a number of years before joining Taka Solutions in 2014, during the companyâs start-up phase. Ahmed was born and raised in the UAE, giving him the unique insight of the regionâs exponential growth across all sectors, while calling the UAE his home.
Alex Gheordanescu is a Loyalty Program Specialist with extensive experience in multiple customer rewards and membership programs across India, Middle East and Africa. His work has been recognized not only internally through multiple awards and certificates but also externally when the loyalty program IHG Rewards, led by Alex and his colleague, was named the Best Hotel Loyalty Program by Business Traveler Middle East.
Sami Kamel is General Manager for Regional Strategic Marketing Operations in GE Power, leading a global team covering China, US, MENA, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa and Europe. Prior to joining GE, Sami worked with the United Nations Environment Program, the US Department of Energyâs National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the World Bank.
Mohamad Badr is an award-winning social entrepreneur and brand builder with more than 15 yearsâ of experience in the MENA region. He has extensive expertise in brand strategy, brand architecture and brand positioning across multiple industries and segments, including corporate, healthcare, destination, governmental and family businesses. He is currently the COO & Head of Strategy at Brand Lounge.
Sid Vinyard is Founder and Chairman of Houston Technology Center - International.
Headquartered in Houston, Texas, HTC - International serves as a "Pipeline of Emerging Technologies" between the USA, Asia, China, Russia and the Middle East. Sid has a 30-year business career in start-ups, acquisitions, mergers and investments, including technology collaborations with international companies in several countries.
Charles D. McConnell is Executive Director of Rice University's Energy and Environment Initiative, a university-wide effort to address the diverse issues associated with energy and the environment. The initiative is designed to partner with industry and external stakeholders to position Rice as an impartial broker that combines technology and policy to create a sustainable energy platform in resource utilization and environmental stewardship.
Igor Bogachev has deep expertise in overseeing the innovation lifecycle. He has a rich and nuanced understanding of cutting-edge trends and developments in IT, as well as the industry's best practices and how to implement them. He has a strong standing in the national IT sector and currently chairs the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Subcommittee on the Digital Economy and Innovations.
Farhad Khalilnia is a graduate of Syracuse University, New York. In 1996, he founded Penta in Switzerland, which grew into an international IT company with clients across the globe, focusing on innovation, efficiency and enhanced end-user experience. He pioneered private cloud technology for business and IT-as-a-Service in Europe and the Middle East, and continuously strives to adapt the latest technology developments to industry.
Albert Dias is the Chief Technology Officer and one of the three founding members of Musafir.com. He has led the companyâs e-commerce technology through 10 years of growth, and overseas Musafir.comâs products, engineering and technology infrastructure. The company was recognized as the best online travel agency at the Arabian Travel Awards in 2017.
Dilip Massand is a Managing Director for SAS Asset Recovery, Ltd., an asset recovery, litigation finance and dispute resolution firm specializing in complex cross-border matters. Based in Dubai, he has over 20 yearsâ of experience in the Middle East working with sovereign funds, banks, and ultra-high net worth individuals. He holds a Juris Doctor from New York Law School and a Bachelor of Science from Boston University.
Aly Rahimtoola is founder of Harmony Cosmeticsâ brand, Herbal Essentials. He attended Brown University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a double BA in Economics and Political Science. Herbal Essentials offers its customers affordable, paraben-, sulfate-, carcinogen- and cruelty-free personal care products that are made with natural ingredients sourced from the Himalayas.
Mohamed Kamal is UPS Managing Director for the Middle East. Based in Dubai, he is responsible for managing and growing the business in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He is fluent in Arabic and English. He holds a MBA in Management from the American University in London and a masterâs degree in logistics management.
May Barber is an award-winning Brand Management Consultant focused on building strategies for fashion start-ups and emerging brands. She has worked with a large portfolio of local, regional and international brands. She helps to develop creative brand content and balance creative and business strategies to help reach global markets. May is also the founder of The Cartel Fashion Platform and The Cartel Brand Management in Dubai.
