10 Notable Middle Eastern Executive and Founders who have made their Mark in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley, renowned globally as a hub of tech innovation, startups, and entrepreneurship, owes its vibrancy to the mosaic of diverse minds propelling the industry forward.
There are countless Middle Eastern CEOs, Executives and Founders, who have carved out their own influential paths in Silicon Valley. This article shines a spotlight on just some of these trailblazers and their significant contributions.
1. Sasan K. Goodarzi
Photo: Sasan Goodarzi, CEO of Intuit
Sasan Goodarzi, an Iranian-American, is the CEO of Intuit, a financial software company. He's not just a CEO, but also among the top 30 highest-paid tech CEOs in the USA, with an annual pay of $27.1 million. Goodarzi has had a long tenure at Intuit, holding several key leadership roles before ascending to CEO.
Goodarzi's journey to the top of Intuit is the epitome of the American dream. As an Iranian immigrant, Goodarzi faced many hurdles, but his determination never waned. He started his career at Intuit as a senior sales consultant and worked his way up to CEO, leading various business units along the way. Sasan received his MBA from Northwestern University, and his Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from the University of Central Florida. Sasan resides in Silicon Valley.
2. Mo Gawdat
Photo: Mo Gawdat. Source: People Management
Mo Gawdat is an Egyptian entrepreneur and techie who began his career as an IBM sales representative in Cairo in the early 90’s. He took on various regional roles at big tech giants like Microsoft and Google, managing the business across the Middle East from Dubai, until he found himself at the helm of Google [X] as the Chief Business Officer in 2013. At Google [X], he led teams focused on creating “moonshot” innovation and solutions that solve for the biggest problems affecting humanity today.
After he authored the international bestselling book, “Solve for Happy”, which he wrote in the aftermath of his son’s untimely death, he founded One Billion Happy, which focuses on Mo’s single soul purpose in life: to help make one billion people happy. He is also the host of the popular podcast, ‘Slo Mo’ and has authored several other bestselling books, including “Scary Smart” and “That Little Voice in Your Head”. Mo received his MBA from Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands, and his B.Sc in Civil Engineering from the Ain Shams University in Cairo. Today, he resides primarily in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
3. Amr Awadallah
Photo: Amr Awadallah, Co-founder and CTO of Cloudera
Amr Awadallah is a prominent Egyptian-American voice on Big Data in Silicon Valley today, but comes from humble roots in Cairo, Egypt. He’s most known for his role as Co-founder and CTO of Cloudera, a software company that offers data management and cloud-native data analytics solutions. Cloudera raised US $1 billion in funding in its first five years, and successfully IPOed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2017.
After being at the helm of Cloudera for 11 years, Amr joined Google as their VP of Developer Relations for Google Cloud, before striking out on his own again with Vectara. Vectara is a company that aims to revolutionize the way we find meaning across all languages, using the latest advances in Deep Neural Networks, Large Language Models, Natural Language Processing and Information Retrieval. Amr received his B.Sc in Electrical Engineering and M.Sc in Computer Engineering from Cairo University, and his PhD from Stanford University’s Electrical Engineering department. Amr resides in Silicon Valley.
4. Dara Khosrowshahi
Photo: Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber
Dara Khosrowshahi, another Iranian-American, currently serves as the CEO of Uber. He's one of the highest-paid tech CEOs in the USA, earning $24.3 million annually. Khosrowshahi has held this role since 2017, guiding Uber through its IPO and tackling numerous challenges along the way.
Prior to Uber, Khosrowshahi spent over a decade as CEO of Expedia. Dara Khosrowshahi's journey has been marked by resilience. He and his family had to flee Iran during the revolution when he was just nine years old. Starting anew in the U.S., he studied engineering at Brown University and later joined Allen & Company as an analyst. Prior to Uber, he spent over a decade at the helm of Expedia, transforming it into one of the world's leading travel companies. An interesting tidbit: He is an outspoken advocate for immigrant rights.
5. Shervin Pishevar
Photo: Shervin Pishevar on the cover of Forbes magazine in 2015
Shervin Pishevar is another major player in Silicon Valley that believes in moonshots. An Iranian-American venture capitalist, entrepreneur, super angel investor, and philanthropist. Pishevar co-founded Hyperloop One and Sherpa Capital. He's an astute investor known for taking calculated risks that have paid off; some of the disruptive technologies he has backed and significantly contributed to the success of include players like Airbnb, Uber, Didi, Slack, Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, Postmates and Munchery.
Pishevar also made the cover of Forbes as Tech Power Broker in 2015, and ranked into Forbes’ impressive “The Midas List” in 2014, 2015 and 2015, which lists the world’s top tech investors. He also played a pivotal roles at Barack Obama's Entrepreneurial Summit. Shervin obtained his BA from UC Berkley, and resides primarily in Miami, Florida.
