Last time we checked with Arzan Venture Capital, Kuwait’s newest Series A fund, Managing Partner Hassan Zainal told Wamda that Arzan will be “putting $5 million dollar fund towards Series A and post-Series A tech startups all over the world.”
Being sector and country agnostic, Arzan announced on March 9th that it invested in Russian startup Idinaidi.ru, a real estate portal headquartered in Moscow. A couple of weeks later, the fund announced another investment for an undisclosed amount with a group of angel investors in MENA Commerce, a Dubai based startup in the retail industry that supports offline and online retailers. The company focuses on the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. Even though the fund only invests in growth startups, it made an exception with MENA Commerce. “It’s an outlier among other seed stage startups in the MENA region,” said Ahmad Takatkah, senior investment manager at Arzan VC.
The Google for retail?
MENA Commerce, through its flagship shopping search engine ShopShopMe.com, allows shoppers to search for products across all online and offline stores – which gives retailers more visibility and consumers more options. Moustafa Mahmoud, founder and CEO of MENA Commerce, said in a press release that the startup will soon release a mobile version, giving shoppers the ability to search using text and images as well. “When a shopper sees a product they like on shelf, all they need to do is point their mobile phone's camera at it and the application will automatically identify the product, and show all the other retailers selling the same product along with their prices.”
The startup now has eight computer scientists and two patents pending. It plans to use the investment for hiring, marketing and technical infrastructure, according to the founder.
Finding strategic investors
While fundraising, the hardest challenges Mahmoud faced was finding an appropriate investor. “[It was] finding the right investors that would add value to us (smart money).” Strategic investors are the ones who will mentor entrepreneurs and help them spend their financial resources properly. Amir Farha from BECO Capital agrees. (Watch him talk about how investors can provide non-financial value in this interview with Wamda).
“All our investors add tremendous value to us. Whether in connecting us with strategic partners or to customers, or by giving us insights into optimizing our own business across different channels,” said Mahmoud. “The support we get from our investors is worth much more than the money.” In their next round, the founder will be more careful and take into consideration the time factor. “We would start raising a bit earlier and keep in mind that the timeframe to raise a round is longer than we expected.”
More money in e-commerce
While there’s never enough investment in e-commerce, a sector that’s booming in the Arab region, MENA Commerce tends to stand alone in this space, according to Takatkah. “MENA Commerce is basically an e-commerce infrastructure startup,” he said. “It’s very rarely to find a true technology startup that is creating a new patentable technology in our region. The team is creating innovative technology utilizing big data tools to provide consumers as well as online stores with a better online and mobile experience.”
With a ticket size between $500,000 and $1 million dollars and a sector/country agnostic approach, Arzan VC is trying to support technological endeavors anywhere in the world, right from the heart of Kuwait.