Illustration by Ahmed Bilal

Slush’D: The World’s leading Startup Event Comes to NYUAD

NYUAD Slush'd was a 2-day conference hosted by Violet Ventures to foster local entrepreneurship agendas. The event aided students in taking the first steps towards building their own ventures.

Nov 13, 2022

Building your first business as a foreigner in a new country can be a daunting and complicated process, especially if you have not had prior exposure to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. In the 2021‒2022 academic year, 81 percent of the NYU Abu Dhabi students came from countries other than the UAE, which leads to numerous questions about how to find a team, register a business, raise funds, and expand their venture here. Violet Ventures, a student interest group at NYUAD, gathered all the questions and provided solutions during the NYUAD Slush’D Conference, which took place from Oct. 29 to Oct. 30.
NYUAD Slush’D is a local spin-off of the world’s leading startup conference, Slush, which happens every year in Helsinki and hosts 12,000 attendees, 5,000 startups, and 2,600 investors. Held for the first time in the Middle East, NYUAD Slush’D 2022 gathered 70 students from NYUAD to empower them to take the first few steps toward building a social venture. During the event, the Violet Ventures team also kicked off the 2023 Hult Prize Competition, the world’s largest social entrepreneurship competition, where NYUAD students will be able to participate and compete for a 1 million USD cash prize.
On Day 1, attendees learned about the theory of entrepreneurship, how to find an idea that they care about, and what the life of a startup founder looks like. Aman Merchant, an experienced entrepreneur with 12 ventures to his name, shared his thoughts and expertise on passion building: how to find something that you love and what tools to use in order to excel. Three startup founders — Joel Alexander, Ayoola Brimmo, and Salman Hussain — talked about their entrepreneurial journey with all its ups and downs and answered the students’ most pressing questions during the Founders’ Panel, facilitated by Anne Salmela, founder and president of Violet Ventures. Dr. Bhaskar Dasgupta joined the Violet Ventures event to talk about the MENA entrepreneurial ecosystem and how NYUAD students can use the existing opportunities to accelerate their ventures.
Still, as an international student, it can be difficult to understand how to set up an entity. Keeping the same in mind, Devika Raveendran, Founder and CEO of DR Partners, hosted a workshop about the steps to take when registering a company in the UAE.
On Day 2, the day of implementing theory into practice, Aman Merchant kicked off the agenda with a workshop on creating vivid visions for personal pursuits. Dr. Barbara Scheck, Visiting Professor of Business, Organisation and Society, held a business ideation session and helped NYUAD students ideate more than 400 unique proposals in under one hour. Later on, the attendees were able to size down these ideas to choose one and work on them during the Business Model Canvas session and the Prototyping Session, led by Mira Nouaihed at startAD Central and Matthew Karau at the Engineering Design Studio.
Working on an idea can be a challenging process — that’s why we replenished our energy while playing bubble football at the NYU Abu Dhabi Performance Gym. Following that, Serhii Durytskyi, Class of 2025, and Shaurya Singh, Class of 2023, held a workshop on pitching and how to present an idea to investors while seeking investments. The event ended with each team presenting the idea that they had worked on for the last two days in the form of an elevator pitch.
“An immediate result from the event was that students became inspired by the potential of venture building. They developed interest groups and teams, in which they are now brainstorming ideas and working together. We have already seen an increased number of sign-ups for the regional hackathons, events, and competitions, including the Tourism TechGen Hackathon, organized by the Ministry of Economy and Plug and Play Middle East,” shared Salmela. “From a partnership side, more world-class stakeholders view NYU Abu Dhabi as a technology and entrepreneurship hub, with whom they would like to collaborate on creating long-lasting events and partnerships,” she added regarding the positive outcomes of the conference.
NYUAD Slush’D was organized in partnership with Slush, startAD, Playbook, NYU Abu Dhabi Student Life, and the Hult Prize Foundation.
Serhii Durytskyi is a Contributing Writer. Email them at
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