CKGSB Hosts First Ever Global Unicorn Program in Dubai

February 27, 2023

On the 15-17th of February 2023, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business successfully launched the first Global Unicorn Program in Dubai, UAE, a flagship executive education program for future-oriented entrepreneurs.

On the 15-17th of February 2023, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business successfully launched the first Global Unicorn Program in Dubai, UAE, a flagship executive education program for future-oriented entrepreneurs. During the three-day intensive program, 60 unicorn and soon-to-be-unicorn entrepreneurs, CEOs and investors from over 10 countries and regions – including China, Africa, South Korea, Cyprus, Italy, Russia, Australia, Poland and UAE –learned about the unique entrepreneurial ecosystem in the gulf region. Participants came from a wide range of industries and stages of development, from seed and series A to D, to soon-to-be-unicorns and listed companies.

The program kicked off with a half-day Global Unicorn Forum at the World Government Summit, the first of its kind in the Middle East. Throughout the summit, program participants heard insightful lectures and networked with the summit’s high-profile thought leaders, global experts and decision makers.

Mr. Hadi Badri, the CEO of Economic Development at Dubai Economy and Tourism gave an opening remark, saying that Dubai’s new D33 economic agenda “will really harness the power of entrepreneurship, technology and innovation and our thriving start-up economy.” The agenda was announced last month by His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai.

“With the overall objective of doubling our GDP, we as a government will continue to nurture our flourishing SME ecosystem and aim to accelerate 30 companies to reach unicorn status by 2033,” Badri said.

Panel discussions focused on pertinent topics for entrepreneurs, investors and those who are dedicated to building of a global unicorn ecosystem, such as The Roller-Coaster Ride to Become a Unicorn, Effectively Market to Millennials and Gen-Z, Unicorn Founders as Global Citizens, and The Role of Governments and Policy in Supporting Unicorns.

CKGSB’s Founding Dean and Professor of China Business and Globalization, Bing Xiang, gave the closing remarks at the forum, shedding light on different economic development models, and the role of economic disruption and pathways to ‘common prosperity’. Xiang said, “China’s continued and sustained disruptions … can be very relevant not only for developing economies, for African continent, Latin America, Southeast Asia, but also for advanced nations.”

Day two of the program started the day’s learning with David Bell, former Chaired Professor at Wharton and Co-founder and President at the Idea Farm Ventures, on the future of “better-for-you” consumption, where he shared the implications for start-ups. He also shared the future trends on millennials’ roles in reshaping the economy, the innovation in consumer and retail, and how to win in an omnichannel world. He also elaborated on the B.O.S.S. framework for winning go-to-markets in the digital economy with thought-provoking cases.

In the afternoon, CKGSB’s Professor of Marketing Li Yang taught an interesting course on unicorn marketing in the age of new media. Reno Yue, Senior Advisor to the Board of HYPERS, also shared his perspectives on the paradoxes of modern brand management.

Afterwards, local industry experts Marek Stawinski, founder of NaviParking, shared his experience building a start-up in the UAE and Frank Meehan, co-founder of SparkLabs Group shared his experiences as a global tech investor.

The final day of the program started with the course of Jon Liao, who is CKGSB’s Professor of Managerial Practice, and former Chief Strategy Officer of Based on his rich experience in the academia and tech industry, he showed participants how to reimagine, reinvent and reconfigure digital transformation. He shared in-depth cases from and encouraged leaders to venture ahead to establish next-generation unicorns.

Then, Edward Tse, CKGSB’s Professor of Managerial Practice of Strategy and former Chairman of Booz & Company for Greater China, led the learnings on China’s technological innovation & disruptions and its lesson for global businesses.

The final classroom session, ‘Unicorns for the Bottom of the Pyramid’ was led by CKGSB’s Professor of Economics Li Wei, who designed his teaching with an in-depth unicorn case study and practical tips. Guest speakers such as Jessy Kim, CEO of Vision Venture Partners, and CKGSB alumnus Johan Holstein, CEO of Wakopa Eagle AB & Speed Venture, shared their experience as a successful investor from South Korea and a serial successful entrepreneur from Sweden, respectively.

As the final part of program, participants visited the DIFC Innovation Hub, a leading innovation ecosystem in UAE with over 500 tech firms. Nine promising start-up founders from the program were given the opportunity to pitch to investors after an opening remark from the Head of the DIFC Innovation Hub, Mohammad Alblooshi.

Throughout the program, participants had the chance to bond and develop invaluable business relationships, while learning from each other as well as faculty and guest speakers. CKGSB has been working to engage, exchange and learn from global investors and entrepreneurs from the region to build a global unicorn ecosystem.


CKGSB Global Unicorn Program presents Eurasia’s first unicorn-themed program for next generation business leaders. The program will take place in Asia, Europe, Middle East, US and Africa. It will play a critical role in building a global ecosystem and fostering a new generation of unicorns with a renewed and enhanced emphasis on global responsibility, social purpose, and long-term perspective.

The next program will take place in Singapore on May 16-19, 2023. Find out more here: 

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