Paul Boots leads EMLCâs day-to-day operations and is responsible for executing EMLCâs growth strategy. He is a highly experienced leader and manager who has driven growth and transformational change by building high-performing teams and delivering operational excellence. He is convinced AI will radically scale productivity growth within organizations through data driven leadership.
Rany Doleh has created and launched a dozen companies, in media and publishing, exhibition organizing, digital content management, automotive spare parts trading, real estate and manufacturing. Rany is passionate about real estate and development and since his graduation, he has been responsible for the development of his familyâs real estate portfolio.
Pamela Attebery leads HSBCâs innovation agenda across the MENAT region. Pam is a collaborator across the various business lines to link emerging technology with business strategy. She oversees the UAE Innovation Lab, aimed at transforming the bankâs products and processes through strategic partnerships, driving innovative culture and serving as an incubator for new ideas.
Saladin Aljurf is an attorney with nearly 20 yearsâ of experience between Washington, DC, and Dubai. He has a broad array of experience and skills gained from roles in private practice, in-house and academia. Currently, he is Counsel at the Dubai office of Bird & Bird, an international law firm based in London.
Vivek Mehta is obsessed with the desire of making the world a better place. He is currently a Partner and Senior Strategist at Clay, a strategic brand consultancy. He brings a good combination of logic, business acumen and human-centered creativity along with 10 years of global experience. He has been a management consultant throughout his career with some hands-on roles at the client side.
Lawrence H. (Larry) Rubly is a career educator and international training program developer, who has been an industry practitioner since 1974 and adjunct professor at Oakton Community College since 1983. He is currently Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of American Tech & Management University and Dean of its business school. On completing military service as a linguist in Germany, he joined Telemedia, Inc., where he developed a then-innovative form of distance learning, using portable cassette and 800# technology to teach foreign languages to executives.
Fadi Matar is the Director of Public Affairs & Government Affairs for India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, and Country Leader Kuwait for Dow Chemical. Fadi is responsible for developing and strengthening Dowâs relationship with key stakeholders and partners, building Dowâs brand image and reputation, enabling business opportunities and identifying growth opportunities in India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey.
Maxim Mikyaylov founded International Technology Advisors. He also served as Director and Head of Startup Acceleration Programs at Skolkovo Foundation, where he built a 250-strong mentor network as well as four acceleration tracks in oil and gas, telecoms, medical devices and industrial applications. Maxim's role also included building international partnerships for support of the commercialization of Skolkovo resident startups.
Rashad Al Araj is an enthusiastic entrepreneur and engineer in the UAEâs construction and real estate domain. He co-founded Tri-Design Engineering Consultancy (an integrated engineering services provider) and is currently founding his second company, which will specialized in innovative, green building design and R&D which will be located in Masdar City.
Melissa Bayik heads the brands at Arada, the UAEâs newest developer. Prior to Arada, Melissa worked with Meraas to create and develop the new corporate and destination brands of the holding group during its transformational brand change. Before moving corporate side, she was owner and creative director of EMB Creative Studio.
Dr Abdullatif Merii is Vice President for Operational Excellence at multidisciplinary design consultancy, Khatib & Alami. In this role, he leads the companyâs activities and initiatives with respect to QSSE, continuous improvement and knowledge management. A chartered structural engineer by profession, Dr Merii gained his PhD at Imperial College, London. Under his leadership as Khatib & Alamiâs QSE Director for the region, the business achieved triple International Certification for Quality, Safety and Environment standards.
Mohamad Kassem heads the Research and Development Unit at the Sharjah FDI Office (Invest in Sharjah), at the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (SHUROOQ). His role includes promoting Sharjah to international investors and providing them with economic information to leverage their business growth.
AUS is extremely grateful to all of the judges mentioned above. The experience of AUS NVC participants will be greatly enhanced by the generous contributions of each of these busy people.
To find out more about the AUS NVC, visit https://nvc.aus.edu/. Donât forget to follow our social media accounts to find out who the winners are on February 5, 2019.