6. Osama Bedier
Photo: Osama Bedier, Founder and CEO of Poynt
Osama Bedier, an Egyptian-American entrepreneur, has amassed an impressive resume and fortune over his years in Silicon Valley. Osama is the Founder and CEO of Poynt, a startup which made Forbes’ Fintech 50 list in 2019. Poynt managed to raise $133 million in its first 4 years of operations, working to disrupt the payment industry with its innovative open operating system. Osama sold Poynt to GoDaddy in 2020 for $320 million, and now serves as President at GoDaddy Commerce.
He found his passion for payments early in his career, having worked at PayPal for 8 years before going on to become VP of Google’s Wallets & Payments team. Osama migrated to the US with his parents when he was a young child, and grew up in California for most of his life. He graduated from the University of California in Riverside, and resides in Silicon Valley.
7. Ali & Hadi Partovi
Photo: Partovi twins, Silicon Valley angel investors
The Iranian-American Partovi brothers, Ali and Hadi, co-founded Code.org, a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science in schools. Both born in Tehran, their father came home one day with a Commodore 64 computer, and the twin brothers learned how to code on it during the Iran-Iraq war at 10 years old.
After immigrating to the US as teenagers, both ended up at Harvard University studying computer science. Upon graduating, they both immersed themselves in the tech world - Ali at Oracle, Microsoft, and MySpace; and Hadi predominantly at Microsoft taking on leadership positions, until they came back together to start their first joint venture together, iLike. The startup which provided a social music discovery service, managed to fundraise $16.5 million in its first five years, and was later acquired by Myspace for $20 million.
Ali and Hadi have been savvy angel investors over the past twenty years, taking on early stakes and winning big on bets made on players such as Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Zappos. The twins have always championed education and have launched various initiatives to build mentorship communities and communal VC funds to help support diversity and inclusion in the tech sphere.
8. Rami Rahim
Photo: Rami Rahim, CEO of Juniper Networks
Rami Rahim is at the helm of Juniper Networks as CEO, a position he's held since 2014. Rahim is a Silicon Valley veteran of Lebanese descent, with over 26 years at Juniper Networks alone; he in fact was Juniper Network’s 36th employee, and was the original architect of Juniper’s flagship operating system, Junos.
Today, the company he leads employs over 9,000 staff in 50 countries and does $5 billion in revenue each year, leading the revolution in networking. Rami’s deep understanding of network architecture and his ability to drive innovation make him a respected leader in Silicon Valley. He holds a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto.
9. Tony Fadell
Photo: Tony Fadell, former senior vice president of the iPod division at Apple Inc.
Known as the "father of the iPod," Anthony Michael Fadell is a Lebanese-American engineer, designer, entrepreneur, and investor with Russian and Polish descent. Tony earned his BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Michigan before starting his professional journey at Apple in 2001. There, he oversaw iPod hardware, software, and accessories development as well as the development of the first three generations of the iPhone.
After Apple, Tony co-founded Nest Labs which was acquired by Google for US $3.2 billion. With over 300 patents to his name, he has been recognized as one of Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2014, and in 2016, Time named the Nest Learning Thermostat, iPod, and iPhone as three of the "50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time".
Today, Tony is Principal at Future Shape, a global investment and advisory firm which has made 31 investments thus far while coaching over 200 startups working on deep technology. Last year, he wrote "Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making," which has been recognized as a best-seller by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
10. Raed Masri
Photo: Raed Masri, Silicon Valley investor
Raed Masri is a Canadian-Lebanese making waves in Silicon Valley's tech scene. At the heart of Masri's legacy is TRANSFORM VC, an early-stage venture studio and investment firm where he is a founding partner. TRANSFORM VC isn't your average venture firm—it centers on startups demonstrating substantial network effects and deep technology moats to tackle pressing social and environmental challenges. Masri co-founded aiXplain Inc., a novel no-code/low-code Integrated Development Environment (IDE) with an attached marketplace.
He's also invested in Ample, an innovative firm revolutionizing battery technology for electric vehicles, as well as Vectara, an advanced search technology startup, and Claryo Inc., a firm dedicated to ensuring safe robotics deployments at scale. These ventures are a testament of Masri's commitment to nurturing advanced tech solutions that drive productivity and innovation. further showcasing his foresight into future tech trends.
Throughout their journeys, these forward-thinkers have consistently demonstrated their ability to spot, cultivate, and invest in innovative solutions, making them significant players in Silicon Valley. Most importantly, their Arab roots and successes serve as an inspiring beacon for aspiring tech founders and CEOs in the Arab community and beyond.