$60 million fund will invest in 120 early-stage tech startups across MENA region
Focus sectors include FinTech, HealthTech and EduTech amid anticipated post-COVID tech boom
A new $60 million venture capital fund led by an ex-Google executive and Silicon Valley venture capital firm veteran will invest in 120 early-stage startups across the MENA region amid an anticipated boom in tech post-COVID.
Plus Venture Capital (+VC) will have key operations based in Bahrain, with offices in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. +VC will invest in tech and tech enabled startups across all sectors, including FinTech, HealthTech and EduTech in addition to Logistics, Content and Ecommerce at a time when the fund managers say capital is “barely keeping up with the pace of Middle Eastern innovation”.
The firm’s leadership, ex-Google executive Sharif El-Badawi and Silicon Valley venture capital firm veteran Hasan Haider, bring more than 35 years of combined investing and operating experience. Having completed more than 200 transactions together, the managing partners have a wealth of knowledge and track record of building new ideas into globally successful firms.
The MENA region is fast emerging as a key startup ecosystem, having seen several recent exits including the $3bn acquisition of Careem by Uber in 2019 and Souq by Amazon in 2017. The region offers a young, highly connected market of more than 400m people with similar cultures and languages.
Although the market is still nascent, it is growing rapidly with funding and exits increasing year over year, indicating the tremendous opportunity for early investment that +VC is positioned to capitalize on. According to regional data platform MAGNiTT, despite the impact of COVID-19, more than $659m was invested in MENA-based startups in the first half of 2020 – representing a staggering 95% of total venture investments in the previous year.
Commenting on the announcement, Mr Haider said: “The MENA startup scene, rather than being crushed by the pandemic, has bounced back with renewed vigor. Major market slumps usually lead to big rebounds –the 2008 financial crash is just the most recent example. Tech companies emerged the clear winners from the last downturn, and this time around the Middle East is ideally placed to leapfrog other major startup economies as the recovery gets underway.
“Money is flowing into the region at an unprecedented rate, but is still just barely keeping up with the pace of Middle Eastern innovation. MENA’s agile startups and entrepreneurs are racing to develop new solutions in fields as varied as HealthTech, FinTech and EduTech that meet the fast-evolving consumer needs of the COVID era.
“Moreover, governments – that rightly view startups as the region’s engine for sustainable growth and recovery during these unpredictable times – are providing the sector with record levels of support. There is still plenty of room for VCs to add to this, and at +VC, we know now is the time to do so.
He continued: “Plus Venture Capital plans to aggressively invest in building a broadly diversified portfolio of seed-stage startups over the next three years, with a target of 120 firms.
“Our five-year legacy of investing in MENA and global startups has helped us build deep personal networks for exceptional deal flow, and we intend to leverage our expertise to positively impact the growth of the region’s burgeoning startup ecosystem.”
As an entrepreneur and former investment banker, Mr Haider has been investing in startups in the region for the past 10 years. Prior to +VC, he worked in venture capital in Silicon Valley and MENA, and established one of the first angel investment groups in the region.
He is joined by partner Sharif El-Badawi, a seasoned serial entrepreneur, operator and investor, who brings 25 years of technology and growth experience to the firm. He worked at several Internet companies since the mid-90s in Silicon Valley, including Google, before moving to the region to focus on startup investing. He serves as an advisor and member on several startup and non-profit boards.
Mr El-Badawi added: “With our team having invested in many startups over the years, we can provide the right level of support to the founders that we invest in. Our founders can expect deep support from experienced practitioners as well as access to a unique network of operators, mentors and investors.
“We look forward to partnering with extraordinary and innovative entrepreneurs to help build successful businesses and contribute to a vibrant regional economy.”