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Strategic partnerships: Unlocking growth opportunities for startups

TechCrunch was proud to host ECA at Disrupt 2023 in San Francisco. Here’s an overview of their partner session on the Builders Stage.

This Disrupt 2023 discussion focused on how strategic partnerships can boost startup growth opportunities. The panelists outlined how to choose the best partners to create beneficial relationships for all parties involved while encouraging the development of innovative solutions and services that can improve society as a whole, especially in the early childhood development (ECD) sector.


Morgan Berman, Vice President of Partnerships, Techstars

Morgan is the vice president of partnerships at Techstars. In this capacity, Morgan works with corporate, government, university, investor, and nonprofit partners to support founders all over the world.

Maryam Hassani, Acting Head of Trends and Innovation, Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority

Maryam Ahmed Hassani is the Acting Head of Trends and Innovation at the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA). Her current responsibilities within the ECA include designing and implementing strategic innovation projects that focus on the advancement of the early childhood development (ECD) space. Two of the ECA’s flagship innovation projects led by Maryam include Anjal Z and Athar. Anjal Z is a partnerships-driven and experimental program that empowers growth-stage global startups to localize solutions that address critical ECD challenges. While Athar is an in-house design thinking as a service function that equips project teams with the tools to support the continuously evolving needs of the ECD space. Maryam is also a tech startup founder, having launched Zealous in 2022, the UAE’s first networking app for goal-driven individuals to find, meet and stay connected with their communities at their preferred time and place. Zealous reflects Maryam’s passion for connecting people in the tech world as well as her desire to level the playing field when it comes to accessing the region’s growing tech startup ecosystem. Maryam initially entered the innovation space by joining EY as a strategy consultant where she most notably led the Special Olympics Innovation challenge and held a key role in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) Accelerator Program. Before this, she earned a BA in Political Science at New York University Abu Dhabi. In her free time, Maryam enjoys competing in polo tournaments and exploring marine life through scuba diving.

Ko-yung Lee, Investor and Coach, Launch Lab/Fika Ventures

Ko-yung Lee is a former founder turned coach and investor in ambitious teams and novel technologies that make the world more awesome and help more humans realize fully lived lives. Ko-yung Lee is a coach to leaders/founding teams/aspiring leaders at seed-to-pre IPO companies, across industries and is a scout for Fika Ventures.

Jillian Ochs, US Market Lead, Abu Dhabi Investment Office

Jillian Ochs is a native Californian and has been working in the FDI space for over 15 years. She was awarded DCI’s 40 under 40 in International Economic Development in in 2017 and completed the International Economic Development Certification Courses. Jillian leads the San Francisco office for Advise Global and is currently leading the Abu Dhabi Investment Office U.S. team. She has extensive experience representing European and Middle Eastern countries as well as several American states in addition to supporting private companies expand abroad. Jillian holds a master’s degree in Global Business Management from University of Antwerp Management School (UAMS) and